Posts tagged with "urbanism":

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Quick Clicks> Coffee, Immobility, Engagement, Hipsters

[ Quick Clicks is AN's guided tour of interesting links from around the web. ] Coffee Break. A fourteen-foot tall neon sign that has been removed from the Knoxville, TN skyline after 50 years is undergoing restoration but needs a new home. Preservation magazine has the story and Knox Heritage has more info on their sign restoration program. Urban Immobility Report? Greater Greater Washington has an update on the controversy of a major traffic congestion report released each year the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) called the Urban Mobility Report (UMR). Last year, CEOs for Cities published a critical analysis of the UMR called Driven Apart pointing out its false conclusions that can distort the congestion level based on the sprawl levels. How will it impact the future of transportation funding in the U.S.? Street Presence. Should urban buildings should put their best face forward? Pointing to a rather uninspiring St. Louis building from the 1980s with its back turned to downtown streets, Urban Review STL argues that a certain level of sidewalk interaction, whether that be storefronts, entrances, or simply windows, should be required through zoning for a more vibrant urban experience. Portlandia? Did you catch the premiere of IFC's new sketch comedy flick Portlandia over the weekend? While it's not quite so much about architecture, it does parody the city that has helped to transform the idea of bikability and the future of the American city. The Oregonian has a roundup of reviews from across the country and Bike Portland has a clip of an upcoming sketch about bike messengers.
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White House Turns Green at GSA and HUD

If last week's story on the apparent shortcomings of the Office of Urban Affairs may have shaken your hopes about the Obama administration's commitment to cities, planning, and urban policy, fear not. As we tried to point out, these things are happening, just not necessarily at the White House office whose name is synonymous with it. Case in point, two major announcements were made this week concerning sustainability, one at the GSA, the other at HUD. Yesterday, the General Services Administration announced that it had created its first Chief Greening Officer (terrible name, great news), whose job it would be to pursue sustainability initiatives throughout the agency's massive portfolio of buildings, some 350 million square feet. Taking over the new office is Eleni Reed, the former Director of Sustainability Strategies at Cushman and Wakefield, where she undertook a similar task of greening the company's vast office holdings. And on Monday, the agency submitted its sustainability plan to the White House with a target of a "zero environmental footprint," though a timeline for that is not clear. Meanwhile, over at Department of Housing and Urban Development, officials announced today that HUD would start scoring its grant applications for their compliance with LEED-ND, the U.S. Green Building Council's new neighborhood rating system. “Using the ‘LEED-ND’ green neighborhood rating system…it’s time that federal dollars stopped encouraging sprawl and started lowering the barriers to the kind of sustainable development our country needs and our communities want," Secretary Shaun Donovan said in a press release. It is not unlike one of the programs mentioned in last week's piece, about how the Office of Management and Budget is weighing its budget calculations in favor of programs that incorporate sustainable and pro-urban initiatives.
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Put Up A Parking Lot

Despite interest from developers and pleas from activists in St. Louis, yesterday the Missouri Circuit Court ruled that the demolition of the mid-century modern San Luis Apartments can proceed. An appeal brought to the court by The Friends of the San Luis last week attempted to prevent the Archdiocese of St. Louis, which owns the building, from the further demolition of the structure. The Archdiocese wants to build a surface parking lot on the site, creating a large gap in the urban fabric of Lindell Boulevard. The Friends group is organizing a rally to be held at the site tonight to show its continued intent to preserve this “high-merit” building and to protest the court’s decision. Further appeals to halt demolition may also be brought by the group.
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By UNanimous Decree, Urban is Green

A sublime piece of modern architecture, the United Nations Headquarters is a time capsule that preserves almost intact the spirit of the 1950s. From the head sets to the tapestries, which hide the most breathtaking views of Brooklyn and the East River, everything has the air of an early James Bond movie. On May 13th, however, the UN was looking forward to pressing environmental challenges and their urban solutions, as the host of the second part of the "Conference on Sustainable Urbanization in the Information Age," entitled “The Role of Infrastructure in Metropolitan Development.” Speakers from places and realities as diverse as Mexico, Estonia, Spain, Australia, Kenya, and the UK agreed that urban living is the greenest way to live. “Living well is the only sustainability,” concluded New York’s own Rick Bell, Executive Director of the AIA NY chapter, and that seemed to be the motto throughout the sessions. With the world urban population growing at an incredible pace (I was shocked to discover that my home country of Uruguay leads the world ranking with 91 percent of its population living in urban areas) speakers called for responsible planning, emphasizing the usual topics of density, public transport, affordable housing, and sanitation. What was a surprise, though, was the acknowledgment by many officials that governmental and sub governmental systems were inefficient and over regulated, impeding the implementation of better policies. Conflicts of governance and large bureaucracies, along with poor civic engagement and lack of private and public partnerships make it difficult for all these “good intentions” to be put to practice. When our planet is in peril, it is no surprise that major attention should be taken to cities, after all “urban centers are the ticking hearts of civilization,” to use words of Sarbuland Khan, of the Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies. Also cities are the epicenter of the catastrophic global economic crisis in which we are living, but nevertheless, it is important not to compromise sustainable practices for the sake of reactivating the economy. The US government’s promises to end the economic slump come in the form of a stimulus package for infrastructure, but the kind of infrastructure we plan will determine the way we live and use the cities of the future, so we must chose responsibly. Keynote speaker Under Secretary-General Dr. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka plead to consider this as an opportunity to instill principles of sustainability into infrastructure development: “The challenge is to integrate economic environmental and social policies to make our cities economically more competitive, ecologically more sustainable and socially more inclusive and gender responsive. It is important to recognize success factors and remove barriers to their replication… we need local action if we are going to achieve global goals.” It is high time we put aside political interests and start acknowledging that these challenges are not part of some dystopian future, but are right around the corner. Let’s just hope those with the power to make these decisions do so wisely.
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Wishful Blinking

In the 17th century, the Dutch republic was booming, and the public clamored for paintings celebrating the iconic forms of their cities. The art world’s response to that demand is on display in the National Gallery of Art’s Pride of Place: Dutch Cityscapes of the Golden Age , a captivating collection of paintings that is less like a window on cities of the past, and more like a lens, distorting and idealizing its subject in fascinating ways. Blurring the boundary between map and painting, Dutch artists produced meticulously rendered, three-dimensional aerial views of their cities, like Jan Micker’s “A Bird's-Eye View of Amsterdam,” which sports a map’s legend but is dappled with trompe l’oeil shadows from imagined clouds overhead. Other maps are inset with simplified profile views of cities, miniatures that distill each city’s built form into its most defining characteristics, the shape of city’s skyline, the curve of another’s harbor. Of course, there’s a fine line between simplification and idealization, and it’s one these artists unconcernedly stride across. Painted Holland is a much more placid, orderly place than real Holland: Grime and poverty are excised, roofs straightened, streets widened. These artists don’t just remove and rearrange, they also add, splicing a medieval tower into the background of a scene, for instance, to emphasize the modernity of the buildings in the foreground. And sometimes the deception is implicit. One painting by van Ruisdael puts us at the top of Amsterdam’s newly-built Town Hall, gazing out onto the city, and he exaggerates the tower’s height by shrinking the houses on the ground below. Keep an eye out for other visual trickery, which the Dutch of this era seem to have had a particular penchant for. In Jan van der Heyden’s 1667 depiction, Amsterdam‘s stately new town hall appears warped and flattened, until you move to a particular spot near the lower right of the painting and gaze up at it, at which point the perspective snaps into place and the building towers over you, the scene morphing from unreal to hyper-real. Pride of Place: Dutch Cityscapes in the Golden Age is on display at the National Gallery of Art, at Constitution Avenue on the National Mall, Washington, D.C. through May 3.
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Back on the Map

It may not have a marquee name attached to it, but work on the Cortlandt Street R/W subway station is another sign of the slow but increasingly steady progress at the World Trade Center site. Closed since 9/11, the heavily damaged station has stood as an eerie reminder of that day, visible to the thousands of riders that pass by it everyday as the trains creak and twist toward Rector Street. A gray dot on the MTA subway map represent the station’s there-but-not-there quality. The Cortlandt Street 1 train station is also marked with a gray dot. The words “World Trade Center Site” hover over the map in an even lighter shade. Recently, workers on the northbound R/W train platform have been laying concrete block and setting sparkling white tiles. It looks much like any other station undergoing refurbishment. According to a spokesman for the MTA, the northbound platform will reopen in December 2009. It’s a small workaday step toward reintegrating the site into the city fabric, but it also illustrates its complexities involved in construction there. A timeline for the reopening of the southbound platform is being developed. The entire 1 train station will remain closed until an unspecified date, according to the spokesman. To reopen the other platform and the additional station, issues of collaboration, permissions, and access must be resolved between the MTA and the Port Authority. The MTA will alter all the subway maps to reflect the reopening of the northbound platform. UPDATE: The MTA sent this statement clarifying when and why the station was closed.
Following the events of September 11, 2001, the Cortlandt Street R/W Station was reopened on September 15, 2002. The station was closed again on August 20, 2005, to accommodate excavation and construction of the Dey Street underground pedestrian concourse, a component of the MTA's Fulton Street Transit Center project. The concourse will create direct passage between the Fulton Street/Broadway-Nassau subway station platforms, the R & W platforms, the World Trade Center site and its PATH station. The work building the concourse has been completed, but the Cortlandt Street station has remained closed because of a slight settlement that has occurred to the platforms as a result of work being done to rebuild the adjacent World Trade Center site. This settlement is detectable by engineering instruments, but does not significantly affect the overall structural soundness of the station and has not impacted train traffic through the station. Station opening requires that the settlement be repaired, which has been partially completed but requires further work, and that the station finishes and necessary stair and passageway work be completed.