Posts Tagged ‘Urban Design and Built Form’

Edges and Social Spaces: City Design

Posted in Models, Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on September 28th, 2011

Source: Sustainable Cities Collective


Photo by Chuck Wolfe

From “Confronting the Urban Mirror” by Chuck Wolfe:

To my mind, one of the most compelling features of a provocative urban environment is a place where people watch people—which becomes a small-scale human observatory. Such places are often indicative of safe public environments, including active streets, corners and squares. They are particularly prevalent in cultures where neighbors readily interact, and the seams between public and private are softer than zoning setbacks, while still allowing for a private world.

[...]

The sustainable cities we seek should include small places, where, as here, when the bustle of life begins in the morning and evening, people interact with facets of the city around them. I suspect that workable density, in the city of the future, will abound with the types of spaces readily ascertainable from cities of the past. We need places where we sit on the edges of the public realm and look in the mirror, to be reminded of who we really are.

Read the full article and check out the delightful photos by Chuck Wolfe on Sustainable Cities Collective.

 


Pop-Up Placemaking

Posted in Movements, Visions by Kate Archdeacon on September 21st, 2011

Via Sustainable Cities Collective


Photo by John Niedermeyer via flickr CC

From “Cities rethink urban spaces with ‘pop-up’ projects” by Siri Agrell:

‘Pop-up’ urban planning gives cities the freedom to experiment with projects on a temporary basis, allowing innovative ideas a trial run without expensive commitment of taxpayer money. Cities around the world are embracing the idea, leading in many cases to permanent changes in the urban landscape.

If there is a reigning Queen of Pop-Up, it is Janette Sadik-Khan, the New York city transportation commissioner. In 2009, Ms. Sadik-Khan famously closed Times Square to traffic, transforming it into a pedestrian mall by simply throwing down some pylons and offering a smattering of lawn chairs. Although some drivers howled, Ms. Sadik-Khan was ready for the criticism, and began citing statistics she gathered by closely tracking the experiment.

The city quickly found that revenues from businesses in Times Square had risen 71 per cent, and that injuries to motorists and passengers in the project areas dropped 63 per cent. The city installed GPS units into 13,000 taxis so that the Department of Transportation could track the impact on car traffic, and found that northbound trips in the west midtown area around Times Square were actually 17 per cent faster.

The pop-up projects didn’t stop there. Ms. Sadik-Khan brought temporary public swimming pools onto Manhattan streets last summer, and, over the course of a single weekend, she turned a Brooklyn parking lot into a park by painting a white border and filling it in with green to represent grass. “It was a quick way of showing you can transform a space in a matter of hours instead of a matter of years,” she told Esquire magazine.

She performs most of her transformations without capital funds from the city, scrounging up cash and resources and avoiding actually asking permission.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration has embraced the tactic, and now uses the term “pilot project” to introduce programs into other departments, including education, making them exempt from the usual approval processes.

Read the full article by Siri Agrell for The Globe and Mail.

For an interesting follow-up, read this March piece in the NY Times, outlining the difficulties faced by the city officials mentioned above. KA


Small Smart Infill: Secondary Dwellings

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on September 13th, 2011

Via Sustainable Cities Collective


Photo by Pembleton via flickr CC

From “How garage & basement apartments help people, neighborhoods and the environment” by Kaid Benfield:

One of the best ways to accommodate growth (as we must) without either exacerbating sprawl or disturbing the character of existing communities is by using so-called “accessory units” – secondary dwellings attached to a main home, such as garage and basement apartments. Sometimes these are called “granny flats” or “in-law suites” because of their usefulness to house extended family members while giving them the privacy that comes with having their own, separate entarnces and homes. For the primary homeowner, it can also be an excellent source of income to help pay for the mortgage or other needs. For the neighborhood, it brings in a mixture of housing types and price points, adding variety and affordability while preserving architectural character. It also helps people “age in place” as their housing needs shrink without having to leave their neighborhoods. Municipal planners are taking note: Vancouver, for example, promotes “laneway housing” facing alleys as part of its “EcoDensity” program; Seattle encourages “backyard cottages.”

[...]

Read the full article by Kaid Benfield for more on this, a related article in USA Today, and info about a new book called In-Laws, Outlaws and Granny Flats.


Hong Kong Urban Intensity: Public Lectures

Posted in Events, Research by Kate Archdeacon on September 7th, 2011


Photo by Mike Behnken via flickr CC

The Melbourne School of Design presents a series of free public lectures by Professor Tom Kvan celebrating the book launch of The Making of Hong Kong: From Vertical to Volumetric.

These lectures examine one of the most intense cities in the world. Hong Kong’s irregular coastline and steep terrain has resulted in built-up areas that are compact, rich in spatial experience, all parts close to hills and water and connected by an exceptional public transport system. The lectures will present how the authors see value in these conditions: a metropolis with a small urban footprint, 90 per cent use of public transport for vehicular journeys and proximity to nature which has arisen from a culturally and topographic specific condition.

This fascinating book, with over 200 original illustrations, adds to the current urban debate around high density compact cities and interconnected public transport systems as one means of reducing urban energy use and carbon emissions. The lecture will explore why urban intensity is vital for more than ecological reasons and presents propositions based on these observations.

This lecture and book launch is part of a national tour. A reception will follow each lecture. Please register on the Melbourne School of Design website.

  • Sydney Monday 19 September
  • Adelaide, Tuesday 20 September
  • Perth, Thursday 22 September
  • Brisbane, Friday 23 September
  • Launceston, Friday 30 September


The New Urbanism & Smart Transport 2011 International Conference

Posted in Events by Kate Archdeacon on September 6th, 2011

The New Urbanism & Smart Transport 2011 International Conference Perth – Australia
Towards Liveable Cities & Better Communities

The New Urbanism is a vision that is becoming a reality in a few new communities. New Urbanism claims to offer a real, smart growth method of town and city planning that will repair cities and make them the livable, vital things they once were. New Urbanism and smart growth involves much more than light rail transportation.

Planners, architectural design and related professions as well as academics, government representatives, and smart growth advocates around the world are talking about a more comprehensive transportation overhaul, one that includes mass transit between and within cities and bicycle and pedestrian traffic. The key here is less reliance on cars only and stronger relationships between transportation systems and the communities themselves.

Attendees will include local, national and international experts in a range of planning, architectural design and related professions as well as academics, government representatives and others interested in developing more liveable cities and better communities.

September 26 & 27, Perth, Western Australia

www.newurbanism-smarttransport.com


Connecting Suburbs: A Walkable, Rideable Car-Free Bridge

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on August 31st, 2011

Source: Streetfilms via Going SolarTransport Newsletter


Photo by Mulad via flickr CC

From “Breathtaking Bike Infrastructure: Minnesota’s Martin Olav Sabo Bridge” by Clarence Eckerson, Jr.:

In 2007, in order to route cyclists away from a challenging 7-lane crossing on busy Hiawatha Avenue, Minneapolis built the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge. The first cable-stayed bridge of any kind in the state, it’s breathtaking, even to the people who have been riding it for years. It provides a safe, continuous crossing and offers up a glorious view of the downtown skyline (especially at sunset!). The sleek Hiawatha light rail line runs beneath it, and there are benches to sit on and take everything in.

Used by an average of 2,500 riders a day, peak use can hit 5,000 to 6,000 per day on some gorgeous summer weekends, according to Shaun Murphy of the Minneapolis Department of Public Works. The bridge was named in honor of Minneapolis’ Martin Olav Sabo, a former U.S. Representative from the 5th District who helped secure much of the $5 million needed to build it.

Thanks to the Bikes Belong Foundation for enabling us to feature this majestic piece of bike architecture and to show that investing is cycling and walking is well worth every penny for our communities.

Watch the Streetfilm of the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge.


Flexible Public Space: ‘Youth Factory’ in Spain

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on August 5th, 2011

Source: Fast Company‘s Co.Design


Photo © Iwan Baan

From “Simple Genius: The World’s Coolest Skate Park Doubles As A Counseling Center” by Alissa Walker:

How about a playground that’s not really a playground at all, instead it’s a vibrant, flexible space that acknowledges the wide variety of activities that kids actually want to participate in? The firm Selgas Cano has designed just the space in Merida, Spain.

The Factoría Joven (“youth factory” in Spanish) is less a junky jungle gym and more like a creative community center, equipped for activities as wide-ranging as rock climbing and hip-hop dancing. There’s a skatepark, of course, which essentially winds through the plazas connecting the buildings (almost all the ground is actually skateable), but also a concert stage for performing arts. Plus a place to learn graffiti and street art, and a section of the complex that’s set up for circus training. Yes, tightrope walking at the park.

There’s also plenty of indoor space for learning music and dance. And wireless Internet, of course. Selgas Cano chose to huddle all the activities under a single canopy, which is supported by oval-shaped cylinders for indoor activities (with white cylinders and an orange lid, it looks kind of like a series of mushrooms clustered together with a shared cap).

To keep costs down, there’s no heating or cooling, instead the canopy is a meter thick to shield kids from hot sun or rain. The bright orange and white cladding is made from corrugated plastic and has a level of translucence to it, allowing some sun through and interior light to filter out at night, turning the building into a glowing beacon for the community that can be used well into the night.

By creating a public space that’s so visually exciting, it’s hard to imagine that kids (or their parents) will want to hang out anywhere else. And that’s partly the point: The skatepark’s structure actually hides meeting rooms where kids can get group counseling. So the activities get them in, but that also creates an unparalleled opportunity to reach them.

Read the full article by Alissa Walker.


Straw-Bale Council Housing

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on July 28th, 2011

Source: guardian.co.uk


ModCell makes sustainable, prefabricated straw bales and sets up a ‘flying factory’ in a space such as a farmyard where wall panels for homes can be assembled close to where they are needed.” Click through to see the image gallery on the Guardian.

Two local councils in the UK have chosen to build straw-bale council houses, in order to decrease domestic GHG emissions.  The houses are extremely well-insulated, potentially reducing residents’ heating costs to 20 percent of those of conventional homes, and helping address the issue of fuel scarcity.  The straw-bale homes are built using locally produced hay-bales, and they achieve a higher fire safety rating than the required standards.

Read the full article by Cath Harris in the Guardian.


Transport Emissions: Behaviour Change More Important Than Technology or Efficiency

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on June 28th, 2011


Image: icedsoul photography .:teymur madjderey via flickr CC

From “Behaviour change, not technology, is key to cutting vehicle emissions” by Nadya Anscombe:

When it comes to reducing emission from light-duty vehicles (LDV), researchers in the US have shown that technology alone is not the solution. In a paper published in Environmental Research Letters (ERL), Jalel Sager and colleagues from the University of California show that to meet greenhouse-gas emission and climate-reduction goals for the year 2050, the way in which we use LDVs has to change.

Co-author Daniel Kammen told environmentalresearchweb: “Reducing LDV emissions is often thought of as a technological challenge, with efforts going into the development of more efficient cars or fuels that produce fewer greenhouse gases per unit energy. However, by decomposing transport-sector emissions into technological and behavioural drivers, we show that even significant technological advances will be insufficient to meet climate goals, unless the growth in LDV use slows or reverses.”

To quantify the carbon dioxide mitigation challenge for the transport sector, the researchers surveyed 2007 LDV usage and fuel economy in an economically diverse set of countries. They found that the large differences in per capita LDV greenhouse-gas emissions (range: ˜100–4000 kg of carbon dioxide equivalent per year) are principally explained by differing national per_capita LDV use (range: 300–13,000 vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) per year), rather than to fleet average fuel-efficiency and carbon-intensity factors, which reflect the broadly similar car technology worldwide.

The researchers forecast that meeting greenhouse-gas targets through technology developments alone would require universal deployment of one or more of the following clusters: electric vehicles running on nearly zero-carbon electricity, cellulosic biofuel-powered vehicles achieving 300 miles per gallon (0.78 l per 100 km), or gasoline-fuelled vehicles achieving in excess of 1000 mpg (0.24 l per 100 km).

“These performance levels exceed even the most optimistic technology scenarios for the year 2050,” said Kammen. “This shows that reducing greenhouse gases emitted by LDVs is a behavioural issue, not a technological one.”

Kammen cites several success stories of cities that have relatively low greenhouse-gas emissions from LDVs because of relatively compact urban development. For example, citizens of Hong Kong, Seville, Turin, Valencia, Lisbon, Bologna, and Moscow use between 5,000 and 11,000 MJ per capita per year for travel through these relatively compact areas, with more than half of all trips taken by foot, bicycle or public transport. Meanwhile, in cities with higher personal vehicle use, such as Chicago, Houston, San Diego or Washington, inhabitants use 44,000 to 86,000 MJ per capita per year, with less than 16% of all journeys accomplished through non-motorized or public means.

As well as improved urban planning and public transport, the researchers say that pricing policies and parking and congestion fees have also been shown to influence travel behaviour. Steadily increasing fuel taxes have proven especially useful in many developed countries, for example Germany, in reducing VKT and encouraging automakers to increase fuel efficiency over time. They point out that “the US, with some of the lowest fuel taxes in the developed world, seems ripe for such a measure”.

“There are so many opportunities available to us to reduce our greenhouse gases from LDVs,” said Kammen. “The question is, can we implement them quickly enough?”

Read Nadya Anscombe’s article (and associated links) on Environmental Research Web.


Our Cities Ourselves: Traveling Exhibition

Posted in Visions by Kate Archdeacon on June 16th, 2011


New York Project Architect: Terreform and Michael Sorkin Studio

The exhibition Our Cities, Ourselves commissioned 10 architects to imagine how a specific area of their cities should be transformed towards 2030, when the global urban population is expected to be 60 percent. All of the renovation projects explore how cities would be if they were redesigned for people, not cars, and follow principles for sustainable mobility drafted by Jan Gehl and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. Most projects seek to create more public space and introduce alternative transportation to solve pressing issues in the selected cities.  Jemina Veloz, This Big City

Our Cities Ourselves shows the visions of ten of the world’s most fascinating cities from ten of the world’s leading architects. These cities have proven to be leaders in innovation in sustainable transport and are fertile ground for further transformation.

Our Cities Ourselves is a program of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. It is designed to attract interest and stimulate debate, enabling ITDP to maximize its impact in cities throughout the world. The aim is to think about what sort of cities we want to live in, the sort of street we want to walk along, and the sort of future we want for ourselves and our children. Looking ahead, how will each of us help create our cities for ourselves? The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy works with cities worldwide to bring about sustainable transport solutions that cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce poverty, and improve the quality of urban life.

This international exhibition is currently on show in Buenos Aires. See Events page for further details.