London Underground - reimagined!

Alternates to the London Underground map

The Death and Life of...

Planning for our future (figuratively speaking)...

Urban greening in high density environments

Creating 'Vertical Forests' in high density residential developments


By Jessica Guirand

On 1 June 2016 the Seine River overflowed. After days of intense rainfall, the river invaded the streets to finally culminate at 6.18 metres above the normal level.

Image Source: Pierre Terdjman for The New York Times
Image source: Pierre Terdjman for The New York Times
There was fear among the population, with authorities and experts stating that the record flooding level of 1910 would be reached. Back then, the Seine rose to 8.62 metres above the standard levels, paralysing the capital city for over seven weeks and causing significant damages. This time, the river rose to 6.18 metres – the same level as the last 1982 flood episode.

Image source: Wikimedia

In 2014, the Institute of Urban Planning (Institut d’Aménagement et d’Urbanisme) directed 3D films illustrating the consequences of a major rise in the water level in flood prone areas including Paris. Coincidentally, the Institute ran a two week flood simulation in March this year for the Parisian Region (Ile-de-France) to test the emergency-flood protection plans, encourage effective collaboration between the various stakeholders and inform the population.

The stakes are high. The rise of water level has dreadful impacts but so does the decrease in flood level. In this case, it took nearly two weeks for the water to recede to normal levels. The toll includes death, population displacement, economic loss, damage to the public ream, cultural institutions, and public and private real estate.

Risk management of natural disaster is surrounded by incertitude. For example, predictions are based on previous natural events and experts concede to a lack of knowledge on underground runoff. This risk is also aggravated by the locations of major networks (electricity, water, internet, transport etc.)
7 to 8 levels below the natural ground level. Needless to say that urbanisation of flood prone areas is adding to the pressure. In this context, there’s an urgent need to make cities resilient and raise risk and prevention awareness, and particularly in urban renewal areas.

Despite the prevention measures in place, modelling and simulation, the rise in water levels that occurred earlier this month were faster than anticipated by the authorities. The lessons learnt from the simulation help to significantly reduce the impact of the flood.

Image source: Markus Schreiber/Associated Press


TIMBER... skyscraper for London?

By Brad Foletta
Image source: Inhabitat
London’s first timber skyscraper is a step closer to reality with conceptual plans presented by PLP Architecture and Cambridge University. The plans are for an 80-storey, 300 metre tall wooden building which it plans to incorporate within the Barbican Estate.

If built, the wooden structure would be the tallest of its kind in the world and the second tallest building in London after the Shard. In addition to the use of renewable materials, the skyscraper’s timber frame could also lock in 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide — equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of 5,000 Londoners.

The proposed one-million-square-foot mixed-use skyscraper and mid-rise terraces would create over 1,000 new residential units.

The use of timber as a structural material in tall buildings is an area of emerging interest for its variety of potential benefits; the most obvious being that it is a renewable resource, unlike prevailing construction methods which use concrete and steel. The research is also investigating other potential benefits, such as reduced costs and improved construction timescales, increased fire resistance, and significant reduction in the overall weight of buildings.

The world's tallest wooden building to date is a 14-storey apartment block in Bergen, Norway, but there are several more in the pipeline.

For more on this article, click below:

Also, check out this article on wooden skyscrapers from the Urban Developer.

You are never too old

By Kathryn Cuddihy

Playgrounds are for kids... or are they?

Image source: Guardian
Image source: Guardian

As our population's age, cities need to adapt to meet the needs of all users, including the elderly.
Open spaces, recreation facilities and neighbourhoods need to ensure they are catering for the wellbeing and general fitness of all users. One novel concept that seems to be used worldwide is the creation of play areas and outdoor gyms for the elderly. Not only does it encourage social integration, it is also a great way to keep the population active and healthy.

Below are a series of images that show how parks and outdoor gyms have adapted play equipment to suit a plethora of ages.

Image source: Guardian

Image source: Guardian

Image source: Guardian

You are never too old to play!

Check out the full story here or to read about 'Active Design' click here.

Fund Our Future

By Kathryn Cuddihy

Image source: ABC News

According to 'Fund our Future' five million Australians live in the fast-growing suburbs on the outskirts of our capital cities and are confronted daily with congested roads and insufficient public transport.

The campaign is pushing for a policy shift to address the infrastructure backlog and future-proof the outer suburbs by addressing three priorities - road, public transport and health.

They are looking to push the Federal Government to establish a national infrastructure fund that is based on good planning and merit as opposed to what they believe is the currently the trend - projects based on election cycles.

Earlier this week, National Nightmare Commute Day highlighted the struggles faced by those in the outer suburbs as they face their daily commute. Commuters were asked to take to social media using the #FundourFutureAU to highlight their plight.

Glenn Goodfellow, a Councillor with the City of Wyndham stated that commuters face congestion and poor infrastructure on a daily basis. He says that many commuters face congestion on both the roads and public transport.

Do you think that a national fund will go far enough to fix commuter issues or should more be done? What are some other initiatives that could be used to alleviate commuter woes? Carpooling, building good quality services from the outset, investment in creating more employment opportunities in the outer suburbs? We'd love to hear your thoughts.

Click here to find out more about Fund Our Future.

Melbourne - the 'Resilience' capital of Australia

By Kathryn Cuddihy

The city of Melbourne recently released its Resilience Strategy, the first of its kind in Australia.

The Strategy was the work of more than 1000 individuals across local councils, organisations and Victorian State Departments. It addresses Melbourne's most pressing and interconnected challenges, including rising sea levels, pressure on healthcare services, unemployment and social inequality.

The Strategy outlines four resilience objectives:
  1. Stronger Together
  2. Our Shared Places
  3. A Healthier Environment
  4. A Dynamic Economy
Image source: 100 resilient cities
For more information or to view the report, click here.

The Sky is the Limit

By Amruta Purohit

England has introduced drones to check planning applications.

Image source: The Urban Developer
While drone use is not a new concept, a survey found that almost a dozen councils are now using or hiring drones for various purposes, for example, where access is difficult or hazardous, there is a need for inspections of high buildings, bridges, dangerous structures and coastal erosions. Further, Epping Forest and Moray Council are going a step further and will be send drones to enforce planning applications and to inspect properties under application review. 

Moray Council have used drones in past, in open farmlands and construction sites, but not near residential areas. However, after testing and seeing the benefits they make in the overall planning process, they are looking to introduce the use into residential areas as well as for seeking site consent with developments like windfarm applications. Council is in the process of preparing process and policy guidelines as well as training their operators and acquiring licenses to ensure safety and privacy needs are met.

To ensure residents are aware of the use of drones, the Council will notify them at the same time as they are informed about the planning applications. Council feels that residents are more relaxed about aerial views, however, some residents raise concern about its overuse without having a clear purpose and justification around data protection safeguards. Epping Forest Council has indicated that drones will be used by both the Planning Enforcement and Emergency Planning departments.

In other parts of the world, drone use is becoming increasingly popular to complete aerial inspections, to detect illegal extensions and construction, mapping and surveying and site surveillance.  

Drone use is increasing in use worldwide. Do you see it integrating with planning in Australia in the next five years? We are interested in your thoughts.

Giving the streets back to residents

By Claire Whelan

Barcelona has a bold new plan to reduce car use, increase physical activity and improve the environment of the city through the introduction of ‘superblocks’. Smaller streets will be partially reclaimed as public open space for pedestrians, with car use limited to local residents at a speed of 10km/h. The super blocks are approximately 400m in width, and bus services will be increased along the main roads to provide bus stops within 300m. 300km of new bicycle paths are also part of the plan.

Image source: The Guardian
Melbourne is heavily based on the grid system, most famously within the CBD but also throughout many inner and middle ring suburbs. We’ve already seen examples of under-utilised roads or car parks being re-purposed as public open space such as the creation of new pocket parks in Richmond (Richmond Terrace), Collingwood (Peel Street Park) and North Melbourne (The Bee Park). These projects were not without opposition, and yet have been successfully implemented and well used by local residents.

Is it time we started aiming higher? 

Read more here.

London underground - reimagined!

By Kathryn Cuddihy

I love maps and recently the Guardian 'Cities' has published an article that looks at alternate London underground maps based on a series of factors including:

Cost of Living - this shows the average cost of rent for a one-bedroom flat at every stop on the network.

Geographically accuracy - believe it or not the London Underground map doesn't actually run in parallel lines. Below is an accurate representation of the layout of the network - a little different!

Distance between station on foot - often it is quicker to actually walk between stations then ride the 'Tube' in central London. The normal network map doesn't indicate distance between stations, the map below does show distance.

These are just a few examples.

There is plenty more maps to look at online and some interesting videos too - my favourite is a 'Day on the London Underground' which captures the number of journeys on the network in a 24 hour space - check them out here.

New lease on life for the little red box

By Brad Foletta

Image source: inhabitat
The red British telephone box has been voted - on many occasions - the greatest British design ever and is a quintessential symbol of the country’s culture. However, with rapid changes in communications technology, is this icons days numbered?

Apparently not… the solution – upcycle!

Bar Works a New York based co-working space company is planning to upcycle telephone booths in London, Edinburgh, and Leeds into small offices for entrepreneurs. The ‘Pod Works’ spaces will be equipped with a 25-inch screen, wireless mouse, printer/scanner, power bank, Wi-Fi, and a drinks machine (and they are even heated).

Bar Works CEO Jonathan Black said: “Entrepreneurs and others constantly on the move need a convenient, affordable and private place to work.”

How much would you expect to pay? A mere £19.99 per month (AUD $29) for unlimited access 24-hours a day, which really is a bargain for your own Tardis.

In Australia in recent years, we have seen old telephone booths repurposed as wi-fi hotspots that make use of the existing infrastructure and make them fit for purpose in the 21st Century.

Want to read more:

Urban greening in high density environments

By Kirsty Smith and Julia Bell

High density living is increasingly becoming the norm for the millions of people that want to live in our global cities. People assume that they must give up their connection to nature in order to live in central locations within our cities. However, given the increase in the amount of high rise residential apartments, designers are starting to shift towards locating high density development in locations adjacent to parklands and open spaces and are including tree planting within high density residential developments in city centres creating the “Vertical Forest”.

Image Source: Dezeen

The first project born from this concept by Boeri Studio is now nearing completion in the Isola area of Milan's fast-developing Porta Nuova district. Two towers, measuring 80 and 112 metres, are set to open later this year and are already home to 900 trees.

The Vertical Forest has at its heart a concept of architecture which uses the changing shape and form of leaves for its facades, and hands over to the vegetation the task of absorbing the dust in the air, and creating an adequate micro-climate in order to filter out the sunlight. This is a kind of biological architecture which refuses to adopt a strictly technological and mechanical approach to environmental sustainability.

Vertical Forest is an anti-sprawl measure which aims to control and reduce urban expansion. If we think of them in terms of urban densification, each tower of the Vertical Forest is equivalent to an area of urban sprawl of family houses and buildings of up to 50,000 square metres.
Image Source: Dezeen
Examples of “vertical gardens” can be found across various Australian Cities, including One Central Park in Sydney, designed by French architect Jean Nouvel who teamed up with botanist Patrick Blanc. The building's facade features one of the tallest green walls in the world, spanning over 1,000 square metres, the 21 plant-covered panels are made up of 35 different species

Image source: Dezeen
There is a great opportunity in sub-tropical countries to create these vertical forests which will improve the quality of life for residents of high rise residential developments.

The death and life of...

By Sean Hua

Great American Cities? Perhaps, but not quite. Try substituting the word 'ourselves' instead. Think a little closer to home: literally, figuratively and spiritually. Then you might come across Bunurong Memorial Park.

Image source: The Age
Situated in Melbourne southeast, the park has recently completed its redevelopment from a cemetery to be a 101 hectare centre that celebrates life, observes its ending, and commits it all to memory. The centre has a host of facilities atypical of a final resting place, within its grounds are various event spaces, places for reflection, children’s play areas, gardens, non-traditional grave spaces, and even a café. Several weddings have already taken place here.

Jane Grover, chief executive of the Southern Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, says:

“There is a change of narrative here – cemeteries are for the dead and memorial parks are for the living, and the families. They need to not be relics of the past… Generation X and Y are a death-free generation – they haven't had the Vietnam War, the Korean War, [or the world wars]… So how do we tap into them to say 'This is a really important place about how you navigate death?'”

As we celebrate the centenary of Jane Jacobs, Jane Grover is echoing her planning namesake in a way: the places we create should foster all manner of activities to create 'urban life' as we know it, rather than broad swathes of single uses that limit interactivity.

She also raises a deeper question about permanence, change, and morals. As an industry, we are tasked with thinking ahead for our communities, often beyond the end of our lifetimes. What we put on the ground effectively becomes indelible insofar as our own consciousness is concerned. As such, in a time of peace for a death-free generation, would it not be appropriate to create spaces that say, “This is a really important place about how you navigate life”?

Walking in the footsteps of Jane Jacobs

Image source: Jane's Walk
By Jessica Guirand

Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an urbanist and activist best known for her writing on cities. Her book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) modernised city planning and architecture. Her vision and focus on 'ten big ideas' provided a guide for planners to create diverse and vibrant cities.

Following her death, a number of her close friends developed a free walk, Jane's Walk, to celebrate her life and work. Held annually, it has expanded from her home town of Toronto and today boasts 1,300 walks, held in 189 cities across the globe.

This year as we celebrate 100 years since her birth, a number of cities across Australia will join the global festival on 6-8 May 2016. To see a full list of walks on offer throughout the festival, click on the links below:

Jane's Walk Australia


Hit the Wall II

Following on from our post last week 'Hit the Wall' by Jessica Guirand, we've been sent a great example of wall art contributing to the urban fabric in South Korean city of Busan and we felt the need to share it.To see more photos click on the link here.

Image source: Whudat
Image source: Whudat
Thanks to our readers for sending your examples.   

Predicting Coastal Flooding with Mapping

By Kathryn Cuddihy

Australians love to cycle to work, but what about a swim to work instead? Mapping data is enabling us to see how Australian cities may look in the not too distant future and the results are quite startling in some areas.

Climate Risk Australia has compiled their data with a series of Google Maps to show the effects of climate change on Australian cities and predicts where a rise in sea level could be felt the most through using a combination of tide and elevation data. This, as well as predictions for sea level rises under low, medium and high greenhouse gas emissions scenarios shows how our coast would change with each scenario.

Under a high emissions scenario you can see that Melbourne would look quite different:

Image source: The Guardian Australia
In Sydney, a high emissions scenario would see the world famous landmark, the Opera House submerged:

Image source: The Guardian Australia
Image source: The Guardian Australia

Click on the link below and simply type in your address to see how the different scenarios may affect you and your property.

Hit the wall

By Jessica Guirand

We have talked about walls in the past and the importance of their treatment in this forever changing environment.

We’ve seen innovative solutions being implemented in different parts of the world. Some of them might prove to be expensive, in particular from a building cost management perspective. Luckily, other interesting, contemporary and cheaper treatments can be used to spice things up. I came across this colourful mural completed by Artists Iker Muro and Louis Lambert (also known as 3ttman) on a building in Santa Cruz. (To be fair, I was not actually there to see it with my own eyes, but the images below speak for themselves.)

Image source:

Image source: 3ttman (Instagram)
Have you come across eye catching artistic murals on existing or new development? Please share with us.