We All Want Greater Places

Online community for urban and community design

Roomscan App

Throw out your rulers and tape measures!

The Goodsssstuff

Made in Sydney

Pop-Up House

Ideas for affordable and sustainable homes

07 April 2014

We all want greater places

It may be hard to believe, but if you want to know the latest in urban design solutions, it’s possible that urban design’s very own version of Wikipedia, GreaterPlaces, might give you a few leads.

‘Discovered’ at a recent meeting of potential application developers in Washington, GreaterPlaces enables users to look for the latest solutions for cities from around the globe.

It’s an online community for urban and community design and GreaterPlaces says it’s for everyone involved in shaping a community. It covers topics as diverse as affordable housing to green infrastructure and transit oriented development.

They are encouraging the sharing of ideas and plans to enhance placemaking. And people really are sharing some interesting and innovative projects.

Read Sustainable Cities Collective’s take on the site and how it might help emerging economies: http://sustainablecitiescollective.com/embarq/239126/greaterplaces-emerging-wikipedia-urban-planners?ref=popular_posts

Or visit GreaterPlaces and see what you think.

Source: GreaterPlaces website

Roomscan App

Throw out your rulers and tape measures!

Word on the street is that CAD monkeying could be a thing of the past (Are those sighs we hear from graduate architects?).

There’s a new app on the block for iPhone able to produce floor plans by walking around the room you’re measuring and holding your phone to the walls. It uses motion sensoring and outputs a floor plan to your phone with measured dimensions in seconds.

We wouldn’t advise building your dream home based on plans produced by the Roomscan app but for a quick initial sketch this is brilliant!

There is even a pro version that allows you to input more exact dimensions, doors and windows. Never be caught out again without your tape measure.

Read more about it here and check out the demos at: http://locometric.com/

Download it free from the app store.

Give it a go and let us know what you think – life changing or disappointing gimmick?

Pop-up house

This is a straightforward concept which aims at delivering passive houses that are affordable and accessible to all. To make this possible the team from Mutipod-studio designed an entire building by putting together insulation blocks separated by wooden boards. It only took four days and four people to assemble this prototype pop-up house.

Based on the prefabrication technique, this concept has a lot of advantages as it can be realised in a short timeframe to reduce the cost of labour, offers thermal insulation which will reduced the energy consumption of future residents, and uses lightweight recycled materials that are easy to manipulate. The prefabrication of the blocks and their mechanical properties add to the versatility of the concept, which can take various forms: a contemporary or traditional architectural style, single storey or mutli-storey residential or commercial building or simply a temporary installation.

Is this the affordable house of tomorrow?

Source: Popup-house website
Watch the video here or read more at: www.popup-house.com/

The Goodsssstufff

The High Line strikes again, but this time in Sydney #urbanrenewal

The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority is leading this project to transform a 500m stretch of disused railway line into an inner city open space area. This linear and elevated (sitting 4m above street level) city park is proposed in the city’s inner western suburbs, linking Railway Square through Ultimo to Darling Harbour with a pedestrian and cycle network. 

The unique design, created by ASPECT Studios and Choi Ropiha Fighera, offers a contemporary space which also interprets the significance of the original heritage corridor. The project has been developed in two stages; the Goods Line North – beginning round about now and due for completion November this year – and the Goods Line South, with feasibility studies being undertaken for further extensions beyond these stages.

Aspect Studios - The Goodsline

The similarities between this area and the New York project are striking, and why not? We’ve read almost only good things about this adaptive transformation of a 2.3km redundant railway line and more green space can only be a good thing, right? So good that other cities across the world have also emulated the High Line’s success, such as a proposal in London to turn a disused mail tunnel beneath Oxford Street into a mushroom garden. And in New York, not content with one success story, the ‘Lowline’, on New York’s Lower East Side, proposes to use solar lighting to grow a subterranean park.

The bad press the High Line has attracted relates really only to it being too popular! 3.7 million+ visitors in a single year led some local residents condemning it as a “tourist-clogged catwalk.”

Some reviewers think the Goods Line actually improves on the High Line design. The High Line begins in an awkward street and leads nowhere of note; the Goods Line is a genuinely useful thoroughfare. The High Line has spent much of this snowy winter closed to the public and also shuts in the evenings; the Goods Line will be a night time destination in its own right, year round.

The Goods Line will revitalise this corridor for pedestrians, offering public squares, raised lawns, and tiered seating surrounded by trees and manicured gardens. The design team behind the Goods Line promises performance stages, pop-up bars, and ‘study pods’. This all sounds promising. The scene is being set for an activated space full of vitality and human interaction …… but as we know this humanness is difficult to create in advance, only time will tell, but the right ingredients seem to be there.

Read more and watch a clip here.

Soulless architecture

Contemporary residential development in the United Kingdom is criticised for being bland and homogenous

Contemporary housing development in Melbourne. Are we doing any better?
British urban regeneration expert, David Twohig, recently criticised the UK’s approach to urban growth as producing housing that is only “just good enough to sell”. This has triggered a raft of concerns across the country about new residential and commercial development which is seen as being very low quality, using old fashioned building materials and bland, ‘cookie cutter’ designs. This soulless architecture threatens to blight Britain’s cities within the next 15 years and is part of a global trend which could have far reaching consequences.

“The prospect of hundreds of millions of people ending up in nondescript developments without a sense of identity will lead to future social problems: alienation, isolation, crime and more.” claims Twohig’s new book, Living In Wonderland: Urban Development and Placemaking, which is being published next month.

So how much do we need to sit up and listen in Australia? After all Melbourne, and indeed many Australian cities, are consistently ranked as some of the most liveable in the world.

At a time when the urban development industry is focussing more than ever on good urban design and placemaking, and notions of cultural heritage and liveability are embedded into the public discourse, how can the product be more homogenous than ever?

Read more about the British towns in danger of becoming identical and soulless here and tell us what you think. Are we doing any better than the UK?

24 March 2014

International Women’s Day : Recap

As part of International Women’s Day celebrations in March, The Architectural Review ran an article, “The Women who Built the World”, which is well worth a read.

The article features a selection of some great designers and educators who continue to teach us.

“…From Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, who after inventing the modern kitchen master planned entire cities, to the Modernist Eileen Gray whose provocative designs are as innovative as they are enigmatic, to megastar Zaha Hadid, arguably the most influential practising architect on the planet.”

Read the full article and more at http://www.architectural-review.com/home/international-womens-day-/

Public art with lots of heart

“Open House” was a collaborative project between artist Matthew Mazzotta, The Coleman Centre for the Arts and the community of York, Alabama, USA.

At rest,“Open House” is the centrepiece sculpture in downtown York’s new public park but amazingly, it literally unfolds into a free public theatre that can seat up to 100 people.

'Open House'

This project reinforces the argument for the role of public art in the arenas of place-making, developing city identity and urban regeneration. It is crafted entirely using recycled materials from an old abandoned property that previously stood on the lot. Not only is this a sustainable material approach this means ”Open House” stands as a reminder of the history of this particular downtown area, the ugly included. Furthermore, it has become a symbol of the urban transformation that is taking place there. It fulfils a civic role as a meeting place for the local community and an aspiration for future development – this has been achieved at local level with a low budget using creative thinking.

The clever reconfiguration of the materials means that folded up the house has a smaller footprint than the previous structure and so the surrounds of the lot can be used as a public park, nestled between the post office and convenience store at the heart of this community.

For more information on this project it has been featured as a finalist in the Architizer A+ Awards.

Follow the link below to check out the other entries in the Architecture and Urban Transformation category and vote online now!


18 March 2014

Shared Spaces

There are many initiatives out there that encourage riding as a mode of transport, such as a free breakfast before you jump on the road - an idea explored by the City of Maribyrnong as part of the National Ride to Work Day.

On the other side of the Maribyrnong River in Melbourne, on the edge of Victoria Harbour, you can order a free coffee (or should I say, a real coffee) while your bike is being serviced compliments of a local cycle store.

A cyclist haven

This initiative not only enhances the riding experience but also takes it a step further by asking an essential question: Shared spaces, what do you do to make them better for everyone?

As number of cyclists is increasing in Melbourne, the question of shared spaces must be taken seriously to allow both pedestrians and cyclists to coexist peaceful and safely. 

What do you do when using a shared space?

Read more:

Which city is the place to be?

What really makes a city the place we want to live and what helps us thrive when we do live in a city?

Well this is a matter of some conjecture and in many ways it depends on what you count and who counts it.

As we all know the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Survey of 140 cities worldwide has ranked Melbourne the most liveable city in the world three years’ running. Meanwhile closer to home the Property Council of Australia (PCA) has asked residents what they think and Canberra has come up trumps as Australia’s most liveable city just ahead of Adelaide, with Melbourne ranking fourth and Sydney eighth (behind its near neighbours Newcastle and Wollongong).

The EIU uses some pretty serious objective factors in reaching its conclusions, looking at over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors including prevalence of crime and threat of military unrest (stability factors) through to healthcare, culture and environment, infrastructure (including energy and water provision) and education measures.

When the PCA asked Canberrans and other Australian city dwellers what they thought of their own home towns they looked at similar things but also asked about key factors like cost of living and planning and managing urban growth.

Canberra Balloon Spectacular 2014
For yet another perspective, the Globe and Mail asked Richard Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and global research professor at New York University for his 10 rules on building a better city.

‘Up not out’, ‘the right density’ and ‘diversity’ made the top 10. It makes for great reading. What do you think? What are the factors that deliver “quality of place”?





17 March 2014

Billboards: Watch this space 2

Source: http://infosurhoy.com/
If we are trying to make everything adaptable, multi-purpose and sustainable then why not billboards? Consider all the space they take (physically and visually), their limited uses (advertising) and the cost involved in construction.

One of our previous Plantastic articles shared the idea of billboards being used for green space in LA. This time the University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) of Peru has looked at using billboards to produce water…. surely billboards can’t produce water?

The experiment is being carried out on the Pan-American Highway in Lima. Lima is the largest city in Peru and has population of 7.6 million and the wider metropolitan population is approximately 8.4 million people, making it the 22nd largest city in the world (http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/peru-population/). Water scarcity is one of the biggest concerns in the area and residents depend on water trucks provided by private companies charging almost 20 times more than the cost of tap water (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/the-desert-city-in-serious-danger-of-running-dry-2248943.html).

Even though Lima has the world’s driest desert it also has an average humidity of 83 per cent. The experiment carried out by UTEC involves a reverse osmosis system where the air humidity is captured, condensed and converted into water. The billboard produces around 100 liters of water a day and it is pure drinking water.

Data from Mayo Draft FCB tells us the billboard has produced 9,450 liters of water in three months, which it says equals the water consumption of ‘hundreds of families per month’. The only problem is at this stage the system runs on electricity but it would be good to make them more self-sufficient by use of solar panels or other natural resources. Nevertheless I think it’s quite impressive to see billboards contributing to a social issue faced by Lima residents rather than just being used to show advertising.

Article link: http://techland.time.com/2013/03/05/finally-a-billboard-that-creates-drinkable-water-out-of-thin-air/