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

Student Container Farms…err… Apartments in Amsterdam

These videos show a huge shipping container apartment complex built for student housing in Amsterdam. Cheap, sustainable, reasonably sized living for today’s student! There is something about the semi-permanency of container homes that I find strangely attractive.  Videos here and here.

More Train News: Concept for Moving Platforms Could Allow Trains That Don’t Need to Stop

Inhabitat reports:

There is nothing worse than having to wait an hour or more for your next train. Luckily, leading British transport designers Priestmangoode have revealed a concept for a high-speed train that would allow passengers to transfer from one connection to another while they are in motion, negating the need to stop at a station.

I love the concept, and it’s just that at the moment, a cool idea with some rad photomontages. But theoretically, it’d allow for much improved trip times, stop the clogging that occurs around stations and allow for new high speed networks to connect to existing networks seamlessly. Read on here.

Shinkansen Not Fast Enough for Japan, Now Building a MagLev

I’ve taken the Shinkansen in Japan, and let me tell you: It’s fast. But only around 250km/h, which is apparently not fast enough. The Japanese are building a MagLev for the backbone route of Japan: Tokyo in the north to Nagoya in the south. Because, why travel at 250km/h when you can cruise at 500km/h+ 10cm off the ground! Probably because its insanely expensive, like $112 Billion expensive (we could send humans to Mars several times over for that price). Read on if you like trains and/or speed.

Crowd-Sourced Urban Planning Leads to Statue of Robocop in Downtown Detroit

It all started this February, when a flippant remark on Twitter about the city needing a statue of the android police character spurred a response from the city's mayor Dave Bing, who stated that the city had no such plans. But almost instantly, those plans organically emerged. A Facebook page gathered more than 9,000 fans within a day, and that overwhelming interest inspired a few locals to start the fundraising campaign.

The money was successfully raised, and the project is now a reality. “Philanthrodorks” from all over the world have joined up to help get a piece of urban art installed in the decaying city. It probably won’t reverse the woes of Detroit on its own, but it can’t hurt!

The real story here is about the potential for online crowd-sourced participation in matters of urban life. If every project put forward by local planners received this level of interest, planning would be in a different place today.

Domus goes into more detail on ideas of Open Source Urbanism in this op-ed.

Irritate Drivers – Create Great Cities?

The NYT’s reports on the difference between European and American public policy, finding that Americans try and make things easy for cars, while Europeans want to annoy them. It’s an odd way to phrase policy direction, but it gets to the essence of matter quite well.

While American cities are synchronizing green lights to improve traffic flow and offering apps to help drivers find parking, many European cities are doing the opposite: creating environments openly hostile to cars. The methods vary, but the mission is clear — to make car use expensive and just plain miserable enough to tilt drivers toward more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

In Australia we have the odd situation where politicians publically claim to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists over cars, but the funding is arranged exactly opposite. Read on.

China Replicating a UNESCO World Heritage Austrian Village

Above: You can kind of see why you’d want one in your country…

Apparently a Chinese corporation has been drawing up plans for an exact copy of the Village for years, some locals of the village feel outraged and there are plans to sue for, get this, copyright infringement. Can you copyright an entire town? Others think it’s flattering, and offers a good tourist opportunity for Austria. Either way, China is going insane and I love it. Read more at this link, or from Der Spiegel.

New York Architecture is Focusing on the Small-Scale

Above: The High Line Park

Perhaps because competing with China for giant buildings is pointless and so last decade. This article from the Guardian looks at the range of smaller scale architectural, landscape and urban design projects that have New Yorkers talking at the moment. I guess a recession is a good time to focus on the smaller scale. Read more:

China Gets a New Skyscraper Every 5 Days and The Vast, Empty Cities of China

Somewhere in China, a skyscraper (or two) is ‘topping out’ this week. They are building the equivalent of Chicago every year. Read more in this article from The Telegraph.

Makes you think. But it is seemingly leading to …

Meanwhile, China builds, builds and builds. I guess they need to put their money into something, and real estate’s always been a popular choice. The problem, apparently, is that all these new epic apartment developments are out of the price range of most Chinese. So they just sit there, empty. Check out Time Magazines photo series on the phenomena here.

Baillieu Reviewing Green Wedges, Creating Replacement Melbourne 2030

It seems a new ‘metropolitan planning strategy’ is being created, that will simultaneously review the green wedges, looking at the potential for the them to absorb some more development. Just a few more drags of the ciggie for the ‘green lungs’ of Melbourne eh. Meanwhile this ‘new' strategy:

''We have got to get it right,'' Planning Minister Matthew Guy told The Age. ''It is not about trashing everything in the past, it is about creating a document that has broad community input, and not sham input … about how Melbourne is going to change.

Given this is the first information we’ve had on it, and that Baillieu is developing it within his own office (not the planning minister’s office?) with his recently headhunted man, David Vorchheimer (got to be a big job for one guy?), I don’t know how well this ‘broad community input’ is really going.

Will it be different from directing development to activity centres and transport hubs? Will it do something positive like lay down a UGB that actually respects the ‘B’ part of the acronym? Let’s wait and see. Also see more on the planning minister in this article from the Age’s Jason Dowling.

Urban Acupuncture: Small Solutions for Big Problems

The Guardian explains:

Could urban design infused with Chinese medicinal theory offer a solution? Watch for the "urban acupuncture" movement to transform urban life in the coming decade. Traced to Finnish architect Marco Casagrande, this school of thought eschews massive urban renewal projects in favour a of more localised and community approach.

"Urban acupuncture is a surgical and selective intervention into the urban environment," said Los Angeles architect and professor John Southern in an interview, "instead of large scale projects that involve not only thousands of acres, but investment and infrastructure that municipalities can no longer provide."

The idea seems to be to find small things that can be easily fixed/upgraded and do hundreds of those, rather than doing that one big ball-buster of a redevelopment. For instance, rather than building some giant Marine Park or exhibition centre, invest that 150 million dollars into creating 150 high quality small parks for $500,000 grand a pop, and put the other 75 million into upgrading a hundred dilapidated local libraries and community buildings. The article notes that with modern mapping and GIS technology, it’s pretty damn easy to run a database of every building/space in a city that could use an upgrade. That’s just my interpretation of this trendy new idea, it may be little more than a buzzword, we’ll see.

There is a definite desire by governments to go for the ‘big ticket’ items that cost a lot and look great on a poster behind the mayors head at a press conference. Would the idea of many smaller revitalisation projects work in your municipality?