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

A Congestion Charge for Melbourne - is it Time?


Premier Bailleue has been progressing the east-west road tunnel over the last few weeks, going as far as to begin test drilling. They are testing the rock densities and whatnot to ascertain just how many bajillion dollars it would cost to actually build the thing. This initial 'preliminary planning and business case' stage is costing a lazy $15 million of State funds. The Commonwealth is yet to commit anything to the project, a necessary prerequisite before work could begin in earnest.

But of course, as you no doubt know,  an enormous cross-city road tunnel isn't exactly high up the christmas wish list of inner city Melbournians. The Greens are furious, launching a campaign against the project spearheaded by Adam Bandt, the federal representative for Melbourne. Urban planners that I speak to seem unanimously against the idea, as our planning education has taught us that more roads doesn't mean less traffic.

Anyway, this is all a segue really. Traffic is indeed a problem in Melbourne. The easiest fix would be to convince people to take trips under ~15k on a bike, and invest spare cash into public transport infrastructure. but social engineering is really damn hard, and convincing governments not invest in roads is even harder.

So, Alan Davies, wants us to look at Congestion Charging. It's been done in Singapore, London, Stockholm and many other cities to good affect. It's a big idea, with bigger political ramifications.

Have a read of Alan's thoughts on the matter here.

China Completes the CCTV Building in Beijing - Looks Like the Set of Bladerunner


I remember seeing the design concept for this building years ago. Thought it looked absurd but awesome. Anyway, it's done. Just admire it in all its glory. Sure, I dunno how it interacts at street level, and maybe it is just the headquarters of a government propaganda mouthpiece for the Chinese Government. Sure, you could complain about the rural Chinese living with poverty and oppression while the government burns cash on things like this. But just check that thing out, it's awesome.


More than any other building that's actually built, this building makes me feel like I'm living in the damn future.

Look at heaps more amazing pictures here.

An Entirely Underground Park - Why Not, You Ask?


Well, because, light, I would reply. Photosynthesis, I'd then add, just to be more specific. Ah-ha, fibre optics you'd retort!

What am I talking about? New York, the home of the now absurdly famous (in planning/design circles) High Line, is now considering the Low Line. It's like the High Line, except it's underground. In a cool looking disused rail shunting area or something. It's located in area that is apparently in dire need of some open space. 

The real interesting idea here isn't just the concept of inserting new parks into a big city, its the technology behind the light transference devices that will apparently let the trees photosynthesise. The project is trying to find funding at the moment, and I'd wager that they need to prove this technology concept before anyone coughs up much cash. Can we really transfer light from solar panels via optic fibres and have plants live happily on this transferred light? Give us a proof of concept first!


Geographic Perspective is an Amazing Thing


What you see above is an outline of Victoria, Australia sitting atop Europe. It seems absurd, at least it did to me, that Victoria is bigger than Belgium, the Netherlands and most of Germany. It's also outrageously larger than Ireland, and similar to the entire UK.


New South Wales, it turns out, is substantially bigger than Texas, and even larger than Iraq. It blows my mind that the entire Iraq/American war which has been going for almost a decade now has taken place entirely within an area the size of NSW. Hundreds of thousands of people have died within an area the size of NSW. It may be my Australian upbringing, but NSW doesn't feel all that big - hell, you can drive across it in a day.

I really think it delivers some great perspective at this macro-scale. But it works just as well on a smaller scale. The program/website (not a lot of different these days) I've used for the above images is called MAPfrappe.com. Its a Google Map plugin that lets you draw out an area and compare it anywhere around the world. It adjusts and scales appropriately for the zoom level/location on the map (given that google maps is not inherently and totally to scale). For instance, if you wanted to compare a land holding in Sunshine and see just what kind of development actually fits into that area, you can fly around the rest of the city and see what else fits into that area.

Give it a whirl: http://www.mapfrappe.com/

Biking News From the US



Cycling saving cash
Forbes reports on a new study that shows the bike boom in the USA is saving cyclists $4.6 billion a year thanks to not owning a car. This appears to be a simple calculation of year to year running costs. If the figure were to include the healthcare cost savings resulting from a more active lifestyle then you can bet it'd be much higher (remember, America has an absurdly expensive healthcare system).

Read more at Forbes.

LA, once the home of the car, now a bicycle boom town
The New York Times reports on the growth/explosion of cycling in LA, the quintessential freeway covered city which is now home to an enormous bike movement. It's not all smooth sailing however, with frequent problems occurring between bikes and cars. An interesting parallel with Melbourne, perhaps.

Read more at NYT.

DLA, Here Studio and ARUP Short-listed for Capithetical Competition



DLA are hosting a collaborative consortium of design studios that includes HERE Studio (local architecture firm) and ARUP that has been shortlisted in the international Capithetical competition.  We as one of 114 entries from 24 countries are now one of 20 entries moving onto the next stage.  Our team name is 'The Engagement Studio'.

The idea of  the competition was to imagine a hypothetical new capital city for Australia. You could choose to upgrade Canberra (or leave it the same!), build a whole new capital city, or do something completely different... 

Our team considered the idea of a capital that moves around Australia every few years to where it most needed - a roving Capital that acts as an impetus for revitalisation and regeneration. The construction of necessary capital facilities is designed with the intention of their use after the Capital has moved on, so as not to leave buildings and infrastructure behind that are not required. The design of each Capital begins years before it moves in, with a grassroots, bottom up process of deep engagement with the community. 

Congratulations to everyone on all the short-listed teams. Check them out here.


The Internet of Things, or, Tech and the City



This interesting article comes via extremetech.com. The ubiquity and power of current day technology, specifically the internet, is in planning only somewhat understood. This article looks even further forward however, toward what could/will be. Incredible levels of inter-connectivity between people/goods/information. Things that will have profound impacts upon how we design cities, because people won't be living in cities the way they currently do.

Planners need to be futurists, because if you don't have a grasp of what technology could be doing in 20-30-50 years then why are you designing a neighbourhood for that timescale, eh?





From the article:
Imagine if everything in the world was connected up to the same network? Every computer, every loaf of bread, every car, every traffic signal, every human. Imagine the possibilities of combining and correlating that data. Before you set off in the morning, you could see the exact, real-time traffic on your smartphone — and you would know what the weather (and air quality) is like at your office/campus. From home, you would know the exact stock levels of your nearest supermarket and the price of gas.
Naturally, the dangers, privacy, security, complexity and sheer sky-net potential of such a future also warrants some serious thought.

Living the High Life, Or is it?


Photo from starchitects big.dk.
Alan Davies recently let loose an interesting analysis into living at higher levels. It's something that Melbournians are doing more and more of (at least in the inner areas), and its only going to become more important with time. Apartment living elicits the kind of hysterical, knee jerk responses I usually associate with religious or football related discussion. Given the growth of cities, I don't see us having much choice other than learning to make the best of apartment living, and that requires some sensible debate.

In this piece, Alan looks at whether or not living high up is 'unnatural', and explains that despite the public perception of high rise housing, there is significant demand. Some great comments and discussion occurring at the bottom of the article as well.

In my opinion, the key is good design. Not randomly limiting heights based on perceptions of 'human scale' or 'pedestrian friendliness'.

While you're here, its worth checking out the website for http://big.dk/, despite it sounding kind of rude, it's probably the greatest architect/designers website on the web.

Giant Aquarium Sits Inside Hotel Lobby, Blows Minds


I don't use this word often, but this thing is epic.



It sits inside a hotel in Berlin (the Raddison Blu Hotel), with two full time divers responsible for keeping all the inhabitants fed and healthy. A glass elevator travels up and down its core, providing something of a unique view for an above ground elevator. 

Here's some amazing archi-speak from architizer.com about the aquadom:

The concept (if you can call it that) behind the aquarium appears similar to that of super-furnitures, in that it was designed to accommodate, if not galvanize perceptive shifts in the observant’s spatial memory. In the case of the Aquadom, the structure inhabits two opposing premises, that of scaling up a domestic glass tank populated with goldfish and tiny reef-like mounds and, conversely, of harnessing the ocean and perversely introducing it into a man-made environment. 

Right on. Read more. See more pics here. 

Insane New Wind Power Idea, Without the Blades


For some crazy reason wind power is a hard sell. Stories of noise induced issues abound, though none appear to have any scientific basis. And many people think they are ugly. It's subjective, granted, but I think they look beautiful. A triumph of human engineering in a sustainable equilibrium with nature.

Either way, some people are always pushing boundaries with new ideas, like these cats:

These are basically long stalks, like grass in the wind they will sway about naturally. Through some pretty rad sounding tech, they will also apparently produce roughly equivalent power to a turbine. I'm super-duper skeptical of that claim, and its also likely they will cost something insane given they are made of carbon-fibre. But hey, if Abu Dhabi wants to channel some of that oil money into insane renewables I'm not gonna be the one to tell them to stop.

Another neat feature/idea:

The top of each tall stalk has an LED lamp that glows when the wind is blowing -- more intensely during strong winds and not all when the air is still. The firm anticipates that the stalks will behave naturally, vibrating and fluttering in the air.
“Windstalk is completely silent, and the image associated with them is something we're already used to seeing in a field of wheat or reeds in a marsh. Our hope is that people living close to them will like to walk through the field -- especially at night -- under their own, private sky of swarming stars,” said Núñez-Ameni.

Read more at discovery.com (including a pic of it at night). 

A Beautiful, Simple, Rooftop Garden

Wowza.
Words fail me. Imagine stepping out of your apartment in the middle of the city to this Shangri-La. It's stunning. I would literally prefer to live up here in a tent than live in 95% of the houses in Australia.

Those couches will certainly bring the ladies to your rooftop yard.
What I love about it is that it doesn't actually look too hard to do. The plants appear to be all be pot-based. The furniture is probably pricey but not out of the ordinary. And the roof space isn't really that large. The non-permeability and low level of ground soil/plant cover may reduce the WSUD and energy savings benefits respectively for the building beneath, but who gives a rats - it looks like paradise.

On the larger topic of green roofs, I can appreciate why it may be difficult/not a great idea for Council to mandate such things, but the real question is: Developers: why not do this? Do you not like money?

Anyway, see more pictures at the green urbanist here.

Ted Baillieu Doesn't Care About Bike People


Sensationalist title stolen from Kanye West (that video brings me to tears every time).


Bicycle Victoria bring us the low down on the impact of the new Victorian State Budget on cyclists. The quick version is that there are zero dollars doing toward bike infrastructure. Clearly "in tough economic times" (I've read that a few hundreds times in the last few weeks, odd since Australia is experiencing one of its largest ever economic booms thanks to mining) we need to build enormous underground tunnels for cars instead.

Basically the consistent growth in funding for cycling over the last few years has been entirely reversed. Bicycle Victoria also notes:


The one year shutdown of the bike infrastructure program rips more than $20 million away from bike facilities investment. 
While this will be a massive loss for bike riders, it is totally insignificant in the context of the $41 billion infrastructure budget. 
And as every study shows, money invested in bikes actually reduces the burden on the budget and taxpayers. So rather than saving money, the government's decision is costing us money.
Read more at BV.