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

Windstrument: Making Wind Turbines Kind of Pretty

'Windstrument' is the name given to this new design for wind turbines. These flower-like turbines are designed for residential/commercial use and are apparently affordable, quiet, powerful, bird-safe and scalable.

I think the backdrop of the photo is deceiving (they'd look very different mounted on top a building), but I still reckon that I wouldn't mind seeing a few of these from my window.  It's always good to see new designs for harnessing renewable energy that might make it more appealing to use more widely in our cities. Sure, the real incentive for embracing renewables (you know, that thing called climate change) should be enough of an incentive to get on board even if they don't look amazing, but for some who take more convincing that they will not be staring at an eyesore, this may do the trick.

Read the inhabitat article here or watch a video by the manufacturers here.

A New Opportunity for Urban Agriculture, or, erm... Fungiculture

In an earlier issue of plantastic, Rupe posted about underground parks:

"an entirely underground park? why not, you ask? Well, because, light, I would reply. Photosynthesis, I'd then add, just to be more specific."

This was in reference to the New York 'low line' - a tract of unused space where once a supply rail ventured.  A kind of underground park was proposed, relying on fibre optics for light.

In the UK, a similar opportunity presented itself in an underground rail tunnel connecting Paddington and Whitechapel.  

Instead of relying only on fibre-optics to deal with the photosynthesis thing (as in the low line), these guys explored a different kind of growth - mushrooms.  Mushrooms don't need photosynthesis, and can still provide several benefits associated with urban agriculture, such as local food production, efficient use of space, recycling/composting and better access to fresh healthy food. Because it's available to the public, this idea could also provide community/social benefits often attributed to urban ag, such as increased participation and engagement.

I like this idea, not only cos I love mushrooms (and am sometimes teased at lunch time for eating lots of them raw), but also because it demonstrates a great example of how to use space underground - that is so often considered of little value, especially for the community.  How cool would it be to venture down to the community mushroom farm every so often and grab a few shitakes, oysters or swiss browns?  Awesome!

Thanks to Teresa Qualtrough for sending this idea through.

Click here for more info on the project, and here for more on Urban Fungiculture.

See Rupe's article on the low line from a previous post here, for more info on the low line, click here.

Planning for Eyes AND Ears

An urban planner in Denver is conducting research into navigating the city without sight - a daily reality for those who are blind or visually impaired.

Her research involves asking visually impaired pedestrians to map their neighbourhood as they experience it.  No surprises here - it can be tough to get around.

She gives the example of how ill placed sign posts and landscaping can be hazardous.
"This is a great example of the disconnection between urban planners (who are most likely sighted) and those who actually use the planned spaces"
It's also pointed out that improving pedestrian routes for the visually impaired also benefits the broader community.
"Chances are, if the blind man walking to work avoids the area, so does the woman in the wheel chair and the old guy that walks with a cane."
I thought this was interesting, because I don't think enough about what it might be like for those with disabilities to get around our cities, and I agree that if the streets are suitable for the most vulnerable in the community it means that everyone else in the community is catered for too.

Read more here, or catch a video that shows one man's experience here.

Options for Better PT

A suite of posts by Urbanist blogger Alan Davies highlight several issues around transport infrastructure in Melbourne, and how we can learn from other cities, such as Auckland.

A recent post explores Auckland's new draft transport plan, which proposes regular interval services, new services focused around buses and a whole heap of connecting services linking commuters to different routes, thereby greatly increasing PT options.

"it defines an extensive network of high frequency services around which future urban growth can organize to ensure that over time, more and more of the city finds public transport convenient."

I was also impressed to hear that this plan is likely to be implemented by 2016! 

Auckland's proposed Frequent Service Network (2016)

In an earlier post, Davies discusses Melbourne's public transport priorities, such as the Melbourne Metro, rail to the airport and the extension to Doncaster.

"The key concern, though, is they’d cost many billions of dollars and take many years – probably decades – to complete... Moreover, they’d also add many fewer kilometres to the network than the kind of approach envisaged for Auckland"

So, when you compare the huge cost of massive infrastructure projects like new underground services, side by side with cheaper options relying on buses (particularly bus rapid transit) and increasing networks between services, it makes you wonder not only which is more effective, but also, which one is more likely to be implemented?

I'm not saying that I wouldn't love a metro - this info just raises a few extra options.  These posts consider things like better networks between existing routes, more use of road infrastructure for bus rapid transit, and more frequent services on existing routes to make PT a better option for more Melbournians.  What do you think our PT priorities should be?

StreetView to SeaView

Google maps have a new angle - under the sea.

Blogger Anita Li describes "With a simple click or swipe, users can explore the subacquatic world, including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay and Apo Islands in the Philippines"

This below-sea-level project is still in its early stages, and currently, there are only 6 panoramas of underwater coral reefs, but there should be more to come.

Seems a good idea to make these ocean-scapes publicly available to all through google maps - research has shown these reefs are rapidly declining thanks to things like cyclones, prevalence of exotic species, pollution, climate change etc, so maybe this information can be used to help document the state of the reefs, bringing them into public consciousness to a greater extent.  Another bonus is that it gives us map happy planners/designers yet another dimension to explore!

Watch the you tube clip here, read on here or here