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The Death and Life of...

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Urban greening in high density environments

Creating 'Vertical Forests' in high density residential developments

Nouvelle Utopia

The candidate for mayor of the city of Paris, Natalie Kosciusko-Morizet (NKM) unveiled an original idea to breathe life into some of the capital abandoned metro stations. NKM takes the New York green line concept a step further (well, literally underground) with the dramatic transformation of these ghost stations into public spaces.

Parisian architect Manal Rachdi and urban designer Nicola Laisné offered a glimpse of what these stations could become: a luxurious underground restaurant, a semi-Olympic swimming pool or a contemporary exhibition hall.

Source: Huffington Post - Impression by Manal Rachdi and Nicolca Laisné
This visually impressive concept is surely charming but how does it work and who gets the benefit of it?

There are 16 ghost stations that are unused but yet existing metro lines go through some of them every day. The cost of redirecting these lines elsewhere is not mentioned nor the cost of rehabilitating the stations which are owned by RATP (Autonomous Operator of Parisian Transports).

Although an original idea on paper, this proposed makeover falls into the realm of fantasy. The reality is that commuters are much more interested in upgrading the existing public transport network of 302 metro stations that carry approximately 4 million people every day.


Similarly, Melbournians were not spared by this utopian trend with the Flinders Street Design competition held last year, even though the feasibility of the submissions seemed more realistic. The competition was successful among commuters who were massively involved and showed support by voting for their favorite project (only to find out the government was not committed to complete the project anyway).
Source: The Age, winning design by Melbourne and Swiss architectural team HASSELL, Herzog & De Meuron
The once iconic Flinders Street Station desperately needs a renovation to prevent further crumbling and leakage. Not necessarily a futuristic and unaffordable design (the winning design had an estimate cost of $1 to $1.5 billion) but at least a redesign that would significantly improve not only the look but the daily operation of Melbourne’s busiest station.

So what do you think, should we keep dreaming?


Read more here



Stayin' Alive

Source: SLF website
The 15th Sustainable Living Festival is currently running until Sunday 23rd February. The program features 200 events held throughout Melbourne and Victoria. The festival raises awareness and provides tools for change by showcasing leading solutions to ecological and social challenges.

The festival itself attracts 150,000 visits and engages with hundreds of organisations and individuals to promote the uptake of sustainability.

The Festival's 'Big Weekend' is held at Federation Square and Birrarung Marr over the weekend 14th – 16th February and features workshops, talks, films and performances.

Click the link to see the program: http://www.slf.org.au/festival14/program

Japan leading the way…again

You may have heard of the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town already, but if not, it’s a brand new 1,000 home (mix of apartments, detached dwellings and town houses) town to be built on a 19 hectare site of a disused Panasonic manufacturing plant (Fujisawa is a coastal city, 50km west of Tokyo) – sponsored by, you guessed it, Panasonic (great marketing opportunity there) in partnership with 8 other companies.

Initial doubts aside, the development will be a fully integrated, sustainable and independent energy system. It uses a range of Panasonic technology which aims to reduce energy, produce solar electricity and use battery storage at each home. Communication systems linked to each household and each home’s appliances will manage the energy needs to balance what is coming in with what the occupants require, using the battery systems for storage. Given the 2011 tsunami and the ensuing power plant issues, exploration of alternative power sources is timely (I note this was not the driver of the project but certainly brings into perspective its importance).


This is being coined the most advanced eco town in the world, with a target of a 70% reduction in CO2 emissions (from the 1990 baseline!). Electrical transportation will be integrated as well as green spaces and other shared community resources—all radiating from a central square which will display the town’s real time energy status. I note the town has a backup to the main grid should a disaster occur. The development is aimed to be replicable throughout the world, using integrated energy technologies at large scales.

There is a pile of information out there on the town: Development cost of 60 billion Yen - approximately $655 million AUD, an estimated completion of March 2014 with all homes to be occupied by 2018 and even a complementary town management system that provides mobility, security and healthcare services.

But I know the big issue you’re all concerned about is … will you still be able to watch your Toshiba television and listen to your Sony Walkman, if you choose to buy one of these houses – (which there doesn’t seem to be a price tag for as yet)?

Well Panasonic’s Business Director responds:

Panasonic’s solar panels and storage batteries will be standard equipment in each home. Of course, homeowners are able to choose other brands for their other electronics. But Panasonic will do its best to make it attractive for consumers to buy and use Panasonic electronics for to enrich their lifestyles.

The focus is really on the development of the energy systems and perhaps less about urban design, see the you tube clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ss0jhOZPARY . A missed Masterplanning opportunity for DLA?!
The design ethos is centred around sustainable green living and some of the design features include:
Organic city block plans that incorporate nature and energy systems, and designs that match the landscape.
- Create a "green axis" by establishing parks and planting vegetation along the main roads and form "wind paths" that take into consideration the wind direction in Fujisawa.
- Achieve a solar panel design that blends with the town's lush green landscape.
- Develop basic specifications for homes with ample space for installing storage battery equipment and other energy systems.
Creation of new space and synergies for electric vehicles, garages and homes to promote electric vehicle sharing.
- Design parking spaces that enable easy car sharing for the reduction of carbon footprint in the transportation sector.
- Plans may include some homes with spacious yards without a garage and parking areas for every ten to twenty homes for car sharing use.

With a completion date of March 2014, its surprising not to find more details on its progress and even some construction images, in particular sales figures and house price data. I imagine these technologies don’t come cheap, but the house prices will need to be competitive to encourage buyers or do you think the novelty of the project alone will attract people? And then there is the benefit of virtually no power or fuel costs – surely this would be an attractive selling point in itself and justify a higher house price. And what about the location, is it a desirable place to live – it’s an old Panasonic site so it wasn’t necessarily chosen for its locational attributes, more out of convenience.

Thinking ahead if this concept takes off there will need to be a method for assessing the value of environmental real estate in smart towns, if there isn’t already? Somehow market acceptance of environmentally-conscious urban development will need to be created. Hopefully we’ll get some answers as this example comes to life!
If you are interested in this project, check out Panasonic leading the way in green technologies – they also involved with a number of other projects like the Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City project in China and the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor in India.

Déjà vu

It's that time of the year when festivals and events seem to pop up at every corner of Melbourne much to the delight of locals and visitors alike, so long as you are actually able to make it to the party. The heat of recent has proved yet again to be the straw to the camels back of our rail network, leading to train carriages crawling around the CBD and forcing PTV to reassign services to where they are apparently most needed. For example, the questionable decision for tram 82 (Footscray -Moonee Ponds) to be suspended and replaced by buses until the next day (http://goo.gl/3vGdHe).

Our delicate roads were not spared their problems either, with the West Gate Bridge appearing to crumble over the Yarra River (Fortunately VicRoads later reassured drivers that this was ‘just a cosmetic problem involving the cracking of the bitumen’-Phew! False alarm). Traffic in other vital areas succumbed to sporadic standstill by vehicles unable to cope with the heat seeming to become stuck in the melting searing asphalt.

Source: The Telegraph UK

Like a leitmotif that keeps coming back, climate change debate resurfaces yet again. Whether or not we agree on what to call it or the specific causes is no longer relevant, occasional extreme weather conditions are apparently here to stay, so where do we go from here? Experts and average citizens alike seem to be raising their voices in favour of upgraded public transport, capable of dealing with not only the heat but the consistently growing demand while state government seem to be missing the train opting instead for yet more roads. Whatever your view may be I have no doubt it will be a popular topic at this years Sustainable Living Festival.


Just be sure to plan your journey ahead, it could be a hot day.

Read more here.


Markets on the Move


An innovative new market proposal for Paris takes the hassle out of the set up and inevitable dismantling required for the typical temporary market site. Not to mention the other disruptions involved with these type of markets - the occupation of the road, footpath or property, the resulting waste and impacts on local traffic and access.

The pop up weekend market is an increasingly popular phenomena. Once reserved for those in more rural areas meeting to exchange produce, these ‘Farmers Markets’ have inundated city streets, vacant lots and car parks. Typically frequented by trendy city dwellers searching for fair trade, organic, sustainable, free range, unbleached everything; along with tourists; have become key community fixtures and meeting places.

The Paris market proposal is located on La Petite Ceinture - a 27km railway circumscribing central Paris that was abandoned during the 1930's as the Paris Metro became a more efficient transport mode. The railway line itself was preserved by indecision over its future, and is described as: A retreat from the city, and a home for underground culture. In places raised up, depressed or underground, it is an exceptional place to look back upon the city of Paris.

The market concept designers, Amílcar Ferreira and Marcelo Fernandes, have sought to eliminate all the negative aspects of organising urban markets and provide people with a more sustainable and fuss-free experience .

The travelling market concept involves the trains being fitted out as workshops and stores then picking up visitors and travelling around the city. 
Source: Inhabitat


Being only a proposal at this stage there is little detail on its actual operation. Do you think this could work? There would need to be a published timetable tracking the moveable markets location so people know where and when it will be accessible – some sort of app. even? I like the idea that it is moveable but I am not sure about it moving whilst I’m shopping and sipping my fair trade, organic soy mocha latte (oh did I say skinny) then ending up in a different destination than where I boarded/ forgetting to get off and being stuck while it does another loop. Maybe the market should be stationary for shopping, but also act as a mode of transportation between stations? And is this concept confined to only disused railway lines or could it be accommodated on some of Melbourne’s train lines…. That’s some (organic) food for thought.