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

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

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!

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”?


Billboards: Watch this space 2

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 ( 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 (

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:


Residents in the South Korean city of Suwon have just spent a month without cars, and the world didn’t end!

Over 4000 residents were forced to leave their vehicles at home and opt for public transport and a variety of ‘ecomobiles’ as Suwon hosted the world’s first ‘EcoMobility World Festival 2013’. A joint initiative between the Germany-based International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) and the city of Suwon, the EcoMobility World Festival as an experiment of sorts, aiming to show the world that you don’t really need a car to survive in a city.

Although local residents were understandably concerned by the prospect, the city worked closely with resident and business representatives to put suitable alternatives in place to keep the city moving.

Away from the tourists, the media attention and transport experts, the Festival’s main focus was the everyday experience of 4,343 residents who undertook the challenge of life without cars for an entire month. In place of driving, residents of all ages from all walks of life made their commute to work, to school, shops and leisure activities on foot, with pedal power, or light electric vehicles. Residents discovered that in a neighbourhood without cars, the spaces between buildings transform from car parks and conduits, to places to gather, linger and enjoy.

Organizers and participants say the project could be a model for city life in the future.

Although the positive response to a city without cars won’t come as a surprise to most urban designers, or even transport planners, it is the sheer enthusiasm that the local council has been able to muster from the initiative which is perhaps a little exciting. South Korea is a car-dominated society which is slowly grinding to a halt as urbanisation and car ownership both skyrocket with their economic growth.

While shifting people out of cars and onto sustainable transport modes in the long term was the central aim of the Festival, residents have begun to notice additional lasting benefits in their community. “What inspired me was seeing not just how the physical neighborhood was altered, but how the residents’ mindsets changed and they came on board,” commented Kyeong-ah Ko, Community Director for Suwon City. “As well as supporting each other during the month, the residents developed new imaginative ideas for public space and a strong social structure which will benefit their community long after the Festival has ended.”

Read more about the event here or check out the Festival Report here and see what you think.

Made in Melbourne

In 2013, the state of Victoria made the big jump and joined a worldwide artistic festival trend which has flourished in cities such as Montreal, Chicago and Paris.

White Night Melbourne opens the doors of art to everyone and uses the urban environment to display modern installations and performances in a festive setting throughout the night. The obvious - but unexpected - success of last year built up the tension for this year's edition. Many of us did not know what to expect: would the festival be as successful as last year or would it fail to be as innovative and stick to the exact same formula?

Once again projectors illuminated Melbourne's prominent buildings, however the novelty of this year was the inclusion of new precincts, including the Northern Lights precinct north of Swanston Street. To the delight of the visitors, the State Library was reinvented thanks to colourful and psychedelic patterns inspired from both art and science.

Although Flinders Street music stage was taken out this year to improve mobility around the station, the success from last year bore fruit as the main streets remained flooded by an eclectic crowd. Families, teenagers, tourists and Victorians from all walks of life happily merged onto Swanston Street, wandering from precinct to precinct in search of the next musical performance or exhibition, or simply lay still on the lawn to ponder the city's temporary transformation.

The Premier says White Night Melbourne will be bigger and better again next year. What do you think? Did you go? What does it say about one of our major capital cities?

Crowd at the State Library

Installation at QV (Northern Lights Precinct)

Midden: Real-time 3D content visualisations at Birrarung Marr

State Library

Molecular Kaleidoscope

Molecular Kaleidoscope (projected on the ceiling of LaTrobe reading room)

Staring at the ceiling of LaTrobe reading room (State Library)

RMIT University

Purple Rain at RMIT courtyard

State Library Lawn

'R' for Melbourne at the Shadows precinct

Too Ugly to Save?

 Left: K. J. Halla, 1968, Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria; Right: Melbourne Curious

Architecture, like many creative disciplines is such a subjective thing. What may be considered good or bad architecture, not to mention what constitutes a building of significance or not can easily change from time to time, just like fashion. Therefore, the debate as to whether or not some of Melbourne’s postwar buildings warrant protection is challenging.

According to the Planning Minister many of these buildings are considered “ugly” and that we (Melbourne) “can do better”.

Therefore, I hope to be around in 50 odd years to see how Melbourne’s current crop of buildings are judged and whether or not a similar debate rages.

Read more here.

Psychology in urban design


Have you ever walked down a street and felt that you just loved that experience but was unable to figure out what was it in particular that made you like the street. Well, the new tool at University of Waterloo, Canada can analyse that for you by using three-dimensional visualization or photo realistic simulations and physiological sensors to explore human behaviour. In these experiments, through motion tracking the body and minds of participants are analysed by measuring heart beats, brainwaves and other nervous systems.

The university has created a laboratory for different virtual urban setting, which can be arranged and rearranged on computer. This is very advantageous to experiment the details within an urban realm. One of the experiments was conducted to study the impacts of different layouts and streetscapes of cities like Manhattan, Canberra and London. The results showed that organized spaces were stereotyped and efficient whereas chaotic spaces felt more hectic and longer. Such experiments can be very valuable to test urban design spaces in response to the ever-changing dynamics of the city and will be based on sound principles of psychology and neuroscience

As it is known fact that green spaces make people more relaxed and happy, this tool goes one step beyond and can be used to explore what aspects of these spaces are more effective than others. One of the challenges for this tool can be a need to understand the details involved in urban realm and managing the transition from a laboratory space to developing more real spaces.

Read more here.