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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

How about removing the roads?

As we work feverishly on increasing the number of big roads to cater for our ever-increasing population, in places like San Francisco, Boston and Madrid they are going the other way.

With a variety of approaches to giving the public spaces back to the people and increasing amenity and accessibility to waterways and parkland, there are some great examples around the world.

It appears there have been a number of drivers (so to speak) to prompt these major removal projects – earthquake damage to roads, the need to bring life back to a dying river, to the desire to boost the economic prospects of a slum neighbourhood. Whatever the reason you can’t deny the benefits which seem to be flowing from these no doubt contentious decisions to buck the trend (or create a new one).

The environmental benefits alone in Seoul are enough to make you sit up and take notice.


Have a look at some of these great examples on Gizmodo.

Bus better for airport access

The Victorian State Government has vowed to build a rail link to Melbourne Airport. In a timely pre-election announcement, the Premier indicated that the state budget will include plans to connect Melbourne Airport to Southern Cross Station.

But is the rail link the best use of Government coffers? A study undertaken by Public Transport Victoria found the benefits of building a direct rail link to the airport ''are currently outweighed by the high costs''. It did however, claim that a rail link would be essential in the future with passenger numbers expected to rival Heathrow Airport.

Like the kid left over at the end of the school disco, the bus is often an unloved and under-appreciated mode of travel. However, it is, with the right infrastructure, capable of being more flexible, efficient and cheaper than a rail link. Modern sleek buses, comfortable and convenient bus stops and dedicated bus lanes could be the answer to the airport access conundrum.

It is not just DLA who appreciates the much maligned bus. In a recent article in The Age, transit expert Jarret Walker argued that that Melbourne Airport already has better access than both Sydney and Brisbane. Both of whom have airport rail links

The carrot and the stick

"If you build it they will come" was made famous by Kevin Costner in the movie Field of Dreams.

A review of light rail in the US is showing that this ain’t necessarily so. There is a need for some carrot as well as some stick action in order for these systems to work most effectively. Some may have accused us of overtly promoting sustainable transport modes in the past – including light rail – with a left-leaning zeal which would typically send our Prime Minister into a V8 ute-driving spin. But we at times do have to ask the hard questions of those forms of transport which we believe to be right and true.

It is fair to say that if you read through to the end of this article by Yonah Freemark, we see that there is a significant upside to these systems; an upside that we grown-ups know is possible through the development of light rail. However, it is fair to say that in order for public transport to be most effective there needs to be in-equal-measure the application of the carrot and the stick: carrot in the building of the system and the stick in terms of increasing the cost of the private vehicular forms of transport. 

Read more here.

Going Dutch - remembering the 70s

Credit: REUTERS/Yves Herman
It is like being back in the 70s and 80s. The late night test pattern on our TVs that were a feature of the box before the TV stations shut down for the night, are for some of us strong and present childhood memories that these aerial photographs of the Dutch landscape evoke.

The test pattern was as much part of the cultural landscape as these tulips are part of the Dutch landscape. Do you remember the test pattern alongside shows such as Starsky and Hutch, MASH, Police Woman and Kojak?

The earth seen from above allows us a new perspective of the planet and our place in it. The impact that we have on our earth need not be one of denuded landscapes but can, as these photos suggest, be one of beauty and inspiration and indeed refer us back to our past.

These photographs do remind us that the world is a beautiful place.

Jim Stynes Bridge nearing completion

Stage 3 of the Northbank project in Melbourne is expected to be completed for the end of April 2014.

Stage 3 features the key pedestrian and cyclist link underneath the Charles Grimes Bridge along the northern bank of the Yarra River. The bridge is named and designed in honour of the late Melbourne Football Club champion, Reach Foundation co-founder and Victorian of the Year (twice) – one of Ireland’s great exports to Australia.

The bridge will significantly enhance the quality of the public realm and improve access between the CBD and Docklands. It will feature interactive, elements along its length celebrating different aspects of Jim’s life. The bridge also features an innovative design making it appear as though it is hovering above the water.

The project is the result of a partnership between the Victoria Government and the City of Melbourne.

Click below to view an animation.

Image Credit - Oculus and Cox Architecture

We all want greater places

It may be hard to believe, but if you want to know the latest in urban design solutions, it’s possible that urban design’s very own version of Wikipedia, GreaterPlaces, might give you a few leads.

‘Discovered’ at a recent meeting of potential application developers in Washington, GreaterPlaces enables users to look for the latest solutions for cities from around the globe.

It’s an online community for urban and community design and GreaterPlaces says it’s for everyone involved in shaping a community. It covers topics as diverse as affordable housing to green infrastructure and transit oriented development.

They are encouraging the sharing of ideas and plans to enhance placemaking. And people really are sharing some interesting and innovative projects.

Read Sustainable Cities Collective’s take on the site and how it might help emerging economies:

Or visit GreaterPlaces and see what you think.

Source: GreaterPlaces website

Roomscan App

Throw out your rulers and tape measures!

Word on the street is that CAD monkeying could be a thing of the past (Are those sighs we hear from graduate architects?).

There’s a new app on the block for iPhone able to produce floor plans by walking around the room you’re measuring and holding your phone to the walls. It uses motion sensoring and outputs a floor plan to your phone with measured dimensions in seconds.

We wouldn’t advise building your dream home based on plans produced by the Roomscan app but for a quick initial sketch this is brilliant!

There is even a pro version that allows you to input more exact dimensions, doors and windows. Never be caught out again without your tape measure.

Read more about it here and check out the demos at:

Download it free from the app store.

Give it a go and let us know what you think – life changing or disappointing gimmick?

Pop-up house

This is a straightforward concept which aims at delivering passive houses that are affordable and accessible to all. To make this possible the team from Mutipod-studio designed an entire building by putting together insulation blocks separated by wooden boards. It only took four days and four people to assemble this prototype pop-up house.

Based on the prefabrication technique, this concept has a lot of advantages as it can be realised in a short timeframe to reduce the cost of labour, offers thermal insulation which will reduced the energy consumption of future residents, and uses lightweight recycled materials that are easy to manipulate. The prefabrication of the blocks and their mechanical properties add to the versatility of the concept, which can take various forms: a contemporary or traditional architectural style, single storey or mutli-storey residential or commercial building or simply a temporary installation.

Is this the affordable house of tomorrow?

Source: Popup-house website
Watch the video here or read more at:

The Goodsssstufff

The High Line strikes again, but this time in Sydney #urbanrenewal

The Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority is leading this project to transform a 500m stretch of disused railway line into an inner city open space area. This linear and elevated (sitting 4m above street level) city park is proposed in the city’s inner western suburbs, linking Railway Square through Ultimo to Darling Harbour with a pedestrian and cycle network. 

The unique design, created by ASPECT Studios and Choi Ropiha Fighera, offers a contemporary space which also interprets the significance of the original heritage corridor. The project has been developed in two stages; the Goods Line North – beginning round about now and due for completion November this year – and the Goods Line South, with feasibility studies being undertaken for further extensions beyond these stages.

Aspect Studios - The Goodsline

The similarities between this area and the New York project are striking, and why not? We’ve read almost only good things about this adaptive transformation of a 2.3km redundant railway line and more green space can only be a good thing, right? So good that other cities across the world have also emulated the High Line’s success, such as a proposal in London to turn a disused mail tunnel beneath Oxford Street into a mushroom garden. And in New York, not content with one success story, the ‘Lowline’, on New York’s Lower East Side, proposes to use solar lighting to grow a subterranean park.

The bad press the High Line has attracted relates really only to it being too popular! 3.7 million+ visitors in a single year led some local residents condemning it as a “tourist-clogged catwalk.”

Some reviewers think the Goods Line actually improves on the High Line design. The High Line begins in an awkward street and leads nowhere of note; the Goods Line is a genuinely useful thoroughfare. The High Line has spent much of this snowy winter closed to the public and also shuts in the evenings; the Goods Line will be a night time destination in its own right, year round.

The Goods Line will revitalise this corridor for pedestrians, offering public squares, raised lawns, and tiered seating surrounded by trees and manicured gardens. The design team behind the Goods Line promises performance stages, pop-up bars, and ‘study pods’. This all sounds promising. The scene is being set for an activated space full of vitality and human interaction …… but as we know this humanness is difficult to create in advance, only time will tell, but the right ingredients seem to be there.

Read more and watch a clip here.

Soulless architecture

Contemporary residential development in the United Kingdom is criticised for being bland and homogenous

Contemporary housing development in Melbourne. Are we doing any better?
British urban regeneration expert, David Twohig, recently criticised the UK’s approach to urban growth as producing housing that is only “just good enough to sell”. This has triggered a raft of concerns across the country about new residential and commercial development which is seen as being very low quality, using old fashioned building materials and bland, ‘cookie cutter’ designs. This soulless architecture threatens to blight Britain’s cities within the next 15 years and is part of a global trend which could have far reaching consequences.

“The prospect of hundreds of millions of people ending up in nondescript developments without a sense of identity will lead to future social problems: alienation, isolation, crime and more.” claims Twohig’s new book, Living In Wonderland: Urban Development and Placemaking, which is being published next month.

So how much do we need to sit up and listen in Australia? After all Melbourne, and indeed many Australian cities, are consistently ranked as some of the most liveable in the world.

At a time when the urban development industry is focussing more than ever on good urban design and placemaking, and notions of cultural heritage and liveability are embedded into the public discourse, how can the product be more homogenous than ever?

Read more about the British towns in danger of becoming identical and soulless here and tell us what you think. Are we doing any better than the UK?