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

In the round

Image credit: Atelier Thomas Pucher
Who doesn’t like a curve? Austrian architects from Atelier Thomas Pucher surely do. Their elegant curvilinear building proposal has allowed the team to win first prize in an international competition for the expansion of a mixed-use district in Vienna.

This residential component, which comprises seven buildings spaced within landscaped areas, will adjoin an unused race track. The proposal was designed to complement the existing commercial and office uses in the district but also to contribute to the making of a vibrant neighbourhood.

Atelier Thomas Pucher

Perhaps inspiration from overseas can influence Melbourne, Sydney and other Australian cities to take a hard look at their beloved racetracks and see what might be done to help achieve their full redevelopment potential.

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Banner image credit: Atelier Thomas Pucher

Nothing is a waste

Vehicles running on gas are a common thing. However, this bus in Britain has made headlines as it is the first bus in the UK to run on biomethane gas produced from human sewage and food waste. Not only will the bus reduce the UK’s reliance on fossil fuel but it will also produce less of a carbon footprint than the traditional buses. With a full tank it can run almost 300km and can carry 40 passengers at once. This full tank is produced by the annual waste of about only five people. The first official bus will run between the city of Bath and the Bristol airport, along with other routes.

The company that generates the biomethane fuel is GENeco and it states that it generates 17 million cubic metres of biomethane, which can power almost 8,300 homes.

Use of biomethane as a fuel has previously been used in Norway and Sweden. The initial cost to set up the infrastructure is high. However, the gas produced is cheap and from a long-term perspective it is a sustainable approach that can reduce our dependency on fuel and also contribute to improving the air quality. Considering Melbourne has an extensive bus network with 346 routes operating, we could consider adopting this innovative approach. 

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Could we see the route 380 and Melbourne’s other buses powered by biomethane?

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Tiny Talk

All the talk is about tiny apartments and how they could lead to poor amenity as a large portion of the population moves to the inner city and the apartments continue to shrink.

But what about those who choose to go tiny as an environmental and financial statement?

The tiny house movement is coming to Australia, starting in the nation’s capital it would seem.

The ABC has reported that Canberra man, Andrew Clapham, is planning to build his new tiny home largely with reclaimed materials in the back yard of his parents’ home.

Mr Clapham sees it as a great option for young people, who have very few options to get into the housing market and he’d like to see the tiny house movement grow in Australia.

This is a trend which started in the US and in many ways is a social movement about reducing the size of the space you take up and escaping mortgage debt. 68 per cent of tiny house owners have no mortgage. For more stats, visit:

And if you Google ‘tiny house movement’ you’ll find plenty of blogs with people wanting to tell the story of how they downsized, with instructions on how to go about it.

Take this one for example:

This is a nice idea while you’re asleep – just don’t plan on holding any parties!

Walking behaviour threatens Melbourne's liveability

According to a recent Age article, Melbourne’s vibrant and bustling streets are now suffering from their own success as well as a decline the traditional etiquette of ‘keeping left’, amplified by new distractions such as smart phones.

Image credit: City of Melbourne

The City of Melbourne’s Share Our Streets program will kick it up a gear this week, with the introduction of actors ‘walking badly’ to educate walkers. “Actors with giant phones will wander the streets pretending not to pay attention to where they are going. Meanwhile cards will be handed out with tips, including advising cyclists to give way to pedestrians and for those on foot to walk to the left.”

For more information please refer to either The Age article or The City of Melbourne’s Share Our Streets.

Banner image credit: Alastair Campbell

Carte Blanche

Who would have thought that a city as old as Paris would finally embrace modernity? The French capital is revamping itself, shaking off the dust and looking to build a new reputation. Earlier this month, the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, officially launched “Reinvent Paris”. An unexpected call for innovative urban projects from local and international firms (let it be architects, investors, property developers, architects, designers or start-ups) that will respond creatively to contemporary challenges faced by the capital. In the Mayor’s words, this will be “an urban experiment on an unparalleled scale” (Hidalgo, 2014).

‘Paname’ (another word for Paris) is putting 23 sites on the table along with the opportunity to buy or lease the sites in order to bring the projects to completion. The sites are scattered within Paris’ arrondissements and along the periphery. They are quite eclectic and include an old mansion, abandoned sites, large industrial land and an electrical sub-station.

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It looks like the difficult economic context has forced the public sector to rethink its relationship with the private sector. The different actors are given carte blanche - within a defined strategic framework – and the support to bring the projects to fruition.

This urban experiment is also challenging the concept of public-private partnership. It will be interesting to see what comes out of it.

The closing date for Expressions of Interest is January 31, 2015. The international panel will be held at the end of next year.

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‘Surf’s up’

Some people would say the only thing missing from Melbourne is a good surf beach. Our Sydney colleagues certainly have one up on us there!

But our friend Phil Carter at Arup, along with architect Damian Rogers, is seeking to rectify that! The brain child of Rogers, the world-first plan is to create a floating beach at the Docklands and create artificial waves to meet the needs of urban surfies.

The close proximity to public transport and residential areas provides a ready-made audience and the Docklands is always in search of new ways to attract visitors to the area.

Of course Brisbane has a very popular inner city beach, created along its South Bank, which opened in 1992 at the site of the World Expo ’88. It attracts 11 million visitors a year but it certainly doesn’t have 1.5 metre waves!

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It does have one advantage though – you don’t need to wear a wetsuit. It would be great to see a plan to lift the temperature a few degrees down at the Docklands!

What’s more Australian than catching a train to Southern Cross Station to go surfing?

Image credit: Squint/Opera, Damian Rogers Architect and Arup.

Water World

While certain political leaders aren’t all that fussed about planning for a future with a different climate, it is the only credible consensus among academics and those involved with it’s investigation. A warmer climate, rising sea levels, the disappearance of low-lying communities and even nations… All are prospects on the cards in a warmer future.

Inland cities might be spared the biblical flood, but life would probably be vastly different for a coastal metropolis. Brian Stokle, cartographer running the Urban Life Signs website, teamed up with San Francisco area blog Burrito Justice to create a hypothetical map of the City swamped by a 200 foot sea level rise 60+ years into the future. Quite how Australia would fare under such circumstances would be contentious, seeing as the majority of the population resides in sprawling seaside urban areas.

Image source: @BurritoJustice and @UrbanLieSigns
The output contains a pretty detailed alternate history about how society has evolved (and in some cases, not at all) to meet the sea level change and warmer climate. New place names, food boats instead of food trucks, how a sports franchise wants to relocate, public debate about locating a shipping port, NIMBYs determined to protect flooded and isolated communities… the list goes on.

Ultimately, the exercise puts a much more whimsical, optimistic spin on what is ordinarily portrayed and accepted as a gloomy future. It poses the question: the climate may make us change our habits, but will the way we interact with one another really be that different?

To have a look at the project in more detail, see here:

Image banner source: @BurritoJustice and @UrbanLifeSigns

The power of light

The power of light to change the urban environment was used to great effect over the weekend as Berliners marked 25 years since the fall of the infamous wall.

The wall which had become a marker of the divide between capitalism and communism was a dark physical divide cutting right through the middle of a major city.

Image source: The Telegraph UK 

To mark the anniversary, artists Christopher and Marc Bauder and studio Whitevoid created the Lichtgrenze (border of light), an urban installation of light and balloons to recreate and light the wall’s path.

It was a beautiful reminder of how far things have come and a stunning display of the power light can have in changing an urban environment at night.

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