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

Too close for comfort?
 The question of how far people will walk to reach a transit stop has a pretty significant impact on the shape of cities. Australian urban planners conventionally draw the line of ‘walkability’ at 800m, in line with our American colleagues’ line at about a half-mile. Sometimes these distances are reduced for bus stops or less frequent rail services, however the consensus has held that no one makes it farther than 800m on foot. 

The impact of this thinking can be seen clearly in the planning rules a city creates for its transit-oriented development. Many states across Australia have released Transit Oriented Development (TOD) guides to encourage increased development intensities near transport infrastructure. Victoria’s ResCode requires that 95 per cent of new dwellings within a subdivision be located within street walking distances of 400m, 600m, and 800m from existing or proposed bus, tram and rail stations respectively.

However new research from the University of New Orleans suggests that some cities indeed might be selling their “TOD” footprint short. In examining property values around mass transit stations, the researchers found a transit-oriented price premium which extended up to one mile (1.6km) from rapid transit systems.

Read more about the findings here.

Do you agree with these findings?

Staying Alive

More than 30 years ago, Detroit made a selfless contribution to the world with its unique industrially-inspired electronic music. Now people around the world (and locally) are brainstorming ideas to help rebuild and redesign the decaying and nearly dead city.

Since filing for bankruptcy in July 2013 a number of initiatives from around the globe have been developed to revitalise the legendary Motor City. A design competition was launched to create a new vision for the city and revitalise key sites. Empowered citizens and community groups refused to give Detroit away and worked together to create places for people and investments in public transport infrastructure to pave the way to a brighter future.

Have a look at these promising urban initiatives.

The M-1 Rail
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The M-1 Rail line, which is currently under construction, is a new line that will run in downtown Detroit. The construction and operation of the new line is led by a non-profit organisation that raised $200,000 for the improvement of crosswalks for the new rail. The rail line will support the creation of jobs and housing.

Urban agriculture by Detroit Farm and Garden
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Detroit Farm and Garden is a local store that provides Detroit’s communities with farming produce, gardening and landscape resources.

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Compost is great way to turn waste into something good and useful. The organisation Detroit Dirt focuses on implementing compost on abandoned parcels of land in Detroit and turns them into urban farms for the community’s benefit.

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Bringing a city back to life is not an easy job, it requires participation at all levels of many stakeholders. Music is also playing an important role in the transformation of Detroit and the St Jerome’s Laneway Festival is the proof. You may or may not be familiar with this international festival that tours in many worldwide cities (it started in Melbourne), but also make its only North American appearance in Detroit! The alleys are used for artistic expression and also as an avenue to help the community. Dally in the Alley is another festival sponsored by a non-profit organisation that uses the proceeds from the street fair for projects that seek to improve the quality of life for people who live and work in the neighbourhood.

Although a lot of work is yet to be done, hope is not all lost.

Read more here:

First Amphibious House in the UK

Image credit: Baca Architects & Waterstudio
Here’s a thought for anyone looking at building a house in Melbourne’s leafy Elwood or any number of Sydney’s bayside suburbs – which can get a bit waterlogged when it rains – an amphibious house. No, it’s not a house with a built-in snorkel, but it can happily live on either land or water. The idea is not new of course; the general concept of a house that can float up and down with the tides has been used in Amsterdam for quite some time now (although those houses are usually on the water to start with). 

Anyway, the UK has started to catch on with their first amphibious house nearing completion on the banks of the River Thames. It’s a great design response for properties subject to flooding, it’s smarter than elevating the floor level above an arbitrary flood level (which can change over time anyway), it’s practical and it actually looks great.

Our only question is, how do you leave your house on the odd occasion when it’s surrounded by water? Do you just wait until the water subsides or should it come with a dinghy?

Check out all the images of Baca Architects’ design.

Read more here.

Advertisement for clean air

Re-conceiving under-utilised or obsolete spaces or objects into unique and playful urban places, is one of the latest fads in the world of urban design. A city must now be peppered with astro-turf laneways, shipping container bars and ‘pedestrianised’ railway lines to prove its credentials as truly liveable. 

But an artist from Los Angeles has taken the repurposing of urban objects to a new level in his reconception of the billboard.

Dubbed ‘Urban Air’, Stephen Glassman’s vision is to transform existing urban billboards into living, suspended bamboo gardens above LA’s infamous highway network. These billboards, when transformed from their generic commercial state into architectural planters filled with living bamboo trees, are intended to become a work of art. Each Wi-Fi-enabled Urban Air billboard contains misters to support the growth of the bamboo gardens. As the bamboo grows, it not only expands the ‘green realm’, but also absorbs air pollutants and urban heat, increasing biodiversity, and reducing night time light pollution.

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His initial Kickstarter campaign in 2012, raised over $100k to prototype the ‘Urban Air’ vision. Although a prototype is yet to be realised, the idea of repurposing one of the city’s greatest eyesores into a productive asset has gained a lot of attention around the world.

Read more about the project on Arup’s website here.

And not to be outdone by nature or art, scientists in Peru have developed a billboard panel which is able to purify 500,000m3 of urban air per day, or the equivalent of 1,200 trees. Watch their video here.

The Peruvians have also developed water producing billboards in Lima. There’s no end to their ingenuity.