How to Design Elevated Cycling Structures that Actually Work

’s proposed SkyCycle. Image Courtesy of Foster + Partners

There’s no doubt about it – cycling in cities is a big deal these days. But, while cycle lanes and bike-sharing schemes are all well and good for our cities, the cycling revolution hasn’t yet brought us many examples of beautifully designed infrastructure to gawp at. This article, originally printed on The Dirt as “Do Elevated Cycletracks Solve Problems or Just Create More?” discusses two seemingly similar examples of high profile cycling infrastructure, examining why one is a success and the other a non-starter.

This year, two designs – one proposed and one built – for elevated cycletracks, which create bicycle highways above street level, have gained considerable media attention. They highlight questions at the heart of urban design: Should cities blend or separate transportation options? How can cities best mitigate the hazards created when cars, bikes, mass transit, and pedestrians mix? How can cities create low-cost transportation networks in increasingly dense urban cores?

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Brutalism: Back in Vogue?

The Barbican in London. Image © Flickr CC User Rene Passet

Are Brutalist buildings, once deemed cruel and ugly, making a comeback? Reyner Banham‘s witty play on the French term for raw concrete, beton brut, was popularized by a movement of hip, young architects counteracting what they perceived as the bourgeois and fanciful Modernism of the 1930s. Though the use of raw concrete in the hands of such artist-architects as Le Corbusier seems beautiful beneath the lush Mediterranean sun, under the overcast skies of northern Europe Brutalist architecture earned a much less flattering reputation. Since the 1990s, however, architects, designers, and artists have celebrated formerly denounced buildings, developing a fashionably artistic following around buildings like Erno Goldfinger‘s Trellick Tower, “even if long-term residents held far more ambivalent views of this forceful high-rise housing block.” To learn more about this controversial history and to read Jonathan Glancey‘s speculation for its future, read the full article on here.

How Will We Design The Offices of the Future?

In keeping with present office trends, the Lumosity in San Francisco prizes lounge-like work environments, both informal and easy to personalize. Image Courtesy of Matthew Millman/Lumosity

For many years, the world of office design remained relatively stagnant, with a light, open plan office floor and a generously-sized cubicle about as much as most employees could hope for. But recently all this has changed: the world of the technophilic, fun loving “Generation Y” has taken over, and with it come offices that mix the best elements of the traditional office with design culled from living rooms, coffee shops and children’s playspaces. This will remain the future of office design for some time – or will it? According to Dr Michael O’Neill, senior research strategist at Haworth, the Gen-Y office’s days are already numbered, as he explains in this article originally published by Metropolis Magazine. Read on after the break to find out why.

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The Conflict Between the Global North and South at the 2014 Venice Biennale

A view from the floor of the Latvian pavilion. The sheets of paper carry images of Modernist buildings; the ceiling asks, “There is no Modernism in Latvia”, commenting on the lack of historical scholarship. Image Courtesy of NRJA

“Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014 is an invitation to the national pavilions to show, each in their own way, the process of the erasure of national characteristics in in favor of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language and a single repertoire of typologies.” In this article, originally published on  as “Whose Modernity?“, Avinash Rajagopal investigates the conflict this mandated theme at the 2014 Venice Biennale unintentionally created between the Northern and Southern pavilions - with Northern pavilions tending to declare sole ownership over Modernism and many Southern pavilions denying that their countries were passive recipients of the North’s globalization. For more on how the Southern pavilions challenged the typical conveyance of architectural history, continue reading after the break.

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Light Matters: Whiteness in Nordic Countries

Dybkær Church, Silkeborg, . Architecture: Regnbuen Arkitekter. Image © 2010

The Scandinavian countries have developed great buildings that resonate with both the scarce light in winter and the long summer days. Henry Plummer, Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has very carefully studied the various daylight phenomena in the Nordic countries, with extensive photo journeys and brilliant writing that combines an analytical perspective with a poetic touch. His view of daylight looks beyond the practical advantages of using reflective white spaces to facilitate bright rooms; the passionate photographer is much more interested in the light effects that play with the local beauty of nature and touch the human soul.

Read on for more about how Nordic light enters white spaces

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New York’s Oyster Bar: Serving up Reefs and Resiliency

’ designs for Pier 42. Image Courtesy of

As part of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects‘ ongoing blog at Metropolis Magazine about effective implementation of landscape design principles, this article discusses one of the more unusual methods developed to create resilience and prevent storm damage: oysters. Drawing on her experiences creating an oyster reef at Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects’ Pier 42 project in New York, Johanna Phelps explains the challenges and opportunities that arise in establishing this unusual type of natural infrastructure in an urban location.

Since Hurricane Sandy struck New York in 2012, the city’s waterfront design discussions have focused on ideas of resiliency and planning for storm events. The recent Rebuild by Design competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Presidential Rebuilding Task Force, featured six winning proposals that all envisioned a beefed-up Manhattan shoreline capable of handling large storm events and other hazards effects of climate change. Of the handful of ambitious designs, Scape/Landscape Architecture’s Living Breakwaters plan was the most interesting: the project called for the reestablishment of New York’s erstwhile oyster reefs, which the architects said would improve local ecology.

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Translating Smiljan Radić’s Serpentine Pavilion from Fantasy to Fabrication

The use of fiberglass allowed for the pavilion to be thin and brittle, but also had the strength to span a large face. The pigment made it fire retardant. Image Courtesy of Louis Webb Bird/AECOM

Settled neatly in the quiet hum of London‘s Kensington Gardens rests Smiljan Radić‘s 2014 Serpentine Pavilion, an ethereal mass of carefully moulded fiberglass punctuated by precisely cut openings. Radić desired a structure that appears thin and brittle, yet was strong enough to support itself, and his affection for the rudimental layered qualities of papier-mâché – his maquette medium of choice – inspired the use of fiberglass by AECOM, who engineered Radić’s wild ideas. In this article, originally published by as “Paper-Thin Walls, an AECOM engineer explains their solution. Read on after the break to find out more. 

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Is Bigger Better? HOK’s Acquisition of 360 Architecture and How Mergers Have Changed the Business of Design

World Expo 2020 Master Plan. Image Courtesy of

International design, architecture, engineering and planning firm HOK has recently announced its plan to acquire 360 Architecture, a firm specializing in sports facility design. With HOK’s global influence and ’s expertise, the acquisition could bring about significant advances in sports facility design and expand the market reach for each firm. When it comes to the business of architecture, acquisitions such as this often enable large corporate firms to take on a wider variety of projects, giving them a competitive edge against famous designer names in the industry. But what else can we learn from the growth of the world’s largest firms?

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What Gentrification Really Is, and How We Can Avoid It

Photo of Noe Valley, a low-density, high-income neighborhood, by Allan Ferguson

is seen as a rising menace in many cities. The process whereby rich “gentrifiers” move into neighborhoods, driving up property prices and thus driving out those unable to afford those prices, has drawn criticism from activists and planners for years. However, this article by io9 writer Annalee Newitz, first published by io9 as “This is What Gentrification Really Is“, tells us that the issue is not quite the struggle between good and evil that it first appears to be. Gentrification is a process dependent on economy, political climate, and the mercurial nature of itself – and sometimes fighting against it only serves to exacerbate the problem. Find out what we can do in the face of gentrification after the break.

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Yesterday’s Future, Today: What’s it Like to Work as an Architect in North Korea?

A silk co-operative clad with acres of PV solar panels, one of several illustrations exhibited at the Korean Pavilion in Venice. Image Courtesy of Koryo Tours

Originally published on Metropolis Magazine asThe Future of Architecture, According to a North Korean Architect,” this interview with Nick Bonner, Curator of the North Korean Portion of the Venice Biennale’s Korean Pavilion, delves into the realities of architectural work in one of the world’s most secretive countries.

There’s good chance you’ll never step foot in North Korea, which isn’t the same as saying you can’t. Interest in the socialist state is increasingly high, a fact reflected by a rise in tourists eager to discover the sites and spectacles of Pyongyang. Nick Bonner, founder of Koryo Tours, has been bringing visitors to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for over two decades. He recently curated a small exhibition in the Korean Pavilion at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale.

For “Utopian Tours” Bonner commissioned designs from an unidentified North Korean architect, asking him to envision a whole new infrastructure for accommodating larger and larger groups of tourists. The resulting handdrawn illustrations are fascinating: the future of —at least in North Korea—looks a lot like yesterday’s future, where tourists travel in hovercraft RVs, and workers live in ziggurat-shaped hotels inspired by mountains and trees.

Metropolis asked the trained landscape architect to give us a tour inside the present architecture scene of one of the world’s most isolated countries today.

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A City Without Cars: New York’s Recovery from Automobile Dominance

© Flickr CC User Healey McFabulous

Originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “Playing in Traffic“, this article by Jack Hockenberry delves into the relationship between man and vehicle, illustrating the complex dynamic created in New York – a city with over 2.1 Million registered vehicles. Contrary to the car-centric schemes of New York’s infamous former Master Planner Robert Moses, Hockenberry argues that the city is the “negative space” while vehicles are obscured by our unconscious. 

It is a curiosity of modern urban life that the more cars crowd into cities, the more they become invisible. It’s a great feature that comes standard on any model these days. Unfortunately we can’t control it from the driver’s seat—however much we would like to wave our hands and watch through our windshields as gridlocked cars disappear, liberating us from traffic imprisonment. The invisibility I am speaking about only works if you’re a pedestrian or bicyclist. The number of motorized vehicles parked or driving at any given moment on the streets of New York City is astounding. An estimated 2.1 million are registered in the city, according to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Yet we never fully register them visually when we’re walking on the streets. The city is the negative space and that is how our eyes increasingly navigate urban landscapes. Everything around the cars and trucks gets knitted together by the eye and, even though the vehicles are present, we have gradually learned to ignore them unless we’re standing in the direct line of moving traffic.

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More Free Summer Reading: Nine Architecture Books From Routledge Available Throughout August

Reading room at the New York Public Library. Image © Thomas Hawk

Wondering what to do with the last, lingering weeks of summer? There’s still plenty of time for some enticing summer reading! Peruse this online collection of select on , chosen from academic publisher Routledge‘s titles on themes of Professional Practice and Sustainable Architecture, and available in their entirety for free throughout the month of August.

Including compelling and notable works, these books tackle relevant and significant contemporary issues facing the design world today. See what’s available after the break.

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A New Architectural Style for the Age of the Individual

MVRDV’s Silodam in Amsterdam. Image © Flickr CC User pnwbot

As modernist architects broke free from vernacular architecture and developed a homogenized international style, many created sterile spaces and places out of touch with the decorative warmth of historical forms of human inhabitation. Negative reactions to the brutality of Modernist spaces encouraged architectural movements such as post-modernism and deconstructivism, but these never managed to usurp the rational modernist box as a dominant architectural paradigm.

However, the intended machine-like precision of these buildings has often become unintentionally humanized over time, through the addition of curtains, coloring, or even through accidental breakage and imperfect repairs or alterations. I believe that building on the successes and failures of has spawned a new and previously unclassified architectural style: Pixelism. Find out what this new phenomenon is after the break.

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The Concrete Possibilities of Radical Form

Paseo Marítimo de Benidorm / OAB © Alejo Bagué

ArchDaily has partnered with CEMEX, a global leader in the building materials industry, to bring you an industry perspective into the latest advances that are relevant to architects. In this installment, we explore the role concrete plays in the development of forms in .  
 
Concrete is the most widely used manmade material in the world. Strong and plastic, it is capable of being poured into almost any form. Concrete can drip like water, flow in a graceful curve like a line of frosting on a cake, or jab into the sky like a craggy seaside cliff. It all depends on how it is mixed.

Like splicing DNA, specific physical traits can be selected depending on a project’s needs. Adjusting the mix or adding exotic materials to concrete can make it waterproof or sponge-like; it can change its acoustic properties, generate energy from footsteps or even clean pollution from the air. Concrete is amazingly versatile. It can even used like ink in giant 3D printers to print buildings.

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25 Free Architecture Books You Can Read Online

If you don’t have access to an library (and even if you do), sifting through shelves can take hours. Buying books can be even more painful — for your wallet, at least. Instead, why not browse this list of 25 books that are all free and easily accessible online? Some are well-known classics of , but we hope you find a few surprises as well.

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A Future Without Slums: Too Good to be True?

© Denis De Mesmaeker

As the tide of urban migration sweeps across the developing world, cities experience an overpowering pressure to provide basic services such as electricity and sewage treatment to an enormous amount of people building illegal shacks on city outskirts. When they fail, the slum is born – but is it possible for a city to expand without ? In Hanoi, Vietnam, officials hope to answer this question, with a number of tactics that have led to a “culture of semi-legal construction.” Read this article in The Guardian to learn how  manages to curb slums and provide a basic standard of living to its poorest inhabitants.

China’s “City-Making Process”: Investors’ Power in the People’s Republic

Real estate in Shanghai. Image © Pier Alessio Rizzardi

The world is looking at the urban machine of Chinese cities, at the newly founded theme-cities and at the new urban economic investment areas around the cities. The buildings are repetitive, the areas are sometimes uninhabited, but the thing that leaves urban planners, architects and the public amazed is that these buildings are often completely sold out even before they are completed.

To buy these freshly constructed residences takes money, and over the last three decades the Chinese economic miracle served precisely to grow the per capita income. The reform of the economic system in 1978 was the driving force that triggered the mechanism of capital production. The reform led to millions of people migrating to the cities from the underdeveloped west of the country in search of higher salaries and a well-founded hope of revolutionizing their economic existence.

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Beyond Ruin Porn: What’s Behind Our Obsession with Decay?

Historic mill city ruins in downtown Minneapolis. Image Courtesy of Flickr CC License / Joey Lax-Salinas

Lately, architects are sharing an increasing captivation with ruins. As our technologies for envisioning the buildings of the future become ever-more accurate – enabling us not only to walk through, hover over, and inhabit walls, but also to calculate exact quantities of materials, structural load capacities and costs – our fascination for ruin, a process that is governed by laws of nature and time in a manner that is spatially unpredictable and rarely uniform, has also seen a rise in popularity.

Blogs such as Ruin Porn, Abandoned America and Architecture of Doom draw from a recent sub-genre of , identified as ‘ruins photography’ or ‘ruin porn’. While buildings can go into decay for many reasons, these images tend to focus on urban decay, especially in cities such as Detroit, Chicago and Berlin, which saw a surge of industrialization in the last century that has since dwindled.

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