The Imbued Potential of Vacant Land

Vacant land is a looming problem for many cities, especially when it remains undeveloped for years or is transformed into garbage dumps and parking lots. But when designers begin to notice these voids within the activity of a city they are able to unlock the inherent potential in the land. That is precisely what “Not a Vacant Lot”, as part of DesignPhiladephia, did this October. Philadelphia’s 40,000 vacant lots are both a challenge and an opportunity for young designers, artists and architects to tranform these under-utilized spaces into experiences within the fabric of the urban environment. The focal point of the design intervention was at the University of the Arts lot on 313 S. Broad Street, just a few blocks from Philadelphia’s center. It featured a reinterpreted map of Philadelphia by PennDesign students and Marianne Bernstein’s Play House, an 8′x8′ aluminum cube which, in its simplicity, could unlock the potential of this particular lot. But this engagement of vacant land was just one such intervention in a series artist installations throughout Philadelphia.  Another such intervention, GroundPaper, was designed by two collaborating artists, Mike Ski and KT Butterfield.  The site of their choosing was along the banks of the Delaware River in Fishtown, a neighborhood of Philadelphia.

Read on to see what artists can accomplish with no budget, a vacant lot and an inspired idea.

Grebovka Pavilion / SGL Projekt s.r.o.

© Filip Šlapal

Architects: SGL Projekt s.r.o.  – Jiří javůrek, Vladimír Thiele
Location: , Czech Republic
Date completed: 03/2010
Photographs: Filip Šlapal

Adding Green Spaces to Suburbs

© anthimeria -

The quaint and picturesque suburbs have insulated themselves against the urban environment with miles of highways, strip malls and the traffic between endless sprawl. To get to the artificial nature of surburban streets and parks you must first make an exodus out of the city, arriving in an area that is usually unwalkable: no sidewalks, large streets impossible to cross and large distances between destinations. Kaid Benfield looks at Montgomery County, Maryland’s streetscape initiative to address some of these issues in his article “Fixing Suburbs with Green Streets that Accommodate Everyone”.

Follow us after the break for more.

CANMET Material Technology Laboratory / Diamond Schmitt Architects

© Peter A. Sellar

Architects: Diamond Schmitt Architects
Location: Hamilton, Ontario,
Structural Engineer: RJC Consulting Engineers
Mechanical Consultant: Cobalt Engineers
General Contractor: Ellis Don
Project Area: 165,000 square-feet
Project Year: 2011
Photos: Peter A. Sellar

Courtesy of EASTERN design office + KAWAGUCHI & ENGINEERS

Light Thread / EASTERN design office + KAWAGUCHI & ENGINEERS

EASTERN design office + KAWAGUCHI & ENGINEERS… shared with us their project, Light Thread, China Agricultural University’s Gymnasium / Wrestling Arena for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. During the Olympic Games, the wrestling arena has a 10,000-person capacity. After the

Kristiansand Cathedral School Gimle / Cebra

© Vivian Leisner

Architects: Cebra
Location: ,
Builder: The municipality of Kristiansand Kristiansand
Year: 2007
Project area: 16.000 sqm
Photographs: Vivian Leisner

Sport Hall in La Baule / Barré Lambot Architectes

© Philippe Ruault

Architects: Barré Lambot Architectes
Location: La Baule-Escoublac,
Engineering: ISATEG and ITAC
Area: 1,650 sqm
Year: 2012
Photographs: Philippe Ruault

‘Garden Ribbons’ – A City Hall and Urban Park / ShaGa Studio

© Design Team + Moka Studio

The new municipality building of , located in the old part of the city introduces a unique public park for the city – a green heart – that like a ribbon gradually transforms from a horizontal landscape to a vertical climatic structure. Designed by the Dutch office ShaGa Studio in collaboration with Shyovitz Architects, they define Netanya’s future identity as a coastal city which truly embraces an urban sustainable lifestyle for its residents, workers and visitors. More images and architects’ description after the break.

Carabanchel 19 / Sheppard Robson

© Dennis Gilbert

Architect: Sheppard Robson
Location: Madrid,
Client: Empresa Municipal De La Vivienda y Suelo
Contractor: Prasi
Project Year: 2006
Project Area: 7,600 sqm
Photographs: Dennis Gilbert

Modular Pavilion / Prechteck

Courtesy of

Held every five years, the competition for this year’s pavilion called for a temporary building which may be easily disassembled and relocated to another site. The modular pavilion by Prechteck exists of different parts, housing different functions, all singular cells, but the strongest in coexistence with its neighboring parts. The main concept is that during the 5 years, each cell can be assembled in a different German city and serve as an info booth to the next. At the beginning of the next five years, the parts get transported back and get reconnected on site. More images and architects’ description after the break.

LAM Café / a21 studio

© Hiroyukioki

Architects: a21 studio – Nguyen Hoa Hiep, Nguyen Qui Nhon
Location: ,
Year: 2011
Photographs: Hiroyukioki

Courtesy of Paul Clemence

MY- AMI Exhibition / Paul Clemence

MY- AMI, A virtual and digital exhibit of architectural photography by Paul Clemence…, has been extended to be on view until January 17th as part of the Design into Miami event, which started in November. A look at Miami’s

McDonald’s Interiors in France / Patrick Norguet

Courtesy of Patrick Norguet

Architects: Patric Norguet 
Location: , France
Photographs: Courtesy of Patrick Norguet


R4 / Ateliers Jean Nouvel

© Ateliers Jean Nouvel

R4 is a territory whose urban and river-port aspects have been marked by exchanges, artists and the public. Yet it is not characterised as having any particular identity, but rather as a melting pot and a territory which is singularised by its ever-changing content.

Architects: Ateliers Jean Nouvel
Location: ,
Area: 30,000 sqm
Photographs: Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Neckom Offices and Showroom / re:a.c.t

© Ana Gardaševic

Architects: re:a.c.t (Srdjan Tadic, Grozdana Sisovic, Dejan Milanovic)
Location: , Montenegro
Client: Neckom d.o.o., Niksic
Built: 2010-2011
Built area: 2468 sqm
Photographs: Ana Gardaševic –


“Freedom of Assembly: Public Space Today” by AIA Panel

© david_shankbone -

On December 17, 2011, the New York Chapter of the held a panel discussion about the Occupy Wall Street events that have spurred people from all over the country into political involvement.  The discussion featured nine panelists with introductory remarks from Lance Jay Brown and Michael Kimmelman and closing remarks by Ron Shiffman (all listed below).  It focused on aspects of the built environment, public spaces and how they reflect the way in which people assemble.

Follow us after the break for more about this discussion, including video.

Yale Steam Laundry Condominiums / John Ronan Architects

© Nathan Kirkman

Architects: John Ronan Architects
Location: Washington, DC, 
Photographs: Nathan Kirkman


Canine Brigade / TRANSFORM + DS architecture

© Julien Lanoo

Architects: TRANSFORM + DS architecture
Location:  ,
Client: French Ministry of Interior
Gross Area: 780 sqm
Budget exc. VAT: 1,8M€
Photographs:  Julien Lanoo