Icsid Launches Bid for 2018 World Design Capital

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The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid) has announced the launch of the World Design Capital® (WDC) application cycle for the 2018 designation, which will mark the sixth cycle for this global initiative. Icsid invites design effective from around the globe to submit bids that showcase the impact of design in their city and demonstrate examples of design as a development tool.

Architects Envision Buoyant “Thames Deckway” for London Cyclists

© RCC

On the heels of Mayor Boris Johnson’s announced plan to construct an 18-mile protected bike lane by March 2016, architect David Nixon and artist Anna Hill have released their vision for relieving ’s congested streets with a floating “Thames Deckway” for cyclists. The proposal, though just in its preliminary design phase, claims the river Thames is currently a missed opportunity that could serve as a major travel artery for cyclists. If constructed, the £600 million project would run east-west for seven miles along the river’s southern bank, from Battersea to Canary Wharf, and harness it’s own energy through solar, tidal and wind power. Nixon and Hill have founded the River Cycleway Consortium in support of the project, which includes Arup and Hugh Broughton Architects.

Reinier de Graaf: Mayors Should Not Rule The World

City Hall, centre of operations for Mayor Boris Johnson. Image © Flickr CC User alh1

This weekend, the first planning session of the Global Parliament of Mayors took place in Amsterdam: a platform for from across the world, triggered by Benjamin Barber’s book: If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities.

In this book the current political system and its leaders is dismissed as dysfunctional. Defined by borders and with an inevitable focus on national interests, they are not an effective vehicle to govern a world defined by interdependence. Mayors, presiding over cities with their more open, networked structure and cosmopolitan demographics, so the book argues, could do it better.

It is of no surprise that this book has been welcomed by the same political class as the one it praises: mayors. As was apparent during the first planning session of the GPM: a conference about mayors, for mayors, attended by mayors, moderated by mayors and hosted by a mayor, all triggered by a book about mayors.

I recognize many of the book’s observations. Many mayors are impressive figures and time appears to be on their side. Nation states (particularly the large ones) have an increasingly hard time and, in the context of a process of globalization, cities, and particularly small city-states, increasingly emerge victorious. Cities have first-hand experience with many of the things that occur in globalization’s wake, such as immigration and cultural and religious diversity, and are generally less dogmatic and more practical in dealing with them.

So far so good.

Los Angeles Rids Itself of Helipad Requirement, Opens City to “Bolder” Skyline

Los Angeles, California. Image © Wikimedia Commons / Pintaric

Helicopter landing pads will no longer be required atop new buildings in Los Angeles, California. The rule’s elimination, which was announced yesterday by the city’s mayor and fire chief, allows architects the freedom to break away from LA’s “boxy” skyline. “I want to see innovative design,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “I want to see good design, but we’re going to take the handcuffs off of you when we ask you to do that. I want neighborhoods to look good, and I want our buildings to look iconic.” You can read more about the change, here.

Finalists for 2014 Buckminster Fuller Challenge Announced

Makoko/Iwaya Waterfront Restoration Plan. Image Courtesy of BFI

Seven humanitarian initiatives have been nominated for “Socially-Responsible Design’s Highest Award,” the 2014 Buckminster Fuller Challenge. Presented by the Buckminster Fuller Institute, the $100,000 prize is awarded each year to scientists, students, designers, architects, activists, entrepreneurs, artists and planners from all over the world using innovative solutions to solve some of humanity’s most pressing problems.

Among this year’s finalists are a floating health clinic in Lake Tanganyika, a comprehensive coastal resiliency plan for the Northeastern Seaboard, and a waterfront regeneration plan for the Makoko/Iwaya community. 

The 2014 Finalists are…

Madrid to Eliminate Cars from City Center

© Flickr CC User Jesus Solana

Starting January, the City of Madrid will close off 190 hectares of its central core to traffic, expanding its restricted vehicular areas to 352 hectares. Vehicles not belonging to residents within the city’s four most central barrios will be restricted to large avenues. If a vehicle enters the car-less zone, and does not have access to one of the 13 official parking lots, the owner will be automatically ticketed €90 ($115 U.S). The new is part of a larger goal to completely pedestrianization central Madrid by 2020. 

Architects Design Cardboard Carrier to Improve City Cycling

Courtesy of Packtasche

There’s no denying that biking is one of the biggest trends in right now, with many touting cycling as the solution to reducing pollution and congestion – not to mention its health benefits. As cities are focusing on what they can do to encourage cycling and make their streets bike-friendly, architects have played a critical role in ushering bikes into the city, designing everything from  protected cycle lanes to elaborate elevated cycletracks. Yet after cycling in Vienna for eight years, two architecture students decided to take a different – and simpler – approach to improving biking conditions. Focusing on the often cumbersome task of trying to run errands while on a bike, Philipp Moherndl and Matthias Lechner have designed a lightweight, recyclable cardboard pannier that can seamlessly go from store to bike.

“Due to the mass appeal of the bike, conventional cycling accessories do not fit the lifestyle of many urban cyclists,” Moherndl and Lechner told ArchDaily. “The limited transport capacity of usual bicycles makes shopping difficult and inflexible. People often do their shopping spontaneously, on their way home or whilst cycling in the city. Therefore we wanted to come up with a more flexible solution: a multi-use bag for bicycles, which is low priced and environmentally-friendly.”

Learn more about the Packtasche after the break.

Are Property Developers “Ruining Our Cities”?

Phase 3, Battersea Power Station redevelopment (London). Image Courtesy of Foster + Partners / Gehry Partners

Alongside a number of recent articles that explore the rise of the urban property developer and the subsequent “threat” to the built environment, of The Guardian explores at length how developers are “exploiting planning authorities and ruining our .” In discussion with Peter Rees, former Chief Planning Officer for the City of London and responsible for the financial district’s monuments of today, Wainwright discusses the lack of accountability of the vast majority of urban developers. While local councils attempt to secure the next iconic development for their area many planners, authorities and developers are locked in a battle over the built fabric of our cities. Read the article in full here.

World Architecture Festival to Kick-Off in One Month

With only one month to go before the 2014 World Architecture Festival (WAF) begins in Singapore, has unveiled new additions to the Festival Program, including a keynote speech by Ole Scheeren of Buro Ole Scheeren. With “Architects and the City” as WAF’s overarching theme this year, Scheeren’s talk will be on the relationship between architects, architecture and .

Other keynote speakers include Rocco Yim of Rocco Design Associates who will speak on his involvement in the West Kowloon Cultural District, the largest arts and cultural project in Hong Kong to date, and Richard Rogers who will speak candidly about his life as one of the most influential global figures in architecture and his future agenda. Moshe Safdie will close the Festival, looking back over his extensive career to talk exclusively about the defining moments that shaped its path.

Read on after the break for more information on WAF’s three days of fascinating talks, networking opportunities and its annual awards.

Cities Need Big Changes to Become Bike Friendly

A bicyclist in Vancouver, Canada. Image © Flickr CC User Paul Krueger

A new study has found that cities need to make big infrastructural changes, rather than small ones, in order to become more bike friendly. As this article from Fast Company explains, small increases in bicycle usage lead to more accidents, which in turn makes others afraid to make the switch from driving to riding. However, the study found that heavy investment in cycling infrastructure brings an economic benefit to in the long run, largely thanks to savings from reduced healthcare costs. To learn about the long-term benefits of big biking investments, click here.

Amsterdam is “Dirty, Filthy, and Too Full”

Dutch Canal Houses. Image © James Taylor-Foster

Wim Pijbes, director of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, has declared in an open letter to the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad that the Dutch capital is “dirty, filthy, and too full.” Complaining primarily about the culture of short-stay accommodation, segways, scooters and canal cruisers in the historic heart of the city, he argues that “the charm and spirited character has long since faded.” Amsterdam, an apparent magnet for those who enjoy an “anything-goes atmosphere,” faces an uphill battle in order to remold a dwindling reputation.

Initiatives like Project 1012, which seeks to put a cap on (and even shut down) some of the brothels and marijuana ‘coffee shops’ in the city’s historic core, is part of a wide-reaching clean up campaign. For Feargus O’Sullivan however, “if Amsterdam loses its sense of license, its aura of permissiveness, and its immaculate order held in delicate balance, then it will lose some of its delight, its uniqueness – even its Dutchness.” Read his article in The Atlantic’s Citylab in full here.

How New Elevator Technology Will Allow Our Cities to Grow Even Taller

KONE UltraRope Elevator Shaft. Image Courtesy of Kone/Splash/Corbis

The sky is not always the limit when it comes to building vertically – rather, elevator technology is often the restricting factor when it comes to skyscraper height. With current technology, a single elevator can travel approximately 500m before the weight of the rope becomes unsupportable. This means that ascending a mile-high (1.6km) tower would require changing elevators up to 10 times. However, UltraRope, a recently unveiled technology by Finnish elevator manufacturer KONE, may change the heights of our cities. A new hoisting technology that will enable elevators to travel up to one kilometer, UltraRope doubles the distance that is currently possible.

In an article for , “The new lift technology that will let cities soar far higher,” Rory Hyde looks at the current limitations of elevator technology, how its development over the years has shaped our cities and the impact that UltraRope could have skyscraper design. Read the whole piece, here.

Tree-Like Skyscraper Takes Urban Farming to Next Level

Courtesy of

Urban farming is nothing new, but Aprilli Design Studio‘s proposal for a completely open-air skyscraper does put a novel spin on the sustainable ideal. Instead of tacking greenery onto roofs and balconies, they incorporate agriculture into cities by dedicating entire buildings to the cause. To learn more about the tree-like design, check out Fast Company’s article here.

Washington D.C. – The Most Walkable City in the US?

Chicago is the fifth most walkable city. Image © Vincent Desjardins via Flickr

new report from Christopher Leinberger and Patrick Lynch at The George Washington University School of Business has unexpectedly named Washington D.C. the most walkable city in the U.S., trumping expected favorites like New York, which ranked second.

Respectively rounding out the top five were Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago. Although a mere 2.8 percent of the population is estimated to walk to work, the report’s authors believe the results are indicative of urban development moving away from automobile dependency and sprawl - an event they consider as significant as Frederick Jackson Turner declaring the “closing of the frontier” in 1893.

Urban Design for an Urban Century: Shaping More Livable, Equitable, and Resilient Cities

Courtesy of Wiley

In for an Urban Century: Shaping More Livable, Equitable, and Resilient Cities (2nd Edition), by Lance Jay Brown, David Dixon, historical trends and practices are used to explain current theories of . The following excerpt illustrates one such historical trend, detailing exactly how the advent of railroads and skyscrapers following the Industrial Revolution radically changed the urban landscape.

Before the Industrial Revolution, forces such as trade, agriculture, and defense determined the shape of cities in North America and Europe, whether planned or unplanned. How far a person could reasonably walk and the requirements of carts, wagons, and herds of animals heavily influenced the layout and dimensions of city streets regardless of the form the larger city took. Defensive strategy and technology also dictated form, but the resulting walls — and the need to guard them — often imposed smaller footprints than cities might otherwise have produced.

The Pre-Fabricated Skyscraper & The Clean-Tech Utopia: Two Game-Changing, Sustainable Proposals in China

How can the city be reinvented to save the world? Chinese business magnate Zhang Yue and Finnish professor Eero Paloheimo are two men with very contrasting answers to this loaded question. Zhang Yue’s answer puts trust in pre-fabricated, high-density vertical development, whereas Paloheimo envisions a built-from-scratch, clean-tech sprawling utopia. Their grand ideas, met with both skepticism and excitement, are documented in a new film by Anna-Karin Grönroos. To watch the trailer and learn more about the bold proposals, continue after the break.

Justin McGuirk’s Radical Cities: Across Latin America in Search of a New Architecture

Elemental’s houses in Quinta Monroy, Iquique. © Cristóbal Palma

In Radical Cities, Justin McGuirk travels across Latin America in search of the people and ideas shaping the way cities are evolving: “after decades of social and political failure, a new generation has revitalised architecture and urban design in order to address persistent poverty and inequality. Together, these activists, pragmatists and social idealists are performing bold experiments that the rest of the world may learn from.” The following is an excerpt from Radical Cities on PREVI – the great, but all-but-forgotten experimental housing project in that counted James Stirling and Aldo van Eyck among its contributors.

In a northern suburb of Lima is a housing estate that might have changed the face of cities in the developing world. Its residents go about their lives feeling lucky that they live where they do, but oblivious to the fact that they occupy the last great experiment in social housing. If you drove past it today, you might not even notice it. And yet the Proyecto Experimental de Vivienda – PREVI for short – has a radical pedigree. Some of the best architects of the day slaved over it. Now it is largely forgotten.

The Sprawled Desert City of Phoenix Sets Sights on Walkability

Light Rail crossing Tempe Town Lake. Image © CC Flickr User Alan Stark

When the profit-driven bulldozing of virgin desert quickly transformed into unfinished ghost towns in 2008, the city of Phoenix, , reset their sights on a more sustainable and desirable way of living: walkable communities. With the establishment of the city’s first light rail, the once car-centric communities of its urban core have turned into swaths of pedestrian havens. This has not only improved the city’s desirability, but has also been good for business. See how else Phoenix is trying to “pull off an urban miracle” and reverse it’s sprawled image here on Fast Company.