“Seoul: Towards a Meta-City” Exhibition Opens in Berlin

Courtesy of ANCB

On Thursday, the Aedes Network Campus Berlin (ANCB) Metropolitan Laboratory hosted a symposium to mark the opening of the  ”Seoul: Towards a New City,” in collaboration with the City of Seoul. The city has identified three key objectives to help them strike a balance between restoration and change when moving forward with future development: revival of history, restoration of nature, and renewal of people’s lives. Seven projects that reflect these goals are on display at the exhibition. For more details, continue reading after the break.

Rome Invites Ideas For Reuse of Europe’s Biggest Landfill Site

A major competition for reuse has just been announced for the Malagrotta Landfill, one of the European Union’s biggest landfill sites. After Malagrotta was closed in August 2013 due to its controversial size and negative impact on the surrounding community, the Municipality of Rome began a process of redevelopment through community engagement. Multi-displinary teams are tasked with a creating a proposal to reinvent the sprawling 240-hectare property while considering its original purpose. The competition is designed to begin a conversation on the long-term vision for the property.

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.

A Future Without Slums: Too Good to be True?

© Denis De Mesmaeker

As the tide of urban migration sweeps across the developing world, 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 Hanoi manages to curb slums and provide a basic standard of living to its poorest inhabitants.

“Moskva: Urban Space” Investigates the Future of Moscow’s Public Realm at the 2014 Venice Biennale

© Patricia Parinejad

In their collateral event for the debut of the pavilion at the Venice Biennale, the exhibition “Moskva: urban space“ explores the historic development of public spaces and examines the city’s progress in the context of Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s winning proposal for Zaryadye Park. Curated by Sergey Kuznetsov, Chief Architect of Moscow together with Kristin Kristin Feireiss from AEDES, and organized by MCA – Moscow Committee of Architecture and Urban Development, the exhibition comes at a pivotal moment in determining the future of urban development in Moscow. As Kuznetsov states, “While the face of Moscow in the past 100 years was largely determined by the architecture of its buildings, representing political and economic developments, today’s urban singularity is based on the “connective fabric” of its public spaces that have become equally important identity-makers and contributes significantly to improving the quality of urban life for its citizens.” To see photos of the exhibition by Patricia Parinejad and learn more about the story behind it, continue reading after the break.

WAF Unveils 2014 Festival Program

With the World Architecture Festival (WAF) just around the corner, the festival’s full program has been unveiled, featuring three days of fascinating talks, an impressive list of key-note speakers and networking opportunities.

“Architects and the City” is the overarching theme for this year’s main conference sessions, and the talks will focus on the contributions architects can make to and how they affect – and are affected by – politics, infrastructure, planning communities and technology. Conference talks include “Greening the urban landscape: strategies for environmental urbanism,” “Question time- is ‘iconic’ architecture out of control?” and “Connecting the city; regenerating communities.”

The festival also features an impressive line-up of key note speakers, including 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.

More program highlights after the break…

(Re)Made in China: The Soviet-Era Planning Projects Shaping China’s Cities

Victoria Peak, . Image © Owen Lin under a CC licence

The following article, written by Jacob Dreyer and originally published in The Calvert Journal as “Maximum city: the vast projects of Soviet-era Russia are being reborn in modern China,” analyzes a fascinating phenomenon: the exportation of Soviet urbanism — or rather Stalinist urbanism  shaping Chinese cities today. 

As I cycled to work on 20 May this year, the Yan’an Expressway — Shanghai’s crosstown artery, named after the utopian socialist city that was Mao Zedong’s 1940s stronghold — was eerily silent, cordoned off for a visit by President Vladimir Putin. We discovered the next day that the upshot of his visit was the signing a $400bn contract with China for the export of gas and petroleum. As President Barack Obama had once promised he would, Putin made a pivot to Asia, albeit on a slightly different axis. From Shanghai, the terms of the deal — which was immensely advantageous to China — made it seem as if Russia was voluntarily becoming a vassal-state of the People’s Republic, making a reality of both the predictions of Vladimir Sorokin’s dystopian fantasy novel Day of the Oprichnik and of Russian scare stories about Chinese immigrants flooding into Siberia.

The irony is that models of society imported from Russia during the Soviet period — as realised in popular culture, legal apparatuses and, of particular interest to the cyclist, in architecture and urban planning — are as influential as ever in China. If, as Chinese philosopher Wang Hui observed in his book The End of Revolution, Socialism was the door through which China passed on its voyage into modernity, then it was Russia that opened that door, by exporting models and expertise that laid the foundation for much of what constitutes modern China.

Stelka Institute Presents: Moscow’s “Urban Routines”

Courtesy of

Over the course of nine months, graduate students at the Strelka Institute studied the urban landscape of and the daily routines of its inhabitants, focusing “on new, little-noticed, and as-yet unresolved contradictions.” The main goal of the projects was to come up with solutions that could be applied in practice.

The research projects, collectively entitled “Urban Routines,” were presented at the end of this past June at the graduate show. Program director David Erixon said that while the theme might seem naive, “when you start looking at seemingly trivial things in a new way they are not so trivial anymore.” For details about the individual research projects – covering Cars, Retail, Dwelling, Offices, and Links - keep reading after the break.

How Chinese Urbanism Is Transforming African Cities

The Great Wall Apartments, a Chinese style residential compound in Nairobi, Kenya. Image Courtesy of Go West Project

This article from Metropolis delves into China’s urban development of many African , and the effect this has had on the architectural quality of those . Chinese contractors and architects are able to propel a city’s growth at lower cost and on schedule, but in doing so, they out-compete local companies and ignore cultural context. Is this an acceptable trade-off? Read the full article and decide for yourself.

The factory of the world has a new export: urbanism. More and more Chinese-made buildings, infrastructure, and urban districts are sprouting up across , and this development is changing the face of the continent’s cities.

Or so says Dutch research studio Go West Project , who have been tracking this phenomenon for their on-going project about the export of the Chinese urban model to Africa. Since 2012, the group, made up of Shanghai-based architect Daan Roggeveen and Amsterdam-based journalist Michiel Hulshof, have visited six African cities to do research. Roggeveen and Hulshof recently released their preliminary report in an issue of Urban Chinaa magazine focusing on Chinese urban development.

TEDxTalk: The General Theory of Walkabiity/ Jeff Speck

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In this TEDxTalk, the follow up to his popular TED Talk, “The Walkable City,” urban planner Jeff Speck delves more deeply into his “General Theory of Walkability.” The theory maintains there are four ground rules for increasing pedestrian traffic in urban areas: walking must be safe, comfortable, interesting, and – most importantly – there must be a reason to walk in the first place. Counterpointing this with America’s fixation with accommodating the automobile, Speck shows us how beneficial a pedestrian city can be, both functionally and aesthetically.

London Skyline Debate Taken to City Hall

The Norman Foster-designed London City Hall with the Shard in the background. Image © Flickr CC User alh1

The debate over the future of London‘s Skyline stepped up a gear on Tuesday, as the issue was taken up by the London Assembly’s Planning Committee in City Hall. The London Assembly is an elected watchdog which is tasked with examining the decisions and actions of London’s mayor, and is expected to apply pressure to mayor Boris Johnson over the issue of in the capital.

The committee heard from leading architectural figures in London including former RIBA president Sunand Prasad (of Penoyre & Prasad), English Heritage planning and conservation director for London Nigel Barker and former City planning officer Peter Rees.

More on the London Assembly debate after the break

3 Architects Appointed to Oversee £100 Million Cycling Infrastructure In London

Though the schemes are not exactly as dramatic as Foster + Partners’ Skycycle (pictured), they are part of a real commitment to make London more cycle-friendly. Image © Foster + Partners

Roger Hawkins (Hawkins\Brown), Sunand Prasad (Penoyre & Prasad) and Peter Murray (New London Architecture) have all been appointed by the Mayor of London to oversee the implementation of £100 million worth of cycling infrastructure in the city.

The scheme will focus on three London Boroughs: Kingston, Enfield and Waltham Forest, each of which were awarded “mini-Holland” status – a reference to the cycling haven of the Netherlands which these areas of London will be modeled on. Each borough will nominate their own principal designers, but the three appointed architects, who all sit on the Mayor’s design advisory panel, will be acting as consultant and client for a different borough.

Read on after the break for a rundown of the proposed changes

5 Concepts for Garden Cities Shortlisted for the 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize

Aerial view of Shelter’s Masterplan for the Hoo Valley. Image Courtesy of Wolfson Economics Prize

The shortlist for the 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize has been announced, rewarding five teams who rose to the challenge to design new garden cities which address the UK‘s growing shortage. The topic of garden cities is becoming a major focus for the ’s planners and architects, with proposals by the government for a new garden town of 15,000 homes at Ebbsfleet providing the starting point for debate.

However despite the debate within the built environment professions, with some arguing that garden cities are best left in the past, a survey commissioned by the Wolfson Economics Prize in conjunction with the award found that 72% of the British public believed there was a serious shortage of housing in the UK, and 70% believed that garden cities were a better way of delivering this housing compared to how – and where – housing is currently delivered. The five shortlisted teams will receive £10,000 to further develop their proposals and aim for the grand prize of £250,000.

Read on after the break for the list of proposals

Does London’s Planning System Lack Civic Representation?

London’s skyline is set to be dramatically altered by tall buildings in the near future. Image Courtesy of CPAT / Hayes Davidson / Jason Hawkes

A debate organized by New London Architecture (NLA) has revealed a strong need for civic societies in London which protect the interests of the public in planning decisions, offering New York as a potential model. The debate, which was one of the headline events at the London Festival of Architecture, was organized in response to a study which showed over 200 tall buildings were currently in the pipeline for the UK’s capital, which sparked fears that the current planning system was not fit for the purpose of controlling development in the city.

More on the debate after the break

Cape Town Adopts Re-Blocking Strategy for Informal Settlements

In Kuku Town, dwellings were rearranged to face a communal courtyard – where people can gather for activities and keep an eye on their neighbors and shared facitilies.. Image Courtesy of Future Cape Town

The city of Cape Town has adopted a new strategy for improving informal settlements – re-blocking, “the reconfiguration and repositioning of shacks in very dense informal settlements in accordance to a -drafted spatial framework.” Re-blocking serves to create communal spaces, make neighborhoods safer, and improve dwelling structures – among many other things. To see how it has been implemented and where, head to Future Cape Town and continue reading here.

Crafting Urban Life in Three Dimensions: An Interview with Adam Snow Frampton by James Schrader

Footbridge in Central, . Image by Adam Frampton

The following are excerpts from one of 41 interviews that student researchers at the Strelka Institute are publishing as part of the Future Urbanism Project. In this interview, James Schrader speaks with Adam Snow Frampton, the co-author of Cities Without Ground and the Principal of Only If, a New York City-based practice for architecture and urbanism. They discuss his work with OMA, the difference between Western and Asian cities, his experiences opening a new firm in New York, and the future of design on an urban scale.

James Schrader: Before we get to future urbanism, I thought it would be interesting to look a bit into your past. Could you tell me about where your interest in cities came from? Were there any formative moments that led to your fascination with cities?

Adam Snow Frampton: I was always interested in cities, but not necessarily exposed to much planning at school. When I went to work at OMA Rotterdam, I was engaged in a lot of large-scale projects, mostly in the Middle East and increasingly in Asia, where there was an opportunity to plan cities at a bigger scale. In the Netherlands, there’s not necessarily more construction than in the US, but there is a tradition of thinking big and a tendency to plan. For instance, many Dutch design offices like OMA, West 8, and MVRDV have done master plans for the whole country.

Minha Casa, Nossa Cidade: Brazil’s Social Housing Policy & The Failures of the Private-Public System

Courtesy of Ruby Press

In 2009, the Brazilian government launched the program “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” (“My House, My Life”), which aims to build 3.4 million housing units by the end of 2014. Minha Casa—Nossa Cidade (Ruby Press, 2014), produced by the MAS Urban Design program at the ETH Zurich, examines the project at a critical time and presents ways to improve its design and implementation. Divided into three chapters, the book reviews the history, guidelines, and construction of the “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” program (MCMV) through long-form essays, opinion pieces, interviews, diagrams, and photographic image material. The following excerpt, written by Sandra Becker, proposes an answer to the question of why the program – despite its aims to meet the huge demand for housing for low-income families - has thus far failed to provide the Brazilian people the “quality cities [they] desire.” 

From the Publisher. In June 2013, Brazil saw a wave of protests unprecedented in the country’s history. Millions of people filled the streets demanding better education, public transportation, and healthcare. While the rage driving the protests was directed at politicians, it is unlikely that the problem can be reduced to the failure of the political system. Instead, shouldn’t the protests point out the inequalities caused by the neoliberal policies that dominate the global economy?

In the first quarter of 2009, responding to the global financial crisis that had begun the previous year, the Brazilian government launched an ambitious social housing program to encourage the economy’s construction sector. The program, “Minha Casa, Minha Vida,” was initially developed to build one million houses. In September 2011, the program launched its second phase with a goal of providing another 2.4 million housing units. The program aims to confront a historical deficiency in housing, a shortage of approximately 5.8 million dwellings.

Jacobs and Moses’ Famous Feud to Be Dramatized in Opera

Courtesy of Fast Co-Design

Yes, you read right – the 1960s battle between Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses will be the central story line for a new opera. Although the premiere is a long way off, its creators promise to bring New York City and the drama to life through song and an elaborate, animated, three-dimensional set. To find out more about the developing project, head on over to Fast Co-Design.