The RIBA‘s recent report “City Health Check: How Design Can Save Lives and Money” looks at the relationship between city planning and public health, surveying the UK‘s 9 largest cities in a bid to improve public health and thereby save money for the National Health Service. The report includes useful information for city planners, such as the idea that in general, it is quality and not quantity of public space that is the biggest factor when it comes to encouraging people to walk instead of taking transport.
Read on for more of the results of the report – and analysis of these results – after the break
In the following article, originally published in Polish in theDecember 2013 issue of A&B, Ewa Szymczyk interviews Vicente Guallart, the Chief Architect of Barcelona since 2011 as well as the founder of Guallart Architects and IAAC (Institute of Advanced Architecture in Catalunya). Szymczyk questions Guallart about his experience in urban design, asking: how can you measure a city’s success?
Ewa Szymczyk: When measuring the contemporary city’s success we typically use economic measures. In this sense Barcelona ranks very high, being a top tourist destination and managing its budget in times of global crisis. But there are many other ways to measure its success. What in your opinion makes a city a good city? Isn’t it much more than economic prosperity?
Vincente Guallart: A good city is a place where the citizens live well. So the best measure for a good city is how the citizens live. The truth is that the city is a physical representation of a social agreement. If you think for instance about Phoenix in Arizona, maybe people live there the way they want and the way they like to live. Obviously there are also questions related to cost. I mean, questions related to environmental and economic costs. Therefore the cost of a city like Phoenix is very different from the cost of a city like Hong Kong, which is the densest city and probably the most efficient urban structure in the world. So the question is the economic efficiency and also the quality of life of the citizens. And the best way to know is to ask citizens how happy they are to live in a place like this. The truth is that if you are a citizen of Barcelona you are quite happy. We have been evaluating this over the past few years and the average rating is seven out of ten. So that is in general very good! The people are proud to live in a place like this.
There are few recent trends in urbanism that have received such widespread support as cycling: many consider cycling the best way for cities to reduce congestion and pollution, make cities more dense and vibrant, and increase the activity and therefore health of citizens. Thus, it’s no surprise a number of schemes have been proposed worldwide to promote cycling as an attractive way to get around.
However, recently it seems that many cycling schemes are running into bumpy ground. Read on to find out more.
In response to the death of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last week, Eyal Weizman has written an interesting investigation into how the controversial politician used architecture and urban planning as a tool in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, deploying settlements like military tactics rather than simply as housing strategy. The piece is an insightful examination of how power and even violence can be manifest in design, as evidenced by Sharon’s “architecture of occupation”. You can read the full article here.
Among the biggest challenges facing city planners is to implement plans which are not just needed, but also popular. In a bid to address this common problem of democratic city design, the Strelka Institute developed What Moscow Wants, an online platform designed to crowdsource ideas for the development of Moscow.
What Moscow Wants consists of a three-step process: residents first propose ideas on the website (ranging from the prosaic suggestion of a standardized city-wide parking bollard, to the outlandish idea of an underwater museum in the Moscow River); next, local architectural practices chose suggestions which they felt they could contribute a solution to and posted their proposals to the website; finally, the most popular choices were presented by the architects at the Moscow Urban Forum from the 5-7th of December.
Read on after the break to see a selection of the most popular projects
About 40% of the area of Hamburg, the second largest city in Germany, is made up of green areas, cemeteries, sports facilities, gardens, parks and squares. For the first time ever, the city has decided to unite them together via pedestrian and cycle routes. It’s all part of the “Green Network Plan,” which aims to eliminate the need for vehicles in Hamburg over the next 20 years.
According to city spokeswoman Angelika Fritsch, the project will help to turn the city into a one-of-a-kind, integrated system: “Other cities, including London, have green rings, but the green network will be unique in covering an area from the outskirts to the city centre. In 15 to 20 years you’ll be able to explore the city exclusively on bike and foot.”
More details, after the break.
As part of their coverage of the Global Agenda Council on Design and Innovation, Grasp Magazine interviewed Joi Ito, director of MIT‘s Media Lab. He voices his opinion that current strategies for masterplanning do not work, as designers struggle to reliably “predict and cause a future to occur” (a better approach is to enable and empower innovation on a grass-roots level); that designers need to find the right balance between intuition and data; and that new technologies should not just improve existing systems, but preferably overhaul them entirely. You can read the full article here.
From the window of an airplane it’s all too plain that apartheid has been deeply written into the South African landscape. Even the smallest town appears as two distinct towns. One features a spacious grid of tree-lined streets and comfortable houses surrounded by lawns. The other, its shriveled twin, some distance away but connected by a well-traveled road, consists of a much tighter grid of dirt roads lined with shacks. Trees are a rarity, lawns non-existent. This doubling pattern appears no matter the size of the population: here, the white town; over there, the black township. — Lisa Findley, “Red & Gold: A Tale of Two Apartheid Museums.”
There are few systems of government that relied so heavily upon the delineations of space than the Apartheid government of South Africa (1948-1994). Aggressively wielding theories of Modernism and racial superiority, South Africa’s urban planners didn’t just enforce Apartheid, they embedded it into every city – making it a daily, degrading experience for South Africa’s marginalized citizens.
When Nelson Mandela and his party, the African National Congress, were democratically elected to power in 1994, they recognized that one of the most important ways of diminishing Apartheid’s legacy would be spatial: to integrate the white towns and the black townships, and revive those “shriveled twin[s].”
As we remember Mandela – undoubtedly the most important man in South Africa’s history – and ponder his legacy, we must also consider his spatial legacy. It is in the physical, spatial dimensions of South Africa’s towns and cities that we can truly see Apartheid’s endurance, and consider: to what extent have Mandela’s words of reconciliation and righteous integration, truly been given form?
It’s been exactly one year since the world first mourned the passing of a great master of 20th century architecture: Oscar Niemeyer.
After 104 years of life, the renowned architect left a profound legacy. His works - known for their impressive curves, embrace of light, and profound relationship to their surroundings – made him an icon. Not just in Brazil, but the world.
After the Wolfson Economics Prize announced a challenge to deliver new garden cities in the UK for the 21st Century, Feargus O’Sullivan of Atlantic Cities responds, calling the attempt to bring back garden cities “misguided”. His article gives a comprehensive rundown of why garden cities were popular during the 20th century, why they are becoming popular again and, ultimately, why they are a bad idea that will not succeed this time around – finishing with some ideas from The Netherlands and Sweden that would be much more appropriate. You can read the full article here.
The challenge of converting a sea of parking lots, that so often riddles auto-dependent suburbs, is in densification. Architects are introducing compact urban living models to small towns all across the country, retrofitting single-use zoning into more walkable, diverse and connected communities. Perhaps nowhere is this evolution more evident than Seattle’s Northgate neighborhood, home to the country’s oldest shopping malls. Learn how the town became denser and greener, transitioning to a transit-oriented development, “Gray, Green, and Blue: Seattle’s Northgate.”
UPDATE: The video detailing Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s winning proposal for Moscow’s Zaryadye Park has just been released. In it the three partners discuss the central idea behind the proposal – “Wild Urbanism” – in which plants and people are of equal importance and “nature and architecture are merged into a seamless whole.” They explain how each of Russia’s varied landscapes – its tundra, steppe, forest, and wetland – will be imported to the park and overlapped into ”enfolded nodes” that will house sustainable, artificial micro-climates that will allow for year-round use of the park.
The Strelka Institute has announced the winner of the two-stage international competition to design Zaryadye park, Moscow’s first park in over 50 years: Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
Zaryadye Park, 13 acres of land just a minute’s walk from the Kremlin and the Red Square, is hoped to “project a new image of Moscow and Russia to the world.” See the renderings from Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s winning proposal for Moscow’s new and most important public space, after the break…
Cities are diverse places, home to a rich spectrum of people and lifestyles. Chris Downey, however, believes that there are only two types of people, “those with disabilities and those that haven’t quite found theirs yet.” Downey, a distinguished architect of over twenty years, lost his eyesight four years ago and found a new way of seeing the world. “If you design for the blind in mind, you get a city that is robust, accessible, well-connected…a more inclusive, more equitable city for all.” Hear his story, contrasting his daily life before and after this newly found “outsight.”
For years, rivers were a source of transport and power, upon whose banks our cities were born. But as cities industrialized, many of them clogged with filth and disease – making them not only ugly, but dangerous. Unless they were useful, rivers were often diverted, covered, pushed underground, and forgotten.
Not anymore. Reclaiming rivers seems to be the newest trend in urban design, and cities across the world are hopping on the bandwagon. In the UK, the Environment Council is working to restore 9,500 miles of river; in Los Angeles, the eponymous river is about to undergo a complete transformation.
The Battle of Ideas is an annual, weekend-long series of panel discussions hosted at the Barbican in London, ranging across subjects from neuroscience to music and everything in between. With a strong thread of architecture and urbanism, this year offered a spectacular chance to probe the popular trends and fads in today’s design culture.
Read on after the break for the highlights of the event.
In a world where people live more mobile lifestyles than they have for centuries, cities are facing a problem they rarely planned for: their citizens move away. When jobs and resources start to decline, modern cities, such as Detroit, suffer difficult and often wasteful processes of urban contraction. In contrast to this, Manuel Dominguez’s “Very Large Structure,” the result of his thesis project at ETSA Madrid, proposes a nomadic city that can move on caterpillar tracks to locations where work and resources are abundant.
Of course this is not the first time that the idea of a nomadic city has been proposed. Ron Herron’s Walking City is one of the more recognizable Archigram designs from the 1960s, and has been influential to architectural theory ever since. However, the design for the “Very Large Structure” expands on the Walking City by including strong proposals for energy generation on board the city.
Read on to see more on this provocative project – including a full set of presentation boards in the image gallery.
It begins with a fundamental premise: Buildings occupy only a fraction of land in cities. Just as important as physical structures, are the public spaces in between.
In many cities these spaces have long been disregarded. Today, however, we are witnessing bold experimentation and innovation coming forth from cities across the globe: cities re-using and re-imagining previously underused spaces in order to uplift communities and transform lives.