Grimshaw and Gruen’s LA Union Station Masterplan Gains Approval from Planning Board

Open Space View in Forecourt. Image © Grimshaw / , Courtesy of the County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro)

Update: The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors has approved approved the proposed masterplan by Grimshaw and Gruen; the scheme will now go ahead, subject to the availability of funding. The below article is from 22 September 2014.

The New York office of Grimshaw and LA based Gruen Associates were officially awarded the Los Angeles Union Station master plan in July of 2012 after six initial proposals for the project. Now the Metro Board has begun to finalize plans and move towards implementation, with their Planning Committee scheduled to discuss the proposals in early November. Read on to learn more about how the plan has developed over the past two years and the next steps towards its implementation.

A Walk Along the Bayou: An Award-Winning Proposal Aims to Reinvent Houston’s River

02 Mile Aerial Perspective – Downtown. Image Courtesy of UH College of Architecture

Nearly 9,000 kilometers separate Venice, Italy from Houston, Texas, and yet, both cities are bound by a simple connection: the coexistence of the urban fabric with the waterfront. This connection was brought to life this summer through The University of Houston’s at the Venice Architectural Biennale‘s Time Space Existence Event: RISKY HABIT[AT]: DYNAMIC LIVING ON THE BUFFALO BAYOU. Awarded  the Global Art Affairs Foundation (GAAF) Award for Best Exhibition, the exhibition showcased the complexities and potential of the city’s relationship with its waterfront. To better understand Houston’s waterfront and the changing relationship between the city and its river we visited the site ourselves. Read after the break to see what it’s like to talk a walk along the Bayou, and to find out what the Houston river project can learn from similar undertakings in Chicago, Des Moines, and Newark.

Plans Revealed for Denmark’s Delta District in Vinge

Courtesy of and the Municipality of Frederikssund

Located close to Copenhagen, Vinge is Denmark’s newest sustainable city. The first neighborhood for the city, designed by Danish architects SLA for the Municipality of Frederikssund is aptly named the Delta District. The plan takes advantage of man-made landscape features to create a unique residential community closely tied to nature. Read on after the break to learn more about the proposed plan.

URBED’s Bold Proposal to Reinvigorate the Garden City Movement

Courtesy of

British urban design consultancy URBED (Urbanism, Environment, Design) have been announced as the winners of the 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize for their proposal to reenergise the Garden City (GC) movement, first conceived by Sir Ebenezer Howard in 1898. David Rudlin and Nicholas Falk’s submission argues that forty cities in England, including Northampton, Norwich, Oxford, Rugby, Reading and Stafford, could benefit from ‘GC status’. The award comes in the wake of polling conducted for the prize showing that 68% of the 6,166 Britons polled thought that would protect more countryside than the alternatives for delivering the housing we need.

Read about URBED’s submission, and the fictional town of Uxcester, after the break.

“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  ”: 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, 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.

“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 Moscow pavilion at the Venice Biennale, the 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 cities and how they affect – and are affected by – politics, infrastructure, planning communities and technology. Conference talks include “Greening the urban : 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, Hong Kong. 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 urban planning projects of Soviet-era are being reborn in modern ,” 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 delves into China’s urban development of many African cities, and the effect this has had on the architectural quality of those cities. 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 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 skyscrapers 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 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 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 housing 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?

’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