How Kiev’s Independence Square Helped Spur an Uprising

© Flickr CC User Michael Kötter

In a fascinating article for the GuardianOwen Hatherley visits Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kiev, the public square at the heart of the Ukranian revolution that ironically was designed under Stalin as a Baron Hausmann-style weapon against uprisings. Hatherley examines how elements of the were utilized by protesters, and how different areas of the square are now hosting a variety of political factions. You can read the full article here.

Why Africa’s Cities Need African Planning

Design concept for Eko Atlantic City. Image Courtesy of archinect.com

In this article, originally posted on Future Cape Town as “Designing African Cities: Urban Planning Education in Nigeria“, Professors Vanessa Watson and Babatunde Agbola discuss a paradigm shift occurring in Nigerian Planning Schools: from the American and European planning theories that have so far been applied in to new theories more suited to dealing with the unique challenges presented by African cities.

In June 2011, the Governor of Osun State inaugurated a 10 man Committee for the state Urban Renewal Programme. The Committee of which I was the Chairman was to prepare an Urban Renewal Master Plan for each of the 9 selected cities in the state. At the inauguration, the Governor emphasized and re-emphasized that the type of plans he anticipated for each of these cities are not the types and models of New York, Washington, London or any other Euro-American cities. The plans were to reflect African cities’ realities and thus have relevance for the lives of the residents of these cities.

These observations of the Governor point to the widespread belief of Nigerians that there is an observable disconnect between what the planners learn and know and what they put into practice for the general welfare and liveability of the populace. Admittedly, theory feeds and inform practice but when theories of other climes are transplanted for practice in another, the result cannot but be disastrous. Such is the effect of received contemporary planning education and knowledge on the morphology of Nigerian towns and cities.

Read on to find out what is being done about this education conundrum

North West Cambridge Extension Proposals Enter Planning Phase

Masterplan. Image Courtesy of North West

Earlier this year the University of Cambridge announced an ambitious new urban extension in the north west of the city in order to create a framework for a new district centered on a mixed academic and urban community. The development, planned by Aecom, has aspirations of achieving urban space that is well balanced, permanent and sustainable. Containing 1,500 homes for its key workers, accommodation for 2,000 postgraduate students, 1,500 homes for sale, 100,000 square metres of research facilities and a local centre with a primary school, community centre, health centre, supermarket, hotel and shops, proposals from Mecanoo and MUMA are now entering the planning phase. Future lots are expected to be filled by the likes of Stanton WilliamsAlison Brooks Architects and by Cottrell and Vermeulen working with Sarah Wigglesworth and AOC.

We Need Better, Not Fewer, Buildings

Sight lines to St Paul’s Cathedral are the most fervently protected views in London. Image Courtesy of Make Architects

In this intriguing article in the TelegraphStephen Bayley critiques protecting ’ “traditional” view corridors out of nostalgia (or fear of bad architecture). On the premise that “not all development is bad” and that “the only that do not develop are dead ones”, Bayley argues forcefully for better, rather than less, city building. You can read the full argument here.

Playfully Reimagining Madrid’s Urban Realm

Courtesy of Andrés Carretero,

How often are spontaneous, primitive, radical actions implemented in large urban centres? Siempre Fiesta (or Always Party) by Andrés Carretero and Carolina Klocker was recently voted by the We-Traders community as their favourite in the recent Open Call Madrid competition. Viewing the city through children’s eyes, where the order of the day is primarily playing or making, and using the concept of “free movement of our body in space” as a key driver, Carretero and Klocker developed a playful scheme that proposed filling a niche in ’s urban grid with sand as a way of managing the environment to create “comfortable space.”

Venice Biennale 2014: Israel Explores The Urburb, a Neither Urban nor Suburban Landscape

New neighbourhoods in Netanya. Image © Itamar Grinberg / The Israeli Pavilion 2014

Neither urban nor suburban, the Urburb is a fragmented mosaic of one hundred years of modernist planning in : early twentieth century garden-, mid-century social housing and generic, high-rise residential typologies of the past two decades. These residential mutations dominate the contemporary Israeli landscape, expanding and replacing existing textures, in an endless, repetitive cycle.

Reviewing RIBA’s City Health Report: Could Le Corbusier Have Been Right?

’s Olympic Park came replete with plenty of green public space. Image © Anthony Charlton

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 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

Interview with Vicente Guallart, Chief Architect of Barcelona

© Ewa Szymczyk

In the following article, originally published in Polish in theDecember 2013 issue of A&B, Ewa Szymczyk interviews , the Chief Architect of 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.

Has Cycling Hit A Speed Bump?

The Skycycle proposal by Foster + Partners and Space Syntax. Image © Foster + Partners

There are few recent trends in urbanism that have received such widespread support as cycling: many consider cycling the best way for to reduce congestion and pollution, make 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.

Ariel Sharon, Architecture and Occupation

© Rianne Van Doevern via Flickr CC User The Advocacy Project

In response to the death of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon last week, 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.

Strelka Institute Crowd-Sources Urban Design Ideas with “What Moscow Wants” Campaign

The Cultural Navigator. Image Courtesy of CITIZENSTUDIO bureau

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 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

Hamburg’s Plan to Eliminate Cars in 20 Years

About 40% of the area of Hamburg, the second largest city in , 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 , 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.

Joi Ito Explains His Theories of Organic City Design

Joi Ito. Image © Flickr CC User Nokton

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.

RRC Studio Design Residential & Commercial Expansion for Al Dhakira

Aerial view. Image Courtesy of

Italian Practice RRC Studio has released designs for new residential and commercial quarters in Al Dhakira, Qatar. The design will roughly double the size of the small city, situated 60km outside the capital of Doha, providing new housing blocks, villas, hotels, and a new commercial district.

What Will Be Mandela’s Spatial Legacy?

Rendering for Greenpoint Stadium. Image Courtesy of http://bensnewgreenpointstadium.webs.com/

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 (1948-1994). Aggressively wielding theories of Modernism and racial superiority, ’s urban planners didn’t just enforce Apartheid, they embedded it into every city – making it a daily, degrading experience for ’s marginalized citizens.

When 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?

A Year Without Oscar

Niemeyer observa maquete da escola projetada em Belo Horizonte (MG). Image Courtesy of ON

It’s been exactly one year since the world first mourned the passing of a great master of 20th century architecture: .

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 , but the world.

Why Garden Cities Should Stay in the 20th Century

Town square in Letchworth Garden City, one of the ’s first. Via Flickr CC user. Image © Steve Cadman

After the Wolfson Economics Prize announced a challenge to deliver new garden 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.

How Car-Dependent Towns are Adapting Compact Living Strategies

Courtesy of Mithūn

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 ’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.”