Reconfiguring Urban Spaces To Compensate For “Poisonous” Air

The CCTV Building, Beijing, cloaked by air . Image © Kevin Frayer / Getty Images

In an article for The Guardian, steps “inside Beijing’s apocalypse”: the poisonous, polluted atmosphere that often clings to the Chinese capital. He explores ways in which those who live in this metropolis have started to redefine the spaces they frequent and the ways in which they live. Schools, he notes, are now building inflatable domes over play areas in order to “simulate a normal environment.” The dangers were made clear when ”this year’s Beijing marathon [...] saw many drop out when their face-mask filters turned a shade of grey after just a few kilometres.” Now, in an attempt to improve the living conditions in the city, ecologists and environmental scientists are proposing new methods to filter the air en masse. Read about some of the methods here.

Rotterdam Named Europe’s Best City By The Academy Of Urbanism

Renzo Piano Bulding Workshop / / UNStudio / Siza / Mecanoo. Image

The Dutch city of Rotterdam, often referred to as a hotbed of architectural activity, has been named as the best city in Europe by The Academy of Urbanism at the 2015 Urbanism Awards. Pitted against two other finalists – Aarhus in Denmark and Turin in Italy – the city has been praised for its “predominantly young, open, tolerant community that is embracing innovative architecture and urban design and new business models.”

Despite being a very closely fought battle, the Academy said that Rotterdam was a vote winner for its “unique approach to governance. Appointed for six years by central government, the role of mayor sits outside of political structures and with no portfolio, allowing greater engagement with citizens and businesses.” Steven Bee, Chairman of the Academy, said that “a long-term perspective, a high level of autonomy, strong leadership by the mayor and municipality, and strong partnerships between public and private sector, are all helping Rotterdam grow positively.”

Towards a New Urbanism (Or Three)

Tokyo. Image © Flickr CC User Les Taylor

If you read a lot of articles about cities and urbanism, you’re probably familiar with the words “half of the world’s population now lives in cities.” For a number of years, these words have been frequently used in the opening sentences of articles, hoping to convince readers in just a few seconds of the importance of the subject at hand. In fact, according to the World Health Organization these words are no longer even true: in 2014 the urban portion of the world’s population has already reached 54%. In other words, every nine months the world adds enough new urbanites to fill a city the size of Tokyo, with an increase of nearly 300 million new urban dwellers since we reached the tipping-point in 2008.

The rise of cities has been so dramatic that UN Habitat has declared today, October 31st 2014, as the first annual World Cities Day.

Of course, all of this means that there has never been a better time to be an urbanist than right now. Or does it?

ArchDaily Celebrates World Cities Day: 23 Unmissable Articles on Cities and Urbanism

Last year the UN General Assembly issued a resolution to “designate 31 October, beginning in 2014, as World Day.” A legacy of the Expo 2010 Shanghai, the first World Cities day is being hosted today in Shanghai, with the aim of focusing on global urbanization and encouraging cooperation among countries to solve and promote sustainable urban development worldwide.

“In a world where already over half the population lives in urban areas, the human future is largely an urban future, said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, on the importance of World Cities Day. “We must get urbanization right, which means reducing greenhouse emissions, strengthening resilience, ensuring basic services such as water and sanitation and designing safe public streets and spaces for all to share.  Liveable cities are crucial not only for city-dwellers but also for providing solutions to some of the key aspects of sustainable development.”

To celebrate World Cities day, we’ve rounded up 23 articles that you can’t miss on critical issues relating to our cities, ranging from to addressing equality and creative solutions for integrating cycling into our cities.

Think we’ve missed something? Let us know in the comments below.

What Urbanists Can Learn From Low-Income Neighborhoods

Courtesy of

“For the most part, the way urbanists view black neighborhoods (and other low-income neighborhoods and communities of color) are as problems that need to be fixed. At the heart of what I want to say is what can we as urbanists learn from these neighborhoods?” So asks Sara Zewde, a landscape architecture student at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and this year’s Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Olmsted Scholar, in a fascinating profile on Metropolis Magazine. Read more about Zewde and her work here.

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 urbanism. 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.

Strelka Institute Compiles 41 Interviews on the Future of Urbanism

Courtesy of Strelka Institute

A collection of 41 interviews conducted by students at the Strelka Institute, entitled , is now available online. The interviews feature architects, urban planners, sociologists, researchers, and other professionals from fields related to urban studies, emphasizing the Strelka Institute’s mandate for interdisciplinary thinking. To take a look at the interviews, see here.

TED Talk: How Public Spaces Make Cities Work / Amanda Burden

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Amanda Burden, former animal behaviorist turned New York’s chief city planner, has discovered what makes desirable: great public spaces. During her time with the Bloomberg administration, Burden oversaw the fruition of the city’s most transformative public projects, including New York’s beloved High Line. In the video above, she reveals the many unexpected challenges of planning (and maintaining) parks people love, and why it is so important for cities to have great public spaces.

The Rise of the Poverty-Stricken Mega-City

is among the world’s largest, and poorest, . Image © Flickr User Cactus Bones; Licensed via Creative Commons

In this article on the Atlantic Cities, Richard Florida delves into recent research by Edward Glaeser, the author of Triumph of the City, which investigates the emergence in recent decades of mega-cities in developing nations. Though cities have long been connected to prosperity he points out that in these new cities, residents remain poor. The answer it seems is linked to our globalized economy, as well as the under prepared governments in these countries. However Glaeser and Florida don’t see this as a reason for panic, or to abandon urbanization, but rather to ensure that urbanization is supported more effectively by government. You can read the full article here.

Could Facebook Help Us Understand Urban Migration?

China plans to move 250 Million citizens into by 2025. Could help them in this endeavor?. Image © Flickr CC User Wenjie Zhang

According to this article on QuartzFacebook is now so widely-used (providing readily available information about the hometowns of millions – or even billions – of people) that it can help researchers analyze migration patterns and trends. Find out more here.

Design: A Long Term Preventative Medicine

New York City’s High Line. Image © Iwan Baan

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and MIT’s Center for Advanced has produced a new report examining urban in eight of the USA’s largest cities, which has been translated into a collection of meaningful findings for architects, designers, and urban planners. With more than half of the world’s population living in urban areas – a statistic which is projected to grow to 70% by 2050 – the report hinges around the theory that “massive urbanization can negatively affect human and environmental in unique ways” and that, in many cases, these affects can be addressed by architects and designers by the way we create within and build upon our cities.

Winka Dubbeldam: “My Ideal City” of the Future

Courtesy of Archi-tectonics

Winka Dubbeldam believes there is power in the people. 

As a public intellectual, she has invested her efforts in researching the concept of “bottom-up” and “systems” design at academic institutions like Columbia, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania – where she now serves as chair of the department of architecture. As principal of the New York-based firm, Archi-Tectonics, she demonstrates how these concepts work in both theory and practice.

In between the consistent cadence of client meetings and academic functions, Winka has been vocal about the future of cities, traveling overseas and giving TED Talks. Her most recent project revolves around a bilingual website, Mi Ciudad Ideal (My Ideal City), which has led her to Bogotá, Colombia where she is leading efforts to crowdsource and document the opinions of hundreds of thousands of urban residents in hopes to better understand what makes the “Ideal City.” ArchDaily recently caught up with Winka to discuss the project’s foundation and how it works.

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 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 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?

SHoP Architects Selected for Design of Iconic Site in Downtown Detroit

© Rock Ventures LLC

One of Detroit’s most prominent vacant sites is slated to become one of its most iconic buildings. SHoP Architects will partner with -based Hamilton Anderson Associates to transform the site formerly occupied by Hudson’s Department Store. Located at Grand River and Gratiot in the city’s Central Business District, the two-acre site has remained a scar in the urban landscape since the implosion of the Hudson’s building in 1998.

HAO Makes Counter-Proposal To “Save” Sugar Factory from Development in Brooklyn

Courtesy of HAO

HAO, together with community group, Williamsburg Independent People, hope to save the historic site and halt the current masterplan by SHoP Architects which proposes an additional 2,200 luxury apartments along the East River waterfront in Brooklyn, New York

HAO’s counter proposal seeks to adaptively reuse the existing factory buildings, including the iconic Civil War-era Domino Sugar Refinery — which has defiantly held its ground amidst heavy redevelopment in surrounding areas. Not unlike SHoP’s proposal, HAO aims to regenerate these spaces into a “world-class cultural destination” that combines public and private programs. 

100 Urban Trends: A Glossary of Ideas

Courtesy of BMW Guggenheim Lab

The BMW Guggenheim Lab, a mobile think-tank focused on the study of urban life, has returned to for its homecoming exhibition currently on view at the Guggenheim Museum till January 5, 2014. After two years of research and touring Berlin and Mumbai, the lab aims to present major urban themes in art, architecture, education, science, sustainability and technology.”100 Urban Trends: A Glossary of Ideas” is a compilation of definitions of the most pressing issues in urban centers today, contextualized to reflect how different cities interpret them. Architects, planners and students take note: From street facades to bailouts, gentrification to trash mapping, this resource archives years of discussion into one user-friendly interface. Explore the glossary, here.

Höweler + Yoon Architecture and Audi to Develop Pilot Project for BosWash: Shareway 2030

© Höweler+Yoon Architecture

Last year interdisciplinary architecture firm was announced the winners of the Audi Urban Award for the project Boswash:Shareway 2030.  The City Dossier in Boston, held this May, was organized as a series of workshops between Höweler + Yoon Architecture and Audi experts in developing steps to realize aspects of the Boswash: Shareway vision.  Part research project, part feasibility study, part road map to the of mobility – the focus of the workshops is to propose a pilot project that can be tested in the proposed region of Boston – Washington.

We featured the project last year as it highlights how the landscape of urban development has changed.  The focus of “Shareway” is the string of high-density metropolitan areas, their suburbs and ex-urbs along I-95 between Boston, MA and Washington, DC.  The I-95 corridor caters to some fifty million inhabitants, many of whom commute into metropolitan areas for work.  Mobility and transportation are critical to the economic vitality of these urban areas; “Shareway” proposes an intentionally re-engineered “highly orchestrated and deliberately produced platform from which we might imagine alternate paths, different trajectories, or new cultural dreams” whereby imagining an “alternate life for the road” is imagining a new American Dream.

Read on for more on the progress of this project after the break.

Strelka Talks: Architecture and Community / Reinier de Graaf

“The Community” might be the most frequently used term over the last 50 years of Architectural and Urban discourse. For decades, “the community” has served as a legitimization for anything from Team X to New Urbanism, from Celebration to “vancouverism”. But what is “the community”? Where should we look for the proper definition? How did communities appear in the past and how do they form today? Can ‘the community” influence the design of its own space, territory or context? If yes, what could be the relationship between the community and architecture in the ?

In his Strelka talk is trying to answer these and other, even more complex questions.

Via the Strelka Institute.