The Atlantic Cities:
“MoMA Pays Tribute to the Terrifying Beauty of Le Corbusier
Anthony Flint. June 14, 2013
Five years ago, Robert Moses got a thorough revisiting – you could even say his reputation was in some measure was rehabilitated – in a sweeping multimedia exhibition organized by Columbia University, the Museum of the City of New York, and the Queens Museum.
This summer, the Museum of Modern Art is staging a show on the architect who might be described as a chief inspiration for Moses: Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier.
Like Moses, the Swiss-born visionary of modern architecture is also widely disparaged, by New Urbanists and traditionalists involved in any way in the world of urban planning and urban design. Le Corbusier is blamed for the “towers in the park” of ill-fated public housing projects in cities across America, the devastating slum clearance of mid-century urban renewal, and elevated urban freeways that are being systematically dismantled to this day.”
Image: Courtesey of MoMA
The New York Times:
“Bloomberg Outlines $20 Billion Storm Protection Plan
Kia Gregory & Marc Santora. June 11, 2013
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg outlined a far-reaching plan on Tuesday to protect New York City from the threat of rising sea levels and powerful storm surges by building an extensive network of flood walls, levees and bulkheads along its 520 miles of coast.
The mayor said the plan would initially cost about $20 billion, and eventually far more. The city would spend the money on fortifying infrastructure like the power grid, renovating buildings to withstand hurricanes and defending the shore, according to a 438-page report on the proposals.
The proposals, in all, would change the look and fabric of the city, though not until well after the mayor leaves office at the end of the year.
Still, he emphasized that Hurricane Sandy was such a devastating event that the city had to move immediately.”
Photo: Ozier Muhammed
The Architects Newspaper:
RIVER OF INDUSTRY
Philadelphia adopts plan to revive activity on the Schuylkill River.
A plan to revive 3,700 acres of Philadelphia’s Lower Schuylkill River—an industrial area that has long been home to oil refineries—is now underway. On May 21, the Philadelphia Planning Commission adopted the Lower Schuylkill Master Plan, which seeks to turn the area into a thriving manufacturing hub.
“It took us 18 months to pull it together,” said Thomas Dalfo, senior vice president of real estate services for the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC). “The concept is to take this industrial district, which in a larger respect under performs compared to what it has done historically, and bring it up to the standards of the city’s other districts. We want to get the vision out into the market and let [potential businesses] know where the city’s investment is going.”
“In Mexico City, planners turn vacant space under freeways into places to work, dine, play
Nick Miroff. May 29, 2013
Mexico City — You can’t get something out of nothing. This is common sense, not to mention a principle of physics and mathematics.
Yet the amazing science of Mexico City’s real estate development obeys no such laws.
Urban planners here, in one of the world’s most populous and crowded cities, have found a way to add thousands of square feet of new commercial and recreational space. And it isn’t costing local government a cent.
Their gambit is called Under Bridges (“Bajo Puentes”), and it’s a simple idea: Convert the vacant, trash-strewn lots beneath Mexico City’s overpasses and freeways into shopping plazas, public playgrounds and outdoor cafes.”
Photo: Dominic Bracco II / Prime - A man rests on one of the new park benches in one of Mexico City overpass developments on May 27.
“Urbanism and the Landscape Architect
Mark Hough. May 30, 2013
Landscape architects are not given nearly enough recognition for being urbanists.
This is not because we don’t get enough work in cities but, rather, it is the types of projects we get or, more importantly, don’t get. We have always been the go-to designers for parks, waterfronts and streetscapes, but have had a tougher time finding seats at the table alongside (or instead of) planners and architects when broader planning decisions are being made. Because of this, we are usually forced to respond to change orchestrated by others rather than direct it ourselves. Exceptions to this certainly exist, but aside from landscape architects working as planners in public offices, there aren’t many.
I’m not whining. I’m just trying to establish a benchmark in relation to the more optimistic direction I see things headed. Urban design is changing, and it is changing fast. Due in large part to environmental and climatological crises that are translating directly into quality of life issues, cities are focused on their urban landscapes as perhaps never before. This is not groundbreaking news, and I’m not the first person to bring it up, but it is still a worthy discussion.
Urban landscape is a tricky term that is often misunderstood and incorrectly used by people who don’t really know what to do with it. Architects, for instance, whose preference for a top-down, figure-ground approach to urban design that lets buildings alone dictate urban form, relegates the landscape to a series of insertions fitting within the pattern of buildings. Planners, whose sensibilities are typically more in line with landscape architects, don’t really get it either. Their habit of treating landscape as generic green shapes on land use maps or as elements to standardize within form-based codes isn’t much better.”
The Atlantic Cities:
“The Way We Build Cities Is Making Them Flood
It sounds like a pretty safe assumption that the people who live in flood plains, or own businesses there, face the highest chances of flooding. This was certainly true during Superstorm Sandy in low-lying coastal areas at the mercy of storm surges. And the Federal Emergency Management Agency calculates flood risk this way all over the country, plotting properties against the geography of flood plains.
The Prevalence and Cost of Urban Flooding: A Case Study of Cook County, Ill.”
The zip codes shaded the darkest brown received the largest number of flood insurance claims between 2007 and 2011, from private insurance companies, the National Flood Insurance Program, or disaster relief assistance. Some of the zip codes with the most claims are in more densely populated parts of town. But they also sit nowhere near flood plains.”
Images: Top image of 2004 flooding in the Chicago suburb of Gurnee: John Gress/Reuters; Center for Neighborhood Technology
The Atlantic Cities:
“The Coming Bold Transformation of the American City
Enrique Penalosa. April 30, 2013
In 40 years, 2.7 billion more people will live in world cities than do now, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Urban growth in China, India, and most of the developing world will be massive. But what is less known is that population growth will also be enormous in the United States.
The U.S. population will grow 36 percent to 438 million in 2050 from 322 million today. At today’s average of 2.58 persons per household, such growth would require 44.9 million new homes. However American households are getting smaller. If one were to estimate 2.2 persons per household—the household size in Germany today and the likely U.S. size by 2050—the United States would need 74.3 million new homes, not including secondary vacation homes. This means that over the next 40 years, the United States will build more homes than all those existing today in the United Kingdom, France, and Canada combined. Urban planner and theorist Peter Calthorpe predicts that California alone will add 20 million people and 7 million households by 2050.
To meet this demand, completely new urban environments will have to be created in the United States. Where and how will the new American homes be built? What urban structures are to be created?”
Photo: Battery Park City in Manhattan exemplifies how the quality of urban life can be enhanced by replacing waterfront roadways with parks or pedestrian infrastructure. (Left); A “highway” for pedestrians, bicycles, and transit on Jiménez Avenue in Bogotá, Colombia. (Right) Photo courtesy of Enrique Peñalosa.
“The Plain Dealer:
Cleveland is slowly becoming a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly town
Steven Litt. March 10, 2013
With little fanfare, Cleveland is undergoing a revolution in attitudes toward public space, city streets and walkability.
This has been a car town for decades, but that’s changing now.
After pitched battles among activists, trucking interests and the Ohio Department of Transportation over the past decade, dedicated bike paths have been installed on the Detroit-Superior andLorain-Carnegie bridges.
Regional trails are weaving their way into the industrial Flats alongside the Cuyahoga River and are within striking distance of the lakefront.
Mayor Frank Jackson wants the big new investments downtown, including the casino, the new convention center and the Global Center for Health Innovation, aka the medical mart, to be accompanied by beautiful new landscaping on Public Square and the downtown Mall.
None of this was happening 10 years ago, and it could not have happened until fairly recently. Civic and business leaders weren’t interested.”
Photo: John Kuntz, The Plain Dealer
“The Atlantic Cities:
Benjamin de la Peña. March 11, 2013
Embracing the Autocatalytic City
We are living on an urban planet; our cities are growing at spectacular rates. This growth has created new energy and excitement (cities account for 70 percent of the global economy), and it has highlighted the dysfunctions of cities. Most of our cities, particularly the fastest-growing ones, are messy, confusing places, even for the citizens who call them home. From the massive week-long traffic jams in Beijing to the crowded favelas of Rio de Janeiro, urban dwellers everywhere can easily rattle off a list of what doesn’t work in their communities. The call to action is always the same: “Better planning, better management!”
That call, though, rests on an unquestioned assumption about cities. In this modern age, we think of cities as large institutions or machines. We talk about their failures as failures of management, coordination, governance. We think we could have “better” cities if we could only tune the machine to make it more “efficient.” The machine model is implicit in the popular language around “smart cities.” The promise is that shiny, smart boxes will figure out how to make our cities tick by smoothing traffic flow, monitoring crime, and allocating power through smart grids. Cities will be run by supersized versions of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL crunching continuous streams of big data. As Donald Fagen of Steely Dan sang, “A just machine to make big decisions / Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision.”
Photo: Benjamin de la Peña
The Atlantic Cities:
“Why India Keeps Its Cities So Short
BANGALORE, India — Ascend to the top floor of the UB Tower downtown, and you can nearly see the city’s full expanse from all sides. The skyscraper, the centerpiece of the five-year-old luxury shopping mall UB City, is one of the city’s tallest structures. It stands 420 feet.
More than 100 buildings rise higher in both New York and Hong Kong, though each is less populous. Chengdu, an equally-sized metropolis in China, has some 25 buildings taller than all of Bangalore, and will probably keep soaring faster.
Cities in China and southeast Asia rise high, but Indian ones did not. Most grew like Bangalore: outwards and compact. Their skylines are almost nonexistent. And their urban ills — millions without housing, millions more facing exorbitant rents and crumbling infrastructure — are often given the economic prescription to grow up.
It leads to a natural question: Why aren’t Indian cities that tall? But there are others who pose a very different query: Why should they be?”