The Architect’s Newspaper:
“FEATURE> THE NUANCED APPROACH
Designers from coast to coast are breaking through the old distinction between grey and green infrastructure to establish strategies that apply a mix of the two.
John Gendall. Oct 1, 2013
New York was still pumping Sandy’s surge-water out of its subway system when news headlines began to trumpet how best to ride out the next big storm—“NYC Sea Barrier: Its Time Has Come” or “Saving New York by Going Green”—leaving the impression that infrastructure could be neatly categorized into opposite kinds: grey vs. green or hard vs. soft. The thread that bound everything together was the promise of a more “resilient” New York. But the menacing irony here is that these kinds of easy dualisms have a lot to do with getting us to our present state of vulnerability in the first place. When the U.S. looks like a schoolroom map—blue for water, green for land, Mississippi River as a winding line, and barrier islands stretching out along the coast—it seems perfectly reasonable to build public housing on the Rockaways, industrial parks along the Gulf Coast, and cities in the Mississippi delta. In reality, though, coastlines are not lines at all, but zones of negotiation between land and sea, barrier islands are on the move (briskly so, on geological terms), and the delta is an impossible-to-distinguish mixture of water and land and everything in between. The climate-related risks we now face don’t hew to any dualisms. Floodwaters overwhelm dykes and dunes alike. Tornados and wildfires are blindly indiscriminate. And heat waves are just that: waves that lack clear boundary in space and time. It follows, then, that the strategies used to render our communities resilient from these risks must also emerge from this kind of nuance.”
Photo: SWA GROUP’S BUFFALO BAYOU PROMENADE CREATED RECREATIONAL AREAS ALONG THE WATERWAY AND INCORPORATED FLOOD MITIGATION INFRASTRUCTURE.TOM FOX / SWA GROUP
The Atlantic Cities:
Even Teenagers Don’t Want to Go to Malls Anymore
KAID BENFIELD July 24, 2013
Hanging out on social media is beginning to replace hanging out in shopping malls for many American teenagers, long a major sector of the customer base for enclosed malls and big-box stores. In addition, according to an article written by Adrianne Pasquarelli for Crain’s New York Business, the teen population is contracting, having dropped two percent between 2008 and 2011.
Pasquarelli sums up the trend:
Malls have been on the wane for years, as shoppers turn to e-commerce, which is easier, and outlets, which are cheaper. But retailers that cater to teens are especially vulnerable since their customers surf social media websites more than they hang out in malls.
Enclosed mall shopping was down in 2012 compared to 2011 despite the gradual strengthening of the economy. Some well-known retailers are suffering the consequences: Aéropostale, for example, saw its stock price decline nearly 40 percent over the course of a year. “The company is trimming its fleet, closing about 100 stores, or 10 percent of its base, and was forced into heavy markdowns last quarter,” writes Pasquarelli, whose article was published in April.
The implications for land use are significant, as abandoned retail outlets and dead malls become signs of community decay, in many cases exacerbating the problems associated with suburban sprawl as they and their parking lots take up unproductive space and force customers to drive elsewhere for shopping.”
Photo: Former Super Kmart in New Philadelphia, Ohio. Image courtesy of Flickr user Fan of Retail.
"Bloomberg unfurls New York City flood protection plan.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg unveiled a comprehensive plan this month to address the looming hazards of climate change to New York City. The ambitious 438-page report, aptly titled “A Stronger, More Resilient New York,” calls for $19.5 billion in funding to implement a program of roughly 250 recommendations to protect the city’s buildings, infrastructure, and public realm from severe storms and rising sea levels. The initiatives outlined in the plan are often site specific and run the gamut from local storm surge barriers and beach nourishment strategies to zoning changes and new design solutions for damaged homes.
A few months after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the east coast, Mayor Bloomberg assembled a task force, the Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency, to study the impact of the storm and create a thorough resiliency plan to tackle the challenges posed by changing weather patterns and to provide new resources, strategies, and support in the ongoing recovery efforts.
“It is a full spectrum response,” said Illya Azaroff, principal at +LAB and co-chair of design for risk and reconstruction at AIA New York, who attended a private technical review of the report. “As Seth Pinsky said, ‘there is no silver bullet’ to address all conditions including zoning, building code, and actual physical building. The report is really broken down into multiple layers of response that are needed to have multiple layers of resiliency.”
The report first takes a sweeping look at climate change by offering a detailed account of Sandy’s impact on the city. It then assesses the risks that lie ahead with the likelihood of more extreme storm surges and imminent topographical changes to the city’s 520-mile coastline within the next 50 years.”
Image: THE REPORT CALLS FOR NEW WETLANDS TO HELP ABSORB WATER. COURTESY NEW YORK PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE
“Industry, Infrastructure and Intermodalism—Still Mixed Up on Special Districts?
Scott Bernstein. July 15, 2013
In her September 2011 blog, Special Districts Getting All Mixed Up, Hazel Borys questioned why we treat large format areas with distinctive uses, such as manufacturing or aviation, as “special” to the point of exclusion from our efforts to integrate all urban land uses and activities into a spatially coherent whole, ending with an inspiring contemporary example of planned “strict integration” of land uses in the corridors and boulevards connecting the El Paso International Airport to the city.
Traditional zoning, such as implemented in Chicago in 1923 was defensive, leading to separation of land uses and activities from people. Defense was needed to socially separate people from unhealthful conditions—and the definitions of what impaired public health or well-being ranged from what was tangible and measurable including industrial emissions and noise to the intangible and unmeasured social classifications such as race, class and country of origin.
A similar challenge to urban character was made by leading planners and traffic engineers—for example, there’s a chapter in the Los Angeles comprehensive street traffic plan done in 1924 by Harland Bartholomew, Frederick Law Olmstead Jr. and Charles Henry Cheney finding that “The Promiscuous Mixing of Traffic” is a top cause of street congestion which a cynic might equate to an anti-miscegenation law.
But re-integrating the separated parts of our cities and regions demands that we affirm what’s possible. The two innovations required are (a) a shift from describing only what we want to see and experience to include a set of accountable outcomes, and (b) recognize that we have tools such as transects and form-based codes to help shape communities with respect to residential, commercial, and some recreational and municipal services; but we don’t have the tools to help shape land that has traditionally been “off-grid.”
Image: El Paso International Airport is soon to be walkable up to the terminal with mixed-use, pedestrian-scale urbanism. via Placeshakers
The New York Times
“Washington and Oregon Cities Try to Evade Political Jam to Build a Bridge
Kirk Johnson July 16, 2013
PORTLAND, Ore. — The bicycling commuter in pipestem jeans is not just a caricature of nerdy Pacific Northwest cool. Miles driven per year in old-fashioned automobiles — partly through dint of pedal power and pedestrians — are lower now than in 1995 here on Multnomah County’s major thoroughfares, according to state figures, even as the population has grown by more than 21 percent.
But follow the bike lanes and greenways north to the Columbia River, where the spidery steel trusses of the Interstate 5 bridge clutch the banks, and Portland looks like any typical American city, choked by traffic. The oldest elements of the bridge date from 1917.
These intertwined, competing identities are central to what comes next for the Columbia River Crossing, a $3.4 billion bridge-replacement project of new highway ramps, traffic lanes and light rail linking Portland to Vancouver, Wash., that was supposed to resolve a traffic choke point. The old plan, after more than 20 years and tens of millions of dollars’ worth of studies, was killed last month by the Washington State Senate after the Republican-dominated majority coalition declined to vote on financing it.”
Image: Touchstone Architects,via The Columbian
The New York Times:
Where Streets Flood With the Tide, a Debate Over City Aid
Kia Gregory. July 9, 2013
As the sun began to set one recent Sunday, saltwater poured off Jamaica Bay onto West 12th Road, one of the lowest-lying areas in New York City.
Residents bolted out of their front doors to move their cars, which are often damaged by tidal flooding that occurs here about twice a month. Some older residents were all but imprisoned in their homes until as much as three feet of water receded. Children splashed around, oblivious to the looming threat.
“We do not care about budgets; we are taxpaying people,” said John Heaphy, 69, a lifelong resident of the area, Broad Channel, Queens, which is built on a marsh that juts into the bay. “From the lowest politician to the governor’s office, we’ve been begging, please help us.”
Now, the city is doing just that, budgeting $22 million to try to save the neighborhood by installing bulkheads and by raising streets and sidewalks by three feet.”
Photo: Robert Stolarik for The New York Times
"Roads to Rails
The Streetcar of the Future
Eric W. Sanderson. June 10, 2013
When we begin to value the land for what it is and build cities worth living in, density develops, and density makes things happen. Some of those happenings are economic, in the sense of improved productivity; others are environmental, in terms of fewer resources consumed. Density also has a lot to offer in terms of our trades of time for space.
Past transportation revolutions have been rooted in land. The railroad companies were encouraged to expand west by massive giveaways of public land; the streetcar operators were given monopolies to encourage their development; and the automobile industry received the greatest gift of all — roads — carved out of the public domain, bought or appropriated from private citizens. Many people and innumerable beasts were hurt in the process, so that other folks could be whisked on their way. Such radical efforts were necessary to make 20th-century transportation feasible, affordable and widespread in America.
A similarly radical approach is required today, but without all the giving and the taking. It’s simple. We just need to decide to make better use of the land we all already own together: the public roads. Our roads today suffer from an identity crisis. We want them to provide thoroughfares for private cars, routes for public transit, spaces for parking, lanes for bicycles, sidewalks for pedestrians, access for people with disabilities, space and light for buildings, drainage for storm water, and even room for trees and flowers! Take a look out your window — the streets are contested territory, trying to be all things for all people.”
"Can The LA River Go From Concrete Ditch To Portlandia-Style Paradise?
Lamar Anderson. May 3, 2013
Bodies of water have so much allure—particularly in overpaved cities—that we’re content to put up with the algae-scented funk of the Central Park pond, or even the stench of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal, just to rest our eyes on something blue (or, er, brown).
In recent years the LA River has enjoyed a renaissance. Though the waterway hasn’t really been a natural habitat since the 1930s (when the city lined the riverbed with concrete to control flooding), new bike paths, public art, and kayak tours now draw Angelenos to the water’s edge. So far these upgrades have been largely peripheral, due in large part to urban enthusiasts’ determination to start using the giant ditch they inherited as a river. Meanwhile, the city’s more substantial plan to transform the channel into a living habitat is mired in delays at the federal level.”
Photo: Tom Andrews, via High Country News
"Buildings that Don’t Exist: Fake Facades Hide Infrastructure
From the sidewalk, this Paris building looks just like those around it, complete with doors, windows and balconies. but take a look at Google Maps, as Paul of the blog Paris by Cellphone did, and you’ll notice something strange: there’s nothing behind that facade. Like many others all over the world, this ordinary-looking building is just a shell to disguise unsightly infrastructure.
The building, at 154 Rue La Layette, is hiding a giant ventilation chimney for the metro. The chimney is about as large as one of the real buildings that surround it. In another location in Marais, artist Julien Berthier constructed a false door to go on the side of one of these buildings that wasn’t quite as well-disguised”
The New York Times:
“Now Atlanta Is Turning Old Tracks Green
Robbie Brown. Feb 14, 2013
ATLANTA — Until last year, the old railroad tracks that snaked through east Atlanta were derelict. Kudzu, broken bottles and plastic bags covered the rusting rails.
But these days, the two-mile corridor bustles with joggers, bikers and commuters. Along a trail lined with pine and sassafras trees, condos are under construction and a streetcar is planned.
The Eastside Trail, as the path is known, is one of the first legs of an ambitious proposal that has been in the works since the early 2000s — to transform 22 miles of vine-covered railroad into parks, housing and public transit around Atlanta.
“We are changing Atlanta into a city that you can enjoy by walking and riding a bike,” Mayor Kasim Reed said. “We have been so car-centric that you didn’t experience the city in an intimate way.”
Photo: Rich Addicks for the NY Times