Global Site Plans Branding for Architecture, Engineering, Environmental Non-Profits, Landscape Architecture, & Urban Planning Companies Fri, 28 Aug 2015 04:33:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Farewell to The Grid from Lindsay Naughton in St. Louis, Missouri Sat, 22 Aug 2015 16:42:36 +0000 Lindsay Naughton in St. Louis, Missouri

The opportunity to intern with The Grid gave me the chance to truly explore St. Louis, Missouri. With plans to open the National Blues Museum and create an international technology hub, to exploring the history of Forest Park and the city’s role in hosting the first US Olympics, there was already much of the city to discover. After six months of living in St. Louis, and learning about these topics through my community development coursework at Washington University, my own perception of the city has changed.

I would describe St. Louis as a regional patchwork made up of many neighborhoods, each with their own distinctive character. As I traveled around the city, the patches began to fill themselves in.

By covering urban planning topics for The Grid, I gained a better understanding of St. Louis’ faceted history and unique challenges. As a student of Architecture and Planning, I cannot think of a more formative place I could have spent this time. St. Louis is a city with rich cultural amenities, a core presence of higher education and medical facilities, and outstanding parks and open space. St. Louis is also home to a multitude of examples of creative businesses, sustainable design, and urban practices, of which the neighborhoods surrounding Cherokee Street, Washington Avenue and Delmar Boulevard, and the neighborhoods of Tower Grove and Soulard have stood out.

Fountain on the Washington University Medical Camp

Perhaps, most importantly, St. Louis is a post-industrial city that is working to reinvent itself. While St. Louis has many distinctive neighborhoods, the city faces complex urban planning challenges primarily defined by the divisions between them. The redevelopment of the Delmar Loop and building upon the storied legacy of the City Museum are examples that prove revitalization is possible. The strength of the city’s creative, non-profit promoting, start-up culture in the form of ArchGrants, and the surge of craft breweries as well as other local businesses are poised to create a dynamic turn-around. I am hopeful that with the success of a project like Cortex, a former industrial area turned science and technology district, the adaptation of land use will become a connecting link between neighborhoods. The single most important factor for change is time.

Credits: Images by Lindsay Naughton. Data linked to sources.

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Favela Youths Organize Skateboarding School in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Fri, 21 Aug 2015 16:46:01 +0000 Coletivo Skate Maré, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

What’s this?! True tram children and teenagers go flying by Teixeira Ribeiro Street, one of the most well-known streets in Maré. Anyone passing through the collection of favelas will notice that skateboarding has become wildly popular.

But this is not something new. The movement has a long history in the community. Prior to this, the youth would practice their moves in União Park or in Salsa and Merengue Square, but today, the Pontilhão (“small bridge”), which is underneath the overpass of the Metro Yellow Line, was confirmed to be the primary location. What many don’t know is that there is a little school and even a shop, the Maré Skate Shop, exclusively dedicated to the practice.

The school is an initiative promoted by the Skate Maré Collective which seeks to support and develop skateboarding in the community. Beyond this, the collective also contributes to a series of events held on the street. The space is already occupied by music, art, and of, course skating. According to Daniel Ribeiro, Manager of the Maré Skate Shop and volunteer at the school, “skateboarding occupies and rescues the space with willpower and initiatives to improve the area.”

Coletivo Skate Maré, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

New and Old Guard Gather to Practice

Every Saturday morning, the school brings together skaters of all ages and abilities to the Pontilhão. Six years ago, when the LAMSA (concessionaire that administers the Yellow Line) constructed a mini ramp there, the skaters Marcus Luciano and Alexandre Santos joined with a few other friends to offer lessons, planting the first seeds that have blossomed in the spirit of “make yourself.”

Alexandre, who has been skating since age 13, says that for him it represents “freedom of expression, satisfaction, and happiness.” Today, the alumni still practice their crazy maneuvers, and are still dedicated to teaching the children who are just beginning. Lucas, 18 years old, lives in Baixa do Sapateiro, also in Maré, and has participated in the school since he was 12. To him, he can’t imagine life without skating. He has no doubts when he says “skateboarding brings happiness.”

When the sun goes down we put a light on the ramp and then later in the square,” Daniel explains. He also cites the work by the group Maré Longboard, which operates in Nova Holanda as an alternative for the community youth. “It remains evident that skateboarding has the ability to cross barriers that traditionally impede the free movement of youth in the neighborhood,” he concluded.

Jonathan Rosário, known as “Bacteria,” resident of the McLaren favela, has at times snuck out of his house to skate since his family does not approve of the idea. Insistent, he continues going to classes. “To me, it is much more than a sport,” he assures. Currently the “baby” of the school, he is the project monitor and intends to become a skating instructor.

Young skaters taking lessons, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Skateboard as a Mobility Tool

The use of the skateboard is also more than merely for fun. It provides mobility — physically and socially — by providing access to other locations. The skaters from the collective make many trips all over the city, making friends and sharing experiences, from Barra a Niteroi, through Campo Grande and Ilha, Flamengo and Botafogo via Maracanã and Engenho de Dentro.

The dream of these skaters is to transform Pontilhão into a high quality road, not just to guarantee the future of skateboarding there, but to put Maré on the map as a destination for other skaters in Rio.

A reform would also help end disputes about use of the square, with those who want to play soccer on it for example. Fortunately, the first step has been taken. The collective confirmed a partnership with the EixoRio Institute of the City of Rio, which has already pledged to provide a flat floor area next to the ramp. Let the rolling begin!

Is skateboarding popular in your city? How is skating perceived by the government and local residents? Share your thoughts and city’s stories in the comments area below.

Original article, originally published in Portuguese, here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Debunking St. Louis, Missouri: Perceptions of Crime versus Reality Wed, 19 Aug 2015 16:32:59 +0000 Downtown, St. Louis, Missouri

Perception is powerful. It is powerful because we often have a hard time separating perception from reality. While we see perception as being right or wrong, we also believe that we can shape perceptions. We often can. This can become problematic when statistics, which we accept as facts, do a bad job of accounting for our difficulty distinguishing between realities.

This year, Law Street Media ranked St. Louis as the number 4 most dangerous city in America. St. Louis is consistently ranked in the top ten most dangerous cities. The Law Street Violent Crime Rate is derived by dividing the total number of violent crimes reported by the city’s population and multiplying the result by 100,000. Using this formula, last years’ numbers were 1,954 Violent Crimes and 38 murders per 100,000 people.

The Law Street Media statistic does a good job of creating a standard measure by which we can compare cities. What Law Street Media’s formula does a bad job of is accounting for total population discrepancies.   

In 1877, in what has come to be known as the Great Divorce, St. Louis City and County split. St. Louis has felt the consequences of this decision ever since. The city and county today have 82 municipal courts and 58 police departments. St. Louis is a city defined by division.

Let’s return to the discussion of Law Street Media’s crime statistic. After the Great Divorce, St. Louis became a city of 318,563. “Any urban core is going to have problems,” says St. Louis County Police Chief Tim Fitch in Time Magazine. “What we don’t have is the suburban and the rural areas that some of those cities have to help offset or balance those crime numbers.”

Statistics are facts, therefore my perception of St. Louis as a dangerous city is legitimate. St. Louis doesn’t just have a crime problem. St. Louis has a perception problem. While St. Louis needs to talk about how to decrease crime, St. Louis also has to talk about how to improve unity.

Downtown, St. Louis, Missouri

In an article for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch entitled “St. Louis is a World-Class City,” Dr. Charles Schmitz, Dean and Professor at the University of Missouri St. Louis says, “the perception of St. Louis does not equal that reality, and we need to fix that.” He goes on to note that if the St. Louis City and County were to merge, St. Louis would be the seventh largest city in the United States, coming after Houston, Phoenix, and Philadelphia. While one may have heard that St. Louis  is dangerous, one may not know that St. Louis has more free, world-class attractions than any place in the nation outside of Washington, DC. Improving St. Louis’ perception could bring incredible urban planning opportunities, encourage people to move to St. Louis, and invest in St. Louis.

What are people’s perceptions of your city? Do they equal the reality? Share your thoughts and your city’s stories in the comments below.

Credits: Images by Lindsay Naughton. Data linked to sources.

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Curitiba, Brazil Installs Facial Detection Software on Bus Card Readers Wed, 19 Aug 2015 16:20:22 +0000 Curitiba, Brazil bus station

Curitiba Transit Authority Urbs has begun to install transit card readers with facial recognition software. The equipment uses data of riders who use the “isento” pass (for elderly and people with disabilities), to help prevent fraud. Whenever there is a discrepancy between the image of the user stored in the Urbs database and the image captured by the device, the card will be blocked.

270 machines will be installed in the terminals and tube stations with the highest usage of the isento pass. The tests to install the new system began in July, with the installation of validation devices in the stations of Morretes, Carlos Dietzsch and Vital Brasil, along Avenida República Argentina, all in the downtown direction. All devices should be installed by the end of this month. In contrast to similar machines that are currently available in the market, the new facial recognition validators are compact and have a built-in camera with minor differences with the ones already installed in Curitiba.

The Curitiba isento card contains a photo of the user taken at the card’s issuance. The facial recognition goes beyond recognizing style and color of hair, or the use of make up for example. It establishes a person’s identity with a biometric system, which takes into account specific measures of individual characteristics.

According to estimates by Urbs made based on other cities that have installed similar systems, 20 to 25% of the isento cards (which offers free travel) get used fraudulently by other people. “I didn’t know that this was going on. I think the system will be very good for security so that no one else can use my card,” stated 72-year-old retiree Maria Lydia Baptista da Silva. She counts on using collective transport every day. “I do everything by bus, I go and come back without a problem.” Eighty-two year old retiree Rinaldo Scheer, also approves of the new equipment. “If it helps to bring more security and avoid fraud then it is welcome,” said Scheer, who also uses the bus throughout the day to get around the city. Fare collector Celson José Pasquale notes the difference: “It’s much more relaxed. The validator performs the identity confirmation, which is much better.”

In addition to facial recognition, the device performs many other functions, starting with credit validation. Working in a compact embedded computer, the system handles financial and fleet management, controls the online status of each route, the telemetry of each bus,  advisories about emergency situations and buses that are ahead or behind schedule, information for the user about the time of the next bus arrival and departure (with the same precision as that of the metro), and integration with the traffic light priority system for transit vehicles at intersections, among others.

Curitiba, Brazil transport quality survey

Isento Card Users

The public transport system in Curitiba currently has 215,134 registered isento users, who are allowed to use the Urbs bus system for free. They are people who are over 65 years old, people with disabilities and their aids, retirees due to disability, and tax and transit operators, who in total use the transport card on average 700 thousand times per month. If the categories of people entitled to use the isento cards without registering were to be expanded to include law enforcement officials, police officers, municipal guards, and students with the school pass, the number of isento trips would rise to 2.9 million per month. According to the specific legislation, the isento trips represent 14% of the cost of collective transport.

The transport card is issued by Urbs provided the user follows the conditions set by law. The information is available here. On this page you can also check the schedule and service locations. Recently, the transport card has gained another functionality: to increase the green light time for elderly and people with reduced mobility. This technology has so far been installed by the city at 13 intersections.

Moving to a Card System

Usage of the transport card exceeded the 2012 average of 50% of users to 62% in July of this year, the highest growth since the implementation of the electronic ticketing system more than a decade ago. This means that of the total paid trips taken in June, 62% were made with the transport card.

The card is the main tool in improving security in the system because it reduces the amount of cash in the buses, stations and terminals. Other benefits are its convenience, agility in passing through the payment turnstile, and the possibility to hold the card in your hand without needing to open purses and wallets inside the bus.

The facial recognition is another phase in the process of modernizing the transport card, which began in August 2014, with the creation of the single use card and the 25 locations designated by Urbs to load it.

Does your city’s transport system suffer from fraudulent use? What benefits are offered to elderly and disabled passengers? Share your thoughts and city’s stories in the comments area below.

Original article, originally published in Portuguese, here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Hybrid Buses Threatened to Go Out of Circulation in Curitiba, Brazil Tue, 18 Aug 2015 17:35:06 +0000 Curitiba, Brazil hybrid bus

The criteria for sustainability and greenhouse gas emission reduction will stay within the urban mobility policies in Curitiba, Brazil, even after the State Court of Auditors (TCE) defended a recall of thirty hybrid buses. This and thirteen other decisions by the TCE depend on the evaluation by Curitiba’s public transport company, Urbs.

However, regardless of the future of these discussions, which depend on agreements established by the city and various entities involved in electromobility, the trend experienced with hybrid buses, which entered the fleet in October 2012, suggests expansion in the coming years.

Currently there are 20,000 passengers per day carried by the thirty hybrid buses in circulation on the lines Interbairros I, Detran/Vicente Machado, Água Verde/Abranches, Juvevê/Água Verde and Jardim Mercês/Guanabara. Of the thirty models, two combine an electric motor with biofuel (B100), and the others use diesel coupled with an electric motor.

The Tariff Review Commission, established in 2013, has noted that the risk in adopting hybrid buses due to loss of efficiency of the new technology was not confirmed. According to Urbs, the cost savings, which was only confirmed for diesel vehicles, is 35% compared to conventional buses.

The tube bus station at Curitiba, Brazil

The project for electric-powered buses, tested in Curitiba for three months on the Barreirinha line at the end of last year, has not been entirely discarded. The vehicle, produced by the Chinese company BYD, was approved in aspects such as passenger comfort, non-polluting, low noise, and energy consumption, which is 75% lower than a similar vehicle powered by a diesel engine. It holds 80 passengers, 22 seated and 58 standing, in addition to providing space for wheelchair users.

However, the vehicle is heavier, requires tougher pavement, and calls for further studies on economic feasibility. The city, along with other entities, is continuing to develop a biarticulated vehicle that is also electric to be used on the lines.

Regarding emissions, the vehicles in circulation recorded a 35% reduction in carbon emissions, with decreases of 80% in nitrogen oxide and 89% in particulate matter.

The electric motor of the bus allows for speeds of up to about 20 kilometers per hour. The equipment allows the electrical part to recharge at each braking, and is recommended for lines with many stops. For the Ligeirão line, for example, this technology is still not recommended because it depends on other diesel or biodiesel powered motors that can attain higher speeds.

According to Volvo Brazil, the manufacturer of the hybrids, the option of combining the two engines depends on its commercial viability. If it was 100% electric, the bus would require rapid recharging plug-in stations, which are still operationally very expensive.

Are electric or hybrid buses used in your city? Do you use your city’s public transit? Why or why not? Share your thoughts and city’s stories in the comments area below.

Original article, originally published in Portuguese, here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Government Providing Carpool Lots to Increase Carpooling in Lille, France Tue, 18 Aug 2015 16:00:46 +0000 Highway near Neuville-en-Ferrain, France

Amongst all the studies and projects launched for the purpose of avoiding overcongestion on the roads, carpooling is one of the easiest solutions to put into place. In fact, 20 lots dedicated to carpooling are now provided in Lille Métropole, France.

The activity zone in Neuville-en-Ferrain seems especially attuned to new trends in green transportation. The first to sign a contract that encourages economic development and improves the quality of life in activity zones, this park is also the first to welcome a carpool lot.

Inaugurated on July 9, 2015 by the President of the European Métropole of Lille (Métropole Européenne de Lille), Damien Castelain, the Mayor of Neuville-en-Ferrain, Marie Tonnerre, (also a County Councilor), and the Deputy Mayor Gérald Darmanin (also Vice President of the Lille Métropole in charge of transportation), this carpool lot is a small parking area that allows inhabitants to organize themselves into groups before departing for work and other travel.

“If there is only one figure to remember, it’s 1.1. There is, on average, 1.1 person in each car at peak hours. We are all alone in our cars,” notes Damien Castelain, mentioning statistical evidence. The President of Lille Métropole calls for “a change in behavior,” while precising that “intelligent and participatory mobility,” alone will not solve roadway congestion. “We are uninhibitedly studying all possibilities,” he repeats.

A carpool parking lot in France

Several reflections and projects are currently in process. The Contract of the State-Region plan (Contrat plan État-Région), co-signed by the Lille Métropole, should enable better accessibility throughout the Métropole thanks to the development of additional interchanges on the A1 and the A25. Many believe that this project ought to be expanded. Lille Métropole is currently also studying the feasibility of the development of a high level service bus on the emergency lane of the A23. There is also an ongoing discussion with the largest contributors to traffic (universities, major employers…) about their impact in terms of the flow of passengers and freight. Plans to use more technology for smarter mobility are also ongoing with Lille Métropole; currently involved in an Open DATA process which will have an impact on the issues of mobility and management of urban traffic.

While waiting for further mobility conferences, which should allow Lille Métropole to find more sustainable transportation solutions, the carpooling lots are an important first step.

Does your city provide appropriate accommodation for carpooling? In what other ways does your city encourage green transportation? Share your thoughts and your city’s stories in the comments below.  

Original article, originally published in French here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Construction Continues on Lezennes Station in Lille, France Mon, 17 Aug 2015 16:54:37 +0000 Construction at Lezennes Station, Lille, France

In the coming weeks, construction will once again be seen at Lezennes Station. In fact, work never actually stopped, but had to go back to the engineering consulting office. After the first phase of underground construction and reinforcement, building operations are returning to the surface in order to create two new points of access to the platform.

The 52 meters passage at Lezennes Station requires the opening of two new additional access points, as is the case for many other stations. Since the Lille metro became operational, the legislation has evolved. It is now necessary to have two emergency exits for each platform, and escalators are not considered acceptable for emergencies.

However, before the first pickaxe strike, it was necessary to know the exact routes of the numerous cables and pipes that run under our feet such as water, gas, electricity, telephones and more. They are often grouped together close to the sidewalks in order to facilitate interventions without completely blocking the flow of traffic.

The opening of new metro exits on either side of the Roger Salengro Roadway means that the cable and pipe networks will need to be moved more towards the center of the street. Examination of the first plans and surveys of the street left no doubt: the European Métropole of Lille (Métropole Européenne de Lille) had to ask distributors to move their networks. This operation lasted several months. It required decreasing the traffic in one direction, while maintaining alternative routes for both pedestrian and vehicular traffic—the only solution to avoid completely shutting down the road.

Construction Workers at Lezennes Station, Lille, France

After the completion of this first step, excavation for the new exits was scheduled to begin. However, before cutting into the slab that covers the station, Norpac, the company in charge of construction, proceeded with surveys to measure the resistance of the rock. The engineers estimated that the available plans didn’t provide precise information on the reinforcement of the concrete slab (the plans dated from the construction of the station, in the 1970’s). Three months were necessary to get more accurate measurements on the slab. The result? The slab had to be reinforced before cutting it and making new openings. The engineers therefore conducted complementary studies and developed a solution.

Norpac will elevate four support posts around each funnel opening. This technique presents no particular difficulties. The subterranean work will take place within an enclosed space inside the station and will take place during daytime. At the end of June, a construction train brought the necessary materials for the creation of the pillars: rebar and metal beams. The company will install a small concrete mixing plant close to the building site.

When the reinforcement columns are finished, dry and ready for use, the drilling operations can start: cutting into the slab with a suitable saw, molding the structure of the stairs…Construction operations will then, finally, be moved to the surface, in a consecutive way. This will allow the street to be only half occupied each time in order to maintain alternated traffic. The entirety of the work will last several weeks. This long project will finish with the restoration of the sidewalks.

Are you surprised by the complexities involved in the construction and engineering process? Does further insight increase your appreciation for the infrastructure in your city?

Original article, originally published in French here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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A Second Farewell to The Grid from Alexandra Serbana in Milan, Italy Mon, 17 Aug 2015 16:32:51 +0000 Alexandra Serbana inside Morocco`s pavilion at Expo 2015,Milan,Italy

The Grid was a large part of my personal transformation that came from living in Milan, first as an international student, then as a young professional. Writing for The Grid offered me a chance to work with great people who always had the patience to work through my articles and English, which helped me grow and improve. It pushed my limits and made me discover aspects of Milan that I didn’t know— aspects other international students didn’t know about either. I have a lot of respect for all those who contribute their writing to The Grid, and especially for Renee, is doing such an amazing job at keeping the website working and growing.

I started writing for The Grid in June 2013 while I was still studying at Politecnico di Milano. I was still living in the  “university bubble” as an international student who didn’t know her way around Italian Milan. This was one of the reasons why my blog topics at the time were mostly related to situations and projects I noticed around campus.

Via Andrea Cost, Milan,Italy

Then came a big change and turning point: graduation. “Where do I go from here ?” I wondered. While I was trying desperately to move out of Milan, which all my friends rushed to abandon after university, I found myself trading lives. I went from living the university life to entering the Italian world. And so, what were meant to be “just a few months of figuring out my way” turned into the beginning of a new era. I moved from the university campus to another international part of the city, no longer a student but an expat.

So much has changed since I moved to Milan, but especially since I moved to my new neighborhood. The language that I speak, the way I move around the city, the way I view the city, but most of all, the way I live life in the city. My blog post, “Milan: A City of Different cCities” expresses the way in which I see Milan.

Duomo, Milan,Italy

Through language and daily routine,  I have finally managed to see what Italian culture is all about. I have had the chance to learn more about Milan’s industrial past and the stories behind Lenardo da Vinci’s legacy in this city. Milan is a mix of cultures and places. It is not your typical Italian city. It does not have typical Italian architecture or people. From Via Padova to Paolo Sarpi, to projects that completely changed the skyline of the city, Milan surprises in so many ways.

In front of Arco Sempione, Milan ,Itay

Italians are sometimes amused by a foreigner’s point of view, so perhaps they will find it amusing that I have lived here for 4 years and still feel as if I have lived in two different cities. Milan has much to offer and many identities. It can mean many of the same things to those who live here or pass through, and yet at the same time have many different meanings for an individual. I know for me it will always be a place I like to call my “home away from home.” 

Thank you to The Grid, Renee, and the editorial staff that made this wonderful experience possible!

Credits: Images by Alexandra Serbana. Data linked to sources.

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Absense of Iconic Yellow Tram in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Cripples Local Economy Mon, 17 Aug 2015 16:24:03 +0000 Bonde car, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Sitting on a stool on the sidewalk near the Largo dos Guimarães plaza in the Santa Teresa neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, Arnaudo Comes de Souza observed a road taken by construction. It was around lunchtime on a Wednesday. Without customers to welcome, the owner of one of the most traditional restaurants of Santa Teresa, Bar do Arnaudo, was the true picture of a neighborhood taken by melancholy.

In the coming month, it will be four years since the iconic yellow “bondes” (tram cars) stopped circulating, after an accident in 2011 left six dead. Since then, the efforts to get them back on the rails have stalled, spreading disbelief and damage. The new date to start the trams again was released by Governor Luiz Fernando Pezão on Wednesday July 22: it is now said to be ready by the first half of 2017. This only prolongs the astral hell of the traditional neighborhood that continues to suffer from the escalation of violence.

Everyone suffers: residents, merchants, and artists, as well as those who visit the hilly neighborhood. Natacha Fink is a member of AME-SANTA, the Association of Friends and Entrepreneurs of the Neighborhood, which brings together 25 businesses. It notes that in the service and trade sector, losses in revenue remain close to 40%, with the worst having occurred this past May at 60%.

“The customers went away. All that remains is the stones and dust. There’s only activity on the weekends and a little on Fridays. I still have the privilege of owning my own property. But those who rent are not going to wait. Uncertainty is everywhere,” said Arnaudo.

Queremos nossa bonde, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

The accident with the bonde — on Rua Joaquim Murtinho on August 27, 2011 — unleashed a period of turbulence in Santa Teresa. The governor at the time, Sérgio Cabral, said that the system was mismanaged and should be scrapped. Two years later, in November 2013, the government announced an initiative to bring it back. It was promised that by 2014 the bondes would be running again.

A Series of Planning Failures

After mistakes and unforeseen events, about 33% of the work (3.5 km) have been completed by the group Elmo-Azvi. The government has avoided discussion regarding a new deadline for the completion of the work, being that the estimated intervention costs have already exceeded 49% of the initial estimate: it was R$ 58.6 in June of 2013, and now has come to R$ 87.1 million.

Then, on July 22nd in a visit to the construction site of the metro Line 4, Governor Pezão talked about a new deadline. He stated that everything would be done by mid 2016, but then, after an exchange of glances with the State Secretary of Transportation Carlos Roberto Osorio, modified his statement:

“We want to have all of the work ready by the first half of 2017. I am prioritizing resources so that it won’t be interrupted. But it’s not an easy place to work. We have already had many problems,” he said.

Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Stretch in Pre-Operation this Month

At least a small gift to Santa Teresa is that the yellow vehicles will be revived by the end of July, Osorio guarantees. They will briefly enter into pre-operation from 11 AM to 4 PM on the stretch from Largo da Carioca to Curvelo. “We are fighting for the works to be completed — not to reduce the amount of time it takes, but to guarantee that it’s done with quality and safety,” says Jacques Schwarzstein, President of the Association of Residents and Friends of Santa Teresa (Amast).

Taxis Refuse to Serve the Neighborhood

Other means of transportation in the neighborhood are also reasons for complaints. Alexandre Tulio Paixão, Restaurant Manager of Bar do Mineiro says that revenues fell 30% since January of this year, which he attributed to another obstacle:

Patrons complain a lot about the taxis, which, because of the construction, do not want to ascend the hills of the neighborhood… The transit is a mess. Buses are substituting for the bondes, but are not at all effective.”

Hotel Director Mônica Paixão complains that her clients have to live among chaos: “The hotel, since March of 2014, has been without a main entrance. The bonde is a main attraction to foreigners.”

The increase in violence is also worrying. In May, eight were killed by the war for control of trafficking in Morro da Coroa, which has been occupied by a UPP police unit since February 2011 . In the second quarter of this year, there were 81 assaults on pedestrians, compared to 63 in the same period of the previous year.

How are neighborhoods affected by stalled transportation projects in your city? Have delays been the fault of poor leadership? Share your thoughts and city’s stories in the comments area below.

Original article, originally published in Portuguese, here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Upgraded Rickshaws Tracking Air Quality in Marseille, France Fri, 14 Aug 2015 17:18:06 +0000 Traffic Jam in Marseille, France

In Marseille, France the news regularly reminds us of the consequences of air pollution, particularly the repercussions of the now, sadly famous, PM2.5 particles (particles in the air that are less than 2.5 micrometers in size, the smallest of which can penetrate our lungs). According to a recent study done by the Marseille Provence Métropole, the main contributor of PM2.5 particles is road transportation, which tends to release the most dangerous particles associated with air pollution; those which can cause an early death.

Are cyclists alone fated to breathe less polluted air than that which automobilists breathe in daily? A recent survey on the health benefits of cycling concluded that, in a hypothetical scenario where cycling increases by fifty percent among commuters in Marseille (bringing the number of cyclists up to 3.6%), the relative maximum risk of death due to exposure to air pollution in urban areas would be only 0.4%. This study also shows a 28% decrease in risk thanks to the physical activity associated with cycling. To recap. cycling is associated with many proven health benefits. It is now up to Marseille’s elected officials to find ways in which to make riding bicycles more attractive to the city’s citizens.

Proxipousse rickshaw, Marseille, France

While waiting for the urban planning division of the city’s government to descend from their company cars (complete with chauffeurs) to come to terms with the reality of the pitfalls of active travel in Marseille, activists and their green transportation projects are beginning to act. For example, Proxipouss Air,” a Marseillaise initiative, provides transportation via rickshaws – complete with equipment that measures air quality and gives precise readings along its route. These types of technologies are leading the way in air quality solutions for Marseille.

In what ways does your city encourage green transportation and combat air pollution? Do these methods tend to be government initiatives or are they more often led by local activists? Share your thoughts and your city’s stories in the comments area below.

Original article, originally published in French here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Historic Preservation Projects Given Green Light in Downtown Manaus, Brazil Fri, 14 Aug 2015 16:12:14 +0000 Mercado Municipal Adolpho Lisboa, Manaus, Brazil

The revitalization project of Tenreiro Aranha Square and of the area surrounding the Adolpho Lisboa Market in Manaus was presented on the morning of August 11th by the Director-President of the Municipal Urban Planning Institute (Implurb), Roberto Moita. The meeting held in Manaus City Hall building was attended by the municipal secretaries, the Mayor Arthur Neto, the Superintendent of the Historic and Artistic National Institute (IPHAN), Almir de Oliveira, and the National Coordinator of the Historic Cities PAC, Robson de Almeida.

Regarding the revitalization of Tenreiro Aranha Square, Moita explained that it is expected to bring the space up to the accessibility standards, install a new public lighting system of the same quality as others found on the streets of Manaus, as well as signage, outdoor furniture, and landscaping.

The project also intends to rescue the square’s 1920s architecture. Moita reported that the project will extend to the Pavilhão Universal, which had previously served as a central location for the exchange of indigenous handcrafts, to be used as a tourist information point.

In his presentation, the director-president reported that the revitalization projects will also cover the area around Adolpho Lisboa Municipal Market, which includes the roads Barés, Barão de São Domingos, Miranda Leão, Travessa Tabelião Lessa, Avenida Manaus Moderna and the Praça do Mercado (Market Square). “The work is going to restore the original elements of the pavement on the sidewalks and streets, enhancing the environment and trees in the area,” Moita said.

The National Coordinator of the Historic Cities PAC, Robson de Almeida, reported that Manaus didn’t receive investment yet because plans had not been finalized. “Our main bottleneck was not having ready plans. For a long time Manaus didn’t have any plans,” he explained.

The Superintendent of IPHAN, Almir de Oliveira, explained the importance of the revitalization, the historic renovation for a city like Manaus, and guaranteed that the organization will work with the city to connect the people of Manaus with its history.

The Proprietor of the Municipal Secretary of Infrastructure (Seminf), Antônio Nelson, reported that the revitalization of the downtown includes ten different projects. Among these works, Matriz and Adalberto Vale Squares are already underway, and joining them are Tenreiro Aranha Square and the roads near the municipal market.

Manaus architecture, Manaus, Brazil

Eduardo Ribeiro Avenue is the New Target

Mayor Arthur Neto reported that, in addition to the revitalization of the squares and of the market’s surroundings, he intends to present new proposals for the downtown area of Manaus. Among the ideas, the mayor said that it’s planned to restore Eduardo Ribeiro Avenue to the Belle Epoque architectural style.

“To restore the history of Eduardo Ribeiro Avenue to the Belle Epoque period, we will need to refurbish the facades of the buildings. In addition to the avenue, we also plan to restore our history with the renovation of the Municipal House and the Chinelo Cabaret,” he stated. The mayor guaranteed that the renovation of Avenida Eduardo Ribeiro will be done with the city’s own resources and that it is intended to be realized during summer 2015.

Fate of Local Artisans Uncertain

The artisans, who have occupied Tenreiro Aranha Square for 20 years have not received any information regarding their fate.

According to Azmy Sulainan, the 46 artisans are in favor of the project, but are worried about their situation.“We are not against the renovation in anyway. It is clear that the square definitely needs it, but we should have received a written notification of support which the secretaries did not provide, so we know only what’s in the news,” she said.

In the project’s presentation, Mayor Neto guaranteed that 20 artisans will get a space in the Remédios Gallery, while the others will stay temporarily on José Clemente Street in the downtown.

Has there been historic preservation projects in your community? Who are the officials and agencies that were involved? Were any groups affected by the reforms?  Share your thoughts and city’s stories in the comments area below.

Original article, originally published in Portuguese, here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Project by Lebanese Architect Lina Ghotmeh Preselected for ‘Reinventing Paris’ Thu, 13 Aug 2015 16:55:29 +0000 Lina Ghotmeh Tower of Babel Paris, France

In November 2014, Paris City Hall presented its call for urban proposals for “Reinventing Paris.” It was a plan aiming to “give the keys of the fabrication of 23 territories” to “all those who contribute to the fabrication of the city,” explained Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of the French capital. At the center of this project, there was a single motto: architectural, urban and social innovation.

This plan concerns 23 Parisian sites called up to be reinvested in and reinvented. It’s for one of these sites, the disused railway station of Massena in the 13th arrondissement, that the project of Lina Ghotmeh, Lebanese architect who heads up the DGT Architects group, was preselected in mid-July, alongside 74 other projects.

If the jury, consisting of experts and representatives of the executive organ of the city, the town halls of the involved arrondissements, city management and political groups of the Council of Paris, votes for the project by the Lebanese architect, a “tower of Babel” will rise on the site of the disused railway station.

Gare massena Paris, France

“Having been selected at this phase of the project is a nice recognition,” confides Lina Ghotmeh to Orient-Le Jour. “I strongly believe in the Refuel Massena concept as a unifying project, and I hope most of all to see it realized” she affirms.

Her “tower of Babel,” a 14-story building covered in wood, is “a unique place, a model for sharing and experimentation,” whose main challenge is to inspire an environmental consciousness by creating a link with the neighborhood,” she explains. “It includes an urban farm, housing, culinary experimental spaces, a cafeteria, work spaces, as well as a concert hall. The building and the expectant railway station are the outline of a landscaped promenade. Ramps invite you to an urban promenade that extends around the building and the railway station, a vertical microcity whose culminating point is the sky of Paris, inhabited by an urban farm.” And the Lebanese architect continues,” the humanity freed from this ‘tower of Babel’ is inherent to the project. Its expression is living, a symbol of the diversity of cultures among men and women. An economy where nothing gets lost, everything is transformed. A zero-waste and zero-carbon project.”

Beirut, Lebanon ruins

Challenges Rather than Difficulties

Lebanon, Beirut, where she was born and raised, are never distant as sources of inspiration for Lina Ghotmeh. “Since my childhood, I was touched by the capital’s landscape in ruins, which was even more invaded by vegetation then than it is now,” she describes. “This arose a strong desire in me to create and constantly released my imagination.” The architect continues,” Above all, I was impressed by the force that nature can have in conversing with the built environment and in invading each war ruin so as to resurge a beauty in the city through what is really the result of a human atrocity.”

For her, the Refuel Massena concept resonates strongly with the current reality of Lebanon, at a time when the Lebanese capital is invaded by household waste. “The project is a model that we can implant at Massena in Paris, but that could also be reproduced in another city, like Beirut,” she assures. For the Lebanese woman and her DGT Architects team, “Reinventing Paris” was “an opening to approach density, diversity, energy or resilience in depth. To represent what Paris could be tomorrow … on exceptional Parisian sites …”

Paris Tower of Babel and architect

Having graduated with honors in architecture from American University in Beirut (AUB) in 2003, Lina Ghotmeh began her professional journey between Paris and London with Atelier Jean Nouvel and Foster and Partners. In 2006, with two current associates, she won the international competition for the Estonian National Museum. The next year, she received the AJAP prize, an architectural prize awarded by the French Department of Culture. Taking advantage of this recognition, she founded her own architecture firm in Paris, which today has satellites and collaborators in Tokyo, Talin in Estonia, Italy and Beirut. Present in the academic world, Lina Ghotmeh has been teaching at the Ecole Speciale d’architecture in Paris since 2008. She has also led international workshops and has been a lecturer and jury member in prestigious institutions across the globe.

Beirut always has a place among the architect’s projects. She cites the example of Stone Gardens, a concept of housing and gallery for the el-Khoury family, developed by RED SAL, in association with Batimat Architects. The project under construction in the port area is the fruit of a “timeless architecture with nature as the calendar,” she affirms. Beyond the art of constructing buildings, for Lina Ghotmeh, architecture can “gather, unite, transport and can allow its inhabitants to play, dream, create.”

How does your city handle abandoned urban sites? Share your thoughts and your city’s stories in the comments area below. 

Original article, originally written by Matthieu Karam and published in French on L’Orient- Le Jour,” here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Traffic Accidents Fall in São Paulo, Brazil After Speed Limit Reduction Wed, 12 Aug 2015 16:53:09 +0000 Marginal Pinheiros, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Data released by the Traffic Engineering Company (CET), notes a fall in the rate of accidents after the reduction of speed limits to 40 km/h (25 mph) on many roads.

According to the data, there was a 71% reduction in the number of deaths resulting from transit accidents and pedestrian fatalities. Between August of 2012 and September of 2013, the region had 167 accidents, with seven deaths. Between November 2013 and December 2014, after the speed reduction, there were 136 accidents with two deaths. The reductions of the number of accidents in general was 18.5%.

Recently, the city also reduced the speed on Tietê and Pinheiros “Marginal” highways (the term “Marginal” refers to a highway that borders on a river waterfront). The measure was not well accepted by the community, in particular by citizens who get around by car. Among the criticisms was a possible increase in travel time on these roads.

The municipal secretary of transport, Jilmar Tatto, refuted the argument of the motorists, and stressed that the volume of cars increased. “From the points of view of the flow of vehicles, the Marginals show that the average speed has increased, therefore improving traffic. From a safety point of view, the preliminary data from other locations where we’ve put a 40 km/h area, as well as the 50 locations where we’ve installed a ciclovia, the number of accidents, particularly fatal ones, has decreased.”

In 2012, São Paulo registered 26,932 accidents with a victim who suffered injuries or was killed. In the following year, with the interventions of the Plan for the Protection of Life (PPV), this figure fell to 25,508. Last year there were 23,547 accidents of this type. The number of pedestrians hit by a car was 7,759 in 2012. The next year it was 7,202 and in 2013 6,482.

São Paulo Street, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Area 50

The new plan is to reduce speeds on almost all streets to 50 km/h (31 mph). After the announcement, the criticism returned to the forefront, and was endorsed by newspaper editorials. The outcry concentrates on the argument that cars, which already face heavy transit, will not be able to reach high speeds. According to measurements from the CET, between 4 and 5 PM, the average speed of cars in 2013 was 7.9 km/h, and during the evening peak, between 5 and 8 PM, the mean speed was 6.9 km/h.

“We have a decision to reduce the speed limit in the entire city. With the exception of the stretch of Avenida 23 de Maio from Bandeira Square to the João Julião Overpass, and the central and express lanes of the Marginais, all of the roads in the city of São Paulo will have a maximum speed limit of 50km/h. It is clear that in certain parts of the city, like the central region, you could have a lower speed limit,” stated the secretary.

Studies by the organization WRI Brasil-EMBARQ note that a pedestrian accident involving a vehicle traveling at 60 km/h has a fatality risk of over 80%, as compared to a 50% risk if the car is driving at 50 km/h.

Are traffic accidents a problem in your city? What is the public opinion about lowering the speed limit? Share your thoughts and city’s stories in the comments area below.

Original article, originally published in Portuguese, here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Los Angeles’ South Park BID Embarks on Green Alley Initiative Wed, 12 Aug 2015 16:33:32 +0000 Alleyway in South Park, Los Angeles, California

In many cities around the world, the use of alleyways have been an integral part of the urban landscape. They have been a place of cultural and civic activity. However, in the United States, we have often viewed alleys as being unappealing service corridors associated with crime, vice, and street vagrancy. In other words, a space that is not meant for public use. However, several cities across the United States, including Baltimore, Chicago, and Seattle, have begun taking steps towards revitalizing their alleys through the infusion of green elements.

Envisioning a more sustainable and greener community, the South Park Business Improvement District (South Park BID) partnered with the Los Angeles Sustainability Collaborative (LASC) to organize the preparation of the “Green Alleys in South Park Visioning Report.” This report provides a series of recommendations for creating more green spaces through the revitalization of its twenty-two alleyways. The report provides three different typologies that would serve as a guide for their transformation. The three typologies are: Typology A (complete transformation); Typology B (partial transformation); and Typology C (baseline transformation).

  • Typology A is characterized by maximizing the pedestrian and cyclist experience. This means that, with the exception of emergency vehicles, there would be restrictions to all motorized transport and illegal dumping.
  • Under Typology B, the use of vehicles is allowed except for parking purposes and long idling periods. In addition, it grants all forms of transportation equal use of the space, as well as to the general public. Like Typology A, illegal dumping is prohibited.
  • Typology C grants the general public full access to the alley and allows for all forms of transportation. Like in Typology A and B, illegal dumping is prohibited. This typology enables vehicles to freely use the alleys for means of access and short-cutting but it means that it would limit the community development potential.

Alleyway in South Park, Los Angeles, California

Common design interventions across all three typologies include:

  • Permeable surfaces,
  • Drought-tolerant plants,
  • Pedestrian lighting,
  • Recycling and trash cans,
  • Public art, murals, green walls and other façade improvements,
  • Bike racks,
  • Wayfinding signage and branding,
  • Monitored and patrolled regularly, and
  • Dog waste stations.

Seeking creative ways to make use of underutilized spaces is necessary in areas that currently lack green space and inviting public spaces. However, there are some challenges that will have to be addressed when implementing any of these design ideas into the twenty-two alleys. Among these are the limited funding sources and the existing City of Los Angeles code and policies that do not contain provisions for this type of project. There is hope that through community participation, public-private partnerships, and changes to the Quimby Act, the revitalization of these alleys will take place.

How has the revitalization of alleys impacted the development of your community? What initiatives and policies have proved to be beneficial in making alleys greener in your community? Share your thoughts and your city’s stories in the comments area below.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

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3 Objectives Guide the Makeover of Paris, France’s Champ de Mars Tue, 11 Aug 2015 18:09:06 +0000 View of Current Champ de Mars, Paris, France

It’s time to start two years of work! As part of a joint operation between the Métropole and the City of Lille, Paris, France’s “Champ de Mars” (Field of March) esplanade begins its metamorphosis.

This reclassification includes the creation of two parking zones at the north and south ends with a large amount of green space in between. The current parking lot will become an area dedicated to large events. Rest assured lovers of cotton candy and carnival rides, the spring and summer fairs of 2015 will be well situated. This vast urban construction project will mainly target 21 hectares of land. Some land, consisting of the fifth branch of the “Reine des Citadelles” (Queen of the Citadels) will be surrendered by the army. The former ramparts of the Citadel will be restored. Hiking there will allow tourists to approach the Citadel’s defense system designed by Vauban. Along the Deûle River, a kilometer long large landscaped path will be created.

For Daniel Janssens, Vice President of Lille Métropole, in charge of Roads and Public Spaces, this project pursues three objectives:

  1. To emphasize the historic value of this exceptional site in the heart of the Métropole,
  2. To propose more space for walking and leisure activities, and
  3. To improve the parking situation.

View of the Napoléon Bridge at Night, Paris, France

The bridges will also benefit from a makeover. The magnificent Napoléon footbridge, rebuilt exactly to its original 1850 state, has had its stolen sphinxes restored. Victims of theft, these women-headed sphinxes have been redone identical to the originals thanks to photographs and historical documents. The other two bridges, Petit Paradis (Little Paradise) and Ramponneau, will be reconstructed in a more contemporary style. They will also be heightened in order to permit navigation of the canal. Total cost of the operation is 18.2 Million Euros from the Métropole and 5.3 Million Euros from the City of Lille.

How does your city highlight historical areas? How is recognizing the historic value of different areas of a city important? Share your thoughts and your city’s stories in the comments area below.

Original article, originally published in French here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Touring Los Angeles, California Through a Toxic Lens Tue, 11 Aug 2015 17:20:44 +0000 Port of Los Angeles, San Pedro, California

When visiting Los Angeles, one of the first things that often comes to mind is taking a tour of Hollywood or Beverly Hills. But what about opting for a Toxic Tour instead? The Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), an environmental justice organization that empowers people directly affected by pollution, has been giving Toxic Tours since 1995. The purpose of these tours is to increase public awareness of the minority and low-income communities that are most directly impacted by various sources of toxins and pollution.

Communities for a Better Environment offers a tour to the general public every three months, which can either be narrated in English or Spanish by community organizer Roberto Cabrales. The toxic tour may focus in any of the following industrial neighborhoods: Bell, Huntington Park, Long Beach, San Pedro, Vernon, or Wilmington. During the tour, one could expect to see any of the following sites:

Such sites represent an environmental hazard and generate serious health problems to the residents of the communities, which are predominantly working class Latinos.

Oil refinery, Wilmington, California

Recent research, conducted in the Los Angeles area primarily by scientists of the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Southern California (USC), determined that a correlation exists between people living in proximity to freeways and a range of health problems that include asthma, reduced lung functioning, cardiovascular disease, and autism. In fact, the area that extends from Long Beach to East Los Angeles, is often referred to as the diesel death zone,” since emissions from trucks, ships, trains, and other diesel-powered sources are common here. Despite the decline in emissions around the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach due to the implementation of new technologies—such as the clean-truck program—the severe levels of pollution remain. Furthermore, hot spots for cancer-causing traffic pollutants have been found throughout the area, especially along the 710 freeway—which extends from Long Beach to Alhambra.

Given this reality, it is necessary to bring awareness to the public about the environmental and health hazards that residents of some of our communities must endure. Moreover, it is important to empower these populations by providing them with organizing skills, leadership training, as well as legal, scientific and technical assistance. However, it is also the obligation of policy makers and government officials to address these issues through legislation and initiatives.

Do you live in a community that is exposed to environmental hazards? What steps are being taken by policy makers and government officials in your community to address the issue(s)? Share your thoughts and your city’s stories in the comments area below.

Credits: Images by Marisol Maciel-Cervantes. Data linked to sources.

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Invigorate Montreal, Quebec’s Viger Square Rather than Raze It to the Ground Tue, 11 Aug 2015 16:18:06 +0000 Mastodo Agora Viger Square Montreal, Canada

An “informational public meeting” on revamping Viger Square of Montreal, Quebec, on June 16 allowed for the re-emergence of a variety of strong oppositional forces to the demolition and redevelopment project for Viger Square’s Daudelin Islet. Everyone was in agreement: the City’s will to demolish and alter the works of Charles Daudelin was moved. First of all, we should imagine the adaptation of the Agora as a way to highlight this art and architectural space. The project of the Coderre administration is an overblown response to a problem of accessibility, maintenance and the animation of public space.

The Agora was conceived as a dynamic environment, brought to life by a work of art, a market and shops. Yet, we never really gave it the chance to live. Mastodo, the monumental fountain, was only functional for a month, and the space was rarely animated. The City’s disengagement in the completion and maintenance of this space is the very source of this announced demolition, which is however avoidable.

Viger Square Montreal, Canada

On the launch of the Guide on participatory urbanism of Montreal’s Urban Ecology Center, the co-founders of Project for Public Spaces, Fred Kent and Kathy Madden, presented multiple examples of the reappropriation of public spaces, including Bryant Park in New York. Between 1970 and 1990, the square was facing the same problems of coexistence with marginal populations. The City of New York did not raze it. An operation to invigorate the space, layout and reprogramming corrections for the area were adequate. As Mr. Kent and Ms. Madden were able to demonstrate, it was a matter of providing opportunities for activity in the public space in order to spark a true urban existence.

Nathan Phillips Square Toronto, Canada

Another outstanding case of the revaluation of an unpopular modern urban space is the recent redevelopment of Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, Canada. Investing in this great civic esplanade with a cafe, a restaurant, an esplanade on the second level and the consolidation of surrounding activities allowed for a new perspective to the planning; the real heart of the city.

Montreal should draw inspiration from these examples. It would be well worth it to really try to animate and adapt the square before investing 28.3 million in an empty and austere tabula rasa. Why not use this sum in another way, including adjustments to the existing square? The answer to the square’s problems can be found nearby, in the Place Emilie-Gamelin, where the fountain masterwork of Melvin Charney, restored a few years ago, stands alongside an urban animation effort worthy of its name.

Place Emilie-Gamelin Montreal, Quebec

The City should give the people of Montreal a reason to frequent this space. In order to do so, it would benefit from returning to the principles of the original design, which integrated shops, cafes and a market. Viger Square needs to be accessible, maintained, rehabilitated and animated daily in order to become a quality public space. The residents and workers of CHUM, of Old Montreal and the Latin Quarter, as well as the district’s marginal populations, would greatly benefit. The redevelopment proposal by the City of Montreal, the one being put forth by Mr. Richard Bergeron, does nothing but negate the potential for urban animation and the strong heritage interest the square possesses.

With a minimal design adjustment, Viger Square would fulfill the functions of an animated and quality public space. With a little bit of good will, the elected officials and planning professionals will be able to rehabilitate and invigorate this space by respecting its artistic concept and its heritage values. For a fraction of the costly design proposed by the City, it could finally become what it was designed to be, all while celebrating a symbiosis between art, architecture, engineering and urban life, which is so rare these days.

What are some other simple ideas for reinvigorating an abandoned public space? Do you have any abandoned public spaces in your community? Is there any effort to renew abandoned public spaces in your community? Share your thoughts and your city’s stories in the comments area below. 

Original article, originally written by David Murray (landscape architect and heritage consultant), Olivier Roy-Baillargeon (PhD student in planning at the University of Montreal), Karine Dumouchel (heritage consultant), Pascal Forget (architect) and published in French on ADUQ’s website, here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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The Suburbs Copy Montreal, Canada In Order to Compete with It Tue, 11 Aug 2015 16:17:35 +0000 Piano provided for public use outdoors

Public pianos, self-service bikes, street food trucks … the suburbs are drawing more and more inspiration from Montreal. This summer, several projects born in the metropolis are being launched in the surrounding suburbs. The objective is to retain the consumer-residents.

“We have plenty of nice activities, there’s no reason to go elsewhere to benefit from them.” It’s in this manner that the mayor of Longueil wished a happy vacation to citizens at the closing of the last city council. The comments of Caroline St-Hilaire subscribe to a stronger and stronger affirmation tendency of the suburban cities toward Montreal.

This summer, no less than five municipalities launched their public pianos, inspired by the concept that has existed in Montreal since 2012. After Mascouche in 2014, Terrebonne, Brossard, Saint-Lamebert, La Prairie and Saint-Bruno inaugurated their own this summer.

“I was seduced when I happened upon one on Rue Saint-Denis,” admits City Councilor Marilou Alarie.

Saint-Bruno goes even further by bringing street food trucks to the parking lot of the Promenades Shopping Center. Since the beginning of the summer, several trucks, among those that crisscross Montreal, alternate everyday.

“People have less and less of a taste for going to Montreal. Therefore, they ask for services here, locally. We should not hide it, it’s not easy to get to Montreal.” – Marilou Alarie, City Councilor of Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville

Starting from August, Saint-Bruno will even offer 30 free self-service bikes. The project christened “Mont-Velo” will connect the National Park of Mont-Saint-Bruno with the city center.

“We want people to consume here, it’s clear. To discover our businesses, our restaurants, our outdoor seating” – Marilou Alarie, City Councilor of Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville

Becik Jaune

The bikes will not be Bixis. They will be traditional bikes donated by the population and refurbished by social reintegration youth. A similar concept christened Yellow Becik has been in existence since 2009 in Joliette. It then spread to Mascouche and Lavaltrie in 2012.

Communauto self-service cars have also been available in Laval and in the Longueil agglomeration for some years.

Professor Daniel Gill of the school of urban planning and landscape architecture at the University of Montreal believes that the suburbs are winning their wager against Montreal. “Someone who lives in the region of Terrebonne and Mascouche no longer has to go all the way across Lacal and Montreal to eat at a good restaurant and spend a pleasant evening. They have magnificent restaurants and a very nice performance hall.”

Daniel Gill thinks that the suburban performance halls are “often of better quality than certain old halls that we find in Montreal,” and he notes that movie theatres are less and less numerous in the metropolis.

“The suburbs are becoming more and more autonomous from the city center” – Daniel Gill, Professor at the Urban Planning and Landscape Architecture School of UdeM.

New Public Markets in the Suburbs

  • Brossard, 2015
  • Saint-Constant, 2015
  • Varennes, 2015
  • Sainte-Julie, 2014
  • Saint-Bruno, 2014
  • Bois-des-Filion, 2014

food truck

“The suburbs are no longer life inside the cocoon of a single-family home.” Daniel Gill, Professor at the Urban Planning and Landscape Architecture School of UdeM.

According to Daniel Gill, if Montreal wants to resist the competition of the suburbs, it needs to bet on what the small cities cannot offer, like international scale events. “A hockey team, a Madonna or U2 concert, a symphonic orchestra, large museums … only the centers can offer this,” he concludes.

But Montreal must also face challenges that hurt. The owner of a clothing store in Old Montreal, mentioned in the Thursday edition of the daily The Gazette, said, in regards to incessant construction work: “Next year, I am going to open something on the Rive-Sud.”

What else can the suburbs do to compete with the cities they surround? How do the suburb compete with the city in which you live? Share your thoughts and your city’s stories in the comments area below.

Original article, originally published in French on Ici Radio-Canada, here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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A Farewell to The Grid from Katelyn Hewett Mon, 10 Aug 2015 17:57:26 +0000 Katelyn Hewett at Loch Lomond, Scotland in February

It is hard to believe it has been a year since I begin my time at The Grid. I still remember one of my first assignments, a book review on Charles Montgomery’s Happy City. I thought writing a book review would be a good experience, but worried the text would prove to be a bit dull. I could not have been more incorrect. I was hooked from the first page and finished the book in a single day. Montgomery’s vibrant examples and call to action gave me a foundation for thinking about city planning that guided me throughout my year at The Grid, where I served as both an assistant editor and french translator.

There were moments this year when I regretted taking on two roles at The Grid, when the two assignment lists I had each week grew long, or when the articles I chose to translate proved more difficult to interpret than I had anticipated. Now, however, I have to say that each role provided me with a new outlook on architecture, urban planning, and sustainability that I did not previously have.

Carcassonne, France as seen from the fortified portion of the city

As an editor, I had the privilege of reading work from bloggers around the world, helping take their ideas from draft stage to final published copy. There was something so rewarding about seeing the bloggers I worked with progress as writers and thinkers, their posts often becoming more poignant and well-written the further their internship progressed. 

As a French translator, I was the one who got to improve, and I was able to look for pertinent stories myself. While I wasn’t writing my posts from scratch, I became more invested in the French community this year thanks to The Grid. This is not to mention the boost my French skills gained from weekly translations of industry-specific material!

In my daily life, I learned to listen for those issues going on in the Francophone world that would make for an intriguing post. Some of my favorite translations include those on the use of color in the city of Brest, Romeo Mivekannin’s reflections on architecture, and the use of contemporary architecture in the historic city of Versailles. I hope to take this skill with me as I go, so that I can always be on the lookout in my community for those stories that matter.

A big thanks to The Grid for a wonderful year, and I look forward to great things from the community in the future!

Credits: Images by Katelyn Hewett. Data linked to sources.

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A Book Review: “The Robotic Touch: How Robots Change Architecture” Mon, 10 Aug 2015 16:46:20 +0000 Structural Oscillations by Gramazio & Kohler Presented with Storefront for Architecture.

In a relatively recent commercial, General Electric presents their vision of the future of work, a future where human-driven design is assisted by machines. The main actors of the commercial are 3-D printers and industrial robots, suggesting their potential impact in the projected future. Expectedly, architecture is well within the domain of the impact of these technologies, and a recent manuscript by the architect duo Gramazio and Kohler (G+K), The Robotic Touch: How Robots Change Architecture, is exclusively about how one of these technologies, namely the industrial robot, is opening up new design possibilities.

Fabio Gramazio and Matthias Kohler are the prime figures in the field of computational design who are producing research involving the industrial robot. They are the founders of the worlds first architectural robotic laboratory at the Department of Architecture, ETH Zurich, the institution where they still continue to do their research as Professors of Architecture and Digital Fabrication, alongside their practice, Gramazio and Kohler Architects.

The book serves as an anthology of G+K’s research and teaching projects between the years 2005-2013. It is building upon their 2008 publication, Digital Materiality in Architecture, published by Lars Mueller Publishers, which introduced, for the first time, the concept of “digital materiality,” the central idea embedded in G+K’s research. In a similar manner, The Robotic Touch shows how both the theoretical and the practical aspects of the group’s work have matured and evolved over the years. In addition to the collection of projects, there are five essays elaborating on different aspects of their work, such as the conceptualization of digital materiality, the role of the robot and the coding process and how all these relate to physical construction. The essays help articulate the questions that drive the group’s research as well as explain the contribution and the potential of the work for the field of architecture.

Exhibit at the Swiss Pavilion at the Architecture Biennale in Venice, 2008.

In order to understand this contribution, it is crucial to examine what they mean by “digital materiality” and why it is important for architectural design. The main challenge their work addresses is how to establish the connection of the digital reality of the computer with the physical reality of architecture. In the last couple of decades, the research that explored the relationship of computation and architectural design focused on finding ways to somehow use the new technologies in architecture which has, more often than not, led to exuberant explorations of form through parametrization, with little or no concern towards construction.

What Gramazio and Kohler highlight with the term digital materialityis the physical enrichment of the disciplinethrough the use of the robot as a tool that informs and facilitates the design process. Their clear logic in setting up the hierarchy between design, computation, material and construction stems from their deep comprehension of all these aspects, which sets them apart and paves the way to their innovative work. In their own words, “one of the central claims of the book is that the robot engenders a fundamental alteration in the discipline’s constructive understanding of itself.”

I would like to share two of my favorite projects which, I personally believe, reflect that goal the most effectively. First, the Gantenbein Vineyard Facade, is a relatively early project which can be described as the architectural realization of the earliest forays of G+K in additive robotic fabrication processes by using pick-and-place techniques of bricks in variable orientations to create non-standard wall elements. What makes this innovative construction process possible is the robot: “Unlike a mason, the robot has the ability to position each brick in a different way.” This is a great project that clearly demonstrates two things: first the immediate applicability of the technology in actual architectural projects, and secondly, how the robot opens up new possibilities that simply did not exist before, and thus physically enriches architecture, achieving digital materiality.

Gantenbein Winery Interiors in Fläsch, Switzerland.

Secondly, a joint teaching project with the Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore, Design of Robotic Fabricated High Rises is a set of experiments that explore how the digital fabrication technologies can be used in conceptual and methodological design of 50 story mixed-use high-rise structures. What is important in these experiments is that through the use of the same tool, the industrial robot, different techniques are implemented to reach different design goals. These experiments “materially condition the digital design and bring it to expression” and in doing so create a diversity that takes advantage of the different features of the materials used in each technique, which is an exciting exhibition of the potential of the robot as a tool for design with different materials and methods.

Design of Robotic Fabricated High Rises

The Robotic Touch by Gramazio and Kohler is a great introduction to a new “digital building culture” that is led by architects, and it proposes a new way of approaching both technology and design. Keep an eye on their work which is already making waves in the discipline and is certain to shift new paradigms as it draws the digital and the physical closer – with the aim of enriching architecture.

What is your take on Gramazio and Kohler’s work? How do you think it will affect our physical environment? Are you aware of any architecture in your community that was produced by robots? Share your thoughts and your city’s stories in the comments area below.

The Robotic Touch: How Robots Change Architecture is published by Park Books and also available through University of Chicago Press.

Credits: The last two images are from The Robotic Touch. Other images and data linked to sources.

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