Global Site Plans Branding for Architecture, Engineering, Environmental Non-Profits, Landscape Architecture, & Urban Planning Companies Wed, 29 Jul 2015 16:00:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Top 20 Landscape Architecture Websites of 2015 – Highlighting the Top 10 Wed, 29 Jul 2015 16:00:47 +0000 At Global Site Plans’ The Grid, we are proud to bring our readers our fourth annual installment of the top 20 landscape architecture websites of the year. Whether you work for a city agency and are looking to create a beautiful pedestrian plaza, or a resident interested in starting a community garden, you’ll find inspiration on at least one of these websites. To create this list, we compiled as many landscape architecture-related websites we could find and then ranked them according to their level of traffic using Alexa Analytics. We hope you enjoy our latest list!

1. / / @LandscapingNews

landscaping network

This online platform is a one-stop-shop to share, exchange and collect ideas for residential landscaping., based out of California and owned by, posts the most popular design styles and hundreds of pictures and videos that cover every aspect of landscape architecture for a home. You’ll find dozens of products to add to your residence on their shopping page. Check out their sitemap to find inspiring articles and their press room to see where they’ve been referenced in the media. You can get regular, hard copy updates on the latest trends and products by subscribing to the Landscaping Network Magazine. Landscape architects can also contribute to the website and show off their work by sharing their project photos and videos. If you need some tips on how to produce great photography, just read their how-to here.

2. American Society of Landscape Architects / / @landarchs


It’s no coincidence that this massive professional association for landscape architects is at the top of our list. Founded in 1899, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) represents more than 15,000 professionals in the field. This membership-based organization has chapters in every state in the U.S. Their website covers the latest news releases, educational resources and professional practices that will help you start or advance your career as a landscape architect. You can also learn how to become an advocate for the profession by using ASLA’s advocacy tools and tracking legislation. There are several ways to get involved, including attending the annual ASLA meeting or becoming a member, of which there are several options.

3. Landscape Architects Network /

landscape architects network

Landscape Architects Network (LAN) promotes the study and profession of landscape architecture by providing readers with the latest news in the field and promoting various events. Their team of writers helps publish articles that cover everything from particular projects - to the latest trends. You’ll also find book reviews and even a book store. Access to certain content requires you to set up a VIP Subscription. Then you’ll be able to check out LAN’s global news feed and jobs board. Other ways to get involved include becoming a LAN partner. If you’d like to receive regular updates in your inbox, make sure to sign up for their newsletter! Just click on the box at the bottom right of the screen.

4. Landezine / / @Landezine


Landezine is the place for landscape architecture professionals and enthusiasts to share their work with the world and find inspiration from other professionals. You can search for up-to-date news and find interviews with industry professionals. Perhaps the website’s most impressive feature is their tool that lets users search for landscape architecture projects from around the world on an interactive map. Other fun components include their archive of projects and videos that share creative land use practices. If you’d like to see how your work measures up to others in the field, check out their list of competitions. You can also get your work displayed by submitting your own project. Finally, you can get all of this information on your phone by downloading the Landezine App, available for iOS and Android.

5. Land8 / / @Land8


Since 2008, Land8 has been one of the world’s premier social networks for landscape architects. There are numerous opportunities for users to share their work on the website. You’ll find thousands of photos from projects around the globe, a page full of resources to help you advance your career; even a list of products unique to the field. Their blog shares posts from other passionate individuals in the landscape architecture community. If you’re looking for a career change or just want to get your foot in the door, make sure you check out their jobs board, which features over 700 opportunities. The best way to get get involved on the Land8 platform is to create an account. This will allow you to create your own profile and engage on their forum.

6. / / @gardenvisit


If you’re looking to take your garden to the next level, scroll no further. Since 1998, has been a leading resource for information on garden design, landscape architecture, and landscape planning. The site was relaunched in 2007 with a seriously enhanced photo archive and new text. Now, you’ll find information on garden tours, products and design. There’s even a garden finder that lets you see photos, maps and information about gardens around the world. Other unique features include their nursery finder and lists of resources that provide an extraordinary amount of information covering garden and landscape history. Finally, you can’t forget to look at their landscape architecture page and stay updated with’s latest content on their blog. If you’d like to get in touch with the website makers or get listed in their design directory, contact them here.

7. World Landscape Architecture / / @wlandscapearch

world landscape architecture

World Landscape Architecture, founded in 2007 by landscape architect Damian Holmes, seeks to improve the profession around the globe by providing news and information to those in the field. The site includes a long list of projects from around the world, which can be searched according to specific categories. You can even submit your own work to be displayed on the site. You’ll find a list of job openings and partner organizations on the right-hand column of the homepage. If you like the content you find on the website, you may want to consider subscribing to their magazine. There are plenty of ways to get more involved with World Landscape Architecture. You can become a supporter, advertise your own work on their website or be a sponsor. If you have any questions or would like to submit your own, contact them here. Finally, you can get regular email updates by signing up for the newsletter.

8. Landscape Juice Network / / @LandscapeJuice

landscape juice network

Landscape Juice Network (LJN) is an open association of landscape industries with over 4,000 members. Creating a membership account is easy and there are plenty of opportunities and levels, so you can find the one just right for you. As a member, you can engage in their forum and post on their blog. Or you can go premium and join the Business Objective Group, which will allow you to discuss sensitive business information and share documents to help you get the most out of your business. Other features include their interactive jobs map and archive of almost 20,000 photos featuring projects from around the globe. Users can also advertise on the LJN website and sign up for their newsletter.

9. / / @LandscapeASN

landscape online

Users will find loads of news articles, events and products related to landscape architecture on Search through the site’s directory of editorials or submit your own. Find listings for business services or search through their database of products. There are numerous events, all related to the field, listed on the website that you can attend. You can also submit your own event to be displayed on the website. If you’re interested in getting more involved with their network, then create an account with

10. Places / @PlacesJournal


Rounding out our top 10 is Places, a journal that covers contemporary landscape architecture and urbanism.The registered 501(c)3 organization began as a print magazine in 1983 and has since grown into a leading online publication promoting sustainable landscapes. They’re supported by several academic partners as well as various donors. You too can support Places’ work by making your own donation. Users will find an amazing archive of writings on landscapes as they pertain to architecture, urbanism and the outdoors. Other features includes their topical lists. Places Wire shares news and commentary from around the web that was handpicked by the Places Journal editors. Their latest feature is Places Books, a new series that will present peer-reviewed titles on landscape architecture. Finally, you can post your own content on the website by creating a personal account. Start by clicking on Sign In on the top navigation bar.

11. The Cultural Landscape Foundation / @TCLFdotORG

12. / @greenroofs

13. Edible Landscape Design / @ediblelandesign

14. The Center for Land Use Interpretation

15. Landscape Architecture Magazine / @landarchmag

16. Landscape Architecture Foundation / @lafoundation

17. Scenario Journal / @scenariojournal

18. The Landscape Design Site / @landscapingman

19. Association of Professional Landscape Designers / @APLD

20. Shapedscape / @Shapedscape

See how this year’s ranking compares to 20122013 and 2014 rankings and follow the Top 20 Landscape Architecture Websites on our Twitter list.

We’re always looking to improve our lists for the next year. If you feel like we missed a website or you have suggestions for improvements, please leave a comment below.


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France Considers Terminating Kilometric Allowance for Bike Commuters Mon, 27 Jul 2015 16:41:31 +0000 Devant le Pont de Solférino, Paris, France bike

It happened on May 21, 2015 at a meeting of the National Assembly in Paris, France. While examining the laws on the ongoing energy transition, the deputies began a debate on a surprising amendment introduced by the Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal. This amendment sought to terminate the kilometric allowance accorded by employers to workers who choose to commute by bike. The cited reason: budgetary measures that are to be discussed in the budget proposal at the end of the year.

The idea of this allowance, of 25 cents per kilometer traveled, had been adopted by all parliamentary groups. The intervention by the Ecology Minister, which broke this consensus, was surprising. But most surprising, was no doubt the debate that followed.

All the groups who spoke, the Europe Écologie les Verts (EELV), the Parti Socialiste (PS), and the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), defended the idea of the bike allowance without hesitation. Phillipe Vitel (UMP) evoked public health.  Jean-Yves Caullet (PS) asked the assembly to “consider the bike like any other vehicle.” Cécile Duflot (EELV) praised “the lower usage of infrastructure” by cyclists while Julien Aubert (UMP) recalled that the previous government had spoken in favor of the measure. Jacques Krabal (PS) mentioned the positive impact of cycling on the city’s densest districts, explaining that the bike could “unclutter downtown areas.” Denis Baupin (EELV) insisted on “the long-term advantages for public finances.” Yves Jégo (Union des Démocrates et Indépendants) praised the consensus on the issue and the protractor of the law Phillipe Plisson (PS) evoked the sustainability argument claiming the bike as “the least polluting vehicle in the world.”

Biking to work

In twenty minutes, all of the arguments in favor of the bike were cited at the assembly, by intervenors of all parties and, of course, the National Assembly is not complete without some skirmishes. There was also the impression, from time to time, that the deputies did not know whether they were speaking of a kilometric allowance or of a bike purchase subsidy. There was laughter (at and with) François Brottes (PS) Rotund President of Economic Affairs, who explained that he “knew nothing of the subject, which was obvious.”

At the end, it seems that this transpartisan revolt had its effects. Madame Royal’s amendment was rejected 33 to 4. 

How does biking benefit your community? Does your community have something similar to the kilometric allowance, and if not, do you believe it should? 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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Marseille, France Increases Wayfinding for Bicyclists and Pedestrians Fri, 24 Jul 2015 16:21:23 +0000 vVeux Port de Marseille, France bicyclist and pedestrian

There is great news for those who choose to bike to work in Marseille, France. Specific signs for pedestrians and bikers have just been installed along the Promenade de l’Huveaune. With all the work being done for the new Vélodrome Stadium, a new walk and bike path has been created along Huveaune River between the Michelet Boulevard  and the Raymond Teisseire Street. But this path has stayed rather confidential, certainly because of the continuing construction that won’t be finished until 2016.

At the end of 2014, the city services of Marseille asked the urban planning division of Marseille Provence Metropole to install signs that would announce points of interest from either side of this path; especially since this newly created route extends to an older promenade still following the Huveaune. The promenade departs from the Prado beaches, passes by Borely Park, Gabés Park, cuts across Mazargues Avenue, joins the sports complex René Magnac and finally reaches Michelet Boulevard. The new signs, which have only just been put into place, begin at the entrance of Borely Park, continue along the beach and the free service bike station until the Palais des Sports.

Marseille, France port bicyclists

But the Marseille Provence Metropole has much more urban design work to do to create a bike-friendly city, as development should not be halted. Heavier construction should be undertaken to allow cyclists to safely cross the Michelet Boulevard, and pass in front of the monumental stairway of the Palais du Sports before reaching the Dromel metro station. This path is currently the most perilous and restrictive.

At that same location, there is another path, which requires attention and improvement. It also follows the Huveaune, and leads to the Louise Michel Middle School, located at the Alfred Curtel street in the 10th district.

One day, hopefully, this path will become a real greenway that allows for travel from Marseille to Aubagne, from the beaches to Garlaban, all the while following the Huveaune. By then, the water and, all other biking issues, will have flowed under the bridges of this small coastal river.

Does your community have safe bike and pedestrian paths with wayfinding? How important is the availability of bike and pedestrian paths for a community? Do they only contribute to sustainability, or can they also help connect a city? 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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UNESCO Classification of Le Havre, France Makes Life Difficult for Some Residents Fri, 24 Jul 2015 16:03:59 +0000 Le Havre, France as seen from the beach

Ten years after its UNESCO classification, people unanimously agree that the Auguste Perret style has led to a more positive perception of Le Havre, France. However, several dissonant voices express that it is not always easy to live in such a monument.

“I am not afraid to say it: I would prefer to not have a UNESCO classification and be able to benefit from better energy efficiency in my apartment.” One hundred and thirty-three hectares (about 329 acres) of Le Havre were reconstructed (after WWII). After being hated for a half-century, the reconstruction of Le Havre by modern architect Auguste Perret is praised, even by the majority who had plenty of negative things to say before its UNESCO classification. Thus today, the voice of Sylviane Duval is rather singular.

Duval is a renter in a Perret apartment building on François-1er Boulevard that belongs to social landlord Alcéane. Along with several neighbors belonging to Amicale CNL (The National Housing Confederation), she is fighting to obtain sufficient thermal insulation. The buildings’ energy performance is Class D. This is a very mediocre classification, but is relatively normal for an apartment building from the 1950s. When this same building was given a UNESCO classification, however, the path to remediating the problem became complicated, even impossible.

Place de l'Hotel de Ville, Le Havre, France

Doors and windows were replaced with modern counterparts that respect the architect’s style, but at this time, it is impossible to insulate the exterior walls as this would conceal Perret’s famous reinforced concrete. “Our energy bills are very high, but they told us that insulating the facades is impossible,” sigh the renters. Jean-Pierre Niot, the director of Alcéane admits to this dilemma.

It is a fact: we cannot touch the facades, which would jeopardize the UNESCO classification. Today, the solution of interior insulation is unsatisfactory because of its cost and because it substantially reduces the livable square footage of the building. The partial solution is to insulate the rooftops. For the rest, we’ll need to use our imagination.”

In the Perret zone, buildings obligated to partake in an energy audit beginning in 2017 risk running into disagreeable surprises. “It’s true that the thermal insulation is mediocre,” says François Heuzé, one of the trustees in charge of managing the classified buildings. “And insulation from the interior, the most efficient solution today, is very costly and entirely the responsibility of the owner.” Another tough blow for the classified zone is asbestos in the heating and air ducts of certain buildings. Estelle, a renter for the past 7 years in one of the towers of Porte-Océane, made the decision to move this year in order to protect her child.

Porte-Océane, Le Havre, France

“This winter, we didn’t even use the heat. We blocked the vents. And even though they repeat that there is no risk, it isn’t reassuring.” In effect, all samples taken show that there is no asbestos dust in the actual ventilation system, as the asbestos was encapsulated.

Finally, UNESCO charges extra for renovations linked to meeting modern standards, and changes are closely surveyed by urban planning services. “The classification allowed us to obtain rules and to have unity within our apartment buildings,” says Édouard Morlot from Jullien et Allix, the zone’s historical union. “But there is an extra charge for the work that is sometimes out of touch with the times. Requiring wooden windows forbidding rolling shutters are real constraints that could use flexibility.”

The paradox of these difficulties is that the Perret zone remains one of the most attractive in Le Havre. “A good thing in the Perret zone is that if housing is priced at market value, it sells very quickly,” assures Édouard Morlot. “And the inhabitants rarely move, which is proof that they feel good here.” Moreover, none of the renters from the François-1er group who are making demands to Alcéane for better thermal insulation are ready to leave. “I waited fifteen years to get this housing,” affirms Christine Kuczynski. “I know that living in the Perret zone is a privilege that many people wish they had.”

How have preservation and energy efficiency been reconciled in your city? How does your community deal with updating historical buildings? Share your thoughts and your city’s stories in the comments area below. 

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Credits: Image 3 by Phillippe Alès. Images 1, 2, and data linked to sources.

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Will Metro’s TOD Projects Gentrify Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles? Thu, 23 Jul 2015 16:49:34 +0000 Mariachi Plaza, Boyle Heights, California

In December of 2013, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) issued separate Request for Proposals (RFPs) for three Metro-owned sites in Boyle Heights. Since then, Metro has announced several transit-oriented development projects by the Gold Line stations. Specifically, these are the Mariachi Plaza Commercial Development, The Santa Cecilia Apartments, Las Mariposas Apartments, Los Tulipanes Apartments, and the Chavez/Soto Mixed-Used project, all of which are near the Mariachi Plaza and Soto stations. This means new space for retail, medical offices, affordable housing, and parking in the area.

The Mariachi Plaza Commercial Development is one of the projects that Metro hopes will attract more riders to the area. This proposed $49 million project will consist of two structures:

  • A three-story building with a gym, restaurants, and shops,
  • An eight-story building with six levels of parking and two floors of medical offices.

The proposed development would result in the demolition of several small businesses, such as J&F Ice Cream, Restaurant Santa Cecilia, and Libros Schimbros. Furthermore, it already presents a dramatic transformation of Mariachi Plaza, a public space that has served as a gathering place for musicians since the 1930s and is considered a cultural icon by many of its residents.

In response, the community of Boyle Heights has expressed their discontent and disappointment at the lack of inclusion in the planning process. They have vocalized that as proposed, this project is not taking into account their needs, culture, and current socio-economic situation. Many residents fear that the construction will only lead to higher rents which would consequently displace those who cannot afford to pay said increases. In fact, some have already stated that rents are going up in Boyle Heights.

Stop Gentrification Banner, Boyle Heights, California

In addition to holding community meetings, Metro could also do the following to gain the trust of local residents and come to a compromise that would benefit all of those involved:

  • Form partnerships with local community-based organizations to participate in the planning process of the proposed project and form a community advisory board,
  • Schedule charrettes meetings in which municipal officials, developers, community-based organizations, and residents participate and partake in the creation of joint solutions to the proposed project, and
  • A Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) to address any remaining differences between the residents and developer.

In February 2015, Metro’s Deputy Executive Officer of Countywide Planning, Jenna Hornstock, acknowledged at a community meeting that the agency had made a mistake by excluding the residents of Boyle Heights from the planning process. She stated that it would start over, request new development proposals, and make the process more inclusive. However, it is uncertain if Metro will achieve this when there is great discontent among the residents and those concerned that their neighborhood may become gentrified.

Are there any indicators that gentrification is taking place in your neighborhood? How has your community’s capacity to organize benefited the sustainable development of your community? 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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Neon Signs Around the World are Facing Extinction – or Preservation? Thu, 23 Jul 2015 16:13:23 +0000 Farine Five Roses sign Montreal, Quebec, Canada

The retro neon signs that adorn old businesses are becoming more and more rare in our cities. Even in New York they are seen as an endangered species.

The Guardian recently wrote about how “Subway Inn” on Lexington Avenue was added to the list of the deceased. “New York used to be synonymous with neon signs – today they are nearly impossible to find,” they deplore. In New York, these old signs, whose origins go back all the way to the 1920s, often disappear with property owner shifts, reported the journalist Adrian Brune.

The latter furthermore reveals that an organization, the aptly named Let there be Neon, has been fighting since the 1970s to recycle and save them.

Neon signs in Las Vegas, Nevada

At home, we can always count on Heritage Montreal, which has waged war since 2006 in order to defend the famous “Farine Five Roses” of Montreal. Since then, the sign shows up literally everywhere, from the walls of trendy restaurants to the postcards showing off the city.

But here too, these old signs are on their path to disappearance. In a post published in the fall, the Heritage Consultant Martin Dubois asked if cities should not do more in order to ensure the preservation of these old signs.

He highlighted that the rules governing billboards were “difficult to reconcile” with these signs that are “often too large and too garish” to “conform with the regulations aiming for harmony, integration and uniformity.”

In the meantime, it’s hard to imagine the Saint-Roch district without the “Wok’n Roll” sign or Rue Cartier without its “Provisions.”

How are neon signs treated in your community? Are they historically preserved? In your opinion, which signs should absolutely be preserved in your city? Share your thoughts and your city’s stories in the comments area below. 

Original article, originally published in French on Le Devoir, here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Prisoners in Uberlândia, Brazil Gain Skills in Food and Clothing Production Wed, 22 Jul 2015 16:19:50 +0000 Prisoners in Minas Gerais, Uberlândia, Brazil

A nursery with the capacity for producing about 400 cases of vegetables monthly, in addition to medical and aromatic plants, rainwater harvesting, and the sprouting of hundreds of seedlings. This is part of the scenery surrounding the Professor Jacy of Assis Prison in Uberlândia, in the Triângulo Mineiro of Minas Gerais, Brazil, where 25 inmates work.

On the other side of the wall, 30 women make skirts and pants that serve as uniforms for the prisoners of Minas Gerais. Once completed, they are sent to the central warehouse in Belo Horizonte; production reaches 2,250 pieces per month.

Detainees in productive activities and the provision of services are not limited to these two activities. The prison currently has 300 men and women working internally and externally in cleaning, maintenance and works.

The unit can be compared to a large supplier of skilled labor, specializing in the area of civil construction. “We have fantastic professionals — bricklayers, painters, and electricians — participating in the work of several public buildings, schools, and even the precinct of the federal police in Uberlândia,” relayed the director general of the prison, Adanil Firmino da Silva.

Food Production

To know the garden of the prison is to lose oneself in the variety of its planting beds. Arugula, lettuce, kale, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, and even some small containers of maracugina, lemongrass, holy grass, mint, and chives are among the cultivated species. It is overseen by the Correctional Officer and Production Manager José Fransisco Pereira dos Santos, age 61, who has worked at the unit since its inauguration in 1999.

Fresh vegetables

“I was born in the country, and at the end of this year, when I retire, I’ll return to the farm. This garden is my passion and it has the ability to change the lives of many men. No one who comes through here is able to stay immune to the transformations.” He recounted that on several occasions he has bumped into former detainees on the street, and they’ve made a point to tell him how their lives had changed for the better and were working and taking care of their families.

The foods are sold to a meal supply company from the prison, which has about 2,100 prisoners. In periods of heavy rain, the water that falls on the roof is redirected by a pipeline to a reservoir located near the greenhouse planting site.

Clothing Production

A large portion of the clothes used by the prisoners of the State are produced in the prison of Uberlândia. Large rolls of red and green fabric arrive at the site and are cut by a machine similar to a jigsaw puzzle. The remaining inputs are formed by lines and elastic, as the uniforms don’t have zippers, buttons, or pockets.

The director of customer service at the prison, Janaina Vaz Pessoa, explains that despite the short time that the inmates stay in the uniform workshop, production does not stop and the deadlines are met. As the unit is aimed at pre-trial detainees, they can be transferred to other locations or receive a release decree.

The prison has produced uniforms for over seven years. The red uniforms are for the common units and the green are for the hospitals and the Reference Center for Pregnant Women Deprived of Liberty in the Vespasiano Metropolitan region of Belo Horizonte.

What do you think about inmate employment? Is it practiced where you live? Does the prison in your city produce products or provide prisoner skill/job training? 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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Where is the Largest Playground in the World for Adults? Wed, 22 Jul 2015 16:17:28 +0000 City Museum, Downtown St. Louis, Missouri

The City Museum’s founders, Bob and Gail Cassily, purchased a 750,000 square foot building in 1983 for sixty-nine cents per square foot in downtown St. Louis. Back then, the mostly vacant structure held the former International Shoe building offices and its ten-story warehouse. The couple renovated the building, and in 1997, opened the City Museum. Their mission statement: “To reawaken the childlike imagination, joy and sense of wonder in all of us.”

A sculptor by trade, Bob’s creation evolved out of anything he could get his hands on. All of the materials he used were found locally, including an old generator from the largest windmill in the world. The museum’s front doors are from Old Southtown Famous-Barr, a former St. Louis institution. A true testament to, ‘one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure,’ when Bob learned that the city’s construction trucks dumped leftover concrete at the end of each day, he asked that they dump it at the museum instead. He then used the concrete to build a fantasy maze of caves. Refrigerating coil donated by Anheuser-Busch was turned into a “slinky,” which visitors can use to climb between floors.

Since it’s opening in 1997, the museum has constantly evolved and changed, without a set vision. The museum has been described as, “closer to a mad scientist’s workshop than a cultural institution.” “It’s part playground, and part artist pavilion,” says Rick Erwin, the museum’s director. The museum houses: ArtCity (which features glass blowers, potters, and sculptors), World Aquarium, Architecture Hall (an event space), the world’s largest No. 2 pencil, and MostroCity – a monstrous outdoor playground featuring a school bus, aircrafts, a Ferris wheel and slides, all under one roof.

City Museum, Downtown St. Louis, Missouri

Casilly passed away in 2011, while working on Cementland, a 55-acre outdoor playground on the Mississippi River and his latest creation. Casilly’s team of artists and builders, the Casilly Crew, continues to update the museum, adhering to the museum’s established style. Director Erwin hopes the museum will expand to vacant floors, in the future.

Bob Cassily’s City Museum is thought to be a huge contributor to a renovation boom in downtown St. Louis. The museum, which drew 710,000 visitors this past year, has no doubt brought people to rediscover the area. And it’s located one block north of Washington Avenue, which has become a trendy restaurant destination. His ever-evolving sculpture, born out of a mad scientist’s workshop, has become a cultural institution as well as an example of sustainable design, successful urban revitalization, and a playful soul.

Are there any creative souls in your city, which have sparked the revitalization of an area? Share you thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

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

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The Grid’s Top 20 Architecture Websites of 2015 – Highlighting the Top 10 Wed, 22 Jul 2015 15:55:40 +0000 Global Site Plans’ The Grid is proud to bring the list of the Top 20 Architecture Website of 2015. For the fourth consecutive year, we’ve compiled the most visited websites that cover architecture, interior design and home improvements and highlighted their best features. Our ratings are compiled with the helpful hand of Alexa Analytics. Have a read and find out where architecture professionals and enthusiasts are getting their information to bring more beauty and functionality to the built environment through design.

1. SkyscraperCity / / @SkyscraperCity

Skyscraper City

Based out of the Netherlands, SkyscaperCity is a forum for users to share thoughts and ideas about the built environment. It began in 2002 and has since grown into an international platform. To join the conservation on their forum, all you need to do is create an account. Check out their FAQ page to learn how their board and bulletin works, and read through their posting policy to make sure the content you share is in line with the website’s guidelines. Registered users have the ability to engage with several of their fun pages. Rate which city is better on “one-on-one.” Guess which city is in the picture on “guess the city.” And grade the daily banner on “rate today’s banner.”

2. ArchDaily / / @ArchDaily


Since 2008, ArchDaily has provided the world with valuable architectural news. The organization’s mission is to “improve the quality of life of the next 3 billion people that will move into cities in the next 40 years, by providing inspiration, knowledge and tools to the architects who will have the challenge to design for them.” Users can search for amazing projects from around the globe, contemporary news and insightful articles. The hardcore architects will enjoy their pages that cover building materials, interviews from professionals in the field and the newest software for architects. Finally, scan through their Milan Expo 2015 page to see work from top architects. To get active on the ArchDaily website, click on “Sign Up” in the upper right-hand corner the create an account.

3. Treehugger / / @TreeHugger


For all you users who love green and sustainable design, look no further. Treehugger brings the latest news, solutions and information on environmentally-friendly building. The website has an up-to-the-minute blog, and covers every area of the field one could hope for, ranging from design, technology, transportation, science, business, living and energy. Users will also find adorable and fun slideshows that capture beautiful photos of the natural and built environment. Make sure you keep yourself updated through Treehugger’s social media by following them on Facebook and Twitter. You can also sign-up for their daily or weekly newsletter to get the latest architecture news delivered right to your inbox.

4. / / @inhabitat

inhabitat looks into the latest trends in design and architecture and operates under the firm belief that design and functionality are intertwined. Their pages cover everything from architecture to interiors, products, technology, energy, transportation and fashion. They even have areas devoted to art, kids and design competitions. There are tons of opportunities for users to get involved. You can shop for fun products, advertise an ad or campaign, or give them some financial support with a donation or sponsorship. If you have a question or comment for them, send a message. Finally, if you’re a writer, send them your own story and maybe you’ll get published on the Inhabitat website!

5. designboom / / @designboom


designboom began in 1999 and has grown into one of the most influential design websites in the world. They strive to bring their readers the latest news in architecture, design, technology and art. There’s a list of design-related competitions you’ll want to check out and an extensive library of products for every aspect of architecture. There’s even an entire page devoted to interiors. If you’re not in the mood for reading, look through their archive of videos that cover new trends and ideas in the field. Their website also publishes interviews with industry professionals and global celebrities. You’ll want to consider advertising your work on designboom and signing up for the newsletter by clicking on the link at the bottom of their pages.

6. Freshome / / @freshome


Since it launched in 2007, out of Romania, Freshome has become one of the most popular websites focusing on architecture and interior design. Run by a small but experienced team, it’s used around the world by people who want to design and improve their homes. You’ll be inspired by their “Best Of” page that provides useful tips and insights into the field. The website also has content focused on apartments, architecture, bedrooms, furniture, kitchen, living rooms and bathrooms. There are plenty of fresh ideas that will help you create the perfect home just for you. Send Freshome a message if you have any questions or comments or would like to advertise your own work. Create a Freshome account by clicking on “Sign In” in the upper right-hand corner.

7. Dezeen Magazine / / @Dezeen


You’ll find a unique selection of architecture and design-related content on Dezeen’s website. It was launched in late 2006 and reaches 1.75 million unique visitors each month. The primary focuses of the site are architecture, interiors and design. But the information doesn’t stop there. Dezeen offers an impressive jobs board for professionals in the field and those looking to get their foot in the door. There’s a long list of movies and short films specific to architecture and design you can watch straight from their site. Their MINI Frontiers page will inspire you with its numerous articles on the latest technological advances. You can even purchase your next watch at the Dezeen Watch Store. New content is always welcome, so send them your idea for an article or story. If you want to show off your company’s work, consider advertising on their website. You can get the latest content and updates from Dezeen sent to your inbox once a week or every day by signing up for their newsletter.

8. Architonic / / @architonic


Based out of Zurich, Switzerland, Architonic collects the latest information and updates on architecture, design and finishes for its global community. They have an impressive staff and are supported by a long list of notable partners. This includes posts on news and trends, product and materials, architecture and design collectors. Needless to say, you won’t be short on inspiration. One of their latest features is their jobs board, which shares opportunities from all over Europe. There’s plenty of ways to get in contact with Architonic, whether you’re a journalist, retailer, manufacturer, agency or architect. They’ve maintained an impressive archive of their most popular newsletters. If these look good to you, sign up to get them sent to your inbox. You can become more professionally involved with Architonic by creating your own account with them. Just click “Register” in the right-hand column.

9. Architectural Digest / / @ArchDigest


Whether you’re designing a single-family home, a mansion or house boat, you’ll find something to inspire you on Architectural Digest. Check out the latest decor, find out how to live like a celebrity – or learn about the latest architectural trends in cities. There’s numerous listings of products you can buy to add to your residence and posts about new design ideas from around the world. The website also has a table of contents for their most recent issue. If this sounds like content you want to read more regularly, sign up for a subscription to their tablet and/or paper magazine. Or send your architect friend a gift by giving them a one-year subscription. You can also get regular updates by signing up for the newsletter. If you’re an architecture or design-related business, consider advertising on Architectural Digest’s website.

10. Homedit / / @homeditcom


Since 2008, Homedit has been an excellent resource for ideas and inspiration to use for your home. Whether it’s renovating your home or finding a new table for your kitchen, you’ll find informative content that will provide you tips and updates on the latest in the field. If it’s interior design you’re interested in, look through their pages covering bathrooms, kitchens, offices and furniture. There’s also content focusing specifically on architecture. You’ll also find helpful tutorials on their Do It Yourself and How To pages, as well as other fun ideas to improve your home. Get in touch with Homedit if you have a question or comment. Go to the bottom of the page to sign up for their newsletter and get regular email updates.

11. Design-Milk / @designmilk

12. Dwell / @Dwell

13. Architizer / @Architizer

14. contemporist / @CONTEMPORIST

15. archilovers / @ArchiloversCom

16. Archinect / @Archinect

17. Web Urbanist / @weburbanist

18. Wallpaper / @wallerpapermag

19. archello / @Archello

20. American Institute of Architects / @AIANational

See how this year’s ranking compares to 20122013 and 2014 rankings and follow the Top 20 Urban Planning Websites on our Twitter list.

We’re so thrilled to bring you this list. But please let us know what you think. We love positive feedback, but are also looking to improve our list for next year. Did we miss any special features of the websites, or are there websites that belong on this list that we didn’t catch? Let us know in the comment section below!

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Building in Montgermont, France Seeks 20th Century Heritage Distinction Tue, 21 Jul 2015 16:09:28 +0000 BPO building by Odile Decq, Montgermont, France

We should save the West Popular Bank building in Montgermont, France. This is the alarmist cry of the architect Odile Decq in a recent international petition to Francois Hollande and Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin. The creator of this building, inaugurated in 1990 and for which she received numerous international prizes, is worried about what will become of the structure.

Since the BPO teams moved to new headquarters at the end of 2014, located in the neighboring commune of Saint-Gregoire, north of Rennes, the Montgermont building has been abandoned. The bank is even filing a request for a demolition permit on Friday with the town hall of Montgermont in anticipation of a new real estate project to be carried out by the Lamotte Group.

A Symbolic Work of 1990′s Architecture

It’s a scandal for the architect Odile Decq, who is staunch about preserving this work, as it’s emblematic of the architecture of the ’90s. Housing “the first totally panoramic elevator in France,” the building could also boast of being “the first office building in France built entirely out of metal carpentry,” recalls its designer, who also designed the new Regional Contemporary Art Fund of Rennes.

Among its other details, the former headquarters of the BPO also has a suspended dual glazing facade. “But today, this building is under threat of destruction,” protests Odile Decq, who is asking for the site to be registered as a historic monument and for a declaration of “20th Century Heritage,” which would allow for protecting the building, clarifies Le Figaro.

FRAC Bretagne building, Montgermont, France

“An Obsolete Building” for the BPO

“This building is perhaps a master work, but it’s obsolete, and our partners lived there under difficult conditions,” responds Benoit Caron, the bank’s secretary general, interviewed in the columns of Ouest-France. “We have launched a request for proposals regarding the site’s future, and all the responses came to the same conclusion: the total destruction of the buildings, before any new planning,” he continues.

In this armwrestling match, Odile Decq is now waiting for a response from higher up in the State in order for her work to escape this demolition program.

What happens when living architects see their buildings demolished? Are there any prominent pieces of 20th century architecture that should be preserved in your community? Share your thoughts and city’s stories in the comments area below.

Original article, originally published in French on 20 Minutes, here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Strasbourg, France to Re-reveal Plans for Notre-Dame Cathedral Tue, 21 Jul 2015 16:03:22 +0000 Strasbourg Notre-Dame Cathedral Facade Strasbourg, France

On the thousand-year anniversary of the Notre-Dame Collection Foundation, (the organization that supports Strasbourg, France’s Notre-Dame Cathedral), the foundation’s museum is equipping itself with two new rooms that will hold the drawings and plans for the cathedral, dating back to the middle ages. Inaccessible to the public since 1989, these showpieces will once again be visible to visitors beginning in November 2015.

The Notre-Dame Collection Foundation possesses a fabulous collection of drawings and plans for the Strasbourg cathedral, dating from the 12th century to the 16th century. Composed of more than twenty rooms, the cathedral is the largest in France and the third largest in Europe, after those in Vienna and Ulm. The drawings in Strasbourg’s collection are particularly impressive due in part to their sophistication, but also to their size: certain drawings stretch to a height of more than 4 meters (roughly 13 feet). They are so large that they cover several scrolls. Their size suggests that these drawings were not only meant as a guide for the architects and construction managers, but that they were also meant to impress the sponsors of the cathedral.

Strasbourg Cathedral 17th Century Drawing by Wenceslas Hollar, France This true graphic treasure was carefully preserved in the archives of the Notre Dame Collection Foundation Museum since 1989. However, on the thousandth anniversary of the Foundation, the Notre Dame Collection decided to make everything public in order to satisfy the interest and curiosity of the public concerning the history of the cathedral.

In order to do this, the museum is taking on the construction of two new rooms. In the first, an interactive digital platform will allow visitors to discover all of the rooms displayed in the plans without any risk of damaging the drawings. In the second room, three or four drawings will be exhibited.

Facade of Strasbourg Cathedral in Strasbourg, France

To balance the preservation of the works, while sharing their heritage, the museum called on the Laboratory of the Museums of France. The organization estimated that the acceptable duration of light exposure for these works is only three hours per week. Furthermore, the drawings exhibited will be changed every six months so that the same drawings are not always viewable. In order to access the exhibit, visitors must sign up at the museum beforehand.

Construction for the two new rooms has seen their costs escalated to 414,000 euros ($454,300). The project was made possible thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Society for the Friends of the Strasbourg Cathedral, who financed 100,000 euros ($109,700) of the work. Thanks to this initiative, those who are passionate about the cathedral, or those who are simply curious, can now discover these rare drawings – and the origins of the sumptuous pink Alsacian sandstone Notre-Dame Cathedral.

How does your community bring awareness of its history to the public? Are these efforts successful? Share your thoughts and your city’s stories in the comment area below.

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Credits: Image 1 by Yoann Gonthier. Images 2, 3, and data linked to sources.

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Brittany, France Harvests Marine Current Power with Hydrofan Technology Fri, 17 Jul 2015 16:40:20 +0000 Sabella Hydropower Turbine at work

The consortium Hydrofan was created in January 2015 after two years of reflection between its partners DCNS, Coriolis Composites, and the University of Southern Brittany. It is launching a research and development program that aims to develop hydrokinetic turbines made of composite materials.

The goal of this project, which will last three years and is funded by the Pôle Mer Bretagne Atlantique, is not only to design very high-performing turbines, but also to reflect from the outset on the process of industrialization so that they can produce a series of products at competitive costs. From DCNS’s perspective, the commune of Lorient is the first priority.

The establishment has a studio that specializes in composite materials. The studio has already acquired some know-how on hydrokinetic turbines as it created the demo models at the Paimpol-Bréhat tidal farm.

The launch of the Hydrofan project is an important step that must allow us to prioritize the development of hydrokinetic power and to prepare the factories of tomorrow. The DCNS Lorient teams have some of the best experts of composite design and manufacturing and we can count on the support of the Brittany region and all of Lorient’s academic and industrial players so that we succeed in this new industrial adventure,” explains Christophe Chabert, Director of French Hydrokinetic Power at DCNS/OpenHydro.

Wind Farm in Fécamp, France

In the coming years, they plan on developing an industrial facility in that will be dedicated to marine energies. This will notably include an assembly factory in Cherbourg. With regards to financing, the local Breton communities (region, department, and agglomeration of Lorient) will support the project to the tune of 830,000 euros (roughly $911,00). Hydrofan’s total budget is 1.879 million euros ($2.06 million). For the regional council, the development of energy, mines, and resources is strategic, not only with regards to industry and employment, but also for responding to the energy needs of the territory.

Hydrofan fits perfectly into our platform of supporting renewable marine energy. We are particularly attentive to the development of hydrokinetic turbines, because they offer alternative solutions to dependence on the islands (referring to the region’s wind farms) for our energy,” underlines Loïg Chesnais-Girard, Vice President of the Brittany Region.

What do you think of hydrokinetic turbines? Will they become as prevalent a source of sustainable energy as wind turbines? Is hydro energy production being executed in your city or neighboring community? Share your thoughts and your city’s stories in the comments area below.

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

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The Olympics Settle in at Montreal, Canada’s City Center Thu, 16 Jul 2015 16:03:07 +0000 Maison Olympique Montreal, Quebec, Canada

The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) inaugurated the Canadian Olympic House at 500 West Rene-Levesque Boulevard in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. La Presse had access to a guided visit of the place little before its opening. Here are some salient facts about it.

The Best Montreal Presence

The idea for the House began to germinate in the mind of COC President Marcel Aubut in 2009. “At the time, he noticed that there was a gap at the level of the Committee’s presence in Montreal,” indicates Carl Vallee. At that moment, only two employees who were working out of offices in the basement of the Olympic Stadium assured a permanent presence of the COC in the metropolis. “We would love to say that the medals will be won from now on in Montreal,” adds Mr. Vallee.

An Investment of Around $15 Million

Overall, the creation of the House represents an investment nearing $15 million. The company that used to own the premises, Cromwell Management, agreed to pay the $3 million needed for the organization of the place. Quebec and Ottawa have respectively injected $3.5 and $3 million, while the City of Montreal has contributed a sum of $2 million to the project. Several companies have also offered their financial support.

Clara Hughes Olympics

Making the Olympics Accessible

One of the main objectives of the House is to make Olympic sports accessible to the entire population, especially youth. “We want to expose them to sports they would not have access to otherwise,” explains Carl Vallee. According to him, by making the youngest members of society interested in a greater variety of disciplines, they could decide to devote themselves more seriously to them, and who knows, become the next Olympic stars in their new area of preference.

Virtual Reality

One of the main attractions of the House is the Olympic Experience, which is a series of virtual reality stations that will allow visitors to walk in the shoes of an Olympic athlete. On top of benefiting from the advice of real Olympians who have participated in developing the stations, users will be able to become familiar with all their statistics at the end of their experience. Three disciplines – track, fencing and acrobatic skiing – were offered on the day of the inauguration. Seven other stations will be added by the end of 2016.

Muti-use Room

The House also includes a multi-use room, christened “Salle Lausanne,” which is 2,100 square feet. It can accommodate all kinds of events such as press conferences, meetings or educational presentations. The room has 70 state of the art screens in order to present different projections and to respond to user needs.

Olympics Team Canada

A Flame for Our Athletes

A second monument, designed with the Olympic Flame in mind, will be built in front of the main entry of the House in order to pay homage to all the Canadian medal-winners in the history of the Olympic Games. So, the names of the 1,300 athletes will be engraved there. Additional names will be added as needed as other Canadians depart from the Games with medals around their necks. In choosing to represent the flame, the COC also wanted to honor the three Canadian cities that have hosted the Olympics, Montreal (1976), Calgary (1988) and Vancouver (2010).

Luminous Rings

The Olympic House will be visible in the Montreal sky when the five rings emblematic of the Olympics preside over the tower where it’s located. And thanks to a complex lighting system, an entire facade of the building will be permanently illuminated. The colors of the lighting can be modified according to need, such as highlighting a special event. An effigy monument of the rings will also be erected on the square of the locale.

Great Inauguration Celebration

On July 9, the COC organized a celebration in front of the premises of the House in order to celebrate its inauguration with pomp and circumstance. More than 200 Canadian Olympians confirmed their attendance at the event. The festivities included a musical component under the direction of Gregory Charles. Several artists appeared on the scene starting from 10 pm, among them Sylvain Cossette, Roch Voisine, Alex Nevsky and Brigitte Boisjoli.

How important do you think it is to connect people to Olympic athletes? Have the Olympics come to your city? How has you community been affected by the Olympic games? Share your thoughts and your city’s stories in the comments area below.

Original article, originally published in French on La Presse, here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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Quebec, Montreal Increases Funding for “The Unusual Passageways” Art Walk Tue, 14 Jul 2015 16:57:54 +0000 Jose Luis Torres sculpture, Quebec, Canada

Gigantic pigeons, dripping plastic buildings, different explosions … The roads and dead ends of the Old Port of Quebec, Canada are once again invaded this summer by the successful event “Les Passages Insolites” (The Unusual Passageways).

This year, 12 ephemeral works of art have been installed between the Gare de Palais and the ferry. If you stick to the designated path, the walk takes 45 minutes without hurrying, but you can also have fun by randomly visiting the works in between two gallery visits, a restaurant visit or to some district shops. The most motivated can even take the trip by rickshaw through the Ludovica Tours company for $40.

Here, you will find the work of the most well-known artists, like Isabelle Hayeur and Cooke-Sasseville, but also the lucky finds of the architecture masters students of Laval University.

The organization behind the program, Exmuro, is attempting to reinvent the urban landscape by taking advantage of its brownfields and by playing on the unexpected. It made itself known by transforming the electrical boxes of the St-Roch neighborhood into works of art before making gently sloping walls out of real urban picture rails near the coast.

Last year, the first round of the Passages Insolites was a real hit. The tourists were lining up in order to be photographed among the works, and the people of Quebec traveled by the thousands to this tourist district to see them.

Cooke De Sasseville installation passages insolites, Quebec, Canada

Enthusiastic, the City of Quebec increased the financing for the event this year in order to present twice as many works than last year ($325,000). “It really was a great success last year, such that we could not resist to repeat it,” explains Julie Lemieux during the launch of the pathway.

Last time, the installation “Delirious Fries” played a great part in the unexpected success of the menu to the point of making us forget the quality of the rest. Sure, you cannot find equally famous fries in this year’s path, but the menu also gains in diversity through the addition of works.

Those who liked the montages of plastic toys by Jose Luis Torres will find a better version of what he presented in 2014, and moving the work by Cooke-Sasseville near the Old Port Market makes it even more efficient. Among the surprises is an imposing multicolor installation by the French Elsa Tomkowiak, which seems to drip from a building.

The pathway map is being distributed through most district businesses, but you can also find more information on the following website:

Have you ever been on an outdoor ephemeral art walk? Are the arts and culture used to enliven your community? How are the arts incorporated in your community? Please share your thoughts and your city’s stories in the comments area below.

Original article, originally published in French on Le Devoir, here.

Credits: Data and images linked to sources.

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My Light Systems: Bringing Greater Autonomy to Domestic Solar Energy Tue, 14 Jul 2015 16:40:17 +0000 Solar Panels on Cabin in Rhone-Alpes, France

My Light Systems is a startup from Saint-Priest outside of Lyon, France that offers to optimize the photovoltaic energy that a household produces. They have developed a system that makes domestic solar electricity production more readable. The software is also capable of managing a household’s consumption in order to bring it closer to energy autonomy.

“We are at the time to decide. The energy model of tomorrow cannot do without renewable energy.” Carried by these convictions, Ondine Suavet founded My Light Systems. This startup, based in Saint-Priest, carried away the public and viewers’ choice prize at the BFM Academy 2015 Competition, held on Monday, June 30th.

The principle: to expand the energy autonomy of a home or an enterprise equipped with solar panels. My Light Systems develops a software that gives daily information on the electricity consummation of the building and its photovoltaic production, which is not possible when using a traditional solar kit. Therefore, the client knows the proportion of electricity that their solar panels produce out of the total energy that their household consumes.

Solar Power Center of Monts-Chambéry, France

The software of the startup goes even further: an algorithm guesses the future consumption and production of the building, based on the household’s habits and estimates of available sunshine. It then switches on the most energy-absorbing panels in function to available resources. The software is thus able to more seamlessly spread out energy consumption throughout the day, in order to use the maximum amount of energy created by the household’s solar panels and get closer to total energy autonomy.

“Solar power is to nuclear what Uber is to taxis,” suggests Ondine Suavet. “Electricity has, for a long time, constituted a monopoly and its cost is not very transparent. With My Light Systems, the user regains control of his or her energy use.” The public’s enthusiasm at BFM and the fact that energy bills are a major preoccupation of the French people are good signs for the startup.

Excluding tax credits, the system costs between 10,000 and 12,000 euros (roughly $11,000 – $13,200) for a household that wishes to install 20 m2 (215 square feet) of entry-level solar panels equipped with My Light Systems software.

Do you think individual control over sustainable energy use could increase overall use? What future possibilities do you see for software like My Light Systems? Is solar energy embraced and implemented in your community? Share your thoughts and 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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Alpine Village of Hallstatt, Austria has been Copied Brick-for-Brick in China Tue, 14 Jul 2015 16:11:09 +0000 Hallstatt, Austria has a copycat city in Guangdong Province, China

The picturesque lakeside village of Hallstatt, nestled between the towering peaks and narrow valleys of Upper Austria, is a small piece of paradise. Idyllic Alpine beauty almost overwhelms the centuries-old market town. Swans and boats dot the surface of the mountainous lake, while the town’s Baroque architecture, its stone-and-timber facades, narrow streets, and steep churches evoke a classic picture of rural Austria – a picture made famous mostly through The Sound of Music.

It’s perhaps understandable, then, that the entire village has been the source of inspiration for poets, painters and artists across Central Europe. What’s more surprising is that the village itself has been replicated brick-for-brick 8,000 km away in Guangdong Province, China.

At a cost of just under a billion dollars, the replica village was conceived and funded by a Chinese mining tycoon in 2011. However, it was designed and built in secret, without the knowledge of the original Austrian villagers, who view the copy with mixed parts of pride and disgust.

Though ‘Hallstatt 2.0’ is still unfinished – and allegedly only populated by builders and estate agents – the Chinese village is also attracting tourists from across the globe. In 2012, citizens of the original Hallstatt, including the mayor Alexander Scheutz, visited the new village for its opening ceremony. “You recognise immediately,” Scheutz told German magazine Der Spiegel, “that this is Hallstatt.”

Hallstatt, Austria has a copycat city in Guangdong Province, China

Many locals and architects view the new village as a cheap knock-off, as yet another addition to the low-quality, mass-produced copies of goods coming out of China. But Scheutz has taken a more positive attitude, highlighting the potential for cultural exchange and tourism income. The original village has fewer than a thousand residents, but its beautiful surroundings make it a popular tourist attraction for Austrians – and, given its newfound celebrity status – also the Chinese.

But as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hallstatt now faces a challenge: with the increase in tourists, the village will struggle to preserve its Alpine features. Many signs in the original village are now written in German, Chinese and English; the models in photos of ‘Dirndls’, the female version of the traditional ‘Lederhosen’ clothing, are Chinese. For locals, the worry now is that the unusual tribute to Hallstatt’s beauty may actually threaten the original’s identity.

Have you visited Hallstatt, Austria? Have you heard of similar copycat cities in other countries? Share your thoughts and city’s stories in the comments below.

Credits: Images by Ajit Niranjan. Data linked to sources.

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São Paulo, Brazil’s City Squares to be Managed through Citizen Participation Fri, 10 Jul 2015 16:52:45 +0000 Praça dos Correios, no centro velho, São Paulo, Brazil

Management of public squares in São Paulo, Brazil will now be held in a shared manner, involving not only the role of the government, but also the participation of the citizens for the use, implementation, revitalization, reconstruction, financing and conservation of these spaces. The measure, whose objective is to guarantee the quality of the squares and strengthen the dialog between the public authority and civil society, was sanctioned and published in the city’s official gazette on Thursday, July 11th.

Through collaborative management, the City seeks the sustainability of the urban space, appreciation of the environmental, historical and social assets of the squares, and the community’s enjoyment of these spaces, taking into account the surrounding characteristics and the needs of the citizens. A public urban space, landscaped or not, which provides leisure, recreation, and a sense of community, fulfills a social and environmental function.

The newly sanctioned law provides the creation of committees formed of interested residents to contribute voluntarily in the management of the square. The committees are to be constructed of at least four residents and general users of the surrounding community. Among the duties of the committees will be to propose projects, reforms, reconstruction and interventions, as well as searching for new partnerships and voicing opinions on existing laws.

The dialog between the government and the civil society should consider technical knowledge as well as the specific character of each square. The committees should understand why their square’s characteristics, surroundings, uses, and potential uses are what make it unique from others.

To make this new management effective, the community dialog must be accompanied by registration of all the squares in the city, dissemination of information, and the guarantee of transparency. Such registration will consist of an updated and geo-referenced list of squares by district, indicating name, address, area, and other characteristics like equipment and furniture. The Coordination Secretary of Boroughs will prepare the registration form and will make it available online in six months.

Praça do Pôr do Sol, São Paulo, Brazil

Environmental Education and Guidance

It will also be up to the Secretary to create a guide for the implementation, maintenance and reform of the squares, addressing questions such as accessibility, percentage of permeable area, urban furniture and equipment installation, and guidance for organic community gardens. It will inform who has the responsibility of public services and establish parameters for the equipment and services. The design of the document will be done in participation with the civil society. This guidebook, which will be used by the boroughs to inform city residents and in environmental education programs, should be available in press and digital form on their website.

In conjunction with the citizens and in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Environmental Education Policy, the law shall establish and implement an environmental education program aimed at collaborative management of the squares. Additionally it will adopt an awareness campaign and training strategy for the educational use of the guidebook, involving schools, public facilities and civil society organizations.

How are public spaces managed in your city? Do public spaces match the needs of the community they serve? 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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Businesses Partner for Florianópolis, Brazil’s Island-wide Composting Movement Fri, 10 Jul 2015 16:09:09 +0000 Composting

Both of rural origins and in love with the island, Celina Beltrame, 65, and Maria Helena Spindler, 62, live at opposite points of the island of Florianópolis, Brazil, but have many other things in common. One of these is the satisfaction of getting their hands dirty every day in growing crops without agrotoxins. Free of charge, the fertilizer used in the gardens that they cultivate in urban areas of the city comes from their own kitchen leftovers.

In Celina’s house, organic material is never thrown in the trash. Egg shells or greens, fruits and vegetables picked right there in the backyard, and other leftovers from meals, are buried in small layers and covered with lawn clippings and pruned garden foliage.

In 30 days, everything becomes fertilizer, without smell or bugs. The important thing is to know how to take advantage of every corner of the land,” she explains. Celina learned to garden from a young age, and uses it as a therapy for stress. She calls attention to one of the eggplant plants. It is almost a bush, at 1.70 m tall (roughly 5.6 feet) and bearing dozens of ripe fruit. “It’s the strength of the organic fertilizer,” says the housewife, who takes pride in her granddaughter’s taste for “Grandma’s vegetable garden,” and is keen to share the harvest with relatives and close neighbors.

Urban gardening

Neighbors Get Involved with Composting

The sounds of the sea was an important factor for Maria Helena, who arrived 18 years ago and has never returned to her home in Paraná, Brazil. Surrounded with wire mesh and covered with a nylon screen, the lot looks more like a community street fair, with an abundant supply of vegetables, fruits, spices, and teas. Compost comes from household scraps, augmented by contributions from neighbors. “I provide buckets and people bring organic waste every day,” explains Maria Helena. Whoever helps with the raw material can take whatever they need.

“It is the cycle of nature, the food returns to the earth and yields more food. Recycling and production without environmental impact.” Since not everyone contributes, part of the production is sold on site, or in the Rio Tavares “Farmers Direct” grocery store.

“The objective is not money, but to offer sustainable food and stimulate recycling,” said Maria Helena, who found gardening as a remedy for depression after the loss of her husband seven years ago.

Selective trash collection

Comap Seeking New Partners

Examples like Celena and Maria Helena have led the President of Comcap (Capital Improvement Company) Marius Bagnatti to expand the collection of organic waste for decentralized treatment – and the production of pesticide-free fresh produce in Florianópolis. The idea is to spread the culture of recycling and create home, community, and commercial gardens in the city.

Comcap’s proposal, according Bagnatti, is to coordinate partners for the separation of organic waste at the source, selective collection, composting, and food production. “Since 2008, Brazil has been the world’s largest consumer of agrotoxins.” Meanwhile, Florianópolis spends R$ 20 million per month (6.4 million USD) to transport and bury 7,000 tons of organic waste in the Biguaçu landfill.

The CDL (Board of Shopkeepers) plays a key role in implementing the concept of urban agriculture in Florianópolis. The first step, as agreed by the business manager, Hélio Leite, and the Executive Secretary of Public Services of the City Hall, Aldo Lopes Sebastião Martins, is the inclusion of organic stalls in the Viva City project on Saturdays. Martins ensures that there is demand for the consumption of organic food. “It is basically the green belt of Florianópolis.”

Farmers Market in Florianópolis, Brazil

Areas for Development on the Island and on the Continent

The architect João Maria Lopes from Susp (the Municipal Secretary of Urbanism and Public Services), who is also a Comcap partner for the new endeavor, informs that a new map for areas of social interest is being drafted for the installation of community gardens. One of the areas are the hills of Morro da Cruz, where tight alleys and steep staircases hinder the daily collection. According to Lopes, the legislation incentivises environmentally sustainable practices.

Comap’s intention is to expand its partnerships to involve Cepagro (Center for Promotion of Collective Agriculture), Epagri/SC (Agriculture Research Corporation of Santa Catarina), and composting businesses. On the continent, for example, a 5,000 square meter (roughly 1.3 acres) area is in the process of expanding the “Bucket Revolution” project for community gardens in the Chico Mendes community.

Does your city have community gardens? Is the approach of collecting kitchen scraps for compost viable in your city? 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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Survey of Alleyway Usage Launched this Summer in Limoilou, Quebec Fri, 10 Jul 2015 16:04:24 +0000 Typical Street in Limoilou, Quebec

On the brink of revising its policy on alley greenery, Quebec City, Quebec entrusted the organization with conducting a large survey of citizens and businesses in the neighborhood of Limoilou, in order to better understand their needs, how they use alleys, and the projects associated with their communities.

How do we use the Limoilou’s alleys? For getting around? For playing with our families? For taking advantage of trees and other vegetation? Is our use of alleys limited to those adjacent to where we live? Or does our usage extend to other sectors of the neighborhood?

Essentially,’s goal for this survey is to obtain a panorama of perspectives on distinctive neighborhood alleys and, above all, to obtain clear and precise data on them: from usages to problems, and from challenges to future projects.

“Data is the foundation! If you don’t have data, well, what you build is based on intuition,” begins Marc Jeannotte, Co-founder of

The survey will allow the City of Quebec to better understand users goals with respect to these spaces. As a part of the surveyed crowd, users can become aware of and see in what measure their ideas and desires are shared with other residents.

Alley in Old Limoilou, Quebec

“The idea is to see what projects can spring forth from this information,” explains Mr. Jeannotte. Certainly, the survey will also allow the city to plan projects for adding greenery to the neighborhood and adjusting the City’s plan for the area, the revision of which is planned for this Autumn. The survey will also create the opportunity to come up with other initiatives, either permanent or temporary: commercial developments, seasonal public squares, and others.

The opportunity will also allow the city to determine how to set up alleyway committees. Up until now, these were solely made up of homeowners. Now, can we think of other ways of structuring them? For example, creating co-ops that include renters as well?”offers Marc Jeannotte.

This comes knowing that each alley has its own reality. “For example, certain alleys seem to be located between key crossing points, like the street that connects the Caisse Populaire Desjardins to IGA. Others, like the alleys around Roland-Asselin Park, have first and foremost a familial usage,” Jeannotte explains.

In order to get a first opinion from the population, while moving towards the city’s final approval of the official questionnaire, the team was present at the Alleyway Grand Bazar in the beginning of June.

Alley with man walking in old Limoilou, Quebec

The goal? To ask people to identify their streets. But warning: “Those (streets) that they use aren’t only those that are right next to their homes!” 240 users were accounted for in this fashion.

The official internet survey was launched last Friday. It will be available online for the entire summer, in order to ensure that the maximum number of users have the time to respond. After the online information campaign, the team will conduct field work, getting to know business owners and introducing themselves to residents who border the alleys.

At the end of August, the results will be shared with the municipal administration and will consequently be made available to the public.

“It is important that people protest and make their interests and intentions known with regards to their alleys! Now is the time to continue building Limoilou, so that the people profit from the excitement created by projects like the opening of the public square and the Alleyway Grand Bazar!” concludes Mr. Jeannotte.

Citizens can now respond to the online survey created by

Has your city ever conducted surveys on road or alley usage? If so, what were the results? Share your thoughts and 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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All Forms of Transportation Prioritized over Pedestrians in Fortaleza, Brazil Fri, 10 Jul 2015 16:02:56 +0000 Poco Da Draga, Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil

Fortaleza is the fifth most populous city in Brazil and the ninth largest urban area, with 2.5 million people and 193.4 million square kilometers, respectively. The capital of the northeastern state of Ceará, it stands as the richest city of the region and the tenth in the national ranking.

Yet its metropolitan region, with 3.8 million inhabitants, possesses a GDP lower than the metropolitan regions of Recife and Salvador, falling to third place in the Northeast and maintaining the thirteenth level nationally, with a wealth estimated at R$ 59 billion (19 billion USD).

Of its total GDP, R$ 43 billion (14 billion USD) belongs to Fortaleza. This wealth is apparent in its many landmarks, including the enormous skyline, its tropical waterfront, its beautiful beaches, its huge cathedral, the international airport, the Castelão Arena, the Dragão do Mar Arts and Culture Center, its downtown commercial buildings, and the Mucuripe Port, as well as its events and regional influence and its abundant gastronomic offerings.

However, it appears that in the planning and construction of such buildings, they did not think about constructing a true city, an urban space, a metropolis. Fortaleza is not the only one to commit this error, but among the metropolises of which I am familiar (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, Campinas, Santos, Natal, and Florianópolis), this appears to me to be the most worrisome case in terms of deficiency of urban planning and, consequently, in public spaces.

Centro Cultural Dragão do Mar, Fortaleza, Brazil

On arriving to the Pinto Martins International Airport, we see a terrific skyline outlined by blue sky. An influential city, rich with nature. However, in exiting the airport and taking a taxi, my technical eye of the urbanist awakens and begins to critique: immense expressways, but without note of mass collective transport; highly precarious sidewalks; shortage of collective transport priority, in this case, with buses that are obligated to fight for space among automobiles, motorbikes, bikes, and taxis.

I noticed that the speed limit is high for a large number of roads, creating a sense of insecurity for pedestrians. Staying in Meireles, the nicest neighborhood in the city, and the one which contains the majority of the skyline buildings, it was quite the negative surprise to see the immense deficiency of sidewalks. Cracked and narrow sidewalks, disconnected from commercial and service axes, along with automobile priority were present throughout all of the city. Additionally, many corners and intersections lacked accessible ramps.

Being from Sao Paulo, and therefore being accustomed to the daily use of collective transport and walking, it is something scary to be hostage in a city taken by cars, in a heat above 30°C and a lack of public spaces.

When in situations like this, we notice the efficiency and potential of a city that values its people, the inhabitants of the city. Underlining this is the prioritization of forms of mobility. When the pedestrian is placed above bike lanes, bus corridors, trains, metro and car lanes, you are automatically giving value to all of the inhabitants of that location. Public spaces are a collective good and give character to the city.

Poco Da Draga, Fortaleza, Ceara, Brazil

Sidewalks and squares form the pathways that interlink the important parts of the city mentioned in the beginning of this article. Not all of my criticisms are negative, for I have found many interesting interventions that have been a sigh of relief in the face of these negative surprises, such as the revitalization of part of Monsenhor Tabosa Avenue, which connects the downtown to Meireles. The street received a nice treatment, with the widening of the sidewalks, which are at the same level as the space for cars, and include gazebos and benches.

Thus, here is one last critique: despite progress, this street becomes one of the most insecure points in the city at night. On the one hand, it is bustling throughout the day, thanks to its stores and galleries. On the other, it is dead at night due to the lack of mixture of land use; I noticed only two small residential buildings, which were privileged with many amenities. But one should think before all of this power, the population should always be valued above anything else.

What is the state of pedestrian infrastructure in your community? If it is lacking, are improvements underway? How can improved pedestrian facilities improve economic equality? Share your thoughts and your 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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