April 23 2014

Why There Are No Trees in the Place du Pantheon or on Rue Soufflot in Paris, France

On March 8th, 2014 the Parti Socialiste’s candidate for the mayorship of Paris announced her redevelopment project for the Place du Panthéon, a square that she considers to be “isolated” and “inaccessible!” Anne Hidalgo intends to plant trees all along Rue Soufflot and in the Panthéon’s very square in order to “arrange shady spaces,” which are allegedly lacking in Paris. A grouping of contemporary benches and fixed tables “offered freely to the public” will be installed in a space that is to be created between the Sainte-Geneviève Library and the Panthéon so that students can “work under the trees!” That is p[...]

April 23 2014

5 Years After the Formation of Nairobi’s “Friends of Karura Forest”

Urban forests are a vital component of a city. They play an important role in maintaining the natural balance in urban areas. The social, psychological, recreational, and economic benefits of these forests are innumerable. However, of greater importance is the cooling urban heat island effect and climate moderation effects that these environmental ecosystems provide, resulting in a more relaxed urban life.

The City of Nairobi has three main gazetted forests, namely Ngong Forest, Karura Forest and Ololua Forest. Over the years these forests have been the subject of massive deforestation as the city continues to expand. The Ka[...]
April 22 2014

How to Make Buenos Aires, Argentina a Cleaner City

The recent administration of Buenos Aires has been rather successful in confronting many problems of the city that were neglected for many years. Now, the city has a new focus on sustainability and environmental awareness.

New attention is being given to everything "green."

It has been a huge change considering how far behind Buenos Aires stands in term of green policies in comparison to other Latin American cities, like the examples of Colombian Cities, or even former environmental disasters like Santiago de Chile and Mexico City.

For example, due to the large population (about 3 million people in the cit[...]

April 22 2014

Farewell to The Grid, from James Foskett in Belfast, Ireland

I never could have imagined how much I’d learn from Belfast, Ireland. Having only been here for three years, studying my undergraduate in architecture, Belfast has opened so much to me. Being able to report on what matters to the people of Belfast and Northern Ireland has shown how the public, not just professionals, play a pivotal role in the built environment. Collaboratively, the public and professionals have shaped Belfast into a diverse and interesting city to study, as well as live.

Belfast City Hall

My articles at The Grid allowed me to keep up-to-date with archite[...]

April 22 2014

Impressive Villa F in Rhodes, Greece

Any structure at this preferential plot in Rhodes island would undoubtly arouse extreme interest. The area is a few meters away from the coast road and it is bordered by an old natural stone wall, which encloses the whole plot as a "frame" towards the spectacular view to the sea.

The summer house "Villa F" was designed for a couple. The house seems incongruous with its surroundings, prima facie, but when one enters it, this impression vanishes.

In this extremely light construction, the architects created a microclim[...]

April 21 2014

Tactical Urbanism in Laval, Quebec, Canada

On April 1st, two students of architecture and urban design at the University of Laval launched their project of tactical urbanism #chaisesnomades on the school’s campus. And it was no April Fool’s joke!

“Tactical urbanism is a movement popularized in the United States” explained Alexandre Boulianne and Jean-François Laroche, the individuals behind the project. “It’s a new way to develop public spaces through removing the majority of constraints which are too often imposed by municipal administrations. It involves interventions carried out by citizens. Because these actions have local root[...]

April 21 2014

How Smog is Destroying Denver’s Rocky Mountain Views

The Denver metro area is the gateway to the Rocky Mountains. Colorado is known across the world for its incredible opportunities to hike, climb, bike, fish, ski, snowboard, you name it - if it’s outdoors, Colorado is a great place for it. Denver lies just an hour east of the beautiful Rocky Mountains, but it is also known for its sometimes poor air quality. Smog is one of the great dichotomies of living in the Denver region.

Denver area homes and a view of Rocky Mountains’ Longs Peak (14,259 feet)

Whereas smog is decreasing across most maj[...]

April 18 2014

Ten Years After the Athens Olympics: A Review

Long story short, Athens 2004 Olympic venues are for sale. In March 2014, Hellenic Republic Assets Development Fund (ADF) acquired several new properties; among those the Olympic Equestrian Centre, the Olympic Rowing Centre and the Galatsi Indoor Hall.

A decade after the Athens 2004 Olympics, the bliss has faded away and the Olympic venues, with their robust architecture, are tributes to their fifteen minutes of fame. The return of the Olympics to their birthplace cost €9 billion but bequeathed Greece infrastructure and a list of Olympic properties to exploit . By the end of the Olympic Games, while the Greek gove[...]
April 18 2014

Redeveloped Denver Union Station Shows Priority for Regional Transportation

The historic Denver Union Station is getting a makeover to the tune of $900 million. The plan is to turn one of Denver’s most prominent, yet underutilized historic structures, into the anchor of the Denver region’s expanding transportation network. It will be the Grand Central Station of the West, a signal once and for all of a changing attitude towards public transportation in the region.

The new Denver Union Station is a “game changer” for the region.

Denver Union Station was built in 1881 in the Classical Revival style. The new station architecture uses the same architectural material as the Denver International Airport a[...]
April 18 2014

Street Children and Social Exclusion in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

On the night of July 23, 1993, eight children were massacred on the steps of the Candelária Church in downtown Rio de Janeiro. As a regular gathering spot for street children, dozens took refuge here as a place to rest. Official reports differ on the motive behind such action, yet at 11:00pm, police opened fire on the group of sixty-four. Some state it was retaliation against an earlier scuffle between the youth and the police, while others think it to be off-duty officers paid by disgruntled shop owners to clear the streets.

One of the survivors, [...]

April 17 2014

BIDs Reshaping D.C.’s Future One Neighborhood at a Time

Since the mid 90’s, Washington, D.C. has been allowing commercially concentrated areas to band together to form Business Improvement Districts (B.I.Ds) throughout the city. These organizations charge a fee to their members in order to provide supplemental services. Typically, this includes improved street cleaning and safety, BID ambassadors to help visitors find their way around, holding events, marketing the neighborhood as a whole, helping to recruit businesses to fill vacant spaces, and creating a vision and planning priorities for the future of the neighborhood. It has proven to be a very successful method for small area planning and management in the District.

April 17 2014

A Listed Building Becomes Cartoon Museum in Thessaloniki, Greece

The listed building on Anagenniseos Street, in Thessaloniki, will soon find its old glory, thanks to the Municipality’s decision to reuse it as a Cartoon and Animation Museum. The building, which was described as "a work of art," was built between 1900 and 1910 and is one of the few remaining architectural examples after the fire that took place in 1917. Petridi’s family lived there until the 1960s, whereas for the last twenty years it has been used occasionally as a transport firm and a warehouse. Unfortunately, the listed building was abandoned and until 1997 was used as a homeless refuge.

Τhe [...]

April 17 2014

Using What You’ve Got: Recycled Building Materials of Wengen, Switzerland

In a ski town like Wengen, Switzerland, where there are enough skis to build everyone a seat, you don’t see much sports equipment being recycled and repurposed for furniture and building features. We have all seen the adirondack chairs built from skis, but where does this material choice come from? Does recycling local materials stem from necessity and the convenience of having extra equipment laying around, or is it a novelty, a wacky way to show off the pastimes of the region?

As with most mountainous regions, the traditional building material has always been timber, and in Wengen it is used to the max. Throughout the town there are half-sawed logs f[...]

April 16 2014

What Makes a Great Street for Shopping? A View from Boston, MA

On this sunny Friday I found myself riding my bicycle from Cambridge to Boston, to the Back Bay neighborhood that is home to two of the most prominent commercial streets in the area: Boylston and Newbury. I was on my way to a sleek, posh hair salon, where I spent my morning being a hair model, and from where I emerged two hours later with an impossibly big hairstyle. I locked my bike and decided to walk around and explore some of the stores on Newbury Street.

Stores in Newbury Street

I saw some luxury brands, like Burberry, Chanel and Marimekko, as well as some mass retailers like H&M and Forever 21. I saw som[...]
April 16 2014

Two Projects to Celebrate 1,000 Years of the Cathedral of Strasbourg, Alsace, France

A sustainable lighting installment will accompany the millennial anniversary of Strasbourg’s Cathedral, whose foundation work was begun in 1015. In addition to this municipal project, an enormous clock will be added to the interior of the building upon the wishes of the diocese. The clock’s installation is scheduled to take place between March and May 2015.

As winner of the diocese’s call-for-projects in commemoration of the cathedral’s 1000th anniversary, construction of a 1:1 mock-up of the “Rayon vers” is currently underway as of this spring. The tentative name of the project refers to green rays (rayo[...]
April 16 2014

Active Placemaking and a Marshmallow Fluff Festival in Somerville, MA

“Yes, I will be happy to be a volunteer for the 2013 Fluff Festival. Will I get a fluffernutter sandwich as a snack? So, my task will be to operate the Fluffatron 3000 with two other neighborhood volunteers? This will be fun.” The Fluff Festival, which has been held in the main plaza in Union Square, Somerville, since 2006, is an example of actively “making a place.” According to MIT urban planner Susan Silberberg, placemaking seeks to build or improve public space, spark public discourse, create beauty and delight, engender civic pride, connect neighborhoods, support community health and safety, grow social justice, catalyze economic development, promote environmental sustainabil[...]
April 16 2014

Siena, Italy: The Exaltation of the Medieval Spirit

What makes the relatively small town of Siena so special in comparison with the other former Italian city-states in the north? Is it the way its medieval characteristics have continued to influence everyday life? This strong relationship with the past is obvious both in the town’s urban development, and in the annual social events.

The urbanization of the town started in the late eleventh century, with the appearance of the urban class in Italy. While medieval feudalism was still alive the strong trade activity permitted the development of this new social class. Along with that, a new economic system was created, called commercial capitalism. In [...]
April 16 2014

Why You Should Be Excited about the Potential Baltimore Water Taxi Expansion

Downtown Baltimore, Maryland is working hard to remain a tourist destination, while improving its branding as a decent place to live. The most comprehensive source detailing what Baltimore hopes to achieve is the Inner Harbor 2.0 plan. Published late last year, the plan has stirred up a lot of discussion about future development, including suggestions to expand its water taxi service.

Water taxi is available through a privately operated service, Baltimore Water Taxi, who partners with the City to provide the free Harbor Connector. I assume the banner ads on the boats help support the free weekday routes, in addition to[...]

April 15 2014

Today’s Urban Encyclopedia: “The American City: What Works, What Doesn’t”

As cities grow and redevelop, community leaders are constantly imagining new ideas to improve their businesses and neighborhoods. But who is keeping track of all these new sustainability programs, zoning policies, and preservation programs? Evaluating past and existing practices can help avoid repeated mistakes and spur innovative partnerships. However, the volume and diversity of urban activity is enough to intimidate even the greatest of urban enthusiasts. Where to begin?

Fortunately, Alexander Garvin’s The American City: What Works, What Doesn’t acts as an encyclopedia for urban projects and programs that have been implemented across Ameri[...]

April 15 2014

Sculptor Alexandros Liapis’ Distinguishable Workshop in the Greek Countryside

In an agricultural plot of 4,000 m2, among olive trees, oleanders and cypress trees in Boeotia, the Greek architectural office A31 designed the new workshop of the painter and sculptor Alexandros Liapis. Additionally, part of the surrounding area became an outdoor sculpture gallery, hosting the artist’s creations, which made the whole project a two-fold challenge.

The building had to be connected with the surrounding area, and at the same time with the exhibited artwork. There were three main targets in the basic approach of the design. The construction of the building had to[...]

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