October 30 2014

Technology Giants Google and Microsoft Invest in Rio de Janeiro Favela Mapping

Technology giants have finally realized the existing market in the steep alleys where cars barely pass, and where electric power, water, sewage pipes, even cable TV, arrives by spontaneous generation - through the creative improvisation of its residents. In Rio de Janeiro, one quarter of the population lives in one of the 763 slums across the city. Favela residents total 1.5 million people, of which about 1.3 million have cell phones, half of them smartphones. Being connected, however, does not guarantee that these people can find the street where they live in Google Maps or Bing, programs from the respective tech companies, Google and Microsoft. Remember that, until earlier th[...]
October 29 2014

A City Without Zoning? Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s Development Runs Wild

As the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh is the largest and fastest growing city in the country with over two million inhabitants. In recent years it has seen unprecedented rates of growth in the economy, population and urbanization, however there is yet to be any regulations to ensure sustainable development. Without a comprehensive master plan for the capital city, there is no official zoning or building code requirements, which puts the future of the city in the hands of the private sector instead of the residents who are at risk of losing their city of water. Zoning plans usually regulate land use, form, design or attempt to control development to maximize o[...]
October 28 2014

The Minhocão Highway Demolision and the Parks of São Paulo, Brazil

Since the approval of the new Urban Master Plan, the debates on the future of Minhocão Highway of Sao Paulo, Brazil have intensified. That's because the plan provides "a gradual restriction of motorized individual transport on elevated highways" and "its complete deactivation as a traffic lane, including its demolition or a partial or full transformation into a park." The Minhocão, a highway built for cars, is now expected to be demolished in the upcoming days. The debate has focused on whether to demolish or renovate the aging highway by transforming it into an elevated park? Unfortunately, this is not the main dilemma that Minhocão, its users and the po[...]
October 28 2014

Rue Saint-Merri, Paris Considers Pedestrian-Only Corridor

During the last Council meeting of the Saint-Merri neighborhood, in Paris, France, Julien Landel, the Assistant to the Mayor who oversees neighborhood councils announced the following regarding Rue Saint-Merri, at the location of the school by the same name: "Parallel to the option we retained in June (the overhang of the roadway underpass, widening of the sidewalk in front of the school, inversion of circulation patterns on Rue Saint-Merri, putting a red light at the Renard intersection), the Mayor's office has also asked City services to study the feasibility of completely putting an end to automobile circulation on Rue Saint-Merri, an option that will be proposed to the neighborhood coun[...]
October 27 2014

San Francisco’s Road to Zero-Waste: An Unthinkable Goal by 2020?

San Francisco is a catalyst for change, leading the nation by becoming the first major U.S. city to reach a “zero-waste” goal. The city recognized that the recycling of bottles and paper could no longer remedy the amount of waste being produced, so they initiated the program. They have already set an example for cities across the nation by eliminating waste by 80%, but the goal is still 100% by the year 2020. What does it take to be a zero-waste city?      Sending nothing to the landfill or incinerator.      Recycling materials.      Composting biodegradable foods and packaging.      Preventing waste before it happens. Sou[...]
October 27 2014

The Food Deserts of Des Moines, Iowa: Limited Access in the Breadbasket of America

In a state often referred to as "America’s Breadbasket," it seems counterintuitive to think that food security would pose much of a problem. But in Des Moines, Iowa, however, it does. The city’s low population density and inability to attract chain grocers has made it so that great swaths of the downtown core are designated as food deserts. Food deserts are areas in which there is limited access to healthy, affordable food. The USDA identifies a census tract as being a food desert if it qualifies as a low-income community and a low-access community. In an urban area, a significant share of the people in the census tract in an urban area must live more than one mile fro[...]
October 24 2014

The City of Paris’ New Bike Plan Focuses on Infrastructure Projects for 2014-2020

More parking spots for bikes, new bike paths on major streets, extension of zones with 30km/h speed limits, and perhaps wider bike paths or the prohibition of cars at temporary markets. These are just some of the measures that are a part of the new “Bike Plan” put forth by the Mayor of Paris. The draft, which should be finalized in the beginning of December after being fully discussed, was presented on Tuesday, September 16th. An engineer presented the draft during a meeting of the “bike committee” of the 11th district of Paris, which took place under the gilded ceilings of the district’s city hall. Objective 15% “We are still in the stage where we are considering the overall prin[...]
October 23 2014

Archipel Habitat Receives the “HLM, Partners of the Aging” Prize in Rennes, France

The aging of a population raises multiple stakes. Home care service for the elderly is one of them. For HLM (rent-controlled) housing, it's a matter of bringing solutions to their tenants, so that they can then live at home autonomously for the longest time possible. For several years, the Archipel Habitat has been following a universal and collaborative policy on this topic. In this capacity, the social landlord came to receive the "HLM, Partners of the Aging" Prize at the National Congress of the Social Union for Habitats - a nice recognition of the building complex and its extensive work with partner organizations. The "HLM, Partners of the Aging" Prize: A Reward [...]
October 23 2014

A Farewell to The Grid from Alexandra Serbana in Milan, Italy

It's been more than a year since I started writing for The Grid, three years since I moved to Milan, and one year since I finally started living the true Milanese life. Attending university at Politecnico di Milano and living on campus with all my international friends gave me a rather limited view of what this city is and could be. Campus life and all that comes with it was very different from the reality of how most people in Milan live. If you are comfortable just enjoying university life and having coffee with your friends, like I was, you may be less likely to go out and explore the social jungle of the city. When I graduated, I moved from the quiet, residen[...]
October 23 2014

Traffic Fatalities Kill More than Disease in Brazil

If you are afraid of being killed by a thug on the street, do not worry. Well, not quite. Data shows that it is more likely to die in traffic accidents than by murder or cancer in Brazil. Traffic fatalities are an epidemic, claiming the lives of 1.24 million people per year - equivalent to over three thousand Boeing 747 aircraft crashes, making it the ninth leading cause of death in the world. But if we consider the total amount of injuries from traffic fatalities, the numbers rise to 50 million. The new generation is also being victimized by it. Recent research presented at a congress of pediatrics reported that Brazilian children die from traffic accidents more often than from di[...]
October 22 2014

Transportation Options Underserving Residents in Towson, Maryland

Towson, Maryland is an urban-adjacent town just north of Baltimore City, with a mix of young families, retirees, and young professionals and a growing population of college students. As of 2014, Towson University’s undergraduate population totaled over 18,000 students, with on-campus housing available for fewer than 5,000 students. This means that up to 13,000 students are contributing to the traffic on Towson’s roads during the school year. As of 2012, Census data estimates that nearly 60% of Towson’s household population is college-enrolled, compared to 33% in other Baltimore suburbs. This presents challenges for maintaining a steady flow of traffic, but Towson’s students have fr[...]
October 22 2014

Issues of Access Arise for Disabled and Elderly People in Galway, Ireland

When architects or engineers set out to design a building, a critical element that they should think about, along with what the building will be used for, is access.  This doesn't mean access for only fit, healthy, and able-bodied people. This also means access for the elderly, people in wheelchairs, or potentially those with baby buggies or other restrictive limitations. The Government does its part to promote this goal by constantly reviewing legislation to improve the lives of people with disabilities. The Disability Act 2005 was created to support the social inclusion of those with disabilities. It states that "a public body shall ensure that its public buildings are[...]
October 21 2014

Urban Revitalization Seems Close Enough to Touch in Saint-Maixent l’École, France

Elected officials have validated Saint-Maixent l’École’s application for candidature for a national project to revitalize downtown areas across the country. While opening the municipal council debates on Thursday evening, Léopold Moreau announced that the city of Saint-Maixent L’École was pre-selected from three hundred communes in France to become a candidate for the revitalization of town centers. The representatives would have decided whether or not to take this opportunity, except for that only fifty communes will be selected during a yet-to-come final round of judging. According to the application, being chosen would allow the town to benefit from a f[...]
October 21 2014

São Paulo, Brazil Street Markets Celebrate 100 Years

On August 25th, 2014 we celebrated 100 years of the formal existence of street markets in São Paulo, a true cultural heritage of the city. The date refers to the first regulation of this activity in the capital, Act 710, signed by Mayor Washington Luis in 1914. The first official market in the city took place at Largo General Osório. Today we have 880 markets scattered in thirty-two subdistricts of the city. Generally, the marketplace is filled with family businesses, working in a different market every day of the week except for Monday. Today there are over 16,000 market stalls throughout the capital, in all regions of the city, according to inform[...]
October 20 2014

Ottawa Lacks Downtown Amenities to Stimulate Urban Intensification

A few weeks ago, on a sunny September afternoon, I left the fluorescent confines of my Centretown office in Ottawa to indulge in a meditative outdoor lunch in the fresh air and gentle hum of the city. After choosing my food, I scanned the surroundings for the most obvious green space where I could enjoy my meal. And I scanned again. And again. I walked a few blocks east, then west. Realizing that my search was in vain, I settled for a large concrete planter on a side street and meditated on the contradictions of Ottawa’s downtown life. Walking around Centretown, it is impossible to miss the brand new condominium developments poking through the neighborhood’s typical stock of low-ri[...]
October 20 2014

Are Tech Companies the Cure for San Francisco’s Homeless “Epidemic?”

Men and women step over the homeless, with shoes worth more than that individual earns in a year, begging on the streets of San Francisco. Most treat San Francisco’s homeless population similar to a chronic condition. It is seen as an issue which is constantly looming over the city, but will never be resolved. Some are kind to those who are homeless, while most tend to demonize the displaced population by labeling them as societal “leeches.” They are far too often despised for their unfortunate circumstances, rather than being seen as human. San Francisco is known to have one of the highest populations of homeless individuals in the United States, in stark contrast with the cit[...]
October 17 2014

Three French Mayors Profess Support for an Inter-Communal Health Clinic

With a critical lack of doctors and a chronic lack of finances, three communes in the Loiret department of France reflect on the possibility of designing an inter-communal health clinic. “We are all confronted with the problem of a lack of doctors. Several practitioners will be leaving the area within the next three years,” affirms Christophe Chaillou, Socialist Party Mayor of Saint-Jean-de-la-Ruelle. Located in the Centre region and Loiret department of France, the commune is discussing the idea of building an inter-communal health clinic along with its neighbors of Chapelle-Saint-Mesmin and Ingré. It would bring together practitioners - complementing said doctors’ chos[...]
October 17 2014

Urban Drainage Poses A Major Development Risk in Nairobi, Kenya

The City of Nairobi, Kenya lies at the border of the central highlands and the flat dry plains, composing an exceptionally interesting subtropical highland climate. This translates to two rainy seasons with an average annual high temperature of 280C and a low of 150C. The southern sloping terrain enables a natural drainage flow that settles in the southern plains, causing occasional flooding. During the rainy season, flooding may be experienced in other parts of the city. The bulk of the blame here is placed on lack of drainage infrastructure during road construction and maintenance, developments along riparian reserves, and newly built up areas [...]
October 16 2014

Balancing Priority for Pedestrians and Parking in Rue Sainte-Catherine West, Montreal

Priority to pedestrians, but also more parking - this is the paradox that emerges from the first phase of consultations conducted by the City regarding the restructuring of Rue Sainte-Catherine West, which the President of the Executive Committee, Pierre Desrochers, summed up recently. The city's designers formulated four restructuring alternatives in the stride of this summer's citizens survey. Overall, the place of pedestrians remains a key stake. "People expect strong gestures regarding priority for pedestrians," affirmed Mr. Desrochers regarding the summer consultation during a press conference, insisting on the strong, enthusiastic response of the parti[...]
October 16 2014

Activists Fight to Preserve Historic São Félix Railway Station in Bahia, Brazil

Considered to be the main cultural and historical heritage building in the Reconcavo of Bahia, the São Félix, a former railway station, is now in an advanced state of deterioration and has been abandoned by the government since June 2014. An organization known as the Coletivo Criativo Ocupa Estação (Creative Collective for the Occupation of the Station) proposes artistic and cultural activities for the space, giving it a social function. The Collective started a film club, a library with a reading room, laboratory workshops and arts and crafts events for local communities. Before the occupation, it also operated as a health and fitness club. The construction of the station da[...]

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