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[...]
April 15 2014

University of Wisconsin’s Rapid Plan for a Sustainable Future

Madison, Wisconsin is a city where politics meet academics. The mid-sized city is both the state capital and home to the state’s largest public university - the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a student at UW-Madison, it is easy to become frustrated with all the construction constantly occurring on campus. Detours and caution signs have become the norm, and it often seems like there will never be relief from the incessant sound of jackhammers. However, all these successive transformations were strategically planned in 2005 - the year the university created its most recent Master Plan. University officials[...]

April 14 2014

Melbourne’s Federation Square as a Catalyst for Community Building

Melbourne’s Federation square was built in 2002, as a critical response to the failures of past developments on the site. Dating back to the 1960s, with the Gas and Fuel Corporation buildings that occupied the site, the redevelopment sought to connect the city to the waterfront, as well as the important Flinders train station. The development was to serve as a mixed-use space for an active public domain.

Melbourne Federation Square, used by the public.

The development came after a tough architectural competition in 1997, involving some big names in architecture such as ARM[...]

April 14 2014

Exporting the Smart City of Issy-les-Moulineaux, Île-de-France, France

For several days, the city of Issy-les-Moulineaux has had the pleasure of welcoming Chinese visitors. Concurrently with the Chinese President’s official visit to France, a delegation of 20 individuals accompanying professor Xiong Zhang, scientific head of the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology’s Smart Cities project, came to learn more about the IssyGrid project.

The agenda for March 27th included a long walk through Fort d’Issy, an eco-district that covers more than 12 hectares. While there, Chinese representatives who wore headphones providing simultaneous translations, with tablets in ha[...]

April 14 2014

How Billboards Fund Public Art in Toronto

Artists in Toronto have long been undervalued. "Artists were constantly pitching projects to the city, but there was never enough money [in the city budget]," said Devon Ostrom, co-founder of BeautifulCity.ca, an alliance of over sixty organizations supporting the arts in Toronto. BeautifulCity.ca worked tirelessly for more than a decade to change the conversation in City Hall from thinking about the arts as a “special interest” to how it is an integral part of city life. A strong and welcoming arts and culture scene attracts creative and vibrant people to the city, improves public space, and strengthens the community.


April 11 2014

Double Decker Highway: Good or Bad for Nairobi?

It is not news that there is a planned double decker highway for the City of Nairobi. Many people see the project as progressive and a potential solution to the traffic congestion problems.

Only a few are asking whether it is really a long-term solution to our traffic menace and whether there are other more sustainable alternatives. Other concerns include its effect on security and privacy of those along the road, including the Kenya Parliament, several places of worship and its effect on nearby green spaces.

April 11 2014

Water Continues to Define Washington D.C.

Water is one of the necessary conditions of life on this planet. That simple fact, along with the important trade routes moving water provides, is why the first human settlements were built along rivers and coasts. It is the only force large enough to give form to the sprawling metropolises that dot the Earth’s landscape. But these days there is a conflict inherent in our civilization’s relationship with its most precious resource. And this conflict runs deep.

Situated between two rivers, the Potomac and Anacostia, it is important that Washington, D.C. finds a way to recon[...]

April 10 2014

Video of Submerged Port City in Pavlopetri, Greece

Pavlopetri, one of the oldest cities in the world, is located south of Laconia, opposite to breathtaking Elafonisos. The submerged port city was already in its heyday by the Bronze Age.

Pavlopetri had an excellent road design and a well constructed road network, while at the same time it had a port, houses with gardens, and was in general a region with characteristic features of an urban way of life.

A few years ago, the BBC created a digital representation of how Pavlopetri used to be during its prime. In this video, one can also find interesting statements regarding this amazing place[...]

April 09 2014

Maryland’s Septics Law Highlights Differences of Rural and Urban Communities

Maryland’s Sustainable Growth & Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012, also known as the septics law, widened the divide between rural and urban communities in the state. The law is part of a bundle of programs pushed through within the last decade to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Some of these initiatives include:

Enhanced nutrient removal upgrades of over fifty major wastewater treatment plants; Doubling of the Bay Restoration Fund (BRF) fee for households with on-site septic systems; Installation of 4,500 eligible septic systems within the Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Bay watersheds; Planting of over 400,000 acres of cover crops contribu[...]
April 09 2014

Why Seattle’s Fremont Neighborhood is the Center of the Universe

Fremont is one of Seattle’s most vibrant neighborhoods, boasting an enviable popularity with residents, tourists and businesses. It’s abuzz with the kind of economic development-generating activity that other communities try to plan for, all the while retaining a uniquely organic feel. What is it about Fremont that makes it so appealing? What magical combination of elements has come together to create this thriving little Puget Sound enclave?

As those in the field of Placemaking know, successful destinations are the result of a common thread of ingredients; in this case, the most relevant[...]

April 09 2014

Open Data & Government Pulling Pittsburgh into the 21st Century

What do you think of when you hear about Pittsburgh? A sky filled with smoke and soot?

A huge steel plant?

Or do you think of the Steelers playing at Heinz Field?

What about an economic juggernaut that had a part in turning the United States into a superpower?

Do you know that much of the steel that now forms the frames of many of the world’s older buildings was produced near the city? The economy that the steel industry created in the late 1800s and early 1900s produced so much wealth for [...]

April 09 2014

Green Light Given for Bike Path in Montreal, Canada

On March 25th, the administration of the city of Montreal finally gave the green light to a development project aiming to create an elevated bicycle route that will eventually be located under the Saint-Laurent railway overpass on the corner of Bellechasse Street. This area, riddled with potholes, will be targeted for a complete facelift in order to make way for what we expect to be one of the most important bike crossings in the metro area.

“Our intention is to make a true bike highway running from north to south that will begin in Pont-Viau and will lead downtown, securely linking the Clark path with the Saint-Domi[...]

April 09 2014

Urban Renewal to Shape a “New” Downtown in Bogota, Colombia

As the capital city of one of the most violent countries in the world during the 1980s and 1990s, Bogota was not considered an interesting place to travel. The negative imagery of Bogota was comprised of rioting, gang- and drug-related violence, as well as deteriorated buildings and public spaces. Nonetheless, Bogota has been considered a successful case of urban development and transformation since 2003. This has mainly been driven by its BRT system (Transmilenio) and new public libraries and parks in former marginal areas, which helped to improve the quality of life of millions of citizens. The renewal of the downtown was part of the process, with important projects tha[...]


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