4/21/2012

Editor's Highlights: This week in Architecture, Urbanism, and design

Months ago, I posted some to-read lists. Now this will be the Editor's Highlights. But the principle remains the same…
This week's Editor's Highlights proposes my readers to read:


Urban regeneration
An article entitled Newark is Apparently Not a City Either posted on New Jersey Future, 20 April 2012 to open this editor's highlights:
Plenty of smaller cities, towns, and older "streetcar" suburbs offer many of the same advantages of the big cities in terms of affordability and accessibility: a variety of housing types (including single  family homes on smaller lots) affordable to a range of incomes; shops and entertainment within walking distance; accessibility to public tranportation; and grid-like street networks that facilitate shorter local car trips not requiring use of the regional road network. And many such laces are indeed gainng population, some for the first time in decades. Some urban commentators, Wendell Cox and Joel Kotkin among them, apparently find this phenomenon threatening and are attempting to muddy the waters. The "problem" for them (and is only a problem if you're seeking to discredit the notion that there might be people out there who don't want to live in spread-out, single-use, cul-de-sac suburbia) is that people moving back into denser, downtown-style small towns and older suburbs supports the idea of a return to a pre-insterstate Highway-era settlement pattern. What is a sprawl apologist to do?

Poor urban planning could affect living conditions and quality of life
This week, I shared two articles on Facebook and on Twitter concerning the impact of poor urban planning on city dwellers' quality of life. These articles were published in The Atlantic Cities and Architizer (the Architizer's article was about the Trayvon Martin murder case), respectively. The Atlantic Cities, first, with Nate Berg's article, was wondering whether or not bad urban design is making us lonely. Unsurpringlingly while cities offer more opportunities for interaction, suburban areas however stress private spaces over public ones, Berg wrote.
However, even big cities can affect dwellers' living conditions harming social connections. This, in particular, concerning cities that suffer from bad urban design (but not only…). Two cases quoted here: Australia and America:
Bad urban design is one of the major causes of loneliness and asocial behavior in Australia, according a report from the Grattan Institute, a think tank focused on public policy. According to this think tank:Cities can help social connection, or hinder it. They can be so poorly organized that they are hard to get around — a problem not just for getting to work, but also for seeing friends and family and participating in social activities.
But Aussies urban dwellers are not the only dwellers that deplore fewer friendships and neighborhood connections. In Tokyo, I noticed a lack of connection between dwellers as urban land is shinking and lots are becoming tinier and tinier, apartments are getting smaller and smaller and privacy is getting more and more complicated, work hours in a day are getting longer and longer, etc. Even in the United States:
In 1985, 10 percent of people reported having no close friends with whom to talk about important personal issues, and 15 percent reported having only one close friend. In 2004, those numbers rose to 25 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
French cities attempted to tackle this issue with La Fête des Voisins  — also known as Neighbours' Day in a European scale — launched firstly in Paris in 2000. The principle of the Neighbours' Day is to invite neighbors from the other apartments in your block or the other houses in your streets for a dinner or a coupe de champagne to get to know one another. This does not mean that this will solve the issue of urban loneliness but this addresses clearly the problem.
But more broadly, according to Nate Berg:
[Grattan Institute's] report suggests better shared waiting areas for commuters (perhaps with greeters who could offer real-time information on delays); improving public transportation quality (to cut down on commute times); parks and sports facilities (the report is particularly fond of mini-parks), and local events that bring people together. […] The placement of building access points and the location of outdoor seating can have a noticeable impact on how much social interaction takes place in a city — or doesn't.
Or doesn't. The question is open. At least, a reflection on the impact of poor urban planning on neighbours' relationship is at last addressed. This is the question that Kelly Chan asked on Architizer concerning the Trayvon Martin case: Trayvon Martin: Victim of Poor Urban Planning?.
According to the Globe, the Retreat at twin Lakes gated community is largely lacking in conventional sidelwalks and the other forms of pedestrian thoroughfare. Where Martin entered the subdivision where he was fatally shot, he would have encountered a rare stretch of sidewalk, a safer, and less disruptive means of arriving at his destination than the option of crossing the 30-foot street from the corner where he was. As Youngerman wrote, "On [Martin's] mile walk to the nearest convenience store, the sidewalk ends twice and becomes a no-man's-land of grassy highway shoulder. IF Martin were trespassing, he had no choice but to do so."
As Chan pointed out:
Aside from more pedestrian-friendly planning, the neighborhood in Sanford, Florida could afford denser residential areas: houses sitting closer to the property line and residences with front porches instead of long driveways may make the Retreat feel a lot less 'private,' perhaps deterring Zimmerman from feeling alone, threatened, and fearfully accountable for Martin's actions. A more local convenience store or café within the neighborhood may have prevented the encounter altogether. 
Chan concluded with:
Unfortunately, Martin and Zimmerman met in an environment designed explicitly to be sheltered, a place built to project such an image of security that even the most unassuming actions spur insecurity.
As Tim Stonor argued, in an article that I recommend: Future Cities_Cities of Transaction, a shift in thinking is needed in terms of planning:
It is now more important than ever to regain this focus. World population is growing and this population is increasingly urbanising. […] 
What are the implications of this kind of growth, Stonor asks:
Social fragmentation (…).
He continues:
Cities are growing and they are currently growing the wrong way: towards slums and traffic congestion. They need to be planned differently.
I agree with him:
[F]ocus on day-to-day urbanism.
Which means: "Future cities need to provide face-to-face human transaction… localism more important than globalism." This is the tweet that Tim Stonor sent few minutes ago…

Lebbeus Woods's Early Drawings
Today's drawings are those of Lebbeus Woods at the Friedman Benda Gallery, New York. Lebbeus Woods presented his early drawings until April 14th at the gallery. The Funambulist went back to this exhibition in a very interesting article entitled #Heterotopic/Chronic Architectures /// Lebbeus Woods: Early Drawings Exhibition. Here are some examples of Woods's drawings:
Lebbeus Woods: Early Drawings at The Friedman Benda Gallery, 2012
Lebbeus Woods: Early Drawings at The Friedman Benda Gallery, 2012
Lebbeus Woods: Early Drawings at The Friedman Benda Gallery, 2012
Interactive Island of Mankind
Endless Cities that I follow on Twitter tweeted this interesting Interactive Islands of Mankind map designed by Geography graduate student Derek Watkins using population densities datas. This is an interactive version of William Bunge's The Continents and Islands of Mankind, The FlowingData reports. Derek Watkins says:
Interactive Islands of Mankind © Derek Watkins

An intersting thing about this map is that each layer is contained in one 23,000 pixel tall spritesheet to reduce load time. An uninteresting thing is that my workflow was to export black and white density images from QGIS (which I've been working with more lately), generalize in illustrator, export each slice and then stitch them together into one image with ImageMagick. I grabbed the population data from here.
Interactive Islands of Mankind © Derek Watkins (with legends)

Source: FlowingData.

Wood Casting | Hilla Shamia
I usually do not write on design, even on urban furniture but this is worth blogging. Samuel Medina, a contributor to Architizer, posted on The Atlantic Cities this wooden urban furniture designed by Hilla Shamia:
To create her pieces, Shamia takes a whole tree trunk and incorporates it into steel tables, chairs, and stools. First, molten aluminum is spread over the wood, scorching the surface; the log is then sectioned into square forms, which according to the designer, "intensifies the artficial feeling, and in the same time keeps the memory of the material." The individual sections are paired with differently sized frames — ranging from a coffee table to night stand-used to cast the metal body of the furniture. The hot liquid metal is poured into the molds, which are removed once the aluminum has cooled and set to reveal the now-sutured log and metal legs, enjoined by a dark band a char. Each piece is unique, with the metal "leakage" varying from one product to another "Wood Casting" is currently on show at the Milan Deisgn Week 2012.
Wood Casting, © Hilla Shamia
> 'Furniture combing the cast aliminium and wood. The negative factor of burnt wood is
transformed into aesthetic and emotional value. Preservation of the natural form of the
tree trunk within the explicit boundaries. The general, squared form intensifies the artificial feeling,
and in the same time keeps the memory of the material." Hilla Shamia.
Wood Casting, © Hilla Shamia.
Wood Casting © Hilla Shamia.
Wood Casting © Hilla Shamia.

Infographic of the day: Making Urban Agriculture a Success | Amanda Record || Sustainable Collective Cities
The second infographic of the day is an Urban Agriculture infographic designed by The Bozzuto Group. This infographic is based on datas from the Washington DC area but is quite representative of the pressing issues of food and growing world's population. As Amanda Record for The Sustainable Collective Cities stated:
Today, about 15% of the world's food is now grown in urban areas. Since space is limited in big cities, you may have noticed city gardens sprouting up in smaller spaces (like rooftops or apartment balconies).

Infographic: Urban Agriculture © The Bozzuto Group
Originally appeared on The Sustainable Collective Cities.
True. Not only here in Paris, there in Tokyo, there in NYC, in London, in…, as space is shrinking, urban dwellers attempt to set interesting tactics in order to have their own gardens using small spaces such as balconies, and of course rooftops. French Guillaume LetschetDorian Bernards and Myriam Cesaroni's Vertical Urban Farmlands are one example among many others exploring issues of food in a world that counts now more than 9 billion people. But more important, as urban migration continues to grow, food  will be becoming one of pressing issues that may raise tensions if clear measures are not adopted. Maybe urban agriculture can be answer… maybe not… enough… who knows…
Vertical Urban Farmlands © Guillaume Letschet, Dorian Bernards and Myriam Cesaroni.
Originally appeared on eVolo.
A Translucent High-Density Installation
to close this editor's highlights. Andrew Saunders's project is composed of 1,224 folded, developable surfaces highlighting the now admitted importance of computation in today's architecture.

Suggested Magazine: Achim Menges (guest-editor) | Material Computation: Higher Integration in Morphogenetic Design || Architectural Design, Vol. 82, Issue 2, March/April 2012.

© Andrew Sanders's Translucent installation.
Originally appeared on eVolo.

This installation is also made of digitally-generated and fabricated sheets of translucent high-density polyethylene. As written in eVolo Magazine, the inspiration is from the Hyde Collection's painting of The Annunciation by the Italian Renaissance Master, Sandro Botticelli (1444-1510).
© Andrew Saunders.
Originally appeared on eVolo.

This project is part of a exhibition entitled Building Futures: Re-Envisioning The Hyde at Rensselaer at The Hyde Collection now closed ((February 11-April 16).
© Andrew Saunders.
Originally appeared on eVolo.


Source: eVolo.

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