Archives for posts with tag: urban planning

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As you may know, I recently moved to Guelph, and am spending lots of time getting to know another corner of the Southern Ontario industrial lands.

Guelph is made up of many neighbourhoods that each have their own distinct feel. (Dare I say, Guelph is a City of Neighbourhoods?)

I live in The Ward.

The Ward was first developed to house factory workers and is characterized by humble brick houses scattered between factories.

Some of these factories are still active, like Owens Cornings Reinforcements on York Road, which putters and sputters all day manufacturing something I still don’t quite understand. Other factories have been long decommissioned, and remain semi-abandonded, with only a barbed wire fence signalling anyone still cares about them. Others have been demolished, leaving behind huge brownfields that have yet to be remediated, subdivided and developed.

Compared to Guelph’s wealthier neighbourhoods, The Ward has always been a bit neglected — but this is a good thing. Without much attention paid to it, its obvious from its ramshackle built form that The Ward was left unzoned for the better part of its existence. This left a lot of space for its historically Italian residents to expand their homes willy-nilly to accommodate their needs – whether that was to add extra bedrooms to their upper floors, or an entire front edition that would house a store front.

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The result is an incredibly eclectic neighbourhood, where every house is completely different from the next, each DIY renovation facilitating a need, each random addition representing a very specific human desire.

In The Chronology of City Repair, Mark Lakeman talks about how we are all villagers, and modern city development with its homogenous, top down plans and developments prevent us from expressing ourselves in the places we live, taking away our “villager” status.

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Its evident from its ad hoc shacks, its piece-meal additions and its random store front editions, that the villager spirit is very much alive in The Ward.

At least it was alive, at a certain time. With many of the commercial additions now inactive, and many unimaginative new homes, it’s hard to say if the villager spirit still remains as strong as the marks it left in its historic architecture.

Like many neighbourhoods similar to it in cities across the world, The Ward is changing. Its Italian residents are aging, their families living in other, shinier parts of town. Young families are moving in, and housing prices are rising.

Will the new residents of the Ward continue inhabiting this place in an ad-hoc basis, and be able to express their specific needs in the architecture? Do the by-laws, the DNA of the city, allow for a continuation of The Ward’s independent spirit?

Even if the by-laws changed, I believe that the places we live strongly effect who we are. And if there’s anything we can learn from the ramshackle, ad hoc architecture of The Ward, it’s that we can make our architecture work for us.

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Vancouver City Council recently voted to remove the elevated highway-like viaducts that have been cutting off its Chinatown and Strathcona neighbourhoods with the rest of downtown Vancouver and False Creek.

Of course, this is a fantastic development for Vancouver, continuing a long history of progressive, people-oriented urban planning.

The removal of these viaducts will improve the surrounding area, making it safer and less hostile to pedestrians. And no, it won’t mean downtown Vancouver will not be inundated with cars. People who chose to drive downtown will find other options, and (hopefully), the money gained from unlocked development opportunities will go directly to transit funding.

As you may know, I visited Vancouver and the Lower Mainland this past summer. I had the opportunity to explore the spaces under — and over — the viaducts.

I was pleased to discover there was a bi-directional bike lane running the length of Vancouver’s viaducts. Approaching the viaducts from Main Street, the elevated roadway and its bike lane quickly climbs uphill, becoming suspended above the city. The feeling of biking the viaduct lanes was thrilling – high above the streets, the viaducts runs over many intersections, curving around the often-renamed Rogers Arena, and depositing cyclists to Yaletown at the base of Vancouver’s downtown core.

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I’ve explored car-style, human scale infrastructure on this blog before, where I described the thrilling experience of biking Halifax’s similar highway-to-nowhere Cogswell interchange, and Montreal’s Rosemont Flyover. Car-style infrastructure at a human scale, I wrote, offers a change in the rhythm of a city and a truly unique urban experience. That is, if it doesn’t define the urban form, and if adequate space for pedestrians is provided.

So, like many urbanists, I celebrate the taking down of Vancouver’s viaducts – ugly barriers that favour cars over humans, preventing vital urban life from thriving.

But I also lament their loss. We praise the Denmark’s cycling highways while we take down our own in Canada.

Imagine what the debate would be like in Toronto if there was a bike lane on the Gardiner Expressway!

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Toronto is condo boom town. The explosion of development within the last ten years means that Toronto will be left with buildings that will be associated our time: the 2000s and 2010s.

Love them or hate them, 2000s condo design has a certain ubiquity — an immediately recognizable look that makes them identifiable among tall structures from other eras and that serve other purposes. Their heavy use of glass, the uninventive balcony design, the bluish, greyish colouring, all point to buildings that are unmistakably condos built in the last ten years. And there are a lot of them.

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Toronto condos from the 2000s have a certain ubquity

The Condo Box Project

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Using wheat paste, my street art collaborator Glo’erm, and I, transformed a Canada Post drop-off box into a mini-Condo. Their ubiquitous design, as described above, mean that the box is immediately recognizable as a condo.

The box is placed on Ossington, just south of College — a neighbourhood at the edge of condo boom town. Its mini-ness leaves the effect that this condo has, like its larger counterparts, somehow naturally emerged, like a mushroom in the forest. Its spawning feels inevitable and uncontrollable — a feeling many Torontonians have about the current explosion in, often low quality and sloppily placed condo developments.

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The size also puts passersby in the position of an urban planner or developer looking out over a model of the city. Its a position of power, that ordinary citizens do not occupy. But this position points to the agency we do indeed have over shaping our city. Like the planners and developers, Torontonians do have some say in the city they inhabit — the democratic processes may be somewhat broken, but political agency can be accessed, if only we had the motivation.

Another interesting phenomenon will be the box’s decay over time. Inevitably, the wheat pasted paper panels will begin to fade and strip away. Will this hyper-sped process of decay predict what the condos being built today might look like in the future? As they say, time will tell.

Retail podium

Depending on your politics, there is much to gripe about when discussing condo development in Toronto. Some qualms are knee-jerk reactions to a lifestyle of hyper-consumerism not cared for. Other criticisms are directed toward the financing of the buildings — reported to be fuelled by international real-estate investors that care little about the quality of a condo’s building materials or its contribution to the city. 

I think one of the greatest failures of recent condo development in Toronto is the homogeneity of retail podiums that seem to be planted at the bottom of every new construction. About a decade ago developers finally got the memo from post-Jane Jacobs planners that mixed-used development makes good city. Retail at street grade, residential above ensures that the messiness of city commerce enlivens a streetscape, creates spaces for social interaction, and fosters citizen surveillance and propriety over city space. 

Retail podiums are certainly a good feature, when done right. Something, however, has gone terribly wrong. The square footage of space provided by retail spaces at street level in new condos is typically so huge that only Shoppers Drug Mart, TD Bank and Starbucks are the only retailers wealthy enough to afford the rent. In the very technical bylaws that now require retail at street level, a bit of urban magic has been lost. The guidelines do not specify minimum or maximum square footage, so in the interest of efficiencies and obtaining reliable tenants, major corporations and banks are the go-to to fill the (very) large retail square feet vacuum. 

There are a number of reasons why this isn’t a great situation. First, it creates a suburban kind of inner-city monotony, where the same landscape constantly repeats itself. The store fronts are so large and corporately sanitized that walking by them feels drawn out, bland and boring — not conducive to the messy, fine grained rhythm of constantly punctuated, organically grown urban space. Second, it doesn’t allow small businesses to thrive. Small businesses ensure localized economic benefits, plus spill-over benefits such as entrepreneurs that care about, and thus contribute to, their neighbourhoods.  

I am always genuinely peeved to see a perfectly fine condo building tarnished by retail that’s too big for anything but Shoppers Drug Mart. That’s why my heart skipped a beat when I saw that “Bari’s Fine Food” had just been opened in the podium of 530 St Clair West at Bathurst (that is, re-opened — it apparently occupied the building that was demolished to make way for the new condominium). Bari’s is a local business, feels unique and at home in its location and is a welcome contrast to the TD Bank and Starbucks that share the condo’s podium further east. 

While the  phenomenon of retail at street level in new condominiums is a welcome step in making good city, it would be all the better if the bylaws went the extra step to assure space is made for small businesses. This would accomplish the above-mentioned goals of increasing local propriety of city space, investing in local economies, and achieving a fine grain of vertically articulated urban space — Imagine a city of sparkling new condo towers, with messy, niche, and unexpected store fronts animating the street and contributing to the city with their hard work — and what a pleasure it would be to walk by.

The following is a guest post by Urban Geographer brother, designer and artist Jonathan Rotsztain. He is the publisher of the West Dublin Monitor and is currently training in cartooning at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont

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Jonathan aboard a visiting Japanese warship in the military
Halifax Harbour, 2011

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Halifax/Dartmouth from above

Halifax, Nova Scotia was laid out in the interests of Empire. Following the successful English conquest of former French and Mi’kmaq lands—but before the expulsion of the Acadians—conquering army engineers superimposed a neat street grid over the lands west of the Halifax Harbour up until the Citadel defensive position. According to Halifax Street Names: An Illustrated Guide, “Town was laid out in squares or blocks of 230 by 120 feet, the streets being 60 feet wide; each block contained 16 town lots, 40 feet front and 60 feet deep, the whole divided into five divisions or wards.” How proper.

It may be apocryphal, but it’s said that the Halifax street grid was superimposed by surveyors looking at maps from London, England who never even set foot in the garrison during its 1749 founding and planning. The legend goes, that the powers-that-be didn’t anticipate the very steep hills up from the harbour and that during the cold Atlantic winters horses pulling heavy carriages were known to lose their foothold on the ice and go pummelling from the Citadel in the freezing water below. Whether this is true or not, having spent much time on the Halifax peninsula, it’s clear that its original architecture was indeed entirely military and that its civilian character has only evolved in that powerful echo.

Beyond its violent imperial roots, I spent much of the last four plus years living in Halifax marvelling at it’s apparent total lack of planning. Like much of North America, haphazard civic, industrial, business, retail and residential space butt-up and jut-out against each other. The impression I drew from navigating Halifax streets was one of short-term priorities triumphing over longterm planning, where consideration of how regular folks move and thrive in urban settings has been totally ignored.

This continues as the Halifax Regional Municipalities ignores its own design and regional plans and continues to encourage unbecoming sprawl. The result is areas like Hammonds Plains, where along its main artery, the Hammonds Plains Road exists as a kind of area I struggle to describe as sub-rural. On the outskirts of urban Halifax, it’s too agrestic too be properly suburban and yet it has many of the hallmarks of that kind of space. Residential sits atop business with many forests, fields and farms in-between. This is the outcome of a sparsely populated outpost growing for the sake of growth without thought to how different land uses interact with each other and the whole.

More recently, moving outside of Halifax and two hours down the South Shore another form of human geography struck me. Living in the LaHave area off Highway 331, I was faced with another kind of organic/haphazard human development. The 331 is given the tourist moniker “The Lighthouse Route” and it weaves its way close to the LaHave river in an organic rhythm that may date back to when the area was capital of French Acadia or even earlier to before European conquest.

The river road stands in contrast to the backroads. These I can best describe as spaghetti. They curve, narrow and bend in an even more organic fashion that was clearly the mother of necessity. As I travelled these often unpaved connectors I would wonder at how I could start in one area and end up in another. That these distant places across Lunenburg County were accessible to each other was one thing, but the journey along such unexpected paths add to their unreal feel.

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The drive from Bridgwater to Petite Riviere takes about half an hour but consists of 10 place names. This stretch of Highway 331 made up my immediate South Shore universe. Note: not all these photos of road signs are taken from the same direction.

When I first started visiting the Shore, trips contained to driving down the river road, I would laugh at the speedy and seemingly hilarious progression of multiple places names. One minute you’re in Pentz and the next LaHave, followed quickly by Dublin Shore and West Dublin. Yet once I relocated to the area and began to travel by the slower bicycle or on foot, I came to realize how reasonable these distinctions are. Indeed traversing the length of West Dublin by foot takes at least 25 minutes and it’s further still to come to the edge of Dublin Shore. In this case, my judgement was obscured by the mode of travel: the car. The original settlers were correct to consider their relatively small areas distinct because indeed they were isolated from each other, especially in the winter.

The South Shore too suffers wayward development, but like rural poverty it’s more hidden, except in the regional metropolis of Bridgewater where lack of planning is glaring on display. This is to say nothing of the relationships between the areas centres: the aforementioned Bridgewater, the town of Lunenburg, Mahone Bay and Chester (because I won’t be addressing them any further, but believe me there’s an interesting story there.)

My experiences in Nova Scotia—in Halifax and on the South Shore—has been one of grappling with the built environment and its organic and inorganic forms. In Halifax a garrison town has unintentionally grown into a minor regional metropolis while in the LaHave area the settlement has for the most part retained its original colonial feel. Both present distinct economic and infrastructural challenges and can be great cultural places to live. I’m glad to have taken this opportunity to share with you as I’ve sketched out some long brewing thoughts.

I can describe urban planning in the Netherlands with one term: Multiple Land Use.

Multiple Land Use in the Netherlands has a much deeper meaning than what I’ve come to know of the same concept in Canada.

In my understanding, Multiple Land Use in Canada is a fairly simple mixing of residential, commercial and industrial activities. Also known as Mixed-Use Zoning, this practice has come into vogue in the last 20 years, in direct response to the negative consequences of the Modernist practice of isolating functions which characterized urban planning in the mid to late 20th century.

In the Netherlands, Multiple Land Use means so much more than having commercial and residential beside each other, and refers to a deeper mixing of land use functions — indeed, Multiple Land Use refers to the literal stacking of functions on top of each other!

Some of my fave examples:

◈ Along the Prince Hendrikade, which lines Amsterdam’s historical Eastern harbour, there are bike, car, bus and pedestrian lanes. There is a boardwalk style green space lining the water. Where Valkenburgerstraat intersects Prince Hendrikade sits the NEMO – a  science museum with a very distinct, contemporary architectural style. On top of the NEMO is a cafe, and terrace with expansive view of the city. Under the NEMO runs the IJtunnel – a bus and car link that runs under the science museum, under the IJ and into Amsterdam Noord.

Green space beside an institution which is under leisure space and over transportation space: classic Netherlands Multiple Land Use.

Another example:

◈ Westerpark, in Amsterdam’s west. In a small strecth of land, you can find residential, commercial, leisure, agricultural, cemetarial, transportation and gardenal uses. Standing in the middle of Westerpark, you get a strange floating feeling. Runners and bikers whip by you. Inter-city trains passing mark the minutes. You get whiffs of  hearty compost and manure of gardens and farms. You hear the clattering of dishes in nearby restaurants and cafes. You smell coffee, burnt tires, marijuana. You see tall buildings in the distance, squat residential blocks nearby, smoke stacks in the horizon. You see it all, the multiple uses of land, from one vantage point.

And just one more:

◈ Along Leidsestraat and Utrechtsestraat, bi-directional tram lines run. The streets, however, are only wide enough at certain points for one set of tram-tracks. To resolve this, the Trams wait for each other to pass at the stops which are located on the canal bridges — wide enough to support both directions of the tram. The multiple-land use kicks in beautifully on Leidsestraat, a pedestrian-only street, where people freely walk along the tram tracks until one needs to pass by. The street is both a tram track and a pedestrian walk way. It works beautifully.

TramA tram patiently wait for another to pass, in typically Amsterdam flexible use of space.
The diagram of this above, is an arrangement that can be found on Leidsestraat and Utrechtsetraat.

You can also see this along Rembrandtplein. It is a pedestrian only street, save for the trams that periodically pass. When the trams pass, they create a wake through the crowd, and their path leaves a temporarily empty corridor in the middle of the walkway. Slowly the corridor fades as pedestrians feel safe again to use the whole space, but soon another tram comes and the corridor reappears. A beautiful ebb and flow of multiple land use.

This post originally appeared on the Pop-Up City

The urbanism blogosphere has been buzzing in anticipation of the release of SimCity 5. So we thought it would be a good opportunity to share with you another application that does a fun job of simulating urban design.

StreetMix.net is a digital mixing board for the urban environment. It invites its users to create, mix and mash a streetscape with a wide array of typical road elements, such as bike and vehicle lanes, medians, boulevards, sidewalks and trees.

Do you live along a busy four lane thoroughfare, and want to see what it would be like if you chopped off two lanes of traffic to add bike lanes? Give it a shot! StreetMix lets you experiment and envision possible configurations that would improve the liveability your city’s streets. You can also be a silly with it, and create streetscapes that may never see the light of day – like a five lane, unidirectional bike highway, surrounded by trees! (Okay, maybe this exists somewhere in the Netherlands…).

StreetMix

The application contributes to the conversation community designers are having about ‘rightsizing’ streets: re-purposing a street to fit the needs of its users best. The intuitive interface promotes a change in thinking about our streets from something that is permanent, to something that can be flexible and adaptable. Since we can easily change the configuration of a road on StreetMix, we can in turn, start to think of our real streets as similarly able to quickly adapt to meet the changing needs of its users.

StreetMix

Since StreetMix limits the amount of elements you can put on your street it is a realistic simulation: streets can’t accommodate the needs of every type of user, and some sacrifices need to be made in their design. Easy access to cross-section diagrams previously limited to professionals also means that citizens are empowered to become the civil engineers and architects of the city.

As StreetMix was developed in five hours at a Code for America hackathon, it is still a work in progress, but it already demonstrates its potential impact on community planning and design. In the spirit of open-sourcing, StreetMix invites people to comment on the application, and suggest elements that should be included in its next version — edible boulevards, anyone?

This post originally appeared on Volume

WeOwnTheCity is an exhibition and symposium being held in Hong Kong by The Faculty of Architecture of the University of Hong Kong, in collaboration with Amsterdam-based CITIES and ARCAM. WeOwnTheCity will showcase examples of community planning from both Amsterdam and Hong Kong, investigating emergent urban development and community planning initiatives in both cities.

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In the spirit of autonomy and self-determination, the WeOwnTheCity symposium on March 7th is open to the public: those who truly “own the city” by negotiating and interacting with it on a daily basis. The symposium anticipates positive and energetic discussions, debates and workshops that will facilitate the exchange of ideas between government officials, professionals and the general public on community planning and urbanism.

Sessions and panel discussions will explore topics such as “Community Planning in Shaping the City” and “Vision & Implementation in Community Practice” will feature speakers offering both a Hong Kong and Amsterdam perspective. Speakers include Caroline Bos, co-founder of the Amsterdam-Shanghai-Hong Kong based UNStudio, Ada Fung of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects and Michael Ma, the Director of Planning & Design and the Urban Renewal Authority of Hong Kong.

The event is supported by the Development Bureau,HKSAR, the Dutch Consulate General, professional institutions such as the Hong Kong Institute of Urban DesignHong Kong Institute of Architects and Hong Kong Institute of Planners. The symposium and exhibition are free and open to the public. Please register if you wish to attend the March 7th symposium.

Amsterdam Pocket Atlas

The City of Amsterdam has put together a very excellent Pocket Atlas, and I’ve had the good fortune of getting my hands on a copy.

The Amsterdam Pocket Atlas provides a thorough look into the spatial qualities of the city, illustrated by maps that describe such delights as Amsterdam’s historical morphology, its tram network, an overview of the city’s mix of functions, green spaces, housing prices and more – a wide range of clearly presented facts expressed in well designed maps.

How thoughtful of the City of Amsterdam to have the Urban Geographers of the world in mind when they put this excellent atlas together.

But I shouldn’t be so naive. It’s obvious from the tone and content of the Atlas that the City is appealing to the corporations and industries of globalized capital –  attempting to attract fickle, foot loose business by enticing them with the region’s diversity, accessibility & connectivity.

However biased the Amsterdam Pocket Atlas may be, it is nevertheless chalk-full of golden nuggets of geographic trivia – a treasure trove of urban geography delights.

The Atlas shed light on something I found particularly interesting: the limits that the Dutch are able to put on the boundaries of their cities. Under a different plan, Amsterdam could very well have expanded infinitely into its surrounding region. Harlem, Leiden, even sea-size Zandvoort could very well be a part of a North American style GAA (Greater Amsterdam Area).

Fixed Boundaries

Reading the excellent Amsterdam Pocket Atlas, I learnt that “for over a century the city acquire[d] space to expand by annexing neighbouring municipalities. Since 1966 the municipal boundaries have been fixed”.

What foresight, to limit the growth of a city – taming the beast before it wreaks havoc on the innocent villages of its hinterland.

Sprawling Toronto did not demonstrate this discipline when it became a mega-city in 1998. Instead, it has become a vast city-region, where a centralized, over burdened municipality has replaced effective local governance. It is a place where the forces of homogenization are something to constantly battle.

The behemoth Halifax Regional Municipality too, could have learnt a lesson from Amsterdam’s spatial discipline when it decided to amalgamate into a too-enormous-to-make-any sense city-region in 1996.

Amsterdam’s ability to limit its borders means a lot of things. It means it is excellently predisposed to make the necessary balance between an ever-densifying city and its highly fertile agricultural hinterland. While Halifax struggles to institute a greenbelt to control sprawl, Amsterdam is well poised for its future.

I don’t know why Dutch cities have tendencies toward spatial discipline, but it manifests in many different scales. For an example, I’ll focus on the neighbourhood level.

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Spaarndammerbuurt makes itself explicitly known to its visitors

Neighbourhoods in Amsterdam are discrete spatial units. They are distinct, and have borders that can be easily referenced and mapped. Some neighbourhoods even have pseudo-gates, explicitly marking the space as part of the district: De Pijp’s In/Uit De Pijp sign and the same in Spaardammerbuurt.

In de Pijp

Uit de Pijp

It’s clear whether you’re In, or Uit of de Pijp, a neighbourhood in central Amsterdam

This is also not the case in Toronto – most neighbourhoods bleed into each other, and people have a hard time of agreeing on what’s what.

Its seems the Dutch have no need for the advice dished out in Kevin Lynch’s tome The Image of the City. There is a strong tradition of spatial discipline here. Exploring the city, I feel firmly rooted in where I am, and entirely oriented. Dutch cities are bastions of imageability.

Cross-posted from the Pop-Up City

In 2011, Philips announced the winners of the Livable Cities Award. With over 450 entries from 29 countries, Philips eventually put their support behind three great ideas for the livable city of the future. The winners received money and support from Philips to assist and promote their projects and implement them at a local level. Philips recently gave an update on the three winning projects, which gives us a good opportunity to take a closer look at the winners after 20 months of hard work!

Sabrina Faber’s Rainwater Aggregation Scheme saw the installation of rain-harvesting water tanks on the flat roofs of Sana’a, Yemen, solving the city’s common water shortage problem by ensuring access to clean drinking water. Her team reached their target of installing 25 tanks in Sana’a, promoting rainwater harvesting as a simple way to improve the city. Sabrina’s practical solutions in Sana’a provide a fantastic model for simple ways to make cities around the world more livable. She plans on taking her project to cities across Yemen.

RAINS Project, Sana'a, Yemen

RAINS Project, Sana'a, Yemen

RAINS Project, Sana'a, Yemen

James Kityo’s  Shade Stands protect people waiting for the bus from the hot sun in Kampala, Uganda, while also providing a place to display useful information about health. His team has installed 45 Shade Stands, and has learnt that it’s more effective to work directly with communities at the local level than through top down government decision making. This bottom-up urbanism works since local leadership knows what’s best for their community, and is faster in responding to their community’s needs. James has received immensely positive feedback and his big picture plan is to build Shade Stands in other parts of Uganda, East Africa and the world!

Shade Stands, Kampala, Uganda

Shade Stands, Kampala, Uganda

Shade Stands, Kampala, Uganda

In Buenos Aires, Manuel Rapoport noticed a shortage of outdoor public spaces. His pop-up ‘Plaza Movil’ is a portable street park that temporarily closes streets to traffic during weekends and holidays, transforming them into beautiful places to gather and play. The modular design can easily be moved from one location to another, helping to convert Buenos Aires’ congested streets into outdoor parks for people of all ages.

Plaza Móvil, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Plaza Móvil, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Manuel updates us from the debut of Plaza Movil at Technopolis, a technology fair in Buenos Aires. He has taken his vision all the way: the first Plaza Movil includes places to sit, play, an exhibition of local history within a shipping-container, even a climbing wall! Manuel and his team are planning to take Plaza Mobil to the streets of Buenos Aires’ La Boca neighbourhood next.

The three winners of the Philips Livable Cities Award demonstrate that the most innovative solutions for people lacking of amenities in cities are often the simplest. These ingenious interventions show again how creative urbanism at a local scale is central to a livable city.

this is a >> LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE DESIGN PROJECT >>

I’ve been thinking recently how disorienting it would be to rotate an entire intersection, as if it were on a giant lazy susan.

This would be especially disorienting if it were done to an intersection you know quite well – one that you are familiar enough with to anticipate the string of buildings that will follow from it.

Our urban lives are rooted in the illusion of permanence. Our expectations of what is ahead of us in a city we know well are unwavering. If a city were to change, ever so slightly, deviating from the expected, it would be deeply confusing, disorienting and strange.

I drew these diagrams to conceptualize what rotating a Lazy-Susan intersection might look like.

Lazy Susan Intersection

Going a bit further with the real world example of the intersection of College and Bathurst Streets in the very linear Toronto, I used satellite imagery from google maps to simulate what a Lazy-Susan intersection might feel like from above.

Lazy Susan Intersection 2

And, using the wealth of visual information that google’s street view provides, I went all the way and used photoshop to simulate, quite roughly, the visceral disorientation that might be experienced if a Lazy-Susan intersection were ever implemented. The smaller photos above are the intersection as it is, unrotated.

WEST

College and Bathurst West

Lazy Susan 1 WEST

SOUTH

College and Bathurst South

Lazy Susan 2 SOUTH

EAST

College and Bathurst East

Lazy Susan 3 EAST

NORTH

Lazy Susan 4 NORTH

College and Bathurst North

This experiment might be the most disorienting in Barcelona – where the repeating orthogonal intersections of l’Eiaxmple  are already immensely confusing:

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Halifax-01

This is Halifax, today. The main geographical feature of Halifax is that it is a peninsula. Peninsular Halifax protrudes out from the Bedford Basin into the greater harbour. To the west, a thin strip of water known as the North West Arm separates it from Spryfield and the Purcell’s Cove Road area – the “mainland”.

There are no connections over the North West Arm between peninsular Halifax and the mainland – one must travel to where the land connects – at the Rotary – to get anywhere along the western shores of the Arm – a relatively far distance to travel to somewhere that is not too far away, as the crow flies, or the car drives.

Halifax cognitive-01

The consequences of this on the city’s collective cognitive geography is enormous. With no connections, the mainland seems incredibly far away, more like the map pictured above. The mainland is also fairly undeveloped — it remains largely forested, and, along Purcell’s Cove road you can access William’s Lake, and Tea Lake, some of Halifax-area’s most beloved swimming spots.

Halifax with Harbour Drive-01

In the 1960s, an ambitious highway plan would have seen the extension of a highway-like Barrington Street through the downtown, around Point Pleasant Park, and over to the mainland, as roughly pictured in the map above.

The plan, known as Harbour Drive, was never realized, and the highway-zation of Barrington stopped at the Cogswell Interchange.

I often think that the consequences of a built Harbour Drive on our relationship with Halifax would have been profound. Instead of thinking about Halifax-proper as an isolated peninsula, it would form a larger whole, and my life would probably be more integrated into the paths and projects associated with the Spryfield and Purcell’s Cove area.

But while thinking this, I also correct myself because if Harbour Drive was built, it would have been a gross super-highway, leading to the development of Fairview-  & Dartmouth-style suburbs that I would never have any reason to go to – there would undoubtedly be a deficiency of a public realm and walkable, public space.

Since Harbour Drive was never built,  beautiful forests remain.

Halifax with pedestrian bridges-01

It is pity, though, that the mainland seems so far from my life, when it’s actually so close.

It would be so lovely, if pedestrian bridges stretched, across the North West Arm, as pictured above, connecting Halifax and the Mainland –  between the end of South Street and Dingle Park, Point Pleasant Park and Purcell’s Cove. It would bring the forest, the lakes, and the fine air of the mainland closer to our lives, in a lovely, healthy way.