Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Urban Chickens Build - 5

Sort of a conceptual jump cut in the process, as two weekends of rain hampered plans to make progress on the Chicken Cube... but a big push this weekend (and a loaner of the wonderful compound miter saw that I am now officially) has yielded a vision close to complete. Not too many pics of the steps, as it was a race to finish. Here's the result, sans a few final touch-ups and details. And alas, it is chicken ready.

The cedar siding is beautiful - and it's now official that I am not allowed near a can of stain ever again. We're going to finish the bottom screening and plant the ecoroof this weekend, as well as installing the gutter and final hardware... Then we look for some (hopefully affulent and homeless) fowl to occupy this unit, because unless anyone knows of a certain breed that lays golden eggs, the payback time for this return-on-investment with current egg prices - 42 years. :)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Local Flavor: OSC Revealed

Last week I posted about this local project, and the process in general. The end of the Phase I feasibility study for the Oregon Sustainability Center revealed a very integrated and transparent process culminating in a potential example of cutting edge Veg.itecture in Portland - albeit in need of some visual refinement. I usually turn to my favorite local, Brian Libby, and his great blog Portland Architecture, for the latest insight.

:: image via Portland Architecture

His initial thoughts: "Pictured above is a rendering of the Sustainability Center as it might look once constructed. It would be unfair to judge a building so innovative and so green on its exterior aesthetics. At the same time, it is written in the summary, "The Living Building Challenge is unique, among programs that encourage and evaluate accomplishments in sustainable design, in that it mandates beauty as well as aggressive goals for energy, water and waste systems." It certainly seems like the team has met the aggressive goals. Have they met the beauty mandate? That's a harder goal because it's of course in the eye of the beholder. Personally, I am not crazy about the look of the roof. But of course the design could continue to evolve."

The executive summary has been published, and Libby mentions some highlights here. Now to see if Portland can actually make this thing a reality.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Growing the Shrinking City

Following up on the proposed plans for the 'shrinking' city of Detroit, I was excited to see this link from City Farmer News announcing plans for Hantz Farms, set to be the 'World's Largest Urban Farm' using a patchwork of vacant lands on the lower east side. John Hantz, CEO of Hantz Farms explains: "Detroit could be the nation’s leading example of urban farming and become a destination for fresh, local and natural foods and become a major part of the green movement,” said Hantz, a Detroit resident. “Hantz Farms will transform this area into a viable, beautiful and sustainable area that will serve the community, increase the tax base, create jobs and greatly improve the quality of life in an area that has experienced a severe decline in population.”

:: image via City Farmer News

The first phase of the project will plant 70 acres of vegetables and could be operational within six months. The farm will be operated by a Detroit resident, Matt Allen, who explains the potential: "The combination of land consolidation, blight removal, conservation of city services and the beautification of the city itself are just some of the byproducts that will come from our commitment to urban farming,” Allen said. “We’re very excited to be able to make strides in helping to make Detroit a progressive, world-class leader in providing fresh, locally grown food that’s safe and purely Detroit.”

:: image via Hantz Farms

I'm so curious to see the actual proposal for the farm, as we definitely explored some of the challenges and issues during the SDAT last fall in doing this. Not easy, but also not hard, given the pattern of development and multiple benefits that can be had from this scale and type of land use. It's great to see the Detroit-driven initiative taking hold and beginning to realize the potential - as I've mentioned, the opportunity for Detroit to redefine urbanism for the 21st Century is there, and it looks like it's starting to take root.

:: image via Hantz Farms

Read more about this proposal at the Hantz Farms website.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

DailyLand: Almere Hout Noord

Almere Hout Noord Competition
West 8 ; Mecanoo Architecten
> info via Land8Lounge; World Landscape Architect

"...a socially sustainable residential and office neighborhood, promoting small-scale networks of the different residents."

:: images via Land8Lounge

World Map of Shrinking Cities

Showing that the idea of shrinking cities is not a localized, unique, or recent phenonomenon, a great video spotted via synchronicity from shrinking cities.

World Map of Shrinking Cities from 1kilo on Vimeo.

Seeing Daylight

The idea of daylighting streams is compelling as an urban intervention - unearthing the natural drainage from the buried pipes and. A new project from Seattle offers a unique vision of the potential in action. Some background: "A large, paved lot once devoted to overflow mall traffic and RV parking has been replaced with a landscaped, open space that allows the beginnings of Thornton Creek to flow above ground for the first time in decades. Before, a large underground pipe diverted the water to an outfall several blocks away. This project now lets water in the creek's south fork flow as it should above ground and nourish its new stream bed before exiting under Fifth Avenue Northeast into the existing creek."

:: image via The Seattle Times

The design, adjacent to Thornton Place, was completed for Seatle Public Utilities and the great Seattle firm SvR Design which has a history of innovative work in the region. For more, check out Lisa Town's coverage on inspiration wall for some additional views and details of the project - including this site plan.

:: Site Plan - image via inspiration wall

This reminds me of another innovative project in done by GreenWorks, (fyi, the firm I work for) at the Headwaters at Tryon Creek which daylighted a stretch of urban stream in Southwest Portland - the first project of its kind in the area. I will post some details of this project soon. For parting, a multi-media resource via the Seattle Times is this video showing the Thornton Creek project details in full, living color. This one is pretty inspirational.

Monday, June 22, 2009

DailyLand: Pinar del Perruquet Park

Pinar del Perruquet Park
Tarragona, Spain 2008
Artek Arquitectura

:: images via Vulgare

Take to the Streets

I just passed a milestone of sorts... topping out at 500 posts (not to mention a few on the new Veg.itecture blog...). Seems like just yesterday I was starting this humble outlet for collecting thoughts - fighting with time to blog amidst time to work and occupying all of grey area in between. Often times, unknown to most readers, is the mirroring effect of my work and the topics of the posts on this blog so in this case, we'll call it a rest stop on a long road-trip. This is true the past weeks or so, as I've been working on an interview for a green main street project, and thus had streets, and what makes them great and green - on the brain.

:: image via Good Magazine

So a collection of some of the transportation related inspirations I've collected recently, with a slim thread of connectivity (hehe) between them. First off, the visionary who seems to be ab
le to understand the place and potential of streets in our urban fabric, Jan Gehl - with a great quote spotted via People and Place. "He credits his vision of the livable city to his wife - he claims that when he married, years ago, his psychiatrist wife demanded, “Why are architects not interested in people?" I have a simpler response... because landscape architects are :)

:: image via People and Place

"So Gehl became interested in people. “Being sweet to people is really sweet to the economy,” he says. (Hear that, Toronto City Council?) But how to be “sweet” to a city’s inhabitants? According to Gehl, a sweet city is lively, attractive, safe, sustainable, and healthy. And we already know how to do this: limit cars, encourage bicycling, and create better outdoor public spaces so that people can walk on the streets of our city."

Gehl has made palatable the idea of the Dutch Woonerf - which has definitely been adopted by streets advocates as a viable alternative - with a few good US examples... tough to fit the Escalade down these, or more likely convice the local DOT that this is actually safer that the typical section.

:: image via Land+Living

:: image via Urban Greenery

Speaking of sections - one of the best resources on streets, even back when I was in college, is the visually simple yet telling volumes 'Great Streets' by Allan Jacobs. While I will always love the volume - there is a new digital resource from the Charrette Center featuring examples of Street Sections. In this case, and example from the "Via S. Romano Ferrara, Emiglia Romagna Italy - Pedestrian street in central historical district". Cool, and thanks to People and Place for the heads up on this one.

:: images via Street Sections

Jetson Green offers the visual and checklist of great streets (or should I say Livable ones) via Good Magazine. While this ring of cliche in the spirit of PPS public space elements, I guess here's all you need:

  1. Allow street vendors
  2. Provide pedestrian street lamps
  3. Install curb extensions at crosswalks
  4. Create dedicated bus lanes
  5. Create dedicated bike lanes
  6. Install raised, textured crosswalks
  7. Adjust street lights to give lead to pedestrians
  8. Install bollards at intersections
  9. Nurture street trees and plantings
  10. Use speeds bumps where necessary

:: image via Jetson Green

Zooming in a layer of detail, we often forget the illustrative potential of the plain black to gray street surfacing - a fine tabula rasa that is both functional and open to interpretation. A range from the serious to the dubious was found - including an elegant Crosswalk Memorial (via Urbanism) and a ridiculous albeit functional paving-repair-as-guerilla-advertising-by-dead-chicken-dude (via The Infrastructurist)

:: image via Urbanism.org

:: image via The Infrastructurist

And I guess if we can't make green and make great the streets - the alternative is to green your form of transportation, like David Gallaugher did with this grass-lined wheel... looks more appealing than a Prius to me.

:: image via Urban Greenery

Sunday, June 21, 2009

DailyLand: Imperial War Museum North Exterior

Imperial War Museum North Exterior
Manchester, UK
Topotek 1
> more via Bustler

:: image via Bustler

From the description: "The camouflage patterns used by the military are an abstraction of landscapes of combat. These patterns represent a visual average of the natural environment: the muted green, brown, and ocher hues of typical camouflage are a graphic summary of wild and cultivated places. We wish to confront the global scale of war represented by the building with the local scale where battles are fought. War does not only re-configure lines on a world map, but changes everyday landscapes.

We have selected four themes that represent the British landscape: stone, fields, water, and forest. Like the camouflage pattern, these landscapes are condensed into their essential character, and reconfigured in a system of gently tilting planes. This system provides a soft, horizontal, and continuous base for the museum; subtle shifts in elevation and angle accommodate a variety of programs in a relatively small area. The landscape forms a collage of dignified spaces for reflection, gathering, and play that complements the gravity of the museum’s content.”

:: images via Bustler

Plant Power

We often discuss the types of ways vegetation can be of benefit to humans - for instance phytoremediation. A few posts that loosely collect into a narrative regarding some unique opportunities to engage plants in our social and environmental structures in inventive ways. The benefits are myriad and wonderful. Read on.

Crime Prevention

Via Treehugger: "Suginami, a district of Tokyo, Japan experienced over 1,700 break-ins in 2002. By 2008 this had dropped by about 80%, down to a mere 390 thefts. This dramatic change is attributed, in part, to Operation Flower, according to a Reuters report.

:: image via Treehugger

"The project, one element of a larger crime prevention scheme, came about after a neighbourhood watch team discovered that flower-lined streets had fewer burglaries. Kiyotaka Ohyagi, a Suginami City official, said “By planting flowers facing the street, more people will be keeping an eye out while taking care of the flowers or watering them." Flower seeds were planted on side streets and in front of residents homes. The idea being that locals would take interest in tending the growth of their flowers and spend more time being observant of their surroundings. Thieves were apparently put off by such alert residents."

Forest Fire Prevention
Via Pruned, the opportunity to utilize series of sensors on trees for 'Arborveillance' provides some interesting opportunities, for one to "Harvest the metabolic energy of trees to power a maintenance-free, mesh-networked sensing system to predict and detect forest wildfires."

:: images via Pruned

Read the rest of the post for more opportunities to use this technology for homeland security, communication, entertainment, and more.

Air Pollution Prevention

Via Treehugger, a plan to decentralize air pollution monitoring using the existing infrastructure of street trees: "What if we could have air pollution monitors on every street of every city without having to install any costly new high-tech equipment? This is exactly what Barbara Maher her team at the University of Lancaster in the UK have discovered by studying the leaves of urban trees"

:: image via Treehugger

Carbon Sequestration

One we've seen often, but a good graph showing how much trees contribute in the realm of landscape materials (via Treehugger). "According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates, in 2006 urban trees accounted for nearly all (90 percent) of the carbon sequestration attributed to the combination of urban tree growing, plus land-filled yard trimmings and food scraps." Read a related story about Climate Change using nitrogen fertilization here.

:: image via Treehugger

Vector Control
In this case, we're talking Malaria. A post from Treehugger entitled 'Computer Model Shows How Landscape Architecture Can Fight Malaria' explains how complex computer modeling (and on-the-ground implementation) of landscape manipulation can influence breeding areas for mosquitos: "
The computer model analyzes the impacts of different methods for controlling the spread of malaria, and they have found that carefully considering environmental factors can be an important strategy for controlling the disease. Eliminating low spots where pools of water form during the rainy season, or applying locally grown plants that limit the growth of mosquitoes can have significant impact on the spread of the disease." Read more via MIT News.

:: image via Treehugger

Water Conservation

Treehugger reports on a scheme to have high-tech sensors attached to plants to monitor and request water when needed. Ok, perhaps not a specifically useful one in the case of say... a house plant, but the ramifications for 'smart' plants and crops on a scale that can operate and adjust irrigation to customize watering in the most sustainable manner is intriguing.

:: image via Treehugger

Another reason to make sure we value and protect this amazing resource.

Local Flavor: Oregon Sustainability Center

Based in Portland, Oregon I sometimes forget the fact that what we consider everyday is often innovative in the larger global scale. My blog reaches beyond to interject many global ideas into our local work, but also to place what we are doing within a larger ecological design concept. One project worth noting is the current work being completed for the Oregon Sustainability Center, which aims to be the pinnacle of green architecture and a catalyst for sustainable planning and business locally.

:: image via Oregon Sustainability Center

The design team consists of uber-green local developer Gerding-Edlen, along with a interesting dual team approach using local firms GBD Architects and SERA Architects along with a cadre of local consultants rounding out the team. A quick glance at the blog offers some views of the current state of the project: "Yet its early designs, each a unique exploration into the extremes of form and function, reveal that by working within parameters that maximize highly efficient harvesting and use of energy and water, a living building on an urban scale can, in fact, be possible."

:: images via Oregon Sustainability Center

:: image via Portland Architecture

There are definitely inspirations of Ken Yeang's bioclimatic skyscrapers here in the early renderings for sure, a combination of the verdant and functional that provides functional and aesthetic form to the building - essential in a Living Building proposal on this scale. While the process has yielded some of the expected cliche ridden text about the guiding principles such as 'Integrate natural systems to benefit all species' and 'Make less do more' in easy to digest nuggest that have pretty much made a career for Bill McDonough, this is pretty much inevitable, especially for a project aiming for such a high level of transparency. The designers want to present a vision but not paint anyone in a corner at this point, so broad principles that can be interpreted widely are usually the product. It's interesting to see the sketchy process of a building and site, versus the more dressed up and refined presentation graphics that typically emerge after weeks of work.

:: images via Portland Architecture

Read also the coverage from the great local resource Portland Architecture, on the OSC status. If successful it will become a model for sustainable development that will showcase Portland's potential for innovation. It will be interesting to follow the progress to see if budgets and creativity will ... and see if they can pull it off. I'll post on it periodically as it comes together.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Incredible Shrinking City

In response to a recent post on Detroit, David Jurca from the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative (CUDC) directed me to the very cool Shrinking Cities Institute at Kent State University which "...seeks to examine more sustainable approaches to development and explore the idea of planned shrinkage as an alternative to the quest for continuous growth."

It seems appropriate, as Cleveland shares a lot of similarity with Detroit as a post-industrial city trying to grapple with the idea of controlled shrinking as a reality, and dare I say... an opportunity. One great resource I need to check out is a downloadable report entitled 'Re-Imagining Cleveland: Vacant Land Re-Use Pattern Book'. Some info: "The pattern book is a companion to the Re-Imagining Cleveland plan and recommendations for vacant land reuse that were adopted by the Cleveland City Planning Commission in December 2008. This book is intended to provide inspiration, guidance and resources for community groups and individuals who want to create productive benefit from vacant land in their neighborhood and begin to restore Cleveland's ecosystem."

:: image via Shrinking Cities Institute

I'm definitely going to check out the site and report in more detail, as it satisfies my continual fascination with the Shrinking Cities phenomenon. A couple of other resources worth exploring is the Berkeley Shrinking Cities Group and Project Shrinking Cities. Finally, another interesting endeavor that we've been looking at in Portland (and have done some undisclosed installations around town), is their idea for the Pop-Up City - "Temporary events and installations that occupy vacant buildings and activate vacant land in ways that shine a spotlight on some of Cleveland's spectacular but underutilized properties."

:: image via CUDC

A River Runs Through It...

A kind reader named Chris Keller alerted me to a very cool project in California called Kaweah Falls. From his email: "We just finished a house renovation at the base of the Sequoia National Park in central California that I thought might interest you. A river flows underneath our dining room. Literally, you can watch fish swim through the glass bottomed floor of the bar."

:: images via Team Diana

Here's a YouTube video of the project worth checking out:

Check out more pics on the Flickr page from this site and some links to some press coverage from Three Rivers Real Estate... turns out you can pick this one up for just a hair under $2,000,000...

Monday, June 15, 2009

2009 MoPo Runner-Up of the Year... Sweet!

I wrote, no, begged... in fact, pleaded one year ago to be considered for the MoPo 2008 listings after reading the listing of the veritable who's who of the architecture-blog world. I am pleased to see that L+U has made the list (I'm not below groveling :) for this years Eikongraphia's MoPo 2009 - a listing of the "...twenty-five most popular blogs on architecture worldwide." * It's very, very good company.

2. Archidose
3. City of Sound
4. Architecture.mnp
5. Pruned
6. Architechnophilia
7. Tropolism
8. Architectural Videos
9. Mirage Studio 7
10. Super Colossal
11. Subtopia
12. Landscape+Urbanism
13. Sit down man, you’re a bloody tragedy
14. Architecture Chicago Plus
15. Lebbeus Woods
16. Strange Harvest
17. Life Without Buildings
18. Eye Candy
19. Design with Intent
20. Earth Architecture
21. Anarchitecture
22. Hugh Pearman
23. Brand Avenue
24. a456
25. The Arch

How does L+U stack up the winner...? Well, we all have a long way to go to meet the high standards set by Geoff Manaugh and the fabulous BLDGBLOG (and he's not even working at Dwell anymore so beware!)... "BLDGBLOG reigns the architecture blogosphere. Between 2007 and 2008 the total number of visitors tripled from one to three million, since last year that number has again dubbled to a total of almost six million. Which rookie can challenge that? Landscape+Urbanism has entered the MoPo at the twelfth place and is thereby the runner-up of the year. But with less than a thousand subscribers to its rss-feed, it is a long way to the more than 11,000 subscribers of BLDGBLOG. Even the blog in second place, Archidose, features less than a third of that." (underline emphasis mine)

* More about the ratings: "A weblog is included in the MoPo 2009 when it’s an English blog on architecture written by a single writer. The popularity of the blog is measured by the number of subscribers (Google Reader + Bloglines) and the number of hits in Google (Google + Google Images)."

It's reminded me that I need to update some sidebar blogs - as I've been remiss in doing so. Read the entire post here to see the previous years ratings - and well, I guess all I can say is thanks everyone for looking, reading, linking, and inspiring!

Urban Chickens Build - 4

For the newly dubbed 'Chicken Cube', it's ecoroof time (at least the structural components sans plants and soil). Here's a quick summary of Sunday's flurry of activities:

:: 3/4" plywood frame + cedar siderails

:: fitting the metal soil retention edging

:: some counterflashing with pond liner

:: dry-fitting the liner on edges

:: mechanically fastening on outside edging

:: finishing the box with cedar

:: after some fine-tuning - a perfect fit

:: still need to trim the fabric a bit , but close to done

:: roofline from opposite side

:: and some finish work on some doors - windows to come

Next weekend looks like planting, siding, windows and paint/stain - with an aim of chicken habitable by end of weekend/next week. Stay tuned. Read here for the previous posts on coop building, including design, week 1, week 2, and week 3 builds...