Saturday, March 27, 2010

Urban Crossings - Los Angeles

Picking up on the threads of the Vegitecture post on 'Crossings', a post on The Dirt made mention of the plans to cap a number of freeways throughout Southern California. "According to The Architect’s Newspaper, there are four separate projects being considered across L.A.: one in Hollywood, one in downtown LA, and two in Santa Monica. “Hollywood Central Park would be built atop the 101 Freeway on a proposed 44-acre site between Santa Monica Boulevard and Bronson Avenue. Park 101 would be built atop the ‘Big Trench’ over the 101 Freeway downtown. Santa Monica is hoping to cap portions of the 10 Freeway between Ocean Avenue and 4th Street, and between 14th and 17th streets, creating five- and seven-acre parks.”

:: image via Architect's Newspaper

One project in this mix with some real traction is the Hollywood Freeway Central Park - which in 2008 developed a initial feasibility study with AECOM as the consultant. The report goes through a mix of analysis and exploration, along with a public involvement process. The idea of kn
itting the fabric of two severed neighborhoods with elevated park space drives the significant cost for capping projects - aiming to fix some of the damage done in the initial freeway routing.

:: image via AECOM

A range of graphics include some typical analysis - as I'm always interested in seeing the old chestnuts like figure-ground analysis in urban design studies. I'm a fan of the figure ground as a tool, and this case in point reinforces the power of this tool to 'detach' from a system and make key connections.

:: image via AECOM

In this case, most of these retain some of the key crossings... but take advantage of the ability to reorient circulation to create interesting spaces and maximize connectivity.

:: image via AECOM

A range of precedent studies included notable capping projects like Millennium Park (Chicago), Big Dig Park (Boston), Olympic Sculpture Park (Seattle), and others showing examples of spanning roadways to connect disparate portions of the urban fabric.

:: image via AECOM

Another graphic that seems to be in vogue (drawing from some of the scalar diagrams of the book Large Parks) - giving a sense of size and proportion to other established large urban park spaces.

:: image via AECOM

The final concept creates somewhat of a linear park corridor, which is really a series of medium sized park periodically bisected with crossroads. The programs run the gamut from passive spaces to sports fields, sculpture gardens to plazas offering a range of uses - connected by pathways and crossings. There seems to be a range of possible options to use this new space that have been explored in many project proposals - from agriculture to mixed use infill - meaning a park is merely one option.

:: image via AECOM

The simple photo-montage graphics show some dramatic before and after shots of the reclaimed space atop what was essentially a dead zone below.

:: images via AECOM

Obviously time and economics will tell if this is a viable strategy to implement in our cities. The experience with the costly and issue-prone Big Dig has soured some on the idea, although the spaces that are emerging atop the depressed roadway is starting to pay dividends for a new public realm. Burying is one thing - spanning and capping is another, taking advantage of the existing configuration of roadway 'canyons' to reconnect spaces. My thought is that it is not the silver bullet, (more like a really expensive band-aid) but necessary (in lieu of freeway removal altogether) to strategically reconnect areas of the urban fabric that have been severed to a degree where health and livability are forever degraded. The expense means a surgical analysis is necessary to determine where to locate these for maximum impact, as well as how to program the spaces appropriately to make use of the space. There has been much renewed talk about this, so I imagine we will see more of these in the not-so-distant-future. And I think that's a good sign.

Download the entire report here for the full story.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

[Fill in the Blank] Urbanism

I attended a pow-wow recently - aimed at discussing the state of landscape urbanism theory and it's past, present, and future implications for planning, urban design and landscape architecture. Amongst many other interesting thoughts (more to come on this), one aspect of the conversation that stuck in my brain stuck was the recent (maybe?) upswing in the use of paired terms ending with the term 'urbanism' to describe a range of theoretical positions related to all things urban.

The general definition of urbanism fits a wide range of situations, making it an evocative word with easy addition of a modifier. Via Wikipedia: "Urbanism is a focus on cities and urban areas, their geography, economies, politics, social characteristics, as well as the effects on, and caused by, the built environment."

I was inspired to do a quick Google search and glean all of these pairings - leaving many upcoming MONU titles in the future...

New Urbanism
Ecological Urbanism
Future Urbanism
Green Urbanism
Resilient Urbanism
Infrastructural Urbanism
Sustainable Urbanism
Emergent Urbanism
Participatory Urbanism
Walkable Urbanism
Everyday Urbanism
Real Urbanism
Clean Urbanism
Border Urbanism
Exotic Urbanism
2nd Rate Urbanism
Beautiful Urbanism
Brutal Urbanism
Denied Urbanism
Political Urbanism
Middle Class Urbanism
Paid Urbanism
Post-Traumatic Urbanism
Big Urbanism
Agricultural Urbanism
Open Source Urbanism
Opportunistic Urbanism
Instant Urbanism
Unitary Urbanism
Bricole Urbanism
Slum Urbanism
Networked Urbanism
Bypass Urbanism
Gypsy Urbanism
DIY Urbanism
Integral Urbanism
Inverted Urbanism
Vernacular Urbanism
Pop-Up Urbanism
Nuclear Urbanism
New (Sub)Urbanism
Informal Urbanism
Behavioral Urbanism
Temporary Urbanism
Braided Urbanism
Trace Urbanism
Market Urbanism
Propagative Urbanism
Radical Urbanism
Disconnected Urbanism
Magical Urbanism
Recombinant Urbanism
Guerilla Urbanism
Dialectical Urbanism
Stereoscopic Urbanism
Holy Urbanism
Retrofuture Urbanism
Digital Urbanism
Micro Urbanism
Parametric Urbanism

I'm sure there are 100s of others - but it's an interesting phenomenon. Have a favorite?

Packaged Vertical Garden

The 'Garden for a not too distant future' is an installation that is part vertical garden, part statement about the lack of green space in cities and the preponderance of overpriced, difficult to maintain vertical walls.

:: image via luzininterruptus

Via luzininterruptus: " With the installation Packaged vertical garden, we wanted to promote the preservation of urban greenery, because if we continue to eradicate it from public spaces or reducing it to inaccessible vertical faces, the only form of contact with nature will be in supermarket refrigerators, packaged with expiry dates. This is our last intervention “Packaged vertical garden”.

:: images via luzininterruptus

Check out additional photos and text at luzininterruptus.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monu #12 - Real Urbanism

Just when I thought someone couldn't come up with a more disturbing journal cover than the aforementioned Kerb 17 - the folks at MONU found a way to top this in art for the latest issue on 'Real Urbanism'

(browse the entire issue on YouTube)

Luxury Space By Jason Lee;
The World According to Mr. Reds By Doreen Jakob;
The Shelter Category By Mammoth (Stephen Becker and Rob Holmes);
How the City of Broad Shoulders Bought its Growth Spurt By Karl Johann Hakken;
Residential Developers and Investors in Central Europe: Boom and Bust By Maximilian Mendel;
Pyongyang in a New Era By Yim Dongwoo;
Casino City State By Rustam Mehta and Thomas Moran;
Solidere, Inc., or Downtown Beirut By Carol Moukheiber;
Real High - The Desire for the Real in Urban Real Estate By McLain Clutter;
Real Creativity: A Case for Ethical Freedom in Architecture
By Randall Teal;
Life without Architects - Interview with Magriet Smit By Bernd Upmeyer;
The New York Value Exchange By Joyce Hwang;

Real Big - Interview with Bjarke Ingels By Beatriz Ramo;
Magic Realism - A New Skyline for Rome By Simone De Iacobis;
Business Park De Hoef Revisited 1998-2008 By Arjan Harbers (Topotronic);
Brand New Landlords By Daan Roggeveen and Michiel Hu
Living on the Edge By Bas Princen;
Why should a Developer read Aristotle By Marta Relats;
Unbuilt Rotterdam By ZUS [Zones Urbaines Sensibles];
Rotterdam is a Whore - Interview with Andre Kempe By Beatriz Ramo and Bernd Upmeyer;
To Build or not to Build By MVRDV

From the Monu site:

Just like the "Ideal Woman" on the cover of this issue on Real Urbanism - a sculpture by the Brooklyn based artist Tony Matelli - most of our cities are shaped by a particular set of values that does not necessarily lead to high quality urban spaces, but instead to scary, ethically unacceptable and distorted forms. As the "Ideal Woman", so "Ideal Cities" can easily end up only fulfilling the wishes and dreams of a powerful minority, but neglect the needs of most of the other people. Jason Lee, one of the contributors to this issue, that deals more with "Real Estate" Urbanism rather than with Actual or Factual Urbanism, uses this sculpture in his article "Luxury Space" to display the consequences t
hat can occur when a financially powerful elite develops real estate projects in the city of Shanghai merely to accommodate their consumerist desires.

Cities have been reduced to machines for making and spending money as Stephen Becker and Rob Holmes put it in their piece "The Shelter Category". Especially in Central European countries, where two decades ago the state-controlled economy changed into a market-economy, developers are driven by pure profit rather than by a genuine desire or even awareness of sustainable neighbourhoods and city development as Maximilian Mendel describes in his text "Residential Developers and Investors in Central Europe: Boom and Bust". But blaming only the financial elites and the rea
l estate industry for the prevailing urbanism of mediocrity would be too easy.

For successful urban planning, cities depend on private financing as Carol Moukheiber points out in her contribution "Solidere, Inc., or Downtown Beirut", where a productive collaboration between a corporate and a cooperative party led - although heavily criticised and carried out in a kind of pseudo democratic Berlusconian way - to prosperous results. In the case of Rotterdam, where the municipality actually cares very little about the city, real estate developers seem to be even more concerned about the quality of urban spaces than the city itself, as stated by Andre Kempe in an interview with us entitled "Rotterdam is a Whore".

To halt the process by which the built-up form of our cities continues to be mainly driven by practical concerns such as efficiency, profit, and self-promotion, Randall Teal proposes in his piece "Real Creativity: A Case for Ethical Freedom in Architecture" that architects should become developers themselves. But how many architects would be able and interested in doing that? Magriet Smit, a Rotterdam based real estate developer, explains in the interview "Life without Architects" that she actually tries more and more to avoid working with planners and rather collaborates directly with construction companies as they share a greater understanding of their profession. But to prevent our cities from turning into monstrous "Ideal Cities", as perverted as the "Ideal Woman", all the parties involved that are shaping the cities - the developers, the municipalities and the planners - have to accept their interdependencies, and have to try to understand the different interests of each party and have to dare to navigate into unknown territory as Bjarke Ingels concludes in an interview with us entitled "Real Big".

Sunday, March 14, 2010

FLOW: A Competition

Winners of the international competition „FLOW“ arrived via an email today. The european competition is: "... for students in the last two years of architecture, engineer, art, landscape, town planning, sociology and young architects were born after December 31st, 1975 in Europe."

The subject area of the competition is the City of Brussels, covering the port area and the canal in the center of the City: "This competition of ideas aims to enable participants to propose an innovative and daring architectural project which simultaneously envisages the environmental, social, technical and economic dimensions involved. The objective of the contest is to reflect on future new lifestyles and organisations, to prefigure them and to overturn mentalities, which will make it possible to provoke reflections between the private and public sector."

Student First prize: S1 Mutations
School : UNIFE (Italy) Alessandro Bellini, Jacopo Casolai

"The complexity of the problems encountered facing the competition and the dimensional matter of the canal in Brussels, encouraged us to seek out a programmatic approach. This will provide some guidelines disregarding, for the first time, the real architectural intervention.

A lot of documents and open questions involve the European Capital and specifically its 14 km canal: starting from that amount of informations and from the specific FLOW competition's requests we draw up a critical MANIFESTO in ten points. This document underline the canal's points of weakness and possible courses of actions, and suggest a method, called induced mutations, which is able to generate more and more well-framed urban transformations."

VIDEO 1 MANIFESTO from alessandro bellini on Vimeo.

Young Professional First prize: P7 The line

(Deutschland) Marine Miroux, Christoph Hager, Ingo Hüller, Demian Rudaz

La Ligne from Marine Miroux on Vimeo.

Check out all of the entries on the website. I think the idea of the videos as part of competition deliverables are a great idea - as it allows the static imagery to coalesce into a more complete narrative which aids in understanding the specifics.

Smart Wayfinding

A very interesting project spotted on Designboom: " part of the lighting plan in montreal, the quartier des spectacles explores the possibilities of light for creating signage and expressing identity. lead by designers ruedi baur and jean beaudoin from montreal architectural design studio intégral, this recent pilot project experiments with projecting light onto the pavement to mark the urban landscape. this intervention, realized as part of the montreal all-nighter, brings together light and graphic design"

:: image via Designboom

The implications of this type of installation in cities is interesting, as it moves away from the static insertion of 'lines and signs' for safety and wayfinding and utilizes the range of urban surfaces for these purposes. Ideas of being able to adjust crossings during peak periods, or announcements of upcoming events with directions on how to get to them. The ideas of constantly changing the surface treatment also aids in keeping drivers on their toes, in effect slowing traffic and giving a significant portion of the streets back to the pedestrians.

:: image via Designboom

The opportunities to continue this onto sidewalks and integrating into the facade treatments, creating a new integrated, smart system of urban wayfinding with a range of possibilities.

:: images via Designboom

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Telectroscopic Connections

A post by Varnelis mentioned a couple of interesting ideas of crossing space, both virtually and physically through various modern forms of communication. Three items come from his post:

1. Chatroulette—a site that pairs you with a random person somewhere on the Internet so that you have a webcam conversation... which to me just seems weird...

2. Kit Galloway and Sherrie Rabinowitz's 'Hole in Space,', in which: "the artists turned two walls, one at Los Angeles’s Century City Shopping Center and another at New York’s Lincoln Center, into two-way audiovisual portals. Video cameras transmitted images from each site to the other where they were beamed, full size onto walls. Microphones and speakers facilitated audio transmissions." [video below]

3. AUDC's unrealized installation 'Windows on the World' : "...a formulary for
a new urbanism that alleviates boredom with the city and encourages communication in public, rather than private settings. It facilitates open, spontaneous, and democratic exchanges between groups while requiring no special skills to operate. Participants share both their differences and similarities through direct interaction, replacing the myth of global hegemony and projected stereotypes with personal experience."

:: image via AUDC

This brought to mind a fourth, the Telectroscope, a modern version of a 'steampunk' art installation by Paul St. George in 2009, based on historical idea that 'connected' NYC to London through a underground transatlantic 'tunnel' that offers the ability for "...people can simultaneously interact with others who are many miles and hours away." More info is also found via the Telectroscope Blog along with a bevy of press that accompanied the installation.

:: image via The Fire Wire

The instantaneous communication, as shown in these proposals with a bit of artistic license in the storyline, may have seemed outlandish in 1890, or even 1980, but is relatively commonplace now - through the increasing quality and reach of web-based communications aided with fiber-optic infrastructure that literally 'flattens' the world by allowing for instantaneous communication in many forms across the globe.

:: image via Telepresence Options

The locations in major centers of New York and London, across the Atlantic reminds one of the previous infrastructures and outlandish proposals in place to connect these areas through seemingly impossible physical barriers, which has now been augmented with a more direct (if not equally as problematic) form of satellite linkages.

:: London - image via Oddity Central

:: New York - images via Telepresence Options

The beauty of these installation is the public-ness and interactivity of the media - versus our typically private personal communications. The image view of offers the view, with no sound, of people on the other side, and stories abound in the ability of family members to connect across the ocean (with the aid of some visual aids). Years after the initial 'Hole in Space' it seems the novelty is still present.

:: image via Orbiter Forum

Natural Stone Permeable Paving System

[L+U NOTE: This is a guest post from Miles Chaffee from Milestone Imports]

"With the rising popularity of permeable pavement systems in residential and commercial landscape designs, it is important for landscape professionals to educate themselves about the different materials available for paving options. Natural stone is increasingly used as a permeable paver because of its durability and aesthetic appeal, as well as ability to facilitate water filtration and aid in land conservation. Stone such as Porphyry, a natural granite, is used today to design driveways, streets, walkways and parking lots.

While there are several materials that can be used for permeable paving, there has been a growing interest in natural stone as a resource for permeable paving systems because of the aesthetical appeal. The benefits of permeable paving include a more beautiful, user friendly environment that eliminates unsightly retention ponds and can reduce runoff by 80 percent or more. This eliminates puddling and flooding on parking lots while reducing snow plowing costs because of the rapid ice melt drainage.

The primary purpose in the design of a natural stone permeable paving system is to effectively reduce and manage the quantity of surface rain water runoff while accommodating pedestrians, vehicular parking and traffic. Permeable paving has proven particularly valuable in existing urban developments where the need to expand parking areas is hindered by the lack of space due to retention ponds. In these situations, permeable paving is a cost effective way to create parking areas, while eliminating the need for some retaining ponds, since permeable paving allows the rainwater to filter back into the ground naturally.

By definition, for a surface to be permeable, it must allow for water to penetrate the surface through porous openings. In segmental or unit paving, like natural stone or brick pavers, the joints are what make the surface permeable. Some surface materials, such as gravel, do not have a solid surface and therefore allows water to pass through to the subsurface.

Typically a subsurface for segmental permeable paving would be designed using a crushed stone base which would provide filtration and partial treatment for rain water runoff pollution. A full filtration system designed for permeable subsurface soils should allow the storm water to penetrate the surface and filter through the base course and the native soils back into the aquifers. If the capacity of the soil to filtrate the water is exceeded, the base may be designed to filter, partially treat and slowly release the water into a storm sewer.

For the landscape professional and the customer it is important to note that this system also promotes tree survival by providing air and water to the roots and works to preserve woods and open space when using retention ponds. The customers can also benefit by using the additional space allowed in the building to increase the rental income of the building. This may also reduce overall development costs due to the reduction in storm sewers and other drainage methods otherwise required.

The different types of permeable paving have pros and cons. In terms of cost, gravel is the least expensive option. The drawbacks are that it requires frequent maintenance and renewal and the high upkeep increases the cost over time. Also, wheel ruts easily form in gravel which detracts from the appeal. Permeable concrete and asphalt are next in terms of expense, but studies have shown them to be prone to clogging, negating their efficacy. A study conducted be the Metropolitan Engineer’s Council in Denver showed a complete failure of permeable concrete under freeze-thaw conditions similar to those here in Santa Fe. The City of Rosemary Beach Florida tore out permeable concrete city streets due to clogging and replaced it with concrete pavers with permeable joints.

Brick, concrete, and natural stone pavers require that the material in the joints be permeable since the pavers themselves are not considered to be permeable. The brick must be the correct type and manufactured to specific requirements in order to be used as paving, especially in freeze-thaw climates. Constant freezing and thawing is harder on materials than climates that freeze and remain frozen for long periods. Concrete pavers offer a low cost option for paving and can last ten to fifteen years – just as brick can.

Natural stone is more durable – think of the Roman roads that were made out of Porphyry and other roads in Europe that were built centuries ago and still exist today. Again, the joint material must be permeable. Stone can be expensive but long outlasts other materials, which reduces the overall cost during the extend lifespan of the stone.

No matter the material chosen for a permeable paving project the benefits out weigh the additional costs. Permeable paving can free land designated for retaining ponds and has numerous environmental benefits. Done correctly with durable materials the paving can have a long life span and be aesthetically pleasing.

About the Author:

Miles Chaffee
Founder and President of Milestone Imports

Miles has been active in the stone business for over 18 years. In 1996, he founded Milestone, Inc. which began as a small stone yard and tile store. As business grew and developed, Miles created a separate enterprise, Milestone Imports, in 2002 to focus on quarry-direct representation of Porphyry paving stones. Milestone Imports now represents Porphyry quarries from around the world importing and distributing throughout the United States, Canada, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Miles’ travels have carried him to diverse locations to promote Porphyry as a historically sound material that provides beauty and sustainable solutions to today’s modern challenges. He has traveled throughout the world to locate and research high quality materials with sound quarrying practices that lend themselves to the demands of his customers.