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Wuppertal River Transit

The city of Wuppertal is in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. The town is located in the river valley surrounding the river Whupper.

One of the city’s attractions is its suspended monorail, the Wuppertaler Schwebebahn which was opened in 1901. The tram line is suspended 8 m above street level and 12 m above the River. It is both the oldest and the only  electric elevated railway with hanging cars in the world. It’s also still in use by the public and moves close to 29 million passengers annually. (2014)

The official name is the “Electric Elevated Railway (Suspension Railway) Installation, Eugen Langen System” (Anlage einer elektrischen Hochbahn (Schwebebahn), System Eugen Langen).

 

 

The video, uploaded by VidetVidet to YouTube was shot in 2011 and takes a journey along the suspended railway’s path.

 


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For more details about the Wuppertal Suspension Railway see the Wikipedia page or the official site.

Dear North American Airports, you wish you were as cool as me… love Winnipeg International

If you are a traveller you appreciate a good airport, when I lived overseas I had the pleasure of transiting through Incheon International Airport on a regular basis on my way to the south coast of Korea and I used to marvel at the experience. Bright airy spaces, fast service and a logical design, I used to think that the half hour average time from gate to subway stop was a byproduct of my ‘professor status’ but that airport has been ranked in the top 5 airports in the world since it opened so maybe not so much.

Until now the top airports have been primarily located in Asia but there’s a new city appearing on the list; Winnipeg’s James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.

It made it on the list of the Travel Channel’s top ten most iconic;

 Renowned architect César Pelli (who designed the Petronas Towers in Malaysia and the International Financial Centre in Hong Kong) drew his inspiration from the vast prairies and sky when he conceived of this terminal, the first freestanding airport building in Canada that’s LEED-certified. Skylights, an atrium and large windows fill the space with light and bring the big sky inside — a design element that (along with “smart” mechanical systems) helps reduce overall energy consumption.  Travel Channel

The existing terminal designed in 1964 is on its way to retirement or to be re-purposed.  The Winnipeg Airports Authority (WAA)designed the new terminal with the following principals; abundant use of transparency and natural light, openness to the interior, and connectivity. Special attention was paid to space management which resulted in; wider corridors, larger lounges, more seating, and larger customs facilities, with extra space in the screening and security areas in case any new regulations come along. I guess its important to plan for 1984 even if you don’t want it to happen. s

Either way, the new terminal in Winnipeg is likely to stay near the top of the list for a while, until another North American city gets frustrated that it is being beaten by Winnipeg. To bad for Toronto, and Vancouver, your new Airport’s are already done.

The Winnipeg Airports Authority has a youtube channel if you want to take a closer look.


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For a better gallery of images from inside visit ChrisD.ca for gallery supplied by a local and the requisite photos of college age people wearing inflatable airplanes that authorities love so much.

Japan’s Solar Shift

One thing that you can say about disasters is that they are rare opportunities to redo everything. A tabula rasa opportunity when it comes to rebuilding affected areas.

Japan is still recovering from the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11th and the nuclear crisis that it triggered.

The AFP is reporting that Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan is expected to announce Japan’s decision to continue operating nukes in order to meet the countries current power needs, but to also a mandate that would require all new homes and buildings to be outfitted with solar panels as part of the upcoming G8 Summit in France.

Of course a mandate isn’t legislation, but the construction required does present an opportunity for a solar company to step in and take advantage of the increased opportunity for demand if they can offer an efficient solar option.

North America’s Most Sustainable Telecommunications Company Plan’s New LEED Platnum Headquarters

As North American telecommunications companies go, it is hard to find a company with better sustainability cred then TELUS. The firm made the decision to reduce its environmental footprint about 9 years ago, before sustainability was cool and embarked on a now decade long journey to lower it’s impact on the environment.

..everything from diesel generators and chemicals to batteries and pole storage. “As an incumbent telecommunications company, we’ve been around a long time, so we have older infrastructure in some areas,” says Joe Pach, Telus’s environment director. “We recognize the risk that that represents to us, so we’ve embarked on a program to upgrade these systems.  In the past, we have had people say to us, ‘Why are we even doing this? They’re not.’ [But] we can’t take that approach, because the risk to the company in terms of its public profile … is greater to us than the monetary risk of, say, a fine … TELUS wants to send a very clear signal to the investment community that we are a very well-managed company.” And there’s no better way to do that than taking care of all the small, green details. S.

It is all well and  good for a company to say that . it is a green company but the proof is in the details and TELUS has those to back it up.  TELUS has been ranked among the world’s leading companies on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for the past nine years. It is the only North American telecommunications company to make the list and one of only 11 Canadian businesses across all sectors included on the global index.S.

As part of its ongoing efforts TELUS has also being upgrading its corporate offices, Known as TELUS Houses, 3 so far have been renovated or constructed,  TELUS House Toronto and Ottawa were awarded LEED Gold, and TELUS House Quebec LEED Silver. For its new National Headquarters in Vancouver the company is aiming for LEED Platinum.  The $750-million, one-million square foot project will radically transform an aging downtown block into one of the most technologically and environmentally-advanced sites in the world

In the Company’s own words:

The million-square foot, $750 million project will see almost the entire block of prime downtown real estate bounded by Georgia, Robson, Seymour and Richards rebuilt into one of the most technologically and environmentally-advanced sites of commerce, employment and living in the world. It will create half a million square feet of much-needed new office space available for multiple tenants and 500 new residential units, all setting new standards for environmental sustainability. The 22-storey signature office tower will be the first building in Canada built to the new 2009 Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum standard and the 44-storey residential tower will be built to the LEED Gold standard.

“TELUS Garden will exemplify the TELUS brand and be a truly amazing destination for our team members, the community and the city,” said Darren Entwistle, TELUS president and CEO. “Our vision is that TELUS Garden will be a beautiful and unique location where leading-edge technology, urban living, environmental sustainability and tomorrow’s work styles are elegantly integrated into a vibrant community. This development, which will inject millions of dollars into our economy, will highlight TELUS’ advanced communications technologies and environmental innovation in a way never before seen. TELUS Garden will be a breathtaking place to live and work, an architectural icon that will consume 30 per cent less energy thanks to its responsible, leading-edge design. It will be a celebrated urban oasis that is literally alive with plant life and showcases our great province’s arts and culture.”


The landmark development reinforces TELUS’ commitment to the City of Vancouver, and will make a significant contribution to the city’s goal of becoming the greenest city in the world. Once complete, TELUS’ new headquarters will be unique in North America, featuring 10,000 square feet of green roofs providing organic produce for local restaurants, two elevated roof forests, British Columbia artwork, LED lighting on the western façade projecting programmable coloured images on to fritted glass, and media walls where cultural events such as symphony concerts can be broadcast to the public.

“The fact that TELUS is choosing to build a new national headquarters in Vancouver is a great vote of confidence in our local economy,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Their proposal to build to LEED Platinum is extremely ambitious and sends a signal that in Vancouver, going green is good for business and the environment. I’m very excited that they are investing in Vancouver – we’ve worked hard to build a competitive climate for business, and when companies like TELUS choose to expand their presence it is great for creating new jobs and economic spin-offs in our city.”

TELUS has partnered with Westbank to lead the project, and has engaged Henriquez Partners as the architect that is designing the iconic development. TELUS will fund its share of the development predominantly through leveraging its existing real estate holdings in this block, coupled with the sale and lease of space in the new buildings. The investment is consistent with TELUS’ overall capital expenditure target for 2011 and longer term capital intensity goals. TELUS has just entered into an agreement to purchase the city-owned parkade at the corner of Georgia and Richards, consolidating the entire block, other than the Kingston Hotel, to create a unified development.

While I don’t envy guests of the Kingston Hotel during construction, when the dust settles the hotel will be better situated between two cutting edge and lively buildings instead of a pair of park aids. As an observer of the development landscape here in Canada I have been watching with interest to see what TELUS would decide to do after the company announced it was considering a new Headquarters. In Keeping with its previous property investments in Toronto, Ottawa and Quebec City, TELUS once again delivers an office building that looks forward and sees a city where “the future is friendly.”

The Detroit Woodward Light Rail Transit Rap

Two involved peeps Joel Batterman and Elias Schewel have produced a video on YouTube outlining all the reasons why the centre lane Light Rail Transit option is the way to go. For anyone who cares about mass transit, or likes to see LEGO figures rapping, this video is a must see!

It’s time for Detroit to reclaim the mantle of transportation innovation. This music video argues that a light rail line running down the middle of Woodward Avenue, “Mainline Option A,” will be faster, safer, and more reliable than the side-running alternative, “Mainline Option B.” Let’s bring the trains down the middle! Tell it to the feds by March 14: take a moment to submit a comment to woodwardlightrail@detroitmi.gov. See TransportMichigan.org for more information.


Swedbank Selects 3XN for it Spiffy New Headquarters

In architectural news on of our favourite European architecture firms 3XN has been selected to design the new international Headquarters for Swedbank. In keeping with 3XN’s talents as a designer of modern and innovative office buildings, 3XN has based their design for the structure around Swedbank’s core values; openness, simplicity, care and durability.

“The building is conceived and designed from the inside out. We have literally translated Swedbank’s core values into the creation of a modern and groundbreaking head office. Swedbank has conveyed the importance it places on creating an open social environment, which happens to coincide with 3XNs design beliefs and ideology. It has been a very interesting process and we look forward to getting to work on the project”. 3XN Principal Kim Herforth Nielsen

The design further develops these core values with a structure that focuses on transparency, Scandinavian simplicity and dynamic social environments.

The site selected for the new head office is in Sundbyberg; a fast developing traffic centre approximately five kilometres outside downtown Stockholm. The company plans to move approximately 2.500 employees will move into the building before the end of 2013.

3XN explains “With its innovative and transparent expression formed in an unconventional triple-v structure the building will become a landmark among Swedish office buildings. The large volume is broken up to create spaces on a human scale. This makes the building inviting on the inside as well as on the outside.”

For more information on the project visit 3XN’s online portfolio.

Playing dirty in sustainable energy.

In a confluence of two news articles that have come across my desk in the past month; the first from Time discussing how the Chinese have shown that they can do capitalism better then the west, made evident by their decisive decision making and fast response times when dealing with the recent recession. While western governments argue if tax cuts for the wealthy or infrastructure spending is best, the Chinese central government acted swiftly, invested in the right places and the Chinese economy has carried along at a steady pace. The second a news report from the CBC discussing how the the US in up in arms about the Chinese green revolution and the unfair trade practices they used to developing their own solar panel manufacturing industry. An industry that China developed, incidentally enough, almost entirely in the last two years.

The United Steel Workers go on a long rant about how the United States needs to put  a stop to the illegal and unfair trade practices that China is adopting to build its green energy industry;  sanctions, lawsuits and the like, which we all know will be very effective, but while the US focuses on suing China, China will just carry on building the industry, they know that in the long run energy independence is much more important then keeping the US, (who’s debt it practically owns anyway) happy.  As the quote indicates, they already know how to win the battle for clean energy. (not to mention have a strangle hold on most of the raw materials.

“Who wins this clean energy race really depends on how much support the government gives.” Zhao Feng, general manger of Hunan Sunzone Optoelectronics.

I have always been a little dubious about Free Trade, its not that I don’t think that there are certain good things about it, I mean I like my goods to be inexpensive,  it’s just that I think the pay off has mostly been for big business and not for the rest of us.

Do you think that it is unfair for a country to subsidize an industry to the detriment of its other trade partners?  Do you think these sudden changes in trade practice have wronged the US? (if you think government subsidies are a new phenomenon… you are so cute!)

That isn’t the ultimate question for me though, My question is, does the planet care? Ever since I read a particularly apt line in a Terry Pratchett novel about how the planet was also alive, but it just moved a lot slower then the rest of us eons rather then years, and humans had better watch out for the point in time  when the planet realizes that it has developed a disfiguring skin condition, I have been more concerned with the effect, rather then the politics.

Ultimately the environment doesn’t give a geological event who comes up with green technology, it just cares that someone does, and in this case China showed the rest of the world that you can create a sustainable industry in no time at all, if you just do it. So maybe next time a western government decides that it wants to become an industry leader in some green technology then they will just do it… since time has proven that if they don’t someone else will beat them too it, that’s just business after all. There isn’t any crying in capitalism.

A Tour Through Benny Farm

Benny Farm was first developed in the years immediately following the Second World War. Returning veterans needed homes for their families and the country needed housing to deal with the impending baby boom. In the Late 1940s the Canadian government built a number of apartment buildings on the site of what was then a former farm on the western edge of Montreal. The project was, and remains one of the largest government housing projects ever undertaken in the country. The property and the apartments were maintained for a number of years under the auspices of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and then by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, (CMHC).

In the 1950s and 1960s thanks to most residents being of the same age, community life at Benny Farm thrived due the prevalence of many young families (hello baby boom!) Historical accounts suggest that during the 1950s there were over a thousand children on the property. However in the 1980s the age homogenization began to work against Benny Farm as the mean age of residents rose to 70 years. Most of the buildings had not been well maintained, and the post-war three story walk ups with no elevators or air-conditioning were increasingly difficult for elderly residents.

In the early 1990s the the CMHC announced plans to redevelop the property with more accessible units for the aging population and reopen the door to new tenants in more modern units. In order to finance the redevelopment the agency planned to have the private sector develop the rest of the property. The scale of the private development; 1200 units in a number of 6 story buildings, the destruction of the existing post war buildings, and a fundamental change to the social role of the site caused an outcry from members of the community. What ensued next was a 20 year battle over the future of the Benny Farm site.

Arnold Bennett, and Jason Hughes helped spearhead the battle to keep Benny Farm affordable, arguing for public and affordable housing rather then private development.  For a long time it seemed that the site would end up going to private developers who would build standard condo style units that would price many area residents out of the market. While there are many people and events that were responsible for making Benny Farm what it is today, the eureka moment came when the team realized that nothing was stopping the the Habitations communautaires NDG, (HCNDG) a community-run non-profit corporation, from bidding on the parts of the site that were open to the private sector. The idea was to create a non-profit, community-run organization that would offer and manage the units at a below market rate. The proposal went over very well with the community and over 80 people had signed statements of interest by the time the HCNDG submitted a bid to the Canada Lands Corporation for three sites, with a total of 74 units. The ‘Affordable Home Ownership Initiative’ was awarded the sites after beating a number of private developers who submitted more traditional site concepts.

Claude Cormier Landscape Architects was selected to develop the master plan for the Benny Farm Housing project and created a network of promenades that ties the paths, and semi private courtyards of the project into the surrounding neighbourhood streets. An orchard of 170 ornamental crab apple trees is also distributed throughout as a nod to the sites agricultural past.

The new Benny Farm site includes a diverse mix of housing types, over 200 rental properties, a public health clinic, recreation centre, community garden, daycare, and other neighbourhood services. The property was also developed with sustainability in mind and features; Geothermal heat exchange, hybrid glycol/electric solar power, air- and water-based heat recovery. There were plans for grey-water and storm-water reuse, wetland treatment and sub-grade water-table recharge, but news reports indicate that the water reuse was never installed and I was unable to spot evidence of a  wetland on my site visit.  A non-profit, community-run utility owns and manages the energy infrastructure as well as continued  re-investment in sustainable construction for this infrastructure. The utility was set up with a legal structure similar to that of a cooperative housing development. Green Energy Benny Farm (GEBF) is owned and controlled by a voluntary, user-driven board, and the project has won at least one award; The Bronze Prize at Global Holcim Awards.

Of course most of this was laid out in the planning stage so what about now? As the pictures show, Benny Farm isn’t just a concept anymore, it is once again a living and working community. It appears that being at the cutting edge of sustainability in a non-profit housing complex has its risks. Hour.ca published an article in 2007 that reported problems with leaking geothermal pipes, that combined with other leaks have lead to a serious mould problem in one of the Co-ops, and some solar panels have leaked glycol, while some of the radiant floor heating systems didn’t balance, resulting in some residents freezing while others boiled. Some blamed a low-bid contract process while others suggested that there was not enough co-ordination between the parties involved in merging the green technologies. Most news reports on the project and issues stop after 2007 so presumably the kinks have been worked out.

While the process was long and contentious Benny Farm is considered a success for sustainable, affordable housing, and community renewal. I took a walk through Benny Farm in the fall and was very impressed with the site design and landscaping in particular, while a lot of modern buildings can look very similar and repetitive each area felt different enough from the others to make each seem distinctive while still maintaining a connection with the project as a while. There is also clear evidence that the kids are back with all the toys that were scattered about. So was Benny Farm a success? I’ll let the photo’s speak for themselves and you can make up your own mind.

For a great photo-spread of the property before its renovation, take a look at The Benny Farm Condemned Housing Projects @ Citynoise. Also check out our related gallery, Cave Art (ok not really) of  Benny Farm. Reference links and other great places to visit for information about Benny Farm. Story Telling At Concordia Benny Farm Calgary Housing Action Initiative, Alternative Housing Models: Benny Farm. Canada Lands Company: Community Success Stories: Benny Farm

Discussion of Creative and Reclaimed Home Construction: Dan Phillips at TED

Dan Phillips discusses human psychology and it’s impact on the home construction industry. In this funny and insightful talk from TEDxHouston, builder Dan Phillips tours us through a dozen homes he’s built in Texas using recycled and reclaimed materials in wildly creative ways. Dan examines the why of the rational that causes so much waste in the construction industry and offers ideas on how to create low-tech design details will refresh your own creative drive.

http://www.ted.com

Seattle’s Lighthouse Apartment in the Smith Tower

For those of you who love to look inside other peoples apartments, the New York Times takes us on a tour of one of Seattle’s most interesting and until now, mysterious apartments. Word has it that the apartment had taken on the status of an urban legend in Seattle that oscillated from occupied by crazy cat lady to home for a line of artists who have passed the key from one tenant to the next. Well the legend has passed from fiction to fact as the New York Times managed to get themselves a tour and sets the record straight.

How did a 46-year-old choreographer-turned-venture-capitalist-turned mom win a long-term lease on what may be the most extraordinary apartment in the city: the space at the top of the historic Smith Tower in Pioneer Square?

Read more: A Home in the Pyramid Atop Seattle’s Smith Tower.

See the photo Gallery Here.

The New New York City Taxi

In 2007 the Taxi and Limousine Commission of New York City brought together a group of stakeholders involved in the taxi industry in New York City. Including; taxi drivers, owner and passengers and the goal was simple, create a set of goals for the future of the taxi in New York City. A project that was aptly named “The Taxi of Tomorrow.” In 2009 the Taxi and Limousine commission issued a request for proposals to the automobile industry to design the next official taxi for the city. At present the primary vehicle in the city’s fleet is the Ford Crown Victoria. The Crown Victoria was officially discontinued by the Ford Motor Company this past spring (S) and this presents an opportunity for the city to change to a vehicle designed specifically for use as a Taxi, and through this change come up with a Taxi that is both iconic and more environmentally friendly.

The City of New York has already attempted to legislate that the city’s taxi fleet must be entirely electric or hybrid by 2012, but an federal judge overturned the legislation attempt after a suit by the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, which represented the owners of 29 fleets that control 3,500 yellow cabs, about a quarter of the fleet — said that the hybrid vehicles, which are more fuel-efficient, were not designed to withstand the heavy wear and tear that cabs must endure. S An interesting factoid about Taxis in New York City and in fact most of the rest of the world is that none of the 16 different vehicle models in the city’s 13,200 strong fleet were originally designed to be used as a taxi. All of the vehicles have been specially outfitted to be used as a taxi which will usually drive about 70,000 miles per year and see its back doors slammed around 21,000 times in the course of a year. S

“Although the city has long set standards for our taxis, we have never before worked with the auto industry to design a taxicab especially for  New York City — that is, until now,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission has culled three semi finalists from the competition; Karsan, Nissan, and Ford. Its a lucrative contract for whoever wins since “the TLC intends to select the best proposal and award an exclusive contract to sell and service taxicabs in New York for the next decade.” Take a look at the concept images and tell both us and the Taxi and Limousine Commission which one you prefer! What is in it for you? Well the prize is worth free cab rides for a year so you could be a winner!

Princess Hijab

Princess Hijab has become one of Paris’s most controversial and hard to identify street artists. She is Paris’s answer to British guerrilla graffiti artist Banksy, though in many ways she is more controversial. Princess Hijab chooses to focus on one major issue in the French capital and it’s a hot potato; immigration and the Niqab. In case you haven’ been paying attention to the news coming out of France lately the Hijab, Niqab, and Burqa have become hot button issues in the resolutely secular republic and have ignited a firestorm over immigration, women’s rights, islamophobia and civil liberties. Last month the government approved the so called “burqa ban” which means that starting in the new year women will be banned from wearing any full-face Muslim veils in public, not just in government offices but anywhere outside of their own homes. The government argues that the ban it its way of protecting women’s rights and making it impossible for Muslim women to be forced by men to cover their faces.

This makes Princess Hijab’s particular bent of graffiti art all the more subversive in the French capital as her signature is painting the veil onto fashion advertisements. It isn’t just the advertisements that feature women who are being niqabed. Princess Hijab also gives the veil to men as well. The first graffiti veil to appear was a niqab painted onto a poster for an album cover of one of France’s most famous female rappers, Diam. In an interesting turn of events said rapper has actually turned to Islam and is now wearing the veil herself.

The Identity of Princess Hijab remains a mystery and while she did recently grant an interview to the Guardian, the report was inconclusive about her identity.
At the moment Princess Hijab is only hitting about four or five advertisements per year that tend to last only about 45 minutes before being ripped down by Paris Metro officials but each of her interventions is carefully photographed and most of them circulate online. Whether you agree with the “burqa ban” or not Princes Hijab is certainly trying to make you think about it.

READ MORE:

The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Guardian


Neighbourhood News Roundup

Editors Note:

Recently we made an executive decision here at Urban Neighborhood to revamp the way that we deliver news about what is going on in cities around the world, as you can see from previous Neighborhood News installments we used to provide  the first couple paragraphs of the article in full with a picture and then hyperlink you over to the actual article at its source.  This was all well and good but ultimately a rather labor intensive process for content that was essentially a redirect to other news sites that were not providing any incentive. In order to make it easier to do the round up and therefore be more consistent with our installments we are switching over to a method more commonly found on entertainment websites and some of our favorite architecture blogs. So without further adieu here is your news round up for the week.

Hong Kong has decided to shell out some major bucks in order to build the worlds largest cultural district, the West Kowloon Cultural District is a publicly funded project with a price tag of 2.8 billion to be… well approximate… the intention is pretty simple, its plans on using the development to become Asia’s World City.

Since Dubai isn’t paying the the architectural big bucks any more architects like Rem Koolhaas are looking East and Rem has decided to jump on the aforementioned West Kowloon Cultural District gravy train to pay the bills. Rem has a proposal that is ether cultural appropriation or paying tribute to China’s Village history, depending on how you look at it.

The city of Chicago is about to loose out to New York once more, until now it might not have been the biggest city in America but it has had the country’s biggest building for decades, in a couple years One World Trade center is going to take that title away. There was hope that the title transfer would be short lived with the plans for The Spire, then the firm behind it filed for bankruptcy. At least they still have Oprah.

In Green News India has come up with a novel idea to use children to power its parks and playgrounds, now that we have your attention its isn’t as nefarious as you think, the city of Chandigarh wants to use kinetic energy from playground equiptment and solar power to light up its green spaces.

Skyrise Greenery, a website dedicated to green roofs and green spaces integrated into the built form presents its winners for the Skyrise Greenery Awards 2010.

Most tourist bureau’s concentrated on happy and fun but the Cambodian government has decided to take another route and concentrate on its dark history to pull the tourists in. The Atlantic writes about how the Cambodian government plans to develop Anlong Veng a sun-baked, mine-riddled frontier town into a theme park devoted to the Khmer Rouge. A regime that was responsible for murdering almost every in Cambodia who would be between the ages of 25 to 50 if they were still alive today, just in case yo have no knowledge of world history.

Over in Russia Ivan Marchenko discusses the poor state of architecture and the multitudes of unforgettable places that make up the capital and wonders if the sketches presented by designers for the central city are just tomorrows slums being proposed today.

Mason White presents an essay on ‘The Productive Surface’ for all you academics that discusses the shape of our environment and asks questions like “What does architecture and landscape already produce — intentionally or otherwise? And how is that component managed by design?”

For the cartographers and map lovers among us Think Big has a collection of strange maps that range from proposals  fill in the east river to create a Greater New York, to a composite map of European stereotypes.

First World – Mixed Use Residential New Songdo Style

The Sharp (The #) First World is one of the first completed residential projects in the New Songdo International Business District. The property was designed by international architecture firm KPF, and Korean firm Kunwon.  The project opened in January of 2009 with a lighting ceremony to celebrate the project and residents began moving in shortly after. The Sharp (The #) First World is a luxury apartment and office-tel mixed use development with ground floor retail services. In total there are: 1,596 Residential Units, 1,058 Office-tel Units and 294 Ground Level Retail spaces. The Sharp (The #) is designed to  house approximately 7,000 of New Songdo’s projected 65,000 residents as well as a health club, a daycare center, and a seniors’ center. The complex is located next to New Song Convention center and near the  Northeast Asia Trade Tower and River Stone Mall, it is also near on of several planned subway stops on the yet to be completed system.

As is common with hotly anticipated properties in Korea all of the 1,596 residential units sold out within the first two days they were listed on the market.  To read more about this phenomenon take a look at our article ‘Real estate lotteries, bidding wars, and tax audits in New Songdo’.

New Songdo has master plan that lays out a number of sustainable principals and The Sharp (The #) First world follows these principals. The overall plan is inspired by the pedestrian cities of Europe and North America and the design utilizes a pedestrian-scaled street grid, engagement with the street through the use of continuous street walls, and plenty of open space.

In order to challenge the perception of the super-block as a single “housing estate” as evidenced by the realization of the Radiant City paradigm in urban areas throughout the peninsula, FWT was conceived instead as being an assemblage of distinct communities. An analysis of Korean social hierarchy (the Ma-Ul, the Dong-Ne, and the Yi-Woot) informed the organization of the FWT into four courtyard communities each of which is subdivided into three neighborhoods of approximately 200 households.

The traditional Korean built environment also influenced the design, wherein circulation through palaces and gardens is characterized by repeated shifts in orientation and displaced axes. At the perimeter, gates and seven-story street walls provide a sense of enclosure, beyond which densely planted interior courtyards are viewed through large scale “urban windows”.

Displacement is also a theme at an architectural scale, where the ashlar patterns of traditional garden walls inspired the exterior wall articulation. The discontinuous lines of these surfaces break down the vertiginous effect of windows more characteristic of high-rise building, and in so doing reduce the apparent scale of the development.

The design for FWT further addresses the profound problem of scale associated with the super block typology by varying building heights in a rhythmic, nonlinear progression. Within the framework of the buildings, scalar elements such as large apertures, arcades, and pavilions assist in translating very large elements down to the scale of the individual. S

Fact Sheet

  • Occupancy: January 2009
  • 1,596 Residential Units, 1,058 Officetel Units and 294 Ground Level Retail
  • All Units Sold Out
  • Buildable Area: 5.7M SF/531,670 SM
  • 12 Buildings from 3 to 64 Floors
  • 4,892 Car Parking Garage
  • Architect: KPF/Kunwom
  • Contractor: POSCO E&C
  • Pursuing LEED for NC Certification

Gale International

Gary, Indiana: Unbroken spirit amid the ruins of the 20th Centry

A look back at the effectiveness of federal stimulus past and present by the BBC. Gary In was a town that received federal stimulus money after the great depression and once again when the Obama administration announced its stimulus package after the recent economic collapse. The movie takes a look at how effective stimulus can be, and the politics behind its delivery.

Watch this video over at the BBC.

To put this in context you have to know that Gary, home to what is still US Steel Corp’s biggest plant, is suffering from one of the most advanced cases of urban blight in the developed world. Its city centre is near-deserted by day. The texture of the urban landscape is cracked stone, grass, crumbled brick and buddleia.

Gary is one third poor, 84% African American, and has seen its population halve over the past three decades. If crime, as the official figures suggest, has recently dropped off then – say the critics – that is because population flight from the city is bigger than the census figures show.

Gary in the end got $266m of stimulus money and has, according to the federal “recipient reported data” created a grand total of 327 jobs. That’s $800,000 per job.

I went back determined to find out how the stimulus dollars had been spent; to get beyond the ideology and recriminations and see why President Barack Obama’s stimulus has failed to turn the country around.

The striking thing is that they are all structurally dangerous and yet totally accessible. I did not have to cross a single piece of wire, tape or fencing to get in, nor did I encounter a security guard or dog patrol. The city seems to have given up even securing these ruins.

Photos on flickr

Digital Rights Management

Please note that many of the images and some of the content used on urban neighbourhood has (in the tradition of blogging) been excerpted from the Internet, if you are the rights holder to any of the images or content we have used and you would prefer that we not use them or that the credit for said content be corrected, please let us know at urbanneighbourhood@yahoo.ca and we would be happy to oblige.