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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.

Neighbourhood News August 24th

Of windy cities, neighbourhood development and construction gone wrong.

Blair Kamin talks fusing modern with traditional: An expansion Done Right.

In the Toronto Star Christopher Hume gets excited about a waterfront proposal.

Do you prefer the edgy or the grand, and where do you want your cultural institutions? its A Tale of Two Downtowns.

Don’t you just want to hug a designer? How Designers Banded Together to Remake New York’s Libraries.

What could possibly go wrong with a government contract? Find out in the tale of Government Square!


A View From a Wave: The Aqua Tower

This spring ‘Aqua’ an 82 story mixed-use residential tower in the Lakeshore East development in downtown Chicago will open for business. The tower can be found on the 200 block of North Columbus drive in an area that is pretty dense with other skyscrapers.

The building itself is a relatively simple glass box structure that isn’t much to shout about, however the building is wrapped with a series of balconies that flow in and out of the tower similar to waves and the striated limestone outcroppings that are often found in the topography of the Great Lakes region. The Architect Jeanne Gang, cited the the limestone as an inspiration for the balconies.

In some case the balconies stretch out as far as 12 feet from the building itself to allow residents to capture views of the city around and below them. While designed to look good and differentiate the building from the other glass boxes the balconies were refined to maximize solar shading.

The building also has a number of other efficient features that include rainwater collection systems and energy efficient lighting. The tower base also has a green roof.

In an increasingly dense city like Chicago, views from a new tower must be negotiated between existing buildings. Aqua tower considers criteria such as views, solar shading and function to derive a vertical system of contours that gives the structure its sculptural form. Its vertical topography is defined by its outdoor terraces that gradually change in plan over the length of the tower. These terraces offer a strong connection to the outdoors and allow inhabitants to occupy the building facade and city simultaneously. S

The roof terraces added an extra element of complication to construction. As each wave is different, so too is each floor plate in the tower. (what you didn’t think that they just stuck them on did you?) This made the construction process more complicated then your standard glass box. The building has also had some other economic complications, originally Strategic Hotels & Resorts was to have been a major tenant with a plan to purchase 15 floors in the building to expand the neighbouring Fairmont Hotel across the street, but the good ol recession put a stop to that and the company cancelled its contact in 2008. Sales of the residential properties have good good however and on the Aqua website there are only about 23 residential units up for sale. S

Architect of Record: Loewenberg & Associates
Owner: Magellan Development
Program: Hotel and Residential High-rise with retail and commercial spaces
Size: 1.9 m SF including parking, 823 feet high

High Speed Rail News

Siemens is expanding its land holdings at its U.S. manufacturing plant to make sure that it has the capacity to meet future demand for High Speed Rail trains, It has purchased 20 acres of land adjacent to its train-making facility in Sacramento that sits on a 34-acre site. The company has made trains that run in Germany, China, Russia, and Spain. (CNN)

The Central Japan Railway Co. says it will throw its hat in the ring with other foreign companies in competing to develop the high-speed railway line earmarked for Florida, and suggests that it may partner with General Electric. (TampaBay)

The state Joint Finance Committee of Wisconsin voted 12-4 to confirm the states acceptance of the $810 million federal grant, to be spent on a 85 mile long high-speed rail line between Madison and Milwaukee. The vote was passed along partisan lines with the Democrats for and the Republican’s against. (BusinessWeek)

So Michigan has $244 million dollars allocated to construction of the of the Detroit-Chicago high-speed rail corridor, one  columnist from Freep weighs in on why the state should be happy it got so little — if they’d given more, then the they would have to figure out how to actually pay for the rest. (Freep)

The Transparent City

Photographed by Michael Wolf.

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be on the other side of the plate glass window? What would it be like to be on the outside looking in?

A new book of Urban Photography by Michael Wolf takes a look at the city from the outside in.

Chicago, like many urban centres throughout the world, has recently undergone a surge of new construction, grafting a new layer of architectural experimentation onto those of past eras. In early 2007, the Museum of Contemporary Photography‚ with the support of U.S. Equities Realty, invited Michael Wolf as an artist-in-residence. Bringing his unique perspective on changing urban environments to a city renowned for its architectural legacy, Wolf chose to photograph the central downtown area, focusing specifically on issues of voyeurism and the contemporary urban landscape in flux.

Pick up the book over at  aperture foundation

Neighbourhood News: Monday March 2nd

The New Yorker

Toddlin’ Town: Daniel Burnham’s great Chicago Plan turns one hundred.


Rendering of Burnham's vision for Chicago

Burnham was famous for the dictum “Make no little plans,” and Jules Guerin’s alluring watercolor renderings in the published “Plan of Chicago” gave this vision an ethereal cast.
In the mid-eighteen-nineties, Daniel Burnham, then the most prominent architect in Chicago, met with a young architect named Frank Lloyd Wright. Burnham had been impressed by Wright’s talent but felt that he could use some seasoning. He offered to pay Wright’s tuition at the École des Beaux-Arts, in Paris, to support his family, and to give him a job when he returned. Wright turned him down. It was one of the few times that Burnham, who was probably the most successful power broker the American architectural profession has ever produced, didn’t get his way, and he told Wright that he was making a mistake: the Beaux-Arts style, of which Burnham was a leading exponent, was taking over the country, and Wright was deluded if he thought that his modern approach, with its open spaces and horizontal lines, would ever amount to much.

Burnham and Wright went their separate ways, but their paths kept crossing, because if you had anything to do with American architecture around the turn of the century you inevitably ran into Burnham. He designed the Flatiron Building, in New York; Union Station in Washington, D.C.; Orchestra Hall in Chicago; Selfridges department store, in London; and more banks and office buildings than you could count. He got the train tracks that had despoiled the Mall in Washington for much of the nineteenth century removed and headed a Washington planning commission that, among other achievements, set the location for the Lincoln Memorial. Most important of all, a hundred years ago, in 1909, Burnham completed work on a document with the unassuming title “Plan of Chicago” that remains the most effective example of large-scale urban planning America has ever seen. Assisted by the young city planner Edward H. Bennett, he laid out the shorefront of Lake Michigan, quadrupling the amount of parkland and thus insuring that the lakefront would forever be public open space. He created the Magnificent Mile, the double-decker roadway of Wacker Drive, and the recreational Navy Pier, which extends into Lake Michigan. Envisioning Chicago as the anchor of an enormous region, he drafted a rough outline of highways to connect the city to the places around it. Quite simply, Burnham determined the shape of modern Chicago. Continue Reading

Growing Water: A Vision of Chicago in the Future

city of water eco blvd

Proposed Eco Blvd

The Growing Water proposal was put together by UrbanLab for the City of the Future Competition hosted by the History Channel. The History Channel’s competition preamble lays out the historical context of epic engineering projects that are remembered through time.

“The civilizations covered in Engineering an Empire on The History Channel achieved the impossible—they were the first to design and engineer marvels that astonished the world and transcended time.

This competition, in the spirit of visionary thinkers and planners, world’s fairs and literature everywhere, challenges participants to imagine tomorrow’s buildings, transportation networks, and centers of commerce and begin to give them form by creating bold and visionary designs reflecting what their city might look like and how it would function 100 years from now.

The competition aims for clear architectural and engineering responses with the goal of using what we have learned from past civilizations in order to peer into the future. We want to see tomorrow’s cities foretold in three dimensions, not merely written about or described. We are looking for tomorrow’s architectural and engineering marvels, which like the engineering and architectural marvels of past civilizations, have the staying power to endure beyond their times.” s

The City of Water DiagramThe Growing Water Proposal for Chicago puts out a few basic underlying points about what it sees as the conditions facing the world in the upcoming century. It is projected that by the year 2106, the most precious commodity in the world will be water. The Chicago proposal suggests that the city become a fresh water factory in a sense. Reversing the hydrological design which has the city draining water from the great lakes and diverting it across the continental divide into the Mississippi watershed. Currently almost none of the water is returned to the Great Lakes water system.

The project installs a network of Eco-Boulevards designed to function like a giant living machine that will feed used water and storm run off back into the lake after filtering it through a series of engineered marshes. The proposal enhances the ‘Emerald Necklace’ of parks that Chicago is known for and expands them, converting them to a system that not only provides an urban oasis and parkway system but turns the City into a giant fresh water factory.

Fresh water is foreseen to be the Oil of the coming century and as such positions Chicago to enjoy the wealth of living next to one of the largest fresh water deposits in the world.

The proposal is inspiring when especially when you consider that this hydrological utopia is completely achievable with contemporary technology, all it takes is the collective will and a waterfront view is possible most Chicago urbanites the Growing Water Proposal creates a future where cities have a positive impact on the environment, please check it out. Click to see the History Channel Competition and the other winning proposals from LA and New York City.

Growing Water