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City Of The Future

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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.

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!

The Red Chair

Concept art by Doug Williams

Neighbourhood News April 20th – Rethinking Cities

A look at ways that people are suggesting that we make our cities better.


April 14, 2010 —

In the latest installment of The Economist’s video series “Tea with The Economist,” Bruce Katz discusses the primary ways that metropolitan areas in the United States can collectively propel the country back toward prosperity. Katz emphasizes the need for smarter investments from the public and private sectors and how a shift to a low-carbon economy is vital for maintaining the country’s competitiveness.

Host: Why the focus on metros?

Bruce Katz: Metropolitan areas in the United States and here in Europe really concentrate all the assets that drive prosperity and will drive economic recovery. So the top 100 metropolitan areas in the United States — these are the big cities and the suburbs that surround them — sit on only 12 percent of the land mass, they house two-thirds of the population, they generate about three-quarters of the gross domestic product.

But when it comes to the assets that drive prosperity, they’re about 94 percent of venture capital in the United States, they’ve got all the talented workers, those with graduate degrees, the engineers, the scientists. They’re our freight hubs, rail and air, and they have that quality of place that really attracts, particularly, the younger generation. So they pack a really powerful punch. But the United States tends to think of itself as a network of small towns. It really doesn’t think of itself as a powerful metro nation. So to a large extent the country nor the states, because we are a union of states still in many respects, don’t really leverage the assets in these places. Take me to the article

Project for Public Spaces

Transformative Times: Earth Day 1970, Placemaking, and Sustainability Today

40 years ago this week, I coordinated the first Earth Day celebration in New York City. The city had never seen anything like it.

We were laying the groundwork for a new way of looking at the world—expanding the public’s thinking beyond the limited vision that characterized fields like industry, economics, science and politics to embrace a much larger view of the whole planet.

Earth Day transformed New York—literally. To draw attention to protecting the environment in cities, we turned Fifth Avenue into a “place” by eliminating traffic from 59th Street to Union Square.  People poured out of offices and apartments to walk down the middle of the most important street in New York on a beautiful spring day. (This was five years before I founded Project for Public Spaces, but you can see the idea was already germinating.)

It was a lot of fun for everyone, but also a potent symbol that this new movement could bring great, positive changes to our lives.  And ideas born on the first Earth Day are beginning to come to fruition today, with the closing of portions of Broadway and the New York City Summer Streets Program which PPS helped bring about.

Union Square Park was the site of the main Earth Day celebration with an enormous stage set up for speakers, prayers and music. Booths promoting ecological awareness spread throughout the park. Bliss and the promise of a better world were in the air, along with whiffs of pot in a few isolated corners.

Futurama – your dream stagecoach.

On Sunday March 8th 2010 Jeremy Dean made New york City history by taking his converted Hummer entitled Futurama out for a spin. Entering Central park in New York at 69th St. and Central Park West (at the old Tavern on the Green location) Dean had his hand crafted vehicle pulled by two white horse aptly named Duke and Diesel.

Dean has taken a gas guzzling 8 mile-per-gallon HUMMER H2, a symbol of extravagance, and converted it into a working horse drawn cart. Dean has pimped it out with silver chrome, working LED lights and a booming audio and video system. He calls this piece the CEO Stagecoach.

Location View: Jeremy Dean, CEO Stagecoach, Central Park, New York, NY. 2010
videographer Gareth Paul Cox, editor Diego del Sol
video courtesy of {CTS} creative thriftshop, New York.

to view more on this project please visit: http://www.creativethriftshop.com

The Homerizon

Looking like something out of Star Trek or some other futuristic vision the Homerizon stands 80 feet high, is off the grid and has solar panals, windmills, radiant floors, wind turbines and a cool aerodynamic shape that helps it to capture the breeze. The Homerizon is the brainchild of inventor Jean-Pierre Désmarais who sees it as a way that is easier then you think to get off the grid.  Of course at the moment that ease comes with a price tag of $3.5 to $5 million but lets not worry about that. The Homerzion.

The Lilypad

The Lilypad concept

The Lilypad concept

I have always been a fan of looking towards the future, and I especially love looking at the future, or potential future of Cities, enter the Lilypad, brainchild of  Vincent Callebaut Architectures, the Lilypad is a design for an auto-sufficient amphibious city.  The designer takes the view that we humans are not going to be able to get our act together fast enough to stop the impending Climate Crisis. According to more conservative forecasts of the GIEC (Intergovernmental group on the evolution of the climate) the ocean is likely to rise by about a meter in the 21st century, leaving approximately 50 million people to be evacuated from the low lying areas that will be affected.


Lilypad in harbour

Lilypad, a prototype of auto-sufficient amphibious city

Whereas the Netherlands and the United Arabic Emirates « fatten » their beach with billion of euros to build their short-living polders and their protective dams for a decade, the project «Lilypad» deals with a tenable solution to the water rising! Actually, facing the worldwide ecological crisis, this floating Ecopolis has the double objective not only to widen sustainabely in offshore the territories of the most developed countries such as the Monaco principality but above all to grant the housing of future climatic refugees of he next submerged ultra-marine territories such as the Polynesian atolls. New biotechnological prototype of ecologic resilience dedicated to the nomadism and the urban ecology in the sea, Lilypad travels on the water line of the oceans, from the equator to the poles following the marine streams warm ascending of the Gulf Stream or cold descending of the Labrador.

It is a true amphibian half aquatic and half terrestrial city, able to accommodate 50,000 inhabitants and inviting the biodiversity to develop its fauna and flora around a central lagoon of soft water collecting and purifying the rain waters. This artificial lagoon is entirely immersed ballasting thus the city. It enables to live in the heart of the subaquatic depths. The multifunctional programming is based on three marinas and three mountains dedicated respectively to the work, the shops and the entertainments. The whole set is covered by a stratum of planted housing in suspended gardens and crossed by a network of streets and alleyways with organic outline. The goal is to create a harmonious coexistence of the couple Human / Nature and to explore new modes of living the sea by building with fluidity collective spaces in proximity, overwhelming spaces of social inclusion suitable to the meeting of all the inhabitants – denizen or foreign-born, recent or old, young or aged people.

The floating structure in « branches » of the Ecopolis is directly inspired of the highly ribbed leave of the great lilypad of Amazonia Victoria Regia increased 250 times. Coming from the family of Nympheas, this aquatic plant with exceptional plasticity was discovered by the German botanist Thaddeaus Haenke and dedicated to the Queen Victoria of England in the 19th Century. The double skin is made of polyester fibres covered by a layer of titanium dioxide (TiO2) like an anatase which by reacting to the ultraviolet rays enable to absorb the atmospheric pollution by photocatalytic effect. Entirely autosufficient, Lilypad takes up the four main challenges launched by the OECD in March 2008: climate, biodiversity, water and health. It reached a positive energetic balance with zero carbone emission by the integration of all the renewable energies (solar, thermal and photovoltaic energies, wind energy, hydraulic, tidal power station, osmotic energies, phytopurification, biomass) producing thus durably more energy that it consumes! True biotope entirely recyclable, this floating Ecopolis tends thus towards the positive eco-accountancy of the building in the oceanic ecosystems by producing and softening itself the oxygen and the electricity, by recycling the CO2 and the waste, by purifying and softening biologically the used waters and by integrating ecological niches, aquaculture fields and biotic corridors on and under its body to meet its own food needs.

To reply to the mutation of the migratory flows coming from the hydroclimatic factors, Lilypad join thus on the mode of anticipation particular to the Jules Verne’s literature, the alternative possibility of a multicultural floating Ecopolis whose metabolism would be in perfect symbiosis with the cycles of the nature. It will be one of the major challenges of the 21st Century to create an international convention inventing new special means to accommodate the environmental migrants by recognizing their rights and obligations. Political and social challenge, the urban sustainable development must more than ever enter in resonance worldly with the human sustainable development!

'Learning From Nature' a pavilion by 3XN


The Danish architectural firm 3XN is designing a pavillion for the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art with the intent to show cutting edge possibilities at the meeting point between sustainable and intelligent materials. The resulting pavilion is built of bio composites and has integrated intelligence that interacts with its users and surroundings.

Sustainability does not equal architectural compromise

The pavilion is called ‘Learning from Nature’ and everything about the pavilion is literally inspired by nature itself: The biological cycle of nature is the fundamental basis for the shape, the materials and the dynamic energy generation. The pavilion is shaped as a Moebius band to symbolize the biological cycle; and the properties of the construction are very like those of nature – for example, the pavilion has a coating of nanoparticles that helps clean the surfaces and clean the air. Additionally, the pavilion is built of biodegradable materials; and as for energy, the pavilion is 100 percent self-sufficient.


Kim Herforth Nielsen, Principal of 3XN, comments on the project:

– The Pavilion has given us the opportunity to showcase the possibilities which exist in building with sustainable and intelligent materials. Our objective has been to show that Green Architecture can be dynamic and active.  We often think that we need to minimize use of resources at all costs. Instead of focusing on consuming the least amount of energy, we need to focus on producing and using energy and materials in a more intelligent way than is the case today.

The development of the pavilion is a natural continuation of 3XNs extensive focus on new technologies and materials; a focus that led to the establishment of a unique in-house Research & Development unit in 2007. Since then, 3XN has built an international reputation as one of the most visionary and ambitious architecture firms in the field.

’Learning from Nature’ can be seen at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark, until October.

NVS New Russian Town Plan

Rubleovo-Arkhangelskoe represents a new town, which will be built 2 km away from the northwestern part of Moscow. This project is the largest both in Russia and Europe. It envisages construction of the residential units for more than 100.000 people, occupying the territory with the total area of 430 ha.



Green on Top: Toronto Passes Green Roof Legislation


The city of Toronto has passed the most comprehensive regulations on green roofs of any city in North America. The bylaw puts Toronto at the top of the heap in terms of legislation, though the advocacy group Green Roofs for Healthy Cities points out that Toronto doesn’t make the top ten in terms of the number of green roofs installed in 2008. That distinction goes to the city of Chicago.

“We would have liked it [the Toronto bylaw] to be more aggressive,” said Steven Peck, president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities, though he praised council for “exercising leadership” on a tool to fight climate change. s

Of course to some extent that is being picky just for the sake of being picky. Toronto may not be in the top ten of cities previous to the law going into effect, but chances are that will change under the new regulations.  Toronto City Council voted 36-2 in favor of the regulations with only councillors Rob Ford and Doug Holyday voting against. (Boo Rob and Doug!)

greenroof1The regulations will require green roofs on new residential buildings in the city starting January 31st 2010 that are more then 2,000 square meters and 20 meters or higher. Industrial construction will have an extra 12 months to prepare for the requirements. For industrial buildings they will have to reserve either 10% of the roof area or 2,000 square meters, and have the option to choose the lesser amount for sod and other greenery.

The Building Industry and Land Development Association stated that the biggest concern is how to adjust to the new requirements during a downturn. “Cost is an issue,” he said. “The market is so price-sensitive now.” While I can appreciate that the cost of a green roof is something that developers are going to have to get used too but chances are when it comes time to sell the new units  the tune will switch from being about the cost to the forward thinking and innovation that comes with your purchase of a Building Corp (TM) Condo. Heck if  developers are smart about it, they will just start selling penthouses with lawns, green roof requirement check, a penthouse that comes with a yard equals a big fat check with extra zeros for its purchase.

The campaign to institute the regulations was lead by Deputy mayor Joe Pantalone (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina), who called the new green roof regulations “an opportunity rather than a handicap.” Joe noted that 21% of the surface area of the city is in its roofs. Roofs that are little better then bare pavement and as such raise the temperature of the urban environment and increase electrical demand in the summer, whereas garden roofs, help conserve rainfall, reduce energy demand and add to the beauty of the city. After the vote Joe stated, “You will see other municipalities now looking to Toronto and emulating us for the greater good of humanity.”

greenroof2Of course one of the dissenters had a complaint; “Why do we have to be first?” Mr. Holyday asked before voting against the measure. “Who are we? We can’t even pay our bills.”

Here is a little math Mr Holyday, more green roofs equals less money spent on electricity, that means more disposable income for fancy penthouse apartments that have lawns, fancy penthouse apartments with lawns mean higher taxes, higher taxes mean more money for the city. I mean sure the math is loose but the principal holds.

Thankfully the other 36 councillors get this math and Councillor Norm Kelly (Ward 40, Scarborough-Agincourt) praised the decision as “a pretty darn good starting point…I would rather be first than last,” and I would tend to agree.

Modeling the City and Musings on Density


Ground Level At Festival Sation

So if you are a regular you potentially noticed that its been a while since I’ve done any real posting. Lately I have been concentrating most of my efforts on a studio project I have been working on. We’ve (My Group and I) been putting together a proposal for the implementation of a Light Rail Transit (LRT) line down Avenue Du Parc in Montreal and I have been working on a lot of the 3D images.


I’ve also been working over theories on density and its measurements in preparation to discuss potential thesis topics with my adviser in the next couple of weeks and have been finding the concept of density a bit of a quandary when it applies to Urban planning. I mean sure we all think of density in terms of the number of people within a certain area, but is that really an adequate measure for density. Highly built downtown areas can end up measured as having very low density if you have a downtown area that few people actually live in.

Should building volumes be our measure of density? what is the total amount of built space within a certain area, and how much volume does it take up? This could certainly give a better view on what density feels like to the pedestrian, but then there is the issue of neighbourhoods with similar volumes but much higher population levels. Take a small apartment building in Korea and a building here in Canada, in Korea there are likely to be twice as many people in the building.


Until now density has been a fairly loose measurement, it has been ok for statistical purposes and when considered as an abstract number but as we move into a future where compact and efficient cities are the new goal, we are going to need to take a closer look at this measurement.

Neighbourhood News March 30th 2009

Critical looks at the future of city building.

The Washington Post

In Va., Vision of Suburbia at a Crossroads

Targeting Cul-de-Sacs, Rules Now Require Through Streets in New Subdivisions

cul-de-sac-2Virginia is taking aim at one of the most enduring symbols of suburbia: the cul-de-sac.

The state has decided that all new subdivisions must have through streets linking them with neighboring subdivisions, schools and shopping areas. State officials say the new regulations will improve safety and accessibility and save money: No more single entrances and exits onto clogged secondary roads. Quicker responses by emergency vehicles. Lower road maintenance costs for governments.

Although cul-de-sacs will remain part of the suburban landscape for years to come, the Virginia regulations attack what the cul-de-sac has come to represent: quasi-private standalone developments around the country that are missing only a fence and a sign that says “Keep Out.”

Homeowners choose cul-de-sacs because, they say, they offer safety, security and a sense of community.

“Cul-de-sacs are the safest places in America to live,” said Mike Toalson, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Virginia, which opposes the new rules. “The first lots sold are often on the cul-de-sacs because they are safe.” As for developments with single entrances and exits, Toalson said, such configurations ensure that all traffic is local, neighbors watch out for each other and speeds are kept down. “Crooks look for multiple exits.”

Prince William County residents Brian and Donna Goff chose to raise their children in a cul-de-sac life. They live on Vixen Court, one of seven cul-de-sacs in Bridlewood Manor, a subdivision in Bristow. “You’ve got a family atmosphere. It stays quiet here,” said Brian Goff, 42. The couple, who have two young children, have lived in the cul-de-sac for nine years.

The changes come as cash-strapped states and localities can no longer afford the inexorable widening of secondary roads that are overburdened with traffic from the subdivisions, strip malls, schools and office buildings that feed into them. The system forces drivers to enter these traffic-choked roads to go even 50 yards or so to the neighborhood coffeehouse or elementary school. North Carolina and Portland, Ore., are moving on similar fronts.  Read More.


Reinventing America’s Cities: The Time Is Now

future-of-citiesTHE country has fallen on hard times, but those of us who love cities know we have been living in the dark ages for a while now. We know that turning things around will take more than just pouring money into shovel-ready projects, regardless of how they might boost the economy. Windmills won’t do it either. We long for a bold urban vision.

With their crowded neighborhoods and web of public services, cities are not only invaluable cultural incubators; they are also vastly more efficient than suburbs. But for years they have been neglected, and in many cases forcibly harmed, by policies that favored sprawl over density and conformity over difference.

Such policies have caused many of our urban centers to devolve into generic theme parks and others, like Detroit, to decay into ghost towns. They have also sparked the rise of ecologically unsustainable gated communities and reinforced economic disparities by building walls between racial, ethnic and class groups.

Correcting this imbalance will require a radical adjustment in how we think of cities and government’s role in them. At times it will mean destruction rather than repair. And it demands listening to people who have spent the last decade imagining and in many cases planning for more sustainable, livable and socially just cities. Read More

Neighbourhood News Feb 2 2009

Viet Nam Net

French-Vietnamese artist unveils city of the future

An overseas Vietnamese artist’s vision for a cultural city of the future may be one step closer to fruition as many local architects praised it as a bold and creative vision that reflects his whole-hearted love of his home nation.

Stemming from his ambition to embark on a vast project to honor the source of the nation and symbolise Vietnam’s unique culture, Tran Van Liem, a French painter of Vietnamese origin, has spent 20 years developing the plans for Van Lang City. After living abroad for more than 30 years, the artist returned to Vietnam at the end of 2008 to deliver a lecture on the project.

The basis of Van Lang City’s design is rooted in Oriental philosophy, contained by a circle measuring 1,800m in diameter. The city would be capable of accommodating about 1 million residents and would possess eight, spoke-like boulevards leading from the rim of the circle to a central plaza.

Two of the city’s major landmarks are the “Thien tu thap” and “Hoang tu thap” towers, dedicated to Lac Long Quan and Au Co – the legendary ancestor of the Vietnamese nation. The tower dedicated to Lac Long Quan, distinguished by its square foundations, symbolises Yang-Heaven, whilst the tower dedicated to Au Co with circular foundations would represent Yin-Earth. Read More


Los Angeles Times

New Capitol Visitor Center: not a capital idea

Here at Urban Neighbourhood we came to a similar conclusion

With a half-a-trillion dollars of stimulus spending on the way and real-estate developers mired in what could turn out to be a decade-long slump, the federal government has emerged in recent months as this country’s only viable patron of large-scale construction, at least for the foreseeable future.

So here’s an idea: How about taking a careful, critical look at Washington’s recent architectural track record?

A good place to start is D.C.’s new Capitol Visitor Center. In fact, when it comes to the aesthetic and financial perils of government-sponsored architecture, you could hardly invent a more perfect cautionary tale than the one embodied by this grandiose complex sunk into the east side of Capitol Hill. Read More

Car sharing just got a whole lot bigger


Car sharing is becoming a much more popular way of having a car in the city. People are trading in the maintenance and costs of being an occasional driver for the convenience of having access to a car when they need it and letting someone else or some other company worry about it when they don’t.

“Carsharing is a model of car rental where people rent cars for short periods of time, often by the hour. They are attractive to customers who make only occasional use of a vehicle, as well as others who would like occasional access to a vehicle of a different type than they use day-to-day.” From Wiki

There have been a couple companies that have offered this service till now; Zipcar, Autoshare, CommunAuto, StattAuto, and others. Up until this point Car sharing has been considered a bit of a fringe industry with most people turning up their noses at the idea of ‘sharing a car.’ That is likely to change as a number of major car companies have started eyeing car sharing as a way to find profit in times that have been less then kind to the Car companies.

The Hertz Corporation which is considered to be the worlds largest general use rental company recently announced that it has decided to get into the car sharing business as a method of increasing revenue and activity at its non airport locations in particular.  The company has termed the new division ‘Connect by Hertz ‘ and will be the first global car sharing organisation. You could join in Toronto but still have access to a car share in Atlanta.

“Hertz’s vision is to offer total mobility solutions and car sharing is a logical step for the Company. In line with Hertz’s long term growth plans, Connect by Hertz supports Hertz’s diversified business model by providing best-in-class transportation solutions across the spectrum of customer needs,” commented Mark P. Frissora, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Hertz Corporation. “In addition to being environmentally friendly, Connect by Hertz cars can save members thousands of dollars a year in vehicle ownership costs and, by leveraging Hertz’s established infrastructure, we’re the first major car rental company to be able to offer members the first global car sharing program. With aggressive plans for expansion, Connect by Hertz has all the elements to become a successful and profitable part of Hertz.” S

No matter what your opinion on Hertz,  the company’s entry into an industry that has up till now  been dominated by small environmentally conscious co-ops and independent operators signals that the car sharing business is moving from a fringe service to the mainstream.

Proposals for the next generation Routemaster double decker


Foster & Partners and Aston Martin

Two blue chippers Aston Martin and Foster + Partners raked in a not-much-needed $38,000 (£25,000) and a first-prize award along with Capoco Design for re-jiggering London’s famous double decker bus, the Routemaster. Read More…

The Design By Capoco

The Design By Capoco

Cross Section of Interior Configuration

Cross Section of Interior Configuration

A new-generation eco-friendly driver-and-conductor Routemaster, which could make a return to regular service. The new bus, which would be emission-free and have a hydrogen-fuelled engine, was backed in 2007 by Boris Johnson. S