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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.

A Panorama of Paris

I love looking at cities, I study street pattern and pour over satellite images, walk down the sidewalk with my head craned up towards the sky because I want to look at everything. Any new look I can get at a place and I`ll spend some time to looking at everything.  Tonight thanks to the wonders of Stumbleupon I came across this birds eye, or rather tower top 360 degree 360 panoramic view of the city of lights  from the Eiffel Tower.  In case you were n`t aware the Eiffel Tower is the tallest building in Paris, and the most-visited paid monument in the world.

The Circling  shot has views  of Le Palais de Chaillot, the Mussee du Qaui Branly, Avenue de Saxe, Tour Montparnasse and much more.  The joy of Gilles Vidal`s photography is that its a never ending panorama, so you can put it on and just watch the city turn below. 

So if you would like to enjoy a panoramic spin above Paris then you have found the right place to click.

Shot by gilles vidal photographe.

Turcot Quartier Eco Santé

The Turcot Yards in the City of Montreal is the type of property that could be considered a city builder’s dream. Conveniently located near a number of major transportation routes, minutes from downtown,  near the new super hospital, it has it’s own wooded slope and a canal runs along side. The City of Montreal and the MTQ (Ministère des Transports du Québec) have been arguing over what to do with this space ever since its fate came into question with the reconstruction of the crumbling Turcot Exchange.  What  follows is a proposal to weave this space back into the city. If you are looking for the City of Montreal’s proposal it can be found here.

The vision for the site is a development focused on healthy living and delivering better access to health facilities utilizing the McGill University Health Center as a pole in thein the development of the Turcot Quartier Eco Santé. With the construction of sucah a large development there is ample potential to make the site a center for innovation and creativity within the city of Montreal. Our emphasis on eco-city design creates an opportunity to put Montreal back on the map as a center for innovation. Our Project Coincides with the growing movement in eco-city design and we envision an opportunity to create a healthy human environment that can develop in stages depending on the needs of the residents and users themselves.

Stemming from this vision for Turcot Quartier Eco Santé, our objectives –  are to identify the site within Montreal while creating cohesion with the surrounding neighbourhoods. As the MUHC (McGill University Health Center) will cater to the entire island there is a great opportunity to conne ct both the local and regional through safe, effective and efficient transit corridors. It must also conform to the long term, sustainability – oriented vision adopted by the City of Montreal both in its Master Plan and Transport Plan, and to teh environmental vision the MTQ has set out in its own policy.

Turcot Quartier Eco Santé will not be developed like the traditional Montreal Suburb, rather it will demonstrate eco-city and sustainable development standards. The goal is to promote a development that effects how people travel in Montreal but also the way in which the urban fabric can be used. A vital goal is to incorporate various mixed use as well as mixed density and varying socio economic levels. Social and affordable housing will be combined with other types of housing, without allowing for differentiation based on design. The term Santé reflects our goal of creating a healthy human environment which promotes ecological ways of living and our goal to establish many specialized clinics in the new Quartier Santé neighbourhood in order to facilitate access to specialists and doctors working from the Mega Hospital and the local area.

In any large development there are both positive and negative aspects which may limit or enhance the development, however if we utilize all these in an equal manner just like a battery charge then the growth of the project can allow for a consistent distribution of pedestrian, transit and vehicular flows. This concept has the potential to charge the development by connecting our main concepts for green space and recreational space and thread them throughout the project in order to emphasize the potential healthy character of the site itself.

The average income in the areas surround the site are fairly typical for the Island of Montreal, excluding the highest distribution in Westmount. This allows us to stage development to attract a fair distribution of income groups while incorporating affordable and mixed housing and ideally attract those that would normally choose to reside in the suburbs. In and around the site there is a high distribution of both English and French schools, demonstrating a need to incorporate relatively few new educational facilities within the development. Access to educational facilities is however a key element in attracting families to Turcot Quartier Eco Santé and as such we envision the need for one French high school, one French elementary school and one English Elementary school. The service sheds are dependant on the proposed LRT (Light Rail Transit) station, and are measured to accomodate a 500m walking distance. The center of the sheds shall accommodate major services such as medium to large grocery stores, specialized commercial services, specialized health services, recreational services, and educational institutions.

Given a maximum estimated population for the given region of 22,000 people based on a 2.5km² area, we determined the mix of housing shown in the pie chart. Given the chosen five categories, we determined 15% social housing, 30% affordable housing, 35% middle income 10% middle high income, and 10% high income. These categories and percentages are based on socio-economic that we observed in the surrounding boroughs in Montreal, and are most logical in obtaining the largest possible population density.  A key component of the socio-economic plan is to incorporate adequate affordabel and social housing as it is currently in-high demand within the city of Montreal. Typically it is difficult to merge these housing types cohesively into the urban fabric as there is a stigma attached to housing provided for lower income residents. Mixed income areas can be considered more appealing by offering employment opportunities at a local level. For instance a portion of the residential units located above big-box stores could be affordable housign for those who are employed within those stores. Maintenance of green roofs and community gardens could also be done by those living in social housing, in order to provide gainful employment opportunities and encourage a sense of community.

Before the arrival of European settlement in Montreal, the area now known as Turcot was formerly a marshy lake know as lac St-Pierre or Lac aux Loutres (Otter Lake), which flowed into the former St-Pierre River. In 1832 the river began to be covered by engineers and it was eventually incorporated into the cities expanding wastewater and sewer system, while the shallow marshy Lac St-Pierre was drained and filled in during the construction of the Lachine canal. In the late 1800’s, the grand trunk railway established a rail yard in the area naming it the Turcot Yards. In 1923, the grand trunk railway corporation ceased to exist, and the Canadian National Railway took control of the Turcot yards and the adjacent rail lines. In the 1960’s construction began on the Turcot interchange, which was inaugurated on April 25th, 1967, in time for Montreal’s World Expo. The interchange was meant to ease traffic and connect Autoroutes 10, 15, 20 and 720. CN used the Turcot yards site until it was abandoned in 2002, and since then there have been various attempts to make better use of the vast empty land that the Turcot has become.

As the site has been a rail yard for nearly a century, and more recently has been used as a site for emergency snow dumping, there is high presence of lead and other toxins in the soil. As such it is necessary to attempt to decontaminate the soil before initiating development. A potential solution for this could be the use of Humic acids; they offer a cost effective, organic and simple way of remediating degraded and contaminated soils. Humic acids are nontoxic and biodegrade slowly. They have low oxygen demand and have excellent fixation and adsorption properties for xenobiotics in soil (Sita France, 2006).

A key factor in attracting suburbanites to move to an urban setting  and Turcot Quartier Eco Santé is not only the overall marketing of the project but also by way of providing more facilities that accommodate families. There must be an attempt to lure back residents who have fled the city in the past, but not at the expense of those who today call the district home (Gibson, 2002, p.262). If new housing opportunities are provided where in a private backyard that is commonly barely used is no longer considered more appealing than public green space consistent design elements could prove more aesthetically appealing. Private green spaces will also be provided both in the higher density areas through our regulations requiring active green roofs and our opening up of a number of the town home lots in the main residential zone for private purchase shall allow for this. The urge to attract suburbanites coincides with the socio-economic diversity, as it requires a sincere commitment to grapple with realities of class privilege in the contemporary urban landscape. As the Turcot site is practically a blank slate it proves easier to enhance this opportunity and not only attract the common demographic of the area, but also those from outside the area. As such the goal of attracting new residents must be coupled with an equally ambitious goal of expanding access to low-income and affordable housing. (Gibson, 2002, p.274). A component of this stems from attracting not only singles and couples, but families as well. Providing safe facilities to accommodate families in open space so that they feel comfortable using the ample public green space and parks.

Turcot Quartier Eco Santé will consist three main neighbourhoods, incorporating various areas with varying levels of activity depending on the location and time of the day, each generating different intensities of both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The site will contain Light Rail Transit, pedestrian and bike zones that promote movement from the main station located on Rue Cavendish, to public parks, local playgrounds, and sporting areas. The variety of transportation options will benefit movement in multiple directions throughout the area, while the Lachine Canal, and the escarpment provide natural barriers and give the neighbourhood a feeling of containment. The Turcot Village square, located adjacent to the proposed marina, will contain the highest level of intensity as it will be the place where all types of traffic converge within the site. The intensity level will decrease when moving progressively further from this main node, however the intensity will again increase at the main public areas of parks and playgrounds, which will be located adjacent to our Light Rail Transit nodes.

The Turcot Yards transportation infrastructure is of both local and regional importance. At present a number of important regional transit links run through the site, the intersection of provincial highways 20, 15 and 720 are located in the north-east corner of the site. Highway twenty, known as Auto-route du Souvenir as well as highway 720 known as the Ville-Marie Expressway currently pass directly through the centre of the project site and all these attract approximately 150,000 vehicles daily. The Turcot Yards also has a long history of rail infrastructure, and the main CN freight line from the west, along with the main Via Rail commuter line also pass directly through the centre of the site parallel to the Auto-route du Souvenir.

The redevelopment of the Turcot Yards will respect the integral part of the regional transportation network that these pieces play in the greater Montreal region, and the province of Quebec as a whole. However contrary to other proposals for the highway the Turcot Yards development project recommends that highway capacity be capped at status quo preferring instead to focus expansion on the rail infrastructure and other mass transit links. The intersection of highways 15, 20 and 720 is an elevated structure that currently sits above a large area of land, while the elevated nature of the interchange permits other uses underneath the structure’s elevation has an impact on the maintenance and lifespan of the highway, the Turcot development project will attempt to reduce the impact of this interchange by reducing the size and amount of space that it takes up. The new interchange will be designed to have multiple levels for ease of transit for through traffic and interchange to the other routes.

Panel Gallery

In order to maximize the Turcot Yards site the regional transportation infrastructure will be relocated to near the base of the falaise St. Jacques following the current route of Rue Pullman, and then buried. The highway covers a total of 110, 440 sqm , half of this comes from the expansion of the escarpment (55, 220 sqm) which allows the steep incline to become useful. The other half, will become part of the boulevard. If the highway was left at grade when expanding the escarpment it would limit accessibility and a total of 110, 440 sqm would be lost, 55,220 sqm of which would not be developable since the road and buildings would be pushed further south. When trenching or creating tunnels for highways it is critical to provide adequate ventilation, as such we wish to use as much natural ventilation as possible and incorporate other systems if necessary. The basic design for the trenched part of the highway (Panel 4) will use fan and air movement to correspond to the flow of traffic and the number of fans used will be dependant on the specific tunnel length. The extension of Boulevard Cavendish will provide an essential connection between the South West,NDG and Lasalle.

A key component in the Ecological emphasis of Turcot Quartier Eco Santé is incorporating green building strategies to promote long lasting development potential. They provide an outstanding number of public benefits in areas such as air quality improvement, reduction in greenhouse gases, storm water quality and quantity improvements as well as long term economic benefits for building owners. Opportunities are not only available for vertical architecture, neighbourhood gardens, and composting centers but also through sustainable development technologies such as permeable paving, as well as storm water management and alternative energy generation.

Photo Sources: Jenna Dutton, 2010
GIS Maps : Mike Rocco
3D Images: Peter Mouhteros
Sketches: Daniel Barham
School Maps: Google Maps

Gibson, T. (2005) Selling city living: Urban branding campaign, class power and the civic good. In International Journal of Cultural Studies 2005; 8; 259.

Kives, B. (2010) Take one downtown, fill it with people. In Winnipeg Free Press Online Edition, February 8, 2010.

Sita France (2006) Global Skills for the Environment: Site and Soil Remediation. Retrieved from www.sita.fr on March 18, 2010.

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.

The Story Of New Songdo

The City of New Songdo or Songdo New City as it is known in Korea is the country’s bid to take city building into the future. City officials say that it will be a “compact, smart and green city,” at a press conference covered by The Korean Herald. Songdo is being built on reclaimed land in the western port city of Incheon, which is currently known more for the international airport, (which incidentally is rated one of the best in the world to fly through, and I can attest to from experience) S. New Songdo wants to change that and become known as a compact sustainable city that provides all necessary services in close proximity.

To achieve this goal the city will have facilities for business, health care, education, leisure, shopping and high tech industries all within a five kilometre radius. In the central city, residents will use bicycles or public transportation rather than cars to get around according to city officials, of course the six lane roads that form the block structure of the city and my experience with living in ‘green Ulsan’ (and its massive petrochemical complex) makes me wonder just how likely this assertion will be.

“(In the compact city,) all functions are located within the city center, unlike conventional cities which have a business complex in the center and the residential area in the suburbs,” Incheon Mayor Ahn Sang-soo said.

New Songdo residents may work in the 68-floor Northeast Asia Trade Tower that should be completed this year, or the 151-floor Incheon Tower set to to be completed in 2014. The city has a Central Park, which is Korea’s first park to have a seawater filled canal. Student in the city will go to “Songdo Global Campus,” which will host foreign universities like North Carolina State University and the State University of New York.

Incheon University Campus Proposal

The city is being wired by Cisco and will set up to allow residents to communicate through a variety of wired and wireless portals and devices based on ubiquitous computing technologies.

“The ‘smart’ city means a city equipped with ‘ubiquitous’ infrastructure that manages and control the city’s functions automatically at an optimal time. This enables the cost-effective management of the city,” Ahn said.

To learn more about New Songdo check out the article in The Korean Herald, or if you are interested in taking a look at the housing and office space options in New Songdo Check out our article on The Prau, or on The # First World. You can also take a look at what they are doing with container architecture.

A 100 million square foot new city on 1,500 acres. S

Commercial 40 million SF
Residential 35 million SF
Retail 10 million SF
Hospitality 5 million SF
Public Space 10 million SF

Building the Urban Network

I came across an interesting article the other day while surfing the interweb about the future of new city building in Asia, (which is one of the few places in the world where cities spring up from scratch). In this age of bundling and value add ons comes a different vision of what a city is, how to make them more efficient, how they should be built, and how a couple of companies think they should be built. Estimates put spending on global infrastructure at $35 trillion over the next two decades and the new city market itself is likely to be worth at least $500 billion in the next ten years. How’s that for a growth industry?

Fast Company

Cisco’s Big Bet on New Songdo: Creating Cities From Scratch

By: Greg LindsayFebruary 1, 2010

The world is bracing for an influx of billions of new urbanites in the coming decades, and tech companies are rushing to build new green cities to house them. Are these companies creating a smarter metropolis — or just making money?

Stan Gale is exultant. The chairman of Gale International yanks off his tie, hitches up his pants, and mops the sweat and floppy hair from his brow. He’s beaming like a proud new papa, sprung from the waiting room and handing out cigars to whoever happens by. Beckoning me to follow, he saunters across eight lanes of traffic toward his baby, delivered prematurely days before.

Ten years ago, Gale was a builder and flipper of office parks who would eventually become known for knocking down the Boston landmark Filene’s Basement and replacing it with a hole in the ground. But Gale’s fate began to change in 2001 with a phone call from South Korea. The Korean government had found his firm on the Internet and made an offer everyone else had refused. The brief: Gale would borrow $35 billion from Korea’s banks and its biggest steel company, and use the money to build from scratch a city the size of downtown Boston, only taller and denser, on a muddy man-made island in the Yellow Sea. When Gale arrived to see the site, it was miles of open water. He signed anyway.

New Songdo City won’t be finished until 2015 at least, but in August, Gale cut the ribbon on the 100-acre “Central Park” modeled, like so much of the city, on Manhattan’s. Climbing on all sides will be a mix of low-rises and sleek spires — condos, offices, even South Korea’s tallest building, the 1,001-foot Northeast Asia Trade Tower. Strolling along the park’s canal, we hear cicadas buzzing, saws whining, and pile drivers pounding down to bedrock. I ask whether he’s stocked the canal with fish yet. “It’s four days old!” he splutters, forgetting he isn’t supposed to rest until the seventh.

As far as playing God (or SimCity) goes, New Songdo is the most ambitious instant city since Brasília 50 years ago. Brasília, of course, was an instant disaster: grandiose, monstrously overscale, and immediately encircled by slums. New Songdo has to be better because there’s a lot more riding on it than whether Gale can repay his loans. It has been hailed since conception as the experimental prototype community of tomorrow. A green city, it was LEED-certified from the get-go, designed to emit a third of the greenhouse gases of a typical metropolis its size (about 300,000 people during the day). It’s an “international business district” and an “aerotropolis” — a Western-oriented city more focused on the airport and China beyond than on Seoul. And it’s supposed to be a “smart city,” studded with chips talking to one another, designated as such years before IBM found its “Smarter Planet” religion.

Being seriously ahead of the curve explains why Gale had such a hard time finding a tech partner to bring this dream to fruition. First in line was LG, one of Korea’s homegrown conglomerates. None of its ideas had made it past the prototype stage. Next up was Microsoft, which signed a deal giving it carte blanche to mold the city in its image. “Designing an entirely new city from the ground up provides a unique opportunity to create an ideal technological infrastructure,” Bill Gates boasted. But before he could even measure for drapes, Gale decided a plumber would be a better fit and threw Microsoft over for Cisco.

Last spring, the networking giant became New Songdo’s exclusive supplier of digital plumbing. More than simply installing routers and switches — or even something so banal as citywide Wi-Fi — Cisco is expected to wire every square inch of the city with synapses. From the trunk lines running beneath the streets to the filaments branching through every wall and fixture, it promises this city will “run on information.” Cisco’s control room will be New Songdo’s brain stem.

And that’s just the beginning. No longer content to sell just plumbing, the company is teaming up with Gale, 3M, United Technologies (UTC), and the architects of Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) to enter the instant-city business. At a Cisco event near New Songdo last summer, Gale stunned the room by announcing plans to eventually roll out 20 new cities across China and India, using New Songdo as a template. In the spirit of Moore’s Law, he says, each will be done faster, better, cheaper, year after year.

Cisco calls this Smart+Connected Communities initiative a potential $30 billion opportunity, a number based not only on the revenues from installation of the basic infrastructure but also on selling the consumer-facing hardware as well as the services layered on top of that hardware. Picture a Cisco-built digital infrastructure wired to Cisco’s TelePresence videoconferencing screens mounted in every home and office, with engineers listening, learning, and releasing new Cisco-branded bandwidth-hungry services in exchange for modest monthly fees. You’ve heard of software as a service? Well, Cisco intends to offer cities as a service, bundling urban necessities — water, power, traffic, telephony — into a single, Internet-enabled utility, taking a little extra off the top of every resident’s bill.

Read More!

Is that a mock Tudor Castle in your haystack or are you just happy to see me?

That is quite a Haystack you have there!

That is quite a Haystack you have there!

In Redhill Surry Robert fiddler created a massive pile of hay bales in his yard and his neighbours didn’t really think anything of it, he is a farmer after all. Then about six years later the bales came down and voila a Mock Tudor Castle. The fiddlers built the house in secret over the course of two years and then lived in it while it was hidden within the hay bales for four years in a bit to avoid needing to get planning permission for the structure. The town council wants it down but Robert fiddler is arguing that he followed the letter of the law. A law which states that if a structure has been built/erected for four years and there are no objections to it then planning permission is automatically granted.

The Banstead Council is arguing that the four year period is void because the fiddlers had the house hidden under a haystack and therefore no one could see it to object to it. I suppose that no one thought to wonder where all those bricks being delivered to the farm were going? (They are right there in the picture after all) The house was revealed in early January and the matter went before town council in February. While there are plenty of articles (much like this one) talking about the unveiling there are none that speak of what happened after it went to the council, or maybe he has hopefully taken the case to a higher court if they turned him down.

The Offending Castle

The Offending Castle

The question of Aesthetics aside I personally, while a fan of planning laws myself, think it is genius that this farmer found a loophole in the law and was able to use it. In terms of the legal aspect he did satisfy the terms of the law if not the spirit of the law. How often do we see people get off on technicalities in criminal cases? It is refreshing to see a farmer able do the same. Plus I have a feeling after my google map look at the property (which still shows the haystack) that this ‘castle’ is an improvement. I also find it funny that the biggest objection listed in the article is “Everyone else has to abide by planning laws, so why shouldn’t they?” That said the Banstead council and councils around the world would be smart to alter their regulations so that no one can use this loop hole in the future.

View Larger Map

The Farm is located in the bottom middle of the map on ‘Axes line’ between ‘picketts line’ and and ‘new house line’ to the left of the service road. Google Map “Honeycrock Farm, Salfords, Redhill, Surrey” to get the little red marker.
The Evening Standard Article.

Read More Here at Urban Neighbourhood with ‘The Fight for Fidler’s Castle Continues’