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Public Spaces

This tag is associated with 17 posts

Pedestrian and Pavingstones

Photographer Adam Magyar provides us a series of birds eye photographs of pedestrians crossing public areas in Hong Kong and Tokyo. Pedestrians in clusters, on their own, and sometimes even in neat little rows. Check out his series entitled ‘Squares’ on his website for more.

The Mitten Field

A Field of Mittens Appears in St Henri.

The lot at the corner of Rue Saint Philippe and Rue Notre Dame spends most of the year as a ‘sort of’ green space that people mostly just cut across when they are heading to and from the Metro and Rue Saint Philippe. Every so often though one of the resident artists finds a way to turn it into an impromptu art space. One of these installations was a vast collection of mittens in various states of attention, most straight up, some on their way to the ground and some already there.
The mittens were of varying shape colour and size, most likely found in a bargain bin maybe or a lost and found? Whatever their origin they were a great addition to the neighbourhood before time and destructive individuals removed them.

*If you are the artist responsible for the mitten field please email us at: urbanneighbourhood@yahoo.ca so we can give you your due!

Dorchester Square shows off its new look

The Eastern Edge of the Park

Dorchester Square in downtown Montreal has spent most of the past two years behind a fence getting a make over. The square was originally inaugurated in 1878 and has four statues and a kiosk that are arranged to form a five point cross. Originally the Catholic Sainte-Antoine Cemetery for victims of the 1851 Cholera Epidemic, the majority of the bodies were later exhumed and moved to the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery on the Northwestern side of Mont Royal.

The square was long one of the cities preeminent park spaces due to its location adjacent to a number of high profile projects that were built in the late 1800s, the construction of the Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral (started 1875 and consecrated in 1894) and the Windsor Hotel (completed in 1878) The construction of the Sun Life Building (completed 1931), Windsor Station (completed 1889), and the Dominion Square building; solidified its status. For many years it has been the centre of the central business district in downtown montreal. In later years the park suffered from a lack of maintenance and the city of Montreal undertook a major renovation to bring the square back to its former glory.

Since I work in the previously mentioned Sun Life Building I stepped out the other day to take some pictures. Of particular interest to note are the cross patterns randomly scattered through the paving stones. According to the city of Montreal spokesperson Philippe Sabourin, they were included as a reference to the park’s past as a cemetery and are only found in parts of the park that made up that parcel of land, which is why you wont find any up in the Northern end. The city has further renovation plans next year for the Northern parcel where the loading and unloading area known as Rue Dorchester Square and the kiosk sit.  Rue Dorchester Square is the main loading and unloading stage for the majority of the Tourist buses dropping off shoppers and tourists who visit nearby Rue Saint Catherine.


The Pedestrianization of Times Square and the Naked Cowboy

Times Square is an iconic location in the City of  New York. In planner speak a place like this is often called a magnet, attactions like these generate activity and draw in people. They call them attractions for a reason. One of Times Square’s more notable citizens is Robert John Burck, more popularly known as the Naked Cowboy, an American Busker with a signature style of wearing only his hat, cowboy boots, a pair of tighty whiteys and a strategically placed guitar. As his main patch is times square the Naked Cowboy and the multitudes of photo’s of him scattered across the Internet as a backdrop to the change taking place in Times Square.

Naked cowboy times squarenaked cowboy per closure

You see up until recently Times Square, while known as an attraction for people, was predominantly a space for cars.  However with the induction of New York’s Fearless new Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, and the changes that have come with her, Times Square is now a different place.  Janette has mentioned that she is taking part of her inspiration for the pedestrianization of Times Square from the Strøget, a car free zone in the center of Copenhagen. In Copenhagen it has turned that part of the city into the longest pedestrian shopping area in Europe and now a very genteel (tax generating) part of the city.

naked cowboy traffic island pre closure

In a brilliant stroke of decisive action the commissionar has decided not to bother waiting for fancy paving stones, and public squares. The first move was made with traffic cones, paint, and cheap patio furnature. The swift take over gives the plaza and exicting feel, pedestrians get an immeadiate payoff from the enjoyment of  being able to use the space and the local buisness owners might even get a taste for the effect of the increased foot traffic. There is no inbetween period when the space isn’t for cars or pedestrains fenced off and waiting for the fancy work to be done making the plaza a permanent installation, everyone can experience the kind of place Times Square can become right now. Instant gratification.

naked-cowboy- when there were cars

The many photo’s of the Naked Cowboy in Times Square show the kind of place it was, and now photos are arriving that show the kind of place it has become, and the kind of place it can be. At the moment the lawn chairs and traffic cones represent an irreverent and almost adolecent kind of Times Square. A Times Square that you assume would have a Naked Cowboy. It is an invigorating transition before it eventually grows up into a more genteel and tidy space.

(Photo: Damon Winter/The New York Times/Redux)

(Photo: Damon Winter/The New York Times/Redux)

Green Security

Natural Barbed Wire (c) SINNOVEG

Natural Barbed Wire (c) SINNOVEG

The problem with most security fences and barriers is that they are, to put it simply… UGLY. Barbed wire fences and concrete blast walls are not often referred to as attractive, but when it comes down to a matters of security and safety from suicide bombers, the aesthetics are rarely considered an issue.

But what if there was an alternative? What if you could have a wall of green that would repel those would be intruders and still look nice to anyone not trying to get through?

Enter ”natural defensive weaved hedges.’ French businessman Jean-Marie Zimmermann travelled to Baghdad with a modest proposal. Replacing the multitude of blast walls and barbed wire fences with green walls made with tightly woven thorny plants. Zimmermann suggests;

“Why not make the Green Zone green? This is the kind of place where we can provide protection. We can remake Baghdad as a city focused on nature, ecology and the environment, with a new concept of security,” S

Its a simple principle really; plant a row of thorny trees and bushes 80 centimetres apart and weave the branches together. As the plants grow they form a dense and razor-sharp hedge that within three years can reach a height of six metres.  Protectionist Roses anyone? For those that don’t think that the plants alone will be enough Zimmmermann says its no problem to place traditional barbed wire, tire spikes, sensors, and other metal barriers within the hedge. Extra protection that is harder to see with the green camouflage over top.

Natural Barrier At Installation with Razor Wire (c) SINNOVEG

Sinnoveg at installation

Natural barrier after (c) SINNOVEG

Natural barrier after (c) SINNOVEG

While the barrier won’t stop a tank, it will stop a truck, and the same holds true for most security barriers.

Hakim Abdel Zahra, the spokesman for the municipality, said the city was studying the concept of plant barriers ‘which was brought to us by a French investor’. ‘The idea of establishing security barriers made of plants has many benefits, both from the psychological side and for the beauty and attractiveness of the city.’

‘When you have five or six rows of thorny trees it will take at least an hour to cross, and that is more than enough time to capture the guy,’ he says.

‘Nothing is insurmountable, not even a concrete wall, but you slow down the infiltration. That’s the principle.’ Mr Zimmermann dreams big, and as he expounds on the product he starts to look beyond Baghdad and its government buildings to Iraq’s long and porous borders with its sometimes antagonistic neighbours.

‘A vegetation barrier on certain parts of the border would be perfectly compatible with sensors,’ he says, and unlike the minefields that criss-cross the Middle East it would not leave future generations with missing limbs.

And if infiltrators try to burn their way in? ‘It would take more than a blowtorch,’ he laughs. ‘These are living plants.’ S

I for one would like to see more of these green security walls. There are plenty of what would otherwise be nice city views that are ruined by the presence of a barbed wire topped chain link fence. If you would like to find out more you can also consult the SINNOVEG website.

Advertising in the public realm

“Advertising physically separates us from the lived experience of the urban fabric, however ugly or beautiful.” Joseph Rykwert

An article in The Architects Journal about billbords gave me an opportunity to think about the issue once again, not that going to a fairly liberal university hasn’t given me plenty of opportunity to hear the discourse on advertising but i appreciated the articles perspective with reguard to public space and the built environment. Read the Article.


The use of advertisements in the public realm has long been considered a bit of a thorny issue. Most populists or anti capitalists feel that advertising has crept too far into the public realm, buses, on top of buildings, bars, bathrooms, and even on top of the gas pump. What happens then when a public structure turns what was supposed to be a façade for public art into a giant billboard? Such is the case with the British Film Institute (BFI), in London. The BFI owns the IMAX building at the base of the bridge, when the building was originally built it was designed as a glass shell over an inner wall that contained the IMAX equipment. The architect Bryan Avery envisioned the outer shell as a place that would be treated by an artist to give passing motorists and pedestrians a taste of public art. Until 2006 things went as envisioned until one day the BFI, citing financial needs decided to sell the space for advertising and what was once a giant piece of public art, became a giant piece of public advertising.

The financial needs argument is a hard one to fight, however an interesting footnote to this is that “being a grant-aid body, it will only receive a fraction of any large advertising revenue.” My question is where is the rest of the money going, and god forbid that they are offering the space at a cut rate. While I personally don’t feel that public buildings should be able to turn their facades into ad space. Rogaine ads on the side of city hall? I do think that if they are forced to resort to that they should get full market value for the space. Of course in my ideal world London and a number of other cities would follow São Paulo, Brazil it instituted the ‘Cidade Limpa’ (‘City Clean’) campaign, which banned all advertising in the public realm. It has turned out to be a bit of a boon for the city coffers since the city has collected about $8 million US from advertisers who decided to take their time pulling down their billboards.

The removal of a lot of these billboards has had a mixed effect on the cityscape, a number of historic gems have been uncovered but a number of shantytown sweatshops have been exposed as well. While the advertisers may not be too happy popular opinion appears to support the initiative with 70% in favor of the policy. Of course a policy like this implemented in other cities then begs the question of what happens to place that are famous mostly because of advertising, Times Square in New York City and the Ginza district in Tokyo come to mind. Perhaps cities could create marketing preserves where certain areas are left open to billboards, a way to look back on the proliferation that was once allowed, lest we forget.


Liverpool Street Station Dance Party

T-mobile advert which was filmed at 11am on Thursday 15th January 2009 at Liverpool Street station, London

Track List
1)Lulu – Shout
2)Yazz – The only way is up
3)Pussycat Dolls – Don’t cha
4)Viennese Waltz
5)Kool & the Gang
6)Rainbow – Since you’ve been gone
7)Millie Small – My Boy Lollipop
8)Contours – Do you love me

Seen In The City: Port De Barcelona


Beşiktaş Fish Market at AMNP


AMNP brings us a great post about the city of Beşiktaş’s new fish market.

The Beşiktaş Fish Market is located on a triangular site. It is an iconic venue where many locals and visitors buy fresh fish daily. The construction of the old fish market was in very poor shape and needed to be replaced.

The design solution was to maintain its iconic neighborhood presence, while also reaffirming its welcoming feeling. GAD designed a triangular shaped concrete shell covering the entire site with large openings at street level. The concrete shell provides a column-free interior space, optimizing the project’s programmatic needs. The new design injects a contemporary and pragmatic solution, at once preserving the fish market’s history.

Beşiktaş Fish Market at AMNP.

Seen In The City: Public Fountain


A Whirlpool on Land; A look at Copenhagen’s New Aquarium


The plans for the New Copenhagen Aquarium by Danish architects 3XN represent a departure from the usual in building design. The whole structure is shaped on the idea of a Whirlpool. The core of the building is a round room evokes the eye of the whirlpool, and serves as the gateway to the rest of the building. From the eye visitors choose the type of water environment they would like to explore, either river, lake or ocean.


“The building is based around a central ‘round room’ around which different sequences of rooms ‘whirl’, each with its own unique journey into the murky depths. What is most striking is the care taken over the design’s integration into its surroundings and context: a giant glass ceiling refracts shimmering patches of light onto the walls, giving the impression of being underwater. The feeling is heightened by the fact that to look up is to acknowledge that one is effectively at the bottom of a deep whirlpool.”

The form of the whirlpool is most evident from above, and its a veiw that wont be wasted since the building site located quite near to the airport, and along a flight path. Travellers flying into and out of Copenhagen will be able to enjoy the design of the building from the confort of their seat… (the comfort level of course depends on the class of your seat)

via Blue Planet: Copenhagen’s Amazing New Aquarium | Environmental Graffiti


The New Library of Alexandria


The city of Alexandria in Egypt has long held a place in history as a center of learning, the Great Library of Alexandria was created around 295 B.C. when Demetrius of Phalerun convinced the Egyptian Pharaoh Ptolemy to build a library that would house all the books in the world and become a center of culture and learning.

According to history Ptolemy developed such a passion for his library that any ship that came into harbor saw all of its books seized. The Pharaoh was good enough to make copies of the books but those were what were returned to the ship while the originals stayed in the library. The library was said to have amassed more then 700,000 scrolls before its eventual destruction by fire.


The New Library of Alexandria was created by Egypt, and the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization with the goal of making it once again a focal point for research, and the advancement of knowledge and the open exchange of ideas. A number of countries contributed to its building, including the fallen government of Suddam Hussein, whose check for 21 million cleared the bank just days before the start of the Gulf War.

“In a world worried about the clash of civilizations, about war, about hatred and about killing, I think it’s significant that out of Egypt comes this new library, a place of understanding, learning, tolerance and brotherhood,”

Ismail Serageldin, the library’s director and a former World Bank vice president. s

alexandria_egypt-libraryThe current incarnation of the library has about 250,000 books which is less then most college libraries contain in their collections. The library currently has space for about 5 million volumes, while the largest library in the world, the Library of Congress has nearly 20 million. While the book collection is not even close to being the largest in the world, the library is notable for being the one and only mirror site (backup) for the Internet Archive. The Internet Archive (IA) is a nonprofit organization that maintains a on-line library and archive of web and multimedia resources. One should also not that this is the only library in the world whose collection is mirrored, (at least publicly.)

forecourtThe Library was designed by the Norwegian firm Snohetta in the shape of a disc tilted towards the Mediterranean to suggest the image of the Egyptian sun illuminating the world. The walls are built of grey Aswan granite and are carved with characters from one hundred and twenty different human scripts.

The exterior of the Library has a large reflecting pool and a public plaza which link the building to the sea and the city. The pools assist in cooling the building’s environs and naturally collect dust to improve air quality on the site.

A better way to wait


I came across an entry on a guerrilla art installation in London where Industrial Designer Bruno Taylor installed a Swing Set in a public bus shelter. Taylor believes that its time we reclaimed our streets and remembered our childhood. The Bus Stop Swing Set gives commuters the opportunity to get a little enjoyment out of the daily commute. Usually waiting at the bus stop is a dreary and relatively boring part of the morning commute that is hard to enjoy.

“71% of adults used to play on the streets when they were young. 21% of children do so now. Are we designing children and play out of the public realm?

This project is a study into different ways of bringing play back into public space. It focuses on ways of incorporating incidental play in the public realm by not so much as having separate play equipment that dictates the users but by using existing furniture and architectural elements that indicate playful behaviour for all.

It asks us to question the current framework for public space and whether it is sufficient while also giving permission for young people to play in public.

Play as you go…” Bruno Taylor.

bouncing-benchTaylor has recently finished a Masters in Industrial Design and his thesis exhibition is currently going on at Central Saint Martin and has a number of suggestions about how we can get some enjoyment out of our public spaces. Not only does he have the swing there is also a bouncing bench. He also asks what happened to us. When we were children the majority of us played out on our streets and in public spaces (sometimes spooky private spaces too,)  However these days most children are confined to their yards and homes. Taylor would like to bring play back into public spaces a first step is getting adults to remember how much fun it is. I would love to see a couple of these here in Montreal. Waiting for the Metro would be so much more fun if I could have a swing while waiting for it to pull into the station.

There are however likely to be some health and safty issues with installing the swing in particular next to high traffic areas, most bus stops are a little too close to the road for the arc of a good swing. However that isn’t to say that widened pedestrain sidewalks couldn’t take a few of these, and the bouncy bench, well that could go anywhere.

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The contact address attached to the video: bigbrudesign@gmail.com

The Litmus Garden

The site before

The site before

One of the most exciting things we have been seeing lately is the use of engineered marshlands to clean up and reclaim water systems that have been polluted by our poor stewardship of the environment. Back in April of 2001 a group of Volunteers lead by T. Allan Comp Ph.D created a series of cascading pools planted with a variety of species of plants to filter a watershed which had become severely toxic with mining waste. Vintondale, Pennsylvania is a small coal patch town in Cambria County, It was created in the early 20th century by the Vinton Coal Company to support its underground mining operation and surface works. The watershed is a neglected ecosystem and Acid mine Drainage is a large water quality problem. Much of the area had resembled a gash in the earth itself. The good doctor and his multidisciplinary team worked with the community to create the wetlands project that fit the town’s aspirations for the site and still preformed the function of cleaning the water system.

The site after

The site after

On the City of Kent website he talks about the project and how it came about.

When I first started talking about this idea that eventually became AMD&ART and won a national EPA Phoenix award among others, I’d show slides of the standard Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) treatment system, basically a series of rectangular ponds, and suggest we might be able to do more. Then I’d show Buster Simpson’s River Roll-Aids, Mel Chin’s Revival Fields and the Richards/Oppenheimer/Hargraves Bixby Park – but it was the images I had from Herbert Bayer’s Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks that finally got through to the audience. Here was a real problem with a real and art-full solution – it worked to solve the environmental problem and it worked to address something in the human soul as well. I showed Earthworks empty and I showed it full of people and, finally, my audiences started to understand how we might start with rectangular ponds to solve an environmental problem and grow that idea into a 35-acre park that treated AMD, created new wetlands and a new active recreation area while also addressing a need for deeper historical understanding and a more humane connection between past, present and even future. s


He goes on to express how these treatment systems can become living and working gardens that not only clean toxic waterways, but also offer places that engage the mind and honor the past. The projects also have the ability to turn community members from passive inhabitants into advocates for their community. The site has an excellent write up about how the project came about and how it works that I am not going to get into here but these engineered wetlands, like the Sustainable Storm Water Managment System mentioned earlier here on Urban Neighbourhood, offer the opportunity for us to create working environmental systems for our cities that offer enjoyable green space for us to use at the same time. Could you imagine wanting to go for a stroll through the water treatment plant?

The Waterfront Trail

A Floating Bridge on Hamilton's portion of the Trail

A Floating Bridge on Hamilton's portion of the Trail

The Waterfront Trail was inaugurated this past year after the community organization in charge of the trail. The Waterfront Regeneration Trust was finally able to strike a deal after twelve years of hard work. The creation of the trail was no small undertaking with seventy different municipalities and other groups involved. The goal of the trust is to make sure that everyone has access to the waterfront and that the waterfront is worth getting to.

The trail is designed to take into account the history of the area. Most of the shores of Lake Ontario and the portion of the Saint Lawrence River that the trail fronts on was settled by Loyalists fleeing the United States who wanted to remain loyal to the British crown. They exerted a profound influence on the social, political and business life of Ontario for more then two centuries and played a major role in the development of Canada. The trail bears witness to this history by passing a number of historical reminders; Loyalist College, Loyalist Parkway, Loyalist Township and even the Loyalist Motel.

The goal of the trail is for it to link waterfronts from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Brockville and, then eventually, to connect it with Upper New York State’s Seaway Trail. It currently includes 31 communities, 182 parks and natural areas, 152 arts and cultural heritage attractions, 37 major annual waterfront festivals, and 170 marinas and yacht clubs.

Map of the Entire Trail

Map of the Entire Trail

The trail is designed to be a multi-use recreation trail for use by people from all walks of life. The trail is also used by 24% of its patrons to commute to and from work. Currently the trail is about 30% off road dedicated path and 70% on residential streets or the paved shoulders of major roads. Most sections of the trail are paved but some are still gravel or packed limestone.

In the future the trust seeks to complete the few portions of the trail that are as of yet secured and expand the trail through a further 52 projects along the waterfront.

For more information on the trail check out their website.

Plus Petrina, the promotions and events manager for the trust has added some great suplementary information about the trust down below in the comments section so give it a click and check out what she has to say!