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Urban Density

This tag is associated with 9 posts

Seattle’s Lighthouse Apartment in the Smith Tower

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

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

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

See the photo Gallery Here.

The Rebirth of Fenwick Tower

Fenwick tower is getting an overhaul, the structure has been a part of the Halifax skyline since 1971 when the vision was to live in airy luxury, but the developer ran into financial difficulties.  A tower inspired by Le Corbusier that became the punching bag for the argument against development and intensification in downtown Halifax.

The website of its new owner Templeton Properties tells the tale:

Fenwick Tower is like no other building in Halifax.  The history of the building has become so rich that the building itself is talked about like an old friend. Fenwick Tower is an icon in the true sense of the word. Like many icons, the lines between truth and fiction have blurred to create a legendary story that is bigger than life and becomes a proud part of your living experience.

A web cam, a Wikipedia page, and being the subject of many news stories, Fenwick is a modern piece of Halifax’s history and culture.

From when the doors opened in 1971, the legend of Fenwick began.  Originally designed as a luxury apartment building, the developer faced financial problems halfway into the project and was forced to sell.

Dalhousie University purchased the incomplete building, finished the development, and offered Fenwick Place apartments to mature and married students, a better alternative to dorm-living. For 38 years Fenwick served as home to thousands of students, many who have moved on to become the leaders in our community.

n 2009 Templeton Properties purchased Fenwick Place and, following the community’s lead, officially re-named it Fenwick Tower.  Finally, Fenwick Tower has come full circle and will be open to the public as it was originally intended.

The developer used dotmocracy which bills itself as a large group decision making  process, and it looks like it turned out some pretty great ideas.

Dotmocracy is an established facilitation method for collecting and prioritizing ideas among a large number of people.

It is an equal opportunity & participatory group decision-making process.

Participants write down ideas and apply dots under each idea to show which ones they prefer. The final result is a graph-like visual representation of the group’s collective preferences.

We’re pleased to share our vision for Fenwick Tower, and exciting plans for the future redevelopment of this landmark structure in the heart of Halifax.

Since its opening in 1971, Fenwick Tower has gained an iconic status as the tallest building within Atlantic Canada. With this redevelopment initiative we will transition both the existing tower and adjacent lands to align with the future development standards of the Halifax Regional Municipality. The Result being a revitalised urban community.

The design of the new tower adds a glass shell to the existing tower and fills in the property at street level with an addition that reshapes the building address Fenwick Street instead of standing back from it the way that it does now. There will be two additional 10 and 8 story buildings added so to give the building a less sudden effect on the skyline and intensify the property. Another major design element is the new pedestrian corridor that meanders around the bases of the three buildings creating a meandering walkway that encourages you to explore. Restaurants, shops and public art. The vision is for a network of local businesses and to connect the neighbourhoods that encircle the property.

Washington 2054

Photo by James Clyne

What does the city of the future look like?

James Clyne gives us a look at his vision for the future with some stills from Minority Report.  The concept for what Washington DC looks like in the background cityscape is a series of hyperstructures that nestle up to the Patomac.  It look green and shiny and it is hard to really grasp the amount of structure/infrastructure required for a  city/building of this scope. The it’s a future that is any developer’s most glorious dream for construction prospects over the next 44 years.

Stay tuned for other artists visions of what the future brings in the weeks to come.


The Most Populated Cities of the World

The Top 100 cities in the world listed by population. dot

NOTE: Numbers shown include population within the recognized metro area of the city, and they include people living in the immediate surrounding area outside of the established border of the city. Referenced From: World Atlas

1. Tokyo, Japan – 28,025,000
2. Mexico City, Mexico – 18,131,000
3. Mumbai, India – 18,042,000
4. Sáo Paulo, Brazil – 17, 711,000
5. New York City, USA – 16,626,000
6. Shanghai, China – 14,173,000
7. Lagos, Nigeria – 13,488,000
8. Los Angeles, USA – 13,129,000
9. Calcutta, India – 12,900,000
10. Buenos Aires, Argentina – 12,431,000

11. Seóul, South Korea – 12,215,000
12. Beijing, China – 12,033,000
13. Karachi, Pakistan – 11,774,000
14. Delhi, India – 11,680,000
15. Dhaka, Bangladesh – 10,979,000
16. Manila, Philippines – 10,818,000
17. Cairo, Egypt – 10,772,000
18. Õsaka, Japan – 10,609,000
19. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – 10,556,000
20. Tianjin, China – 10,239,000


The South will rise again! Looking at Korean Apartments

There are not many people who would argue that North Korea will make a comeback and outshine their Southern brethern, but once, this wasn’t the case. During the war, both Koreas were raped, pillaged and flattened by waves of Chinese soldiers or American bombers. The North had more reminents of Japanese industry, the South (except for Seoul) had been used by the Japanese as a rice-basket.

Quite easy to find Pyeongyang on the map

Quite easy to find Pyeongyang on the map

By the early 1960s South Korea was heading the same way as the US backed Banana republics of Central America, or the Banana Republic of Asia, the Philippines. There was little or no industry, life, as the historians like to quote (Mills, I think) “was savage, brutal, and short”. This goes well for the architecture as well.  The other night I was flipping through my old Lonely Planet guide for SK with a student, and my student was complaining that all the photos were 50 years old. They weren’t, but they only showed the most rural aspects of the country. If you were to browse the book in a shop, you would get an image of Thailand’s North, or Laos.

South Korean cities, until recently, were much like their Northern counterparts. Filled with awful public buildings and horrific Eastern European apartment blocks. The two countries couldn’t possibly be more different now. In the North there are virtually no cars on the street, and people have even forgotten how to look for traffic, cars are so rare in the countryside. In the South, this isn’t the case. With car ownership reaching North American levels (almost 82% of people, compared to 89% in the US). This causes problems, as Korea is 70% mountainous, there just cannot be enough tunnels or bridges to handle the masses of cars.

I stole this photo fromOverlooking an old neighbourhood in Ulsan

A new way of thinking, Concrete and Green

A new way of thinking, concrete and green

The beauty of average Korean cities, on either side of the DMZ leaves a lot to the imagination. Both countries were rushing to build nations, not to build quaint neighbourhoods for strolling around on a Sunday afternoon. The military-industrial complex that Kim Il Sung and Park Jung Hee developed in the 1960s helped create a ‘quantity over quality’ mindset in their respective people. Of course, today nobody in the North has anything, but in the South the ‘Quantity’ mindset is slowly being replaced by the ‘Quality’ one. The endless white towers of the 1990’s and first half of this decade aren’t being built as much. Newer, larger towers (that usually end up painted a shade of white) are springing up around the country. The architects are finally being allowed to build more interesting projects. Space is still at a premium, but the parking lots crowded out with cars are being buried beneath inlaid brick paths and small parks.

The newest generation of Korean apartments are spacious and well designed on the inside, and much more community oriented on the outside. The old ‘domino’ apartments had only space for cars, not for people, but the human is being thought about now, and children play in playgrounds, rather than in carparks in the new complexes.

Hanging on to the edge of a continent: A comparison of the Irish and the Koreans

Ireland's tallest building was officially unveiled last night, with the 17-storey Elysian now dominating the Cork city skyscape.

Ireland's tallest building was officially unveiled last night, with the 17-storey Elysian now dominating the Cork city skyscape.

Living in Korea as a part-time Irishman, the comparison comes again and again, the Irish and the Koreans. Today, I’m going to do my best to look at the two cultures that are hanging on to the edges of the largest continent on Earth.

Coming soon will be a massive historical comparison, but first, a few introduction to why.

On the surface, both countries seem exceptionally different. Ireland, with a small population of 4.5 million, known for it’s green scenery and lovely country towns. Korea, a population of almost 50 million, is know for it’s remarkable industrial rise, it’s urban density and it’s people power. But both countries are known for a stubborn national identity, and overflowing of emotions, and a strong link to their descendants overseas. Both countries have chosen America as their second home. Both countries were colonized by their larger, richer island neighbours this century.

Looking towards Shinae in Ulsan, seen from Camera Mart near KBS park

Looking towards Shinae in Ulsan, seen from Camera Mart near KBS park, the furtherest towers will be 55 stories when completed next year

The most intruiging peice of history I’ve found though is that Korea’s population in 1834 was 8.7 million people, and Ireland’s population in 1841 was 8.2 million. Yet today’s population of the Republic of Korea is 10 times that of the republic of Ireland, HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

Ireland’s Tallest building at a mere 17 stories is almost humourous compaired to the monsterous developments going on in Korea.

Urban Hyperstructures

An Ocean Based Arcology Concept

An Ocean Based Arcology Concept

In Film the arcology has made an appearance in Blade Runner, the massive hyperstructures make up some of its sweeping exterior shots. More recently The Matrix featured a human arcology burried deep within the earth.

An early designer and archology theorist was Paolo Soleri. Born in Italy in 1919 he later set up a studio in Arizona. It was from this studio that he created a number of concept drawings that were fantastical, massive, elegantly designed structures that had as small of a footprint on the earth as possible. Dark Roasted Blend has an excellent article on him that is worth checking out.

The Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid concept is a more contemporary concept. The discovery channel ran a special on it and it also has its own wiki entry. The men behind the project admit that it is still pretty theoretical at the moment, that is unless you know where we can get a large supply of carbon nanotubes?

Old School Arcology

Old School Arcology

The pyramid is not something that we are going to built right away so in that sense it is a dream, but by pushing this dream we are pushing the progress of technology as well.

Crystal Island by Fosters and Partners in Moscow

Crystal Island by Fosters and Partners in Moscow

One could argue that the Foster + Partners massive Crystal Island structure comes near the definition of an arcology. Holding 30,000 people with commerce, schools, parks, 3000 hotel rooms and other public venues. There has been a fair bit of discussion about this project and the blogosphere is debating whether or not the project would qualify as an archology.

The creation of a number of these mega tower projects that contain all these functions does however raise the question of how close are we to moving to, or into one of these massive structures. Are they the way to help house the ever growing populations of the world without spreading too far across it? For now arcologies in the true sense of the word as hyper structures are still theoretical, but they may not be such a pipe dream.

Why should we build subways?

At the heart of any good urban community is it’s transportation system. The heartlessness of most North American cities comes from their growth in the postwar years, during the pinnacle of the car. 30% of the modern city is covered in tarmac and concrete. 30% of the value of a city is lost due to roads. 30% of our land is covered. Why? For cars.

Trains? Who needs stinking trains???

Trains? Who needs stinking trains???

Our modern lifestyles have to undergo a radical rethinking. With the price of gas being pushed higher by such diverse causes as raids on facilities in Nigeria, or a storm in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Polar Ice caps rapidly turning into new habitat for endangered tropical fish, we all must seriously consider, is driving a car worth it?

There is a great article at the Independent which can be summed up as this. We aren’t quite doomed yet, but if we keep flying around the world for vacations, we are. What we need is high speed trains. I’d take this argument a lot further. Yes, planes cause a lot of damage, but a lot of people don’t take many long-haul flights (except those of us who live in Asia…we are excused). Most people do commute to work. North Americans are guilty of creating entire commuter cities, which are filled with nothing but parking lots.

Half of the problems in North America could be helped with better URBAN train systems. I’m going to avoid arguing for high speed trains in N.A. because I’m trying to be realistic. North America would be fantastic if it had a train system like Japan, but let’s get serious, it’s never going to happen. Urban rail is possible, even plausible.

Seoul, a city with a greater metropolitian region of 22~25 million has a subway system that carries 8 million passengers a day, with 8 lines, and 2 suburban lines.  They are currently building 2 new lines in the city, both due open by 2010, and putting additions onto 8 other lines.

Building new lines and stations is critically important if we hope to tackle urban problems. Subway stations act as hubs for development. Development which ultimately slows urban sprawl. The electric trains carrying hundreds of passengers reduces a city’s carbon footprint dramatically. The amount of traffic in a city center is reduced. The air of the city is remarkably cleaner. People are actually fitter because they are walking MORE. The city will be much more traveller friendly, ultimately attracting more tourists. Trains have fewer accidents, saving lives, and more importantly to governments, money. More jobs are created as people must build, maintain, and staff the trains and stations.

We must start forcing our governments to spend more money on transportation systems, and less on road building and maintainence.

The battle of the Super towers

It’s always said that a guy who has a big skyscraper has a big … investment portfolio. South Korea is a country where all men aspire to have big … investment portfolios. In the last few years, every town, village and post office box has announced it’s plans to build the tallest building in the neighbourhood, town, province, or galaxy. It’s gotten rather confusing, but I’m going to try and sort through the hype and look at some of the future giants that will make the skylines of Korea more unique. People might try to point out the lack of supertall buildings currently in Korea, but one must remember that the Burj Dubai is being built by none other than Samsung construction.

samsung tower g

Samsung Tower Palace, Dogok-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul

Currently the tallest building in Korea is the beautifully named “Samsung Tower Palace building G”. The logic behind these towers sprouting up in almost every neighbourhood in Seoul is simple. Land is too expensive, but everybody wants 45 pyeong to themselves. (Don’t ask me what a pyeong is, I couldn’t tel l you even if I wanted to since the word became outlawed last year).

Seoul doesn’t have a Manhattan skyline, which is probably why it has avoided being destroyed by aliens. But, hoping to attract foreign and possibly alien visitors, Seoul is branching UP. Yongsan, currently the home to a US army base that (in theory) will be closing, and an ugly railway yard is going to change, and like all change in South Korea, it’s going to be drastic. Seoul’s office vacancy rate is currently hovering around 1%, which has driven prices up by as much as 25% this year. The Korean government is trying to attract foreign companies to the city, but with spiraling costs, it seems unlikely without new office towers being built.

The Proposed Yongsan Tower by Samsung

The Proposed Yongsan Tower by Samsung

Proposed Hyundai Mir Tower for the same site

Proposed Hyundai Mir Tower for the same site

The planned Yongsan Landmark building

The planned Yongsan Landmark building

“In Seoul, the planned 151-story Yongsan Landmark Building, at 2,046 feet, will tower over all the city’s existing structures, and even some nearby mountain peaks. “Seoul is the capital, so it must have the tallest building,” said Han Bong-seok, an executive at Korea Railroad, the national railway company, who heads the project to build the tower on the site of an old train yard. “This is for the pride of Seoul.” “(NYtimes, May 2007)

lotte world tower seoul

Proposed Lotte World Tower Seoul by Skidmore Owings & Merrill

seoul international buis center

International Buisness Center

Also on the South side of Seoul there are other monsters planned, the Sangnam International Business Center which will (possibly) become the center of Sangnam Digital Media city. This one will be 580m and 130 stories tall. The other is Lotte World Tower Seoul, which would be 555 meters. Lotte World is already the world’s largest indoor amusement park, but construction has not started on either of these projects.

But, as Seoul might be the largest city in the country, it isn’t the only major city looking to change it’s skyline. Both Incheon and Busan and rebuilding their cities, and their images. In Incheon they are currently building some massive apartments that will become part of Songdo International city. Korean’s love placing “International” into titles, even if it has little or no meaning at the time. Songdo is being built in the former industrial south end of Korea’s western port city.

This is another 151 story monster that
will become the heart of a new waterfront development. There is also a new bridge under construction that will link Incheon city to the slightly ironic Incheon airport, which, though in Incheon’s metropolitian boundaries, must be accessed by driving into and then out of Seoul. Incheon, facing towards China, is dreaming of being the heart of growth and investment as the 21st century looks to China, just as the 20th looked to America.

The third city to be planning towers is Busan. Currently there are two towers being planned or constructed in the city. Busan is one of the busiest port cities in the world, and as such, has a much seedier and grittier image than either Seoul or Incheon. Most of Busan’s recent development has been centered around Haeundae beach and Gwangali bridge. Haeundae new town is the home to many of the tallest buildings outside of Seoul, and is seeing even more development planned in the future. In the south end of Busan is the old city center, Nampodong, which has missed most of the recent additions to the city. Nampodong has a rundown air, and is in serious need of urban and transportation revitalization.

How many of these towers will be constructed is anyone’s guess. Koreans are famous for talking big, but then, they are also famous for doing things that seemed impossible. Posco, Samsung, and Hyundai were all but dreams 40 years ago, and now each stands amongst the giants of the world. It is easy, as a foreigner, to dismiss Korea as just a small Asian country, but it is a small Asian country with big dreams. I wouldn’t be surprised if ALL of these towers were completed.