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Archive for April, 2013

LIGHTFAIR TAKES PHILLY

photoThe Philadelphia Convention Center is packed with people attending Lightfair 2013, checking out what’s new in lighting. LEDs blaze coolly on every aisle, and crowds pack the booths. Fulham Lighting Solutions (Booth #2701) is catching attention with its artful trees composed of light fixtures (the artist Chris Bell created the example pictured at left). The company Xeralux has renamed itself Sensity and is debuting its new NetSense platform, which uses sensors and a WiFi network within light products to collect and transmit data. In a parking lot, for example, NetSense can detect empty spaces and direct drivers to them. It can also incorporate security cameras to monitor the space without having a separate system. If you’re in Philly, check it out at Booth #3869. The Expo is open until 6:00 p.m. today and from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. tomorrow.

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All images courtesy STOSS landscape urbanism

All images courtesy STOSS landscape urbanism

A playful proposal by STOSS landscape urbanism with Höweler + Yoon Architecture, Nitsch Engineering, and Angie Cradock ScD, MPE has won the Movement on Main competition to reimagine Wyoming Street in Syracuse, New York. The competition, funded by the Educational Foundation of America, challenged participants to reimagine the five-block-long street in a way that will promote human and environmental health and spark new development within the neighborhood, while being sensitive to residents and businesses already there. STOSS’s scheme was chosen by a group that included people in the community, architecture faculty from Syracuse University, public health experts, and Richard Weller, the new chair of landscape architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. I caught up with Chris Reed, the founding principal of STOSS, this morning to find out more about the competition and his firm’s winning scheme. The interview has been condensed and edited. (more…)

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DSBFor Pete’s sake, what year is this? Denise Scott Brown and her fans are still having to make the case for her being included with her husband, Robert Venturi, on the Pritzker Architecture Prize he received in 1991 for work they indisputably did together? The Pritzker snub of Scott Brown has for years been a source of shame in the architecture family. It just came back to light after a comment Scott Brown made to the Architects’ Journal last month about the exclusion. They asked, and she answered. Then came a wave of fresh outrage. You can get the whole background as part of a terrific new interview with Scott Brown on Architect magazine’s website. You can also visit the petition posted on Change.org to the Pritzker Architecture Prize committee to redress the omission of Scott Brown. There are more than 4,000 signatures so far. There are angry, incredulous comments, and some with a weight well beyond their word count, such as one from Carolyn MacMullen in North Cape May, New Jersey: “As an Urban Planner in the 1970s, I lived that culture, becoming the first female in an AEP firm.”

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superstop

The offending superstop. Courtesy Local News Now LLC

You hear a lot of talk about making suburbs into something more like cities, and if reporting like that of the Washington Post last week is any guide, it’s going to be a tricky sell to turn the talk into reality. On March 24, the Post published a story about what it calls a “$1 million bus stop” in Arlington, Virginia. It didn’t cost $1 million, technically, and it isn’t just a bus stop. The Post showed signs of having known as much, but went ahead and made a new transit project sound like a boondoggle anyway and stoked enough outrage to have a major county transit improvement project put on hold.

The stop is what Arlington transportation planners are calling a “superstop.” It is a prototype, the first of two dozen stops meant to handle both bus and, eventually, streetcar traffic down Columbia Pike, a four-lane commercial strip that runs three-and-a-half miles through the county from its outer suburbs to the edge of the Pentagon. At the Pentagon, buses unload at a very busy subway stop that takes people into Washington, D.C. Once the streetcar line is built as planned, the combined transit line is expected to carry about 30,000 passengers on a typical weekday.

The hard costs to build the stop were $574,000. There were other costs, too, about $433,000, as Dennis Leach, Arlington’s transportation director, told me. Those other costs involved design (by HOK), planning, reviews, fees, and so forth. There were also problems of construction delays, about 14 months beyond the four months originally scheduled. Arlington contracted the construction of three superstops to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or Metro, which wound up for its own reasons scaling down its construction operations. (Metro can barely keep a single subway station fully functional these days.) “This project really became an orphan” at Metro, so Arlington County ended that relationship with just the one superstop.

Much of the $433,000 can be filed under research and development costs, one-time charges to create the first superstops that will spread over the creation of the other 23 stops. “Our intent was to do one [stop], evaluate it, and then go forward with modifications,” Leach said.

Ah, but the Post reported that “[t]he county has budgeted $20.8 million for the remaining 23 stops, or about $904,000 for each one.” With this burning fact, the Post’s reporter headed out to the superstop in question and baited commuters who were waiting for buses to offer their thoughts about all this million-dollar business. (more…)

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