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Archive for the ‘IDEAS’ Category

A monthly roundup of the news, dispatches, and marginalia that caught our eye.

In this month’s issue of the Queue, the staff reads up on the grand opening of Dilworth Plaza in Philadelphia by OLIN, wonders at the possibilities of a man-made leaf, and gets down with Greenpeace and Reggie Watts on climate change.

CATCHING UP WITH…

    • Dilworth Plaza’s makeover by OLIN (“Follow the Lines,” LAM, January 2014) opens on September 4 in Philadelphia with new transit access, a fountain (and in winter, an ice rink), art, and Cuban food in what had been a desolate sunken plaza.
    • Harsh contentions arise in a current forensic audit on Great Park, designed by Ken Smith in Irvine, California (General Design Honor Award, LAM, August 2009). According to the L.A. Times, the audit finds that more than $200 million has been spent on the project, yet the park has little to show for it.

FIELD STUDIES

    • Dezeen reports on Julian Melchiorri, a graduate of the Royal College of Art in the UK, who thinks he’s got long-distance space travel figured out with his new invention—the world’s supposedly first photosynthetic material that absorbs water and carbon dioxide to create oxygen.
    • Looking at climate change and rising sea levels, the township of Choiseul Bay, 6.6 feet above sea level in the Solomon Islands, is moving to where it will be a little less wet in the future.
    • Think pedestrian crosswalk time limits are too short? Planners in Singapore thought so, too, which is why they recently expanded their Green Man Plus program, a system that allows the elderly and disabled to activate extra time for street crossing with the use of a special card.

OUT AND ABOUT

    • Lines and Nodes, a symposium and film festival that will take on media, infrastructure, and aesthetics, will take place September 19–21 in New York.

DISTRACT ME FROM MY DEADLINE DEPT.

    • If you can’t find this bus stop in Baltimore, then you’re not looking hard enough.

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CAP TBD  Credit: New Orleans Redevelopment Authority.

A Mardi Gras parade passes by one of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority’s pilot rain garden lots in Algiers, designed by Spackman Mossop and Michaels. Credit: New Orleans Redevelopment Authority.

This week, the Van Alen Institute announced Future Ground, a new, open, and international competition to develop ideas and policies for dealing with New Orleans’s nearly 30,000 vacant lots and abandoned buildings. Nearly 10 years post-Katrina, New Orleans has thousands of idle urban spaces that the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority, which owns more than 2,000 of them and is a cosponsor of the competition, wants to see turned into community resources.

The Future Ground RFQ stresses the need to develop workable policies for these vacant spaces as well as design solutions. It states that competitors should be multidisciplinary teams of “individuals and firms with expertise in architecture, landscape architecture, urban design, urban planning, graphic design, policy, engineering, finance, real estate, community development, and other fields.” Competing teams need to include local partners. Winning teams, the brief says, will receive $15,000 to work on small projects that can have broader applications and also generate policies that can sustain the program for the next several decades.

This is not Van Alen’s first foray into vacant land—it sponsored the Urban Voids competition back in 2005 for Philadelphia, and this competition is part of the multiyear, multiproject Elsewhere: Escape and the Urban Landscape initiative.

The timeline is short: The deadline for applications is September 29, 2014, and teams will kick off in New Orleans in October 2014 and wrap up by the spring of 2015. You can find the RFQ and more information, including a list  of advisers, local sponsors, and jury members, on the Van Alen Institute site.

Tell us in the comments if you decide to submit, and what intrigues you about this opportunity.

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This winter, we wrote about the inaugural outing of the North Coast Design Competition (NCDC), Designing Dredge: Re-Envisioning the Toledo Waterfront, and now the winners have been announced. The entrants were asked to envision a useful waterfront space that combined existing and future outdoor developments with dredged materials, and also to provide the placement and design of a research site for the testing and experimentation of dredge material among other possible uses. Garrett Rock’s winning proposal, Re-Frame Toledo, would use Toledo’s dredge material to create sites for the public while also suggesting a phytoremediation step in the dredging cycle to process the sediment for future land use and better water quality. Sean Burkholder, an assistant professor of landscape and urban design at the State University of New York at Buffalo and the founder of NCDC, said that each of the 21 entries showed a thorough understanding of the subject. Some dealt with the excess sediment associated with dredging by creating riverside parks and recreation; others sought to create new ways of dealing with this material.

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The exhibit features a tabletop version of the Wall of Wind at Florida International University, which can simulate a Category 5 hurricane.

The Designing for Disaster exhibit at the National Building Museum features a tabletop version of the Wall of Wind at Florida International University, which can simulate a Category 5 hurricane. Photo: Florida International University

Earth, air, fire, and water—the National Building Museum’s Design for Disaster exhibit, which opened on May 12, separates out the forces of destruction. The toll of earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, and floods is shown in photos and artifacts such as twisted street signs. But the focus is on mitigation. “Design can save lives,” said Chase W. Rynd, Honorary ASLA, the executive director of the museum, during a press preview on May 8. Rynd and Chrysanthe Broikos, the curator of the exhibit, say it’s one of the most important exhibits the museum has done.

It’s as much the story of seismic engineers, researchers, architects, planners, and landscape architects as it is about the disasters themselves, given that the goal is blunting the destructive impacts of disasters (there’s a companion blog and outreach program called Mitigation Nation). The Earth room has cracked walls that recall the aftermath of earthquakes, but just behind them is a buckling restrained brace, or BRB, as an example of what could be done to protect those walls, and around the doorway is a special moment frame, which holds firm against lateral loads during a quake to protect the rest of a structure. (more…)

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Bridgeport, CT. Courtesy of Rebuild by Design.

Bridgeport, CT. Courtesy of Rebuild by Design.

Back in November, we wrote about the early stages of the Rebuild by Design competition, just after the first teams of finalists presented their ideas to the public. The challenge, which is driven by the President’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, will make substantial funding available for the winners from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as the private sector. We also reported on the Institute for Public Knowledge (“Backstage at Rebuild by Design,” November 2013,) the think tank that has helped shape the public discussions for the Rebuild Challenge.

Last week, the 10 finalist teams, BIG TEAM; HR&A Advisors, Inc. with Cooper, Robertson & Partners; Interboro Team; MIT CAU + ZUS + URBANISTEN;  OMA; PennDesign/OLIN; Sasaki/Rutgers/Arup;  SCAPE / Landscape Architecture; WB unabridged with Yale ARCADIS; and WXY/West 8, gathered to unveil the latest iteration of the designs in public meetings in New York and New Jersey. The teams have been collaborating with individual communities along the shoreline, and their proposals now reflect the input and specific conditions of particular places.

We weren’t able to get there in person, but you should read Justin Davidson’s write-up in New York magazine, accompanied by a handy slide show of the proposals, to see the latest work from the competition. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan will announce the winning proposals later this spring.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Fluid and the Solid TRAILER from Alex + Ben on Vimeo.

If you haven’t used the term “Anthropocene” much, you can be forgiven. The term is of fairly recent origin, and it’s used to describe what some believe is a new geologic age: one in which human activity has changed the earth and its atmosphere. It’s a big idea, one that catches a lot of other ideas in its net—climate change being the most powerful. The idea of the Anthropocene lends more weight to what we already understand are the consequences of human activity. Our impact is not just local, national, or global, but temporal. We’ve literally changed the scale of geologic time.

The awesome consequences of human agency on the land are tough to convey without sounding ponderous, but for the filmmakers Alex Chohlas-Wood and Ben Mendelsohn, who are interested in things like infrastructure, technology, and the human/nature interface, much of the story can be told by the landscapes where these earth-changing processes take place. Which is how they came to make a documentary nominally about dredging, dredge landscapes, and sediment flow: The Fluid and the Solid.

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From the January issue of LAM:

I wouldn’t call 2013 the Year of the Bike in the United States, but only because I hope that 2014 will be an even better one. It was a pretty great year, though. Two of the biggest American cities added bicycle sharing programs. New York City opened its Citi Bikes system in May with 330 stations; by year’s end, nearly 100,000 people had bought a year’s subscription to the system, and by October, the system had recorded 42,000 trips a day. Not bad! Chicago started its Divvy bike system in June with 3,000 bikes at 300 stations between Cicero Avenue and Lake Michigan, and is planning on 4,000 bikes by this spring. The new Bay Area Bike Share started in late August in San Francisco. It was considered a slow start by some measures, but then many people in the city are already married to their own bicycles. The San Francisco Chronicle reported in December that the Municipal Transportation Agency, which has counted cyclists around town since 2006, found that by 2013, cycling had risen by 96 percent. One September evening during rush hour, more than 1,200 people were counted on bikes at the corner of Fifth and Market Streets.

What could be the downside to all of this? I honestly don’t know, but for some people, there seems to be one—usually grounded in irrationality. A perfectly benign technology that runs on calories, presents almost no harm to anyone, that is cheap and environmentally sound, fast, convenient, and, not least, very enjoyable will inevitably make people uptight for their own reasons. Dorothy Rabinowitz, of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, finds Citi Bikes depressing to no end because she thinks it’s socialist and ugly. You could grant her those points and she still sees no benefits. Rob Ford’s bike hatred helped him become the mayor of Toronto. Adrian Fenty’s bike love helped unseat him in Washington, D.C. Many people in cities greet bikes as you might an invasive species.

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