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As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

BY JIMENA MARTIGNONI / PHOTOGRAPHY BY LEONARDO FINOTTI

FROM THE DECEMBER 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Porto Alegre is the capital and largest city of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, in southern Brazil. With a population of 1.5 million in the city and about 4.3 million in the metropolitan area, it is one of many Brazilian port cities. Although it is not directly on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, its location at the confluence of five rivers and at the northern end of Lagoa dos Patos—the largest barrier lagoon in South America—makes it a city that has an essential relationship with water. The Guaraní, the original inhabitants of the region, called the confluence of the five rivers Guaíba, which means the “meeting of the waters.” Today, the locals refer to this space as the Guaíba River or Guaíba Lake, indistinctly.

Given these watery proximities, the city historically has been affected by floods. In the early 1940s, after a devastating flood, a wall went up to cover most of the city’s edge on the river, eliminating its natural relationship with the water and the green spaces on the banks. The city’s residents, however, maintained their longtime habits around these natural areas, visiting and using them spontaneously. Walking, resting, drinking maté, and especially watching the sunset always continued for the locals, despite the site’s increasing state of official abandonment.

In 2011, during the term of Mayor José Fortunati (2010–2017), the Porto Alegre government finally decided to start a plan of restructuring and recovery of the areas above the water’s edge, with special emphasis on the areas near the historic center of the city. Construction began in 2015—major funding came from the Development Bank of Latin America—which put the administration of Fortunati’s successor, Nelson Marchezan Júnior (2017–present), in charge of completing the project. It is unusual in Latin America for two consecutive administrations to be responsible for a project’s implementation. Called Orla do Guaíba in Portuguese (coast of Guaíba), the plan includes the renovation and consolidation of the coastal areas and green spaces along the riverbank and the creation of a linear park at various levels on the edge between the city and the water—levels determined by shoreline modeling performed over the years. (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

A group of designers, artists, and community activists are fighting to save the bridge. A rendering by the landscape architect Michael Beightol illustrates the viaduct’s potential as a linear park. Image courtesy Michael Beightol.

IN ERIE, PENNSYLVANIA, A HISTORY OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ANIMATES THE DEBATE OVER A PIECE OF CRUMBLING INFRASTRUCTURE.

 

Michael Keys used to walk the McBride Viaduct nearly every day to and from school. It was the most convenient route over the busy rail yard that bisected his east side Erie, Pennsylvania, neighborhood. Now, as a member of the local urban design advocacy group Erie CPR: Connect + Respect, Keys is one of dozens of residents fighting to save the 1,700-foot-long viaduct. The organization argues that the bridge is a crucial linkage between some of Erie’s poorest communities and that tearing it down could do harm to populations already considered vulnerable.

Erie CPR projects that removing the viaduct, which has been closed to vehicles since 2010, will force residents to cross the tracks at grade, which can be dangerous, or walk some 2,000 feet to a busy road known as the Bayfront Connector. With its high-speed traffic and blind corners, the connector is far less safe for pedestrians than the viaduct, says Adam Trott, an architect and the president of Erie CPR. Another danger, especially for children, is daily exposure to vehicle emissions. A recent World Health Organization report found that 10 percent of deaths among children under the age of five are attributable to air pollution.

The city’s decision to demolish the viaduct, which was originally built in 1938 and overhauled in the 1970s, is based on a feasibility study conducted by the engineering firm L. R. Kimball. The engineers reported that rehabilitating or replacing the viaduct were cost-prohibitive, in part because the bridge no longer meets basic road width requirements. And yet, having studied 11 alternatives— (more…)

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