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Posts Tagged ‘transit’

BY ZACH MORTICE

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The linear art installation SWA designed for Houston’s Highway 59/Interstate 69 bridges came with two important traffic safety stipulations: no words, and no faces (so as not to distract the drivers zipping by).

Natalia Beard, the lead designer, came up with a pixelated vision of bright colors splashing across several 300-foot sections of chain-link fence along the sidewalk of the elevated freeway. The linear imagery (called “Houston Bridges”) tracks the velocity and movement of the freeway. It gives you enough depth to ponder when stuck in traffic. The images came from photos by Houston schoolchildren, digitally turned into jubilant checkerboards of neon color.

This smoke-stained stretch of highway, which connects Houston’s downtown to its primary airport, is (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

AECOM’s plan turns the riverbed into an outdoor activities park. Image courtesy of the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering and AECOM.

The big conundrum of the Los Angeles River—that it is so imposing yet so divorced from the city—shows in the visions for its future proposed in early June by seven architecture, engineering, and landscape architecture firms. The occasion was the Los Angeles River Downtown Design Dialogue, a pro bono charrette that took place on the 10th anniversary of the city’s original master plan for the river. The design firms showed ways that visitors could step down to its shallow waters, although the concrete-lined waterway runs so low at times it can seem more like a quasi-natural splash pad. But the most fascinating plans marginalized the typically modest amounts of water in the river almost entirely.

There are no immediate plans to execute any of the projects. Rather, Gary Lee Moore, the city engineer of Los Angeles, described the charrette as an opportunity to (more…)

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The nearly unquestioned dominance cars have had over our cities for more than half a century, we’re told, is a very expensive problem to fix. Now that we have millions of miles of car-serving infrastructure, is it too late and too expensive to replace it?

No. The Spanish have a better way. Developed by Salvador Rueda of the Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona (and documented in a video by Vox), the plan for Barcelona “superblocks” (or “superilles” in Catalan) gives urban planners and transit engineers a simple template to gradually reclaim streets from automobiles.

Best applied to nine-block areas as discrete superblock districts, the plan confines regular traffic to the perimeter of the site. Streets internal to the nine-block area become one-way loops, (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

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Susan Chin of the Design Trust for Public Space pushes to open new layers of cities.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

In 2002, the Design Trust for Public Space published Reclaiming the High Line, a critical voice of support that helped jump-start the growing momentum to preserve that rusting hulk of a rail bed in Lower Manhattan. Now a city- and pedestrian-scaled outdoor art walk and landscape, the High Line is likely the most influential urban infrastructure renovation of the past 30 years. In another 30 years, it will probably still be.

But what if the High Line weren’t a spectacular one-off that left cities from coast to coast scrambling to replicate it? What if what the High Line is, and how it came about, could be codified and planned as easily as train track rails or the concrete columns hoisting up miles of elevated freeway?

The Design Trust thinks it could be. For the past several years, the organization has been researching ways to improve the public space in, around, and especially beneath actively used elevated transit infrastructure. Its report, (more…)

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BY BRAULIO AGNESE

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After four decades, a prominent reminder of the effects of urban renewal in the nation’s capital is set to vanish.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

All cities bear scars, evidence of past planning decisions, made with the best of intentions, that affect urban space in negative ways over the following decades. For more than 40 years, Washington, D.C.’s northwest quadrant has suffered a particularly prominent one where the District’s downtown meets the Capitol Hill neighborhood to the east: A three-block-long, 200-foot-wide opening above the depressed Center Leg Freeway (I-395), which runs beneath the nation’s capital from New York Avenue down to the Southeast Freeway (I-695).

The opening—bounded by Massachusetts Avenue to the north, E Street to the south, 2nd Street on the east, and a handful of buildings along 3rd Street—is a remnant of the nationwide mid-20th-century effort to revitalize cities by bringing high-speed, multilane highways around and through urban cores. Extensive plans for the District included an interstate loop within the city that would stretch from the west end of the National Mall to the Anacostia River on the east. The eight-lane Center Leg Freeway, which skirts along the U.S. Capitol’s west side, was the second segment built.

North of Constitution Avenue, the section of D.C. the freeway would pass through was a largely black and mixed-European working-class neighborhood that had been in long decline as the city suffered from white flight and economic woes. (Partly in response to the District’s difficulties, a complete reorganization of local government in 1967 gave D.C. semiautonomous rule with its first mayor and City Council.) The area was considered blighted, and there was little effort to resist the project. But seven years after construction on the Center Leg Freeway began, (more…)

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BY ALEX ULAM

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Nelson Byrd Woltz gets super technical at Hudson Yards.

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Until recently, you wouldn’t have wanted to go strolling at any time of the day near Hudson Yards, the two gigantic superblocks located on the far West Side of Midtown Manhattan. There was little street life there and almost no nature. Barbed-wire fences and concrete walls lined the streets and concealed the large, sooty pits packed with commuter and Amtrak trains. Indeed, everything about the place was man-made, even the hilly landscape surrounding the train yards below. Walking around was disorienting because the walls cut off view corridors and limited access to Midtown Manhattan and the adjacent Hudson River Park.

Now this formerly desolate expanse is being transformed by a $25 billion private real estate development, which the Related Companies, the project’s developer, is touting as the largest private build-out in the United States and the biggest in New York City since Rockefeller Center. In place of two gaping holes in the city’s fabric, there will be a 28-acre neighborhood with offices, apartments, and more than 100 stores and restaurants. In a sense, this development, where a projected 125,000 people will live and work, (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Chicago's elevated rail park, The 606, was conceived and funded as transit infrastructure.

Chicago’s elevated rail park, the 606, was conceived and funded as transit infrastructure.

From the April 2015 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

For a relatively new landscape typology, elevated rail parks suffer from no shortage of claims about what they can do for cities. Namely, they can renovate decaying infrastructure, add green space to dense urban areas, improve public health by offering more opportunities for exercise, and honor, rather than demolish, historic industrial landscapes in neighborhoods under immense pressure to remove them.

Beyond New York’s famous High Line, a new generation of elevated rail parks is adding a very practical use to the list, one quite divorced from typical ideas about recreational park use: They can become transit and commuter corridors.

Newly opened this weekend, Chicago’s new elevated rail park, called the 606 (named for the first three digits of Chicago zip codes), will offer landscaped paths to harried bicycle commuters and recreational amblers alike. The park will run 2.7 miles on the former Bloomingdale freight rail line, which has been closed since the 1990s, from the far west side almost to the River North central business district. It is said to be the first such park to combine pedestrians and cyclists along its whole length. The landscape design is by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.

(more…)

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