Why Tokyo is the land of rising home construction but not prices - "The city had more housing starts in 2014 than the whole of England. Can Japan's capital offer lessons to other world cities?" (via) [more inside]
Brand New Subway is a browser game that lets you build the New York City subway system, either starting from scratch or working from an existing model (including a few past and future plans). Predictably, this leads to all sorts of idiosyncratic designs which score poorly on the game's metrics for ridership and cost, but do much better on metrics such as Number of Figure 8s Through Hoboken. [more inside]
New York’s Sidewalks Are So Packed, Pedestrians Are Taking to the Streets. A walking city has turned into an obstacle course.
Design for the One Percent by Alex Cocotas [Jacobin Mag] Contemporary architecture is more interested in mega projects for elites than improving ordinary people’s lives. [more inside]
Women, literally, have more drive than men. Nowadays, only 16% of car trips are for commuting. The majority of the remainder are spent running errands, and it's women who account for the lion's share of those hours behind the wheel. The same holds true in cities where more trips away from home involve travel by public transportation. Yet most transit plans aimed at easing traffic congestion target work commuters through options such as telecommuting and hub-and-spoke public transit designs. [more inside]
If New York City were Middle Earth, Sauron would doubtless be portrayed by Robert Moses, destroying neighborhood after neighborhood in his own endless quest for greater power and a lifeless personal vision of the city that had no thoughts of its inhabitants. But when he set his eyes on leveling SoHo and Little Italy for a ten-lane expressway across Lower Manhattan, he ran up against an unlikely Frodo. Jane Jacobs would have been 100 years old today.
How driverless cars will change cities: a 9 minute video from CBC News' The National, covering Morgan Stanley's 2014 prediction for the end of car culture as we have known it (PDF) due to the convergence of driverless cars and "sharing culture" technology like Uber (who will be testing their system soon), and idea that people would be less inclined to own their own driverless vehicle, gien that personally owned passenger vehicles are parked 95% of the time, all of which will mean potentially significant changes in how urban spaces are planned and designed. [more inside]
Bug Man Pete and I are out on the front porch at Hank Dietle’s Tavern, the last roadhouse in Montgomery County, watching the traffic crawl by on Rockville Pike. An exterminator by trade, he’s finished battling vermin for the day and is ready for a few cold ones. A pitcher of draft beer is on the table, and a lit Maverick cigarette is in his hand. He’s feeling good, as he usually is at Dietle’s. [He] has been coming here for almost half of his 56 years. But people like him have been coming to Dietle’s for a century. They were here when the Pike was a rural toll road. They were here when cold, cheap beers were illegal. They were here when Metro dug its tunnels underneath and when a gleaming new mall went up across the road. Now that the mall has been shuttered, they’re still here. -- Washingtonian Magazine on the Last Roadside Divebar in Suburbia.
Other times, it actually takes on solidity and mass in the form of oddly skewed, diagonal slashes of houses. The buildings that fill it look more like scar tissue, bubbling up to cover a void left behind by something else's absence.
Brentin Mock explores the rise and fall of Soul City, a planned city in rural Warren County, North Carolina founded by civil rights veteran Floyd McKissick and funded by the Nixon administration, and how Soul City's decline propelled the environmental justice movement.
Confronting New Madrid (Part 1): In the winter of 1811-12, the New Madrid fault in southern Missouri triggered a series of earthquakes in so powerful they altered the course of the Mississippi River and rang church bells as far away as Philadelphia... and we still don't fully understand why. A similar quake today is estimated to be the costliest disaster in US History.
Confronting New Madrid (Part 2): As dangerous as the threat of "the big one" might be, however, the real disaster is us. [more inside]
Confronting New Madrid (Part 2): As dangerous as the threat of "the big one" might be, however, the real disaster is us. [more inside]
San Francisco City Hall peacocks for its birthday (SLYT) in front of tens of thousands, including the US Conference of Mayors. The projection system will be a permanent donation, complimenting its elaborate LED lighting, used to celebrate holidays, Pride Month, sports victories, etc. The building was completed in time for 1915's Panama Pacific Exposition, and features the 5th largest classical dome in the world, surpassing the US Capitol. A retrofit made it the world's largest base-isolated building, while the grand dome was restored with $500,000 worth of gold foil. The new lighting, combined with the Bay Lights and other projects, have prompted discussion about creating an annual festival of lights.
Originally proposed to American audiences in a 2011 video, Dutch-style Protected Intersections have recently gained traction in the US as an effective means to protect cyclists and pedestrians in busy intersections. Four such intersections are under construction in the US; a similar intersection opened in Canada last year; and more are certain to follow, as protected bike lanes become commonplace in American cities.
Big and Weird: The Architectural Genius of Bjarke Ingels and Thomas Heatherwick
The vision outlined in these documents, an application for a major expansion of the Googleplex, its campus, is mind-boggling. The proposed design, developed by the European architectural firms of Bjarke Ingels Group and Heatherwick Studio, does away with doors. It abandons thousands of years of conventional thinking about walls. And stairs. And roofs. Google and its imaginative co-founder and chief executive, Larry Page, essentially want to take 60 acres of land adjacent to the headquarters near the San Francisco Bay, in an area called North Bayshore, and turn it into a titanic human terrarium.[more inside]
Early Urban Planning: Ancient Mayan City Built on Grid No other city from the Maya world was planned using this grid design, researchers say. There is more background on what was typical on Urban Planning in Ancient Central Mexico.
Isla Vista LocalWiki From the description in mefi projects: Isla Vista has a lot of interesting characteristics that make it a good subject for a community writing project: it's an unusually walkable place with many local institutions and traditions, and it's an unincorporated quasi-town with a complex relationship with the university and the county. But one part that I find really appealing is that this is a relatively unexplored topic... [more inside]
As poverty moves to the suburbs, criminalization of walking intensifies. "Jaywalking" was the reason Michael Brown was first accosted, it is the offense that nearly sent a mother to jail for vehicular homicide when a drunk driver killed her child.
[more inside]We want our tools to sing of not just productivity but of our love of curiosity, the joy of wonderment, and the freshness of the unknown. —Eric Paulos, “Manifesto of Open Disruption and Participation”In his essay “Walking in the City,” the French scholar Michel de Certeau talks about the “invisible identities of the visible.” He is talking specifically about the memories and personal narratives associated with a location. Until recently, this information was only accessible one-to-one—that is, by talking to people who had knowledge of a place. But what if that data became one-to-many, or even many-to-many, and easily accessible via some sort of street-level interface that could be accessed manually, or wirelessly using a smartphone?
Seattle's unbelievable transportation megaproject fustercluck — "In short: There is no plan to resolve the dispute over cost overruns, which are ubiquitous on projects like this; at $4.2 billion, it's the most expensive transportation project in state history. The tunnel will have no exits - no ingress or egress - throughout the entire downtown core (which makes the support of downtown businesses all the more mystifying). It won't allow transit, only cars. It will be tolled, highly enough, by the state's own estimates, to drive nearly half its traffic onto the aforementioned side streets. It will be a precarious engineering feat, the widest deep-bore tunnel in history, digging right between a) Puget Sound and b) the oldest part of Seattle, with vulnerable buildings and God-knows-what buried infrastructure. Also: Pollution. Climate change. It's the 21st f'ing century. On and on. People said all this and more, in real time, to no avail." [more inside]
In the 1960s, the city of Sheffield redeveloped their neglected market square into a Hole in the Road. "A small early forerunner to Meadowhall-type malls; but with more drunks and dodgy smells," the Hole was filled in and paved over in the 90s. [more inside]
Two tourists from Denmark spent five weeks travelling around Canada and, disappointed by the car-centric lifestyle, urban sprawl, lack of human-scale infrastructure and related obesity and unfulfilment, wrote an open letter to the powers that be, lamenting this and urging them to take radical steps to make Canada healthy, happy and sustainable. [more inside]
The Spanish housing boom goes bust. "Some 65km from Madrid, in the quintessentially Spanish heart of a country riven by competing regional identities, Valdeluz – the notorious ciudad fantasma (ghost town) of the crisis – was conceived at the height of what is sometimes called Spain’s economic miracle. In a Catholic nation, whose faith has declined substantially during its three decades of democracy, there is an increasing reluctance to believe in miracles of any kind."
What does a city for women look like? "In the city for women, a woman can sit alone in parks, linger, run, jog, without much diminished fear at any time of the day. Women too can be flaneurs and have the right to loiter. Rather than just prioritise safety and freedom from harassment, women can prioritise speed and convenience of mobility. Women’s mobility is not just about getting from point A to B, but also about social mobility. Greater physical mobility for women is conducive for social mobility and self-actualisation." [more inside]
Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in The Atlantic:The Effects of Housing Segregation on Black Wealth. As the wealth gap widens between whites and blacks in America, and after reading this list and this list, he concludes The Ghetto Is Public Policy. [more inside]
San Francisco must change. "...the current state of permitting regulations for building and the glacial pace of infrastructure projects in San Francisco benefit very few people and risk turning it into a caricature of its former self for tourists and residents rich enough to live in a fantasy, not a living city. If there was ever a time when San Francisco needed to embrace a dynamic, expansive policy for building housing, offices and transportation, it is now." (Previously: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)
You Are Here maps out neat things like the best mode of transportation in your city, incidences of illness at New York City hospitals, permanent US visa applications and street greenery.
The New York Public Library has released more than 20,000 high resolution cartographic works (maps!) for free, to view and download. "We believe these maps have no known US copyright restrictions." All can be viewed through the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections page and downloaded through their Map Warper. (Via) [more inside]
V-Day cards for planners, architects, urban designers, landscape architects, transportation engineers, and those who love them.
After Michael Mann set out to direct Collateral, the story’s setting moved from New York to Los Angeles. This decision was in part motivated by the unique visual presence of the city — especially the way it looked at night. Mann shot a majority of the film in HD (this was 2004), feeling the format better captured the city’s night lighting. Even the film’s protagonist taxi needed a custom coat to pick up different sheens depending on the type of artificial lighting the cab passed beneath. That city, at least as it appears in Collateral and countless other films, will never be the same again. L.A. has made a vast change-over to LED street lights, with New York City not far behind. Why Hollywood Will Never Look the Same Again on Film: LEDs Hit the Streets of LA & NY
Keith Hampton, an associate professor in Rutgers' School of Communication and Information, filmed people in Bryant Park (among other locations) in an ongoing effort to recreate and update sociologist William H. Whyte's Street Life Project. [more inside]
City of Necessity, a 22-minute documentary from 1961, explores race, class, life, and culture in midcentury Chicago. WBEZ writeup by Lee Bey.
A new Report on the State of Health + Urbanism (pdf) from MIT looks at the relationship between urban planning and public health, with some surprising findings. The cities covered are Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. [more inside]
Buildings in the Netherlands by year of construction is a map worth getting lost in.
L.A.'s urban parks: for the homeless, too? 'The new small parks include features that homeless advocates say are meant to harass. But managers contend they just want to prevent people from living there.'[LA Times - for access, use private browsing function in your browser]. [more inside]
For Anting New City, China asked for an idealized theme park of a Teutonic village, but instead they got a modern Bauhaus inspired ghost town. Only about 1,000 people live in this Shanghai mega-suburb that was built to be home to 50,000 residents. (via)
A hundred years ago streams got in the way of urban planning so people covered them up. Today towns and cities are looking to bring these streams back into light thus reducing flood risks, improving water quality, and revitalising neighbourhoods.
Forensic Topology. "In his 2003 memoir Where The Money Is: True Tales from the Bank Robbery Capital of the World, co-authored with Gordon Dillow, retired Special Agent William J. Rehder briefly suggests that the design of a city itself leads to and even instigates certain crimes—in Los Angeles’s case, bank robberies. Rehder points out that this sprawling metropolis of freeways and its innumerable nondescript banks is, in a sense, a bank robber’s paradise. Crime, we could say, is just another way to use the city."
Samuel Aston Williams shows maps of the spread of urban sprawl in several American and international cities over 30 years, as seen from space.
Montgomery County MD, a wealthy, sprawling suburban county outside of Washington DC - its blandess famously mocked by REM's ("Don't Go Back to Rockville.) - is moving towards adopting some of the most progressive and potentially transformational approaches to suburban/urban planning in the US. Driving the change is a concern that young, creative millenials are no longer interested in moving out to the suburbs.