Friday, 8 June 2007

New York 2106

[via City of Sound's excellent coverage of the Postopolis event]

Great work by Terreform - a studio formed by Mitchell Joachim and Michael Sorkin, reimagining New York in 2106.

This proposal inverts the existing urban form of greater New York, the grid of streets becoming the site for building, and the current city blocks the zone for "greenfill".

"We propose transformation via a radical strategy: the reversal of figure and ground, of public and private property. We begin with citywide “greenfill,” the immediate transfer of half the aggregate of street space from the vehicular to the pedestrian and public realm. Later, the streets become building sites and, as new, highly autonomous, buildings grow in intersections and wind their way down streets and avenues and through vacant lots, the old, deteriorated, fabric will fade away to be replaced both by an abundance of productive green space and by a new labyrinth of irregular blocks, a paradise for people on foot. Fast movement will be accomplished underground in a superbly modernized subway and along the rivers and new cross-island channels. The city streets – extended in their length but reduced in their area – will support a marvelous technology we know to be just over the horizon, some fabulous and slow conveyance summoned with a whistle or collapsed into a pocket."

This radical inversion will theoretically allow New York to be become self-sufficient in it's vital necessities including food, energy and waste processing.

The plan proposes a radical greening of New York, with rivers/ canals bisecting Manhattan into 4 smaller islands.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Modern movements in Mass Transit

While the idea of a Car Free Helsinki might be a little ambitious, there seems to me to be a growing sense that we have let cars dominate our cities and town planning for too long, and that this acquiescence to the cult of the car should end.

Correspondent to any change in the level of cars on our roads must come innovation in public transport, or Mass Transit as the Americans like to call it.

A great slideshow in BusinessWeek magazine shows a selection of recent innovations in transport alternatives, from an automated metro for Dubai to Personal Rapid Transport at Heathrow, and the new Fastech 360 Shinkansen which are expected to travel at 360 kph.

Meanwhile, Good magazine unveils "Five innovations in urban transportation that you won’t find in America, yet". Most of the ideas presented there are as much about thinking laterally as any technological fix.

"Subways are expensive—in fact, an 11-mile, 21-station addition to Athens’s subway system, opened in 2000, cost more than $3.6 billion. As a result, subways are often limited to high-density areas in order to recover their costs; even then, most systems require a substantial subsidy."

(I took this quote to heart when thinking about the plan to create a new Metro line to the East of Helsinki, joining up the chain of islands. Bridges would be a much beeter idea).

Most of these ideas are a long way away from traditional transport policy. In NYC, Mayor Bloomberg famously said: "We like traffic, it means economic activity, it means people coming here."

Resisting the power of the automobile creates new design opportunities for urban areas. An article at, Designing Cities for People, Rather than Cars…, looks at the example of Bogata Columbia:

"In response to these conditions, we are seeing the emergence of a new urbanism. One of the most remarkable modern urban transformations has occurred in Bogotá, Colombia, where Enrique Peñalosa served as Mayor for three years, beginning in 1998. When he took office he did not ask how life could be improved for the 30 percent who owned cars; he wanted to know what could be done for the 70 percent–the majority–who did not own cars.

Peñalosa realized that a city that is a pleasant environment for children and the elderly would work for everyone. In just a few years, he transformed the quality of urban life with his vision of a city designed for people. Under his leadership, the city banned the parking of cars on sidewalks, created or renovated 1,200 parks, introduced a highly successful bus-based rapid transit system, built hundreds of kilometers of bicycle paths and pedestrian streets, reduced rush hour traffic by 40 percent, planted 100,000 trees, and involved local citizens directly in the improvement of their neighborhoods. In doing this, he created a sense of civic pride among the city’s 8 million residents, making the streets of Bogotá in strife-torn Colombia safer than those in Washington, D.C."

Perhaps by 2050 we'll look back and see the domination of our cities by private automobiles as a peculiar aberration, or will we still be in love with the car, and continue to let it dictate the shape of our urban future?

London 2071

"Perched between brooding mountains and surrounded by vineyards, the Portuguese town of Vila Real may seem a world away from the chaos of central London."

First noted on BldgBlog, a recent article in the Guardian looked at London in the year 2071 from a climate change point of view, and estimated that it's climate then would resemble that of Portugal now.

They warn that average temperatures across Britain will reach 3C higher than today, peaking at 5C higher in the south-east. Night will offer little respite.

Each 1C of warming takes an extra hour to dissipate, so the south could feel as warm at midnight on summer evenings as it does at 7pm today. Summer rain on the south coast could be down to just half current levels, well over 40% down across the rest of England and about 30% down in Scotland. Winter rainfall in scattered eastern parts could peak at more than 30% above current levels, and is likely to fall in heavy bursts.

With this reduced rainfall levels, England would have to pipe water in, perhaps down from Scotland.

A map by scientists from the International Centre for Research on the Environment and Development in Nogent-sur-Marne, France, and the University of Bremen, created a map, replotting the position of 12 European capitals based on their projected climate futures. Whilst Oslo and Stockholm are both predicted to have Spanish climates, the prediction for Helsinki is more that of a mid-European city like Prague.

As BldgBlog points out, the architecture of northern cities like Helsinki will have to change gradually as it acclimatises to the new temperature and rainfall patterns.