Tag Archives | cities

Santa Cruz Conceptualized As A Giant Hand

The geography-as-person trope goes back a long time, and remains haunting — are cities sentient beings? As we traverse streets and subway systems, are we merely red blood cells coursing through a giant body? And when a place’s key locations and arterials seem to mimic the human form, is it just our imagination? This idea is illustrated beautifully in a 1912 map, via Big Think:

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The map, designed by Polly Hill, was part of a promotional brochure extolling the beauties, joys and pleasures to be sampled in Santa Cruz and environs — centred on the Casa del Rey Hotel, and the adjacent Casino.

More than a cartographic gimmick, the hand shape is also a clever way of representing the local geography, with the two outer fingers representing the coastal corridor and the three middle ones some of the valleys radiating northward through mountainous terrain.

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A 12-Million-Person Imaginary City Created By An Autistic Savant

Beautiful renderings which took 20 years to complete: the complete plan of a massive European city that does not exist, revealing the fruits of unrestrained dreaming. Via Brain Pickings:

For the past 20 years, French autistic savant Gilles Trehin has been devising and developing this fanciful megacity, from the remarkable architectural detail to the thoughtful cultural context rooted in real world history. Urville gathers 300 of Trehin’s meticulous, obsessive drawings and sets the door ajar to this complex and intricately woven alternate reality.

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Mexico City’s 65-Story Inverted Skyscraper

earthscraper-11The Earthscraper is a conceptual design for a see-through 82,000-square-foot inverted pyramid proposed to be built underneath Mexico City. With space already filled in the world’s major cities, will the future be about building downwards? Via Ecomagination:

Earthscraper may have burst the bounds of the architectural world because it has taken a truly new approach to escalating megacity problems like planning for population growth, curbing sprawl, preserving open space, and conserving energy and water.

The inverted pyramid’s next 10 stories are intended for retail space, followed by 10 stories of apartments. The structure’s deepest, tapering 35 floors are pegged for office space. The interior design concept also incorporates a system of gardens occurring roughly every 10 stories, to help generate fresh air.

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Giant Emocon Reflects The Mood Of The City

feelometerInstalled in Lindau Island, Germany, the Feel-o-meter sums up the populace's collective consciousness. Pass by with a frown, and you could slightly dampen its smile. (You wouldn't want to do that, would you?) Via Information Aesthetics:
Fuehlometer (Feel-o-meter) by Richard Wilhelmer, Julius von Bismarck, and Benjamin Maus is a light installation consisting of a giant smiley face that reflects the average mood of the people living in the city. The average emotional value is calculated through the computational analysis of the faces of people passing a camera located in a specific part of the city.
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‘Test City’ Being Built In New Mexico Desert

nmWould you jump at the chance to live in an artificially-created city in the middle of nowhere and participate in trial runs of the technologies of tomorrow? This is as close as you can come to living in a space colony on Earth. BLDGBLOG writes:

A private consulting firm in Washington D.C. is developing a “test city”—one “with no permanent population”—in the New Mexico desert, according to the Albuquerque Journal. It will be “a privately financed, small city on 20 square miles in New Mexico for testing and evaluation of new and emerging technologies,” run from afar by Pegasus Global Holdings.

This as yet unnamed location will be devoted to the “‘real world’ testing of smart grids, renewable energy integration, next-gen wireless, smart grid cyber security and terrorism vulnerability,” making it a life-size trial for private sector urban management—Cisco’s city-in-a-box and IBM urbanism wrapped in one.

I’m inclined to ask what it might look like if other corporations were to launch their own “test cities” in the desert somewhere—an REI city, complete with artificial whitewater rapids, campfires, and outdoor climbing walls; a Playboy city, complete with unlockable shared doors between neighboring bedrooms; an AMC city, with screens and streetside auditoriums, and massive projectors on cranes like new constellations in the sky.

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Uncovering The Biology Of Cities

rats The New York Times discusses a growing science subculture — the urban evolutionist. These brave souls are charting the growth of the super-strong mutant rats, fish, bacteria, and bugs that will someday overrun planet:

A small but growing number of field biologists study urban evolution — not the rise and fall of skyscrapers and neighborhoods, but the biological changes that cities bring to the wildlife that inhabits them. For these scientists, New York is one great laboratory.

White-footed mice, stranded on isolated urban islands, are evolving to adapt to urban stress. Fish in the Hudson have evolved to cope with poisons in the water. Native ants find refuge in the median strips on Broadway. And more familiar urban organisms, like bedbugs, rats and bacteria, also mutate and change in response to the pressures of the metropolis.

Pollution has driven some of the starkest examples of evolution around New York. Hudson River fish faced a dangerous threat from PCBs, which General Electric released from 1947 to 1977.

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What Walkable Los Angeles Would Look Like

Suppose Los Angeles were like Paris, New York, et cetera, with dense, narrow, two-lane streets rather than wide, barren five-lane ones? Artist David Yoon conducted a “fantasy urban makeover in photographs” to show exactly this. On Narrow Streets LA, click on (actual) shots of Japantown, Santa Monica, Downtown, Melrose Avenue (below, real on left and photoshopped on right), and tons of other locations to reveal the far more pleasing, charming, and inviting narrowed versions — a fantastical vision of the non-car-dominated Los Angeles that never was but could have been:

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Replicant Cities: Identical Places On Different Continents

Imagine visiting a foreign continent and knowing every street, every tree like the back of your hand.25258635 Duplicate copies of unique, gorgeous cities seems like both the inverse and logical continuation of the 1950s idea of identical, planned tract-home suburbs. BLDG BLOG writes:

First there was the replica of Lyons, France, being built in Dubai; it would be a replicant city “of about 700 acres, roughly the size of the Latin Quarter of Paris,” and it would “contain squares, restaurants, cafes and museums.”

Now, though, we learn that a Chinese firm has been “secretly” copying an entire UNESCO-listed village in Austria, called Hallstatt. Residents of the original town are “scandalized,” Der Spiegel reports, by these “plans to replicate the village—including its famous lake—in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.”

After all, in addition to the uncanny experience of seeing your buildings, streets, sidewalks, and even trees repeated on the other side of the world, “creating an exact duplicate of a city may not be legal, according to Hans-Jörg Kaiser from Icomos Austria, the national board for monument preservation under UNESCO.

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Aerotropolis: Will The Cities Of The Future Be Giant Airports?

aerotropolis3dThe Utopianist discusses one (slightly hellish) idea of what the city of the future may look like — the ‘aerotropolis’, in which the airport is at the city’s geographic and economic core, and daily life increasingly resembles being inside an endlessly sprawling airport:

It’s a city that’s built around an airport, the bigger the better, with factories and/or traders, both dependent on air freight, close by, followed by a ring of malls and hotels, followed by a ring of residential neighborhoods. The airport isn’t an annoyance, located as far out of the way as possible, but the city’s heart, its raison d’être.

While the vision of a city based around an airport may seem novel, there are such aerotropolises already in existence, like Ecuador’s capital, Quito. We already have a few cities in the United States that roughly adhere to this model — Memphis, our nation’s major FedEx hub, and Seattle, the home of Boeing.

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New York Entangled In Yarn Graffiti

5058097151_67d198ca0eThe New York Times reports on “yarn bombing”, the softest, coziest form of urban vandalism. Leave your bike parked for too long and it could end up like the one at right, which has been chained for months in front of my friend’s store:

“Street art and graffiti are usually so male dominated,” Ms. Hemmons said. “Yarn bombing is more feminine. It’s like graffiti with grandma sweaters.”

Yarn bombing takes that most matronly craft (knitting) and that most maternal of gestures (wrapping something cold in a warm blanket) and transfers it to the concrete and steel wilds of the urban streetscape. Hydrants, lampposts, mailboxes, bicycles, cars — even objects as big as buses and bridges — have all been bombed in recent years, ever so softly and usually at night.

It is a global phenomenon, with yarn bombers taking their brightly colored fuzzy work to Europe, Asia and beyond. In Paris, a yarn culprit has filled sidewalk cracks with colorful knots of yarn.

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