Tag Archives | Urban Planning

Selling The Rights To The Air Above The City

Where else could we be headed? Artist Theo Games Spetrophilos talks to We Make Money Not Art regarding his Air Futures project, a dystopian vision of a future commodities market for the air around us:

Generally speaking, owning or renting land or a building gives one the right to use and develop the air rights. What would happen if the regulation of air rights was given free rein, if air became a commodity that could be bought and sold? How would the trade physically manifest itself? Can we imagine that one day an Air Bank will open in the heart of Manhattan?

Air Futures is the speculative evolution of the air rights trade in New York, where volumes of ‘air’ are bought and sold to facilitate complex development manoeuvres over the city’s grid.

At the moment, the air rights trade allows the transfer of these developable volumes under strict rules. For example, you sell the space above your building, and the new owner can build his new building over your plot or bend over it.

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Welcome To Yodaville: The Fake City In The Arizona Desert

BLDGBLOG on a town built by Air Force for the purpose of being bombed into oblivion, over and over:

Yodaville is a fake city in the Arizona desert used for bombing runs by the U.S. Air Force. Writing for Air & Space Magazine back in 2009, Ed Darack wrote that, while tagging along on a training mission, he noticed “a small town in the distance—which, as we got closer, proved to have some pretty big buildings, some of them four stories high.”

As one instructor tells Darack, “The urban layout is actually very similar to the terrain in many villages in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The Urban Target Complex, or UTC, was soon “lit up with red tracer rounds and bright yellow and white rocket streaks,” till it “looked like it was barely able to keep standing”:

The artillery and mortars started firing, troops advanced toward the target complex, and aircraft of all types—carefully controlled by students on the mountain top—mounted one attack run after another.

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Turning Abandoned Detroit Into A Zombie Theme Park

Via fundraising site IndieGoGo, a campaign to infuse economic activity into a depressed area by converting a vacant, blighted area into ‘Z World Detroit’, an apocalyptic theme park in which visitors are chased by hordes of zombies. Proposals to formally abandon entire sections of the city have provoked much sadness and soul-searching–perhaps this is how to come to grips with the new reality:

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On Urban Inequality And The Tree Gap

stelprdb5187894_tnMay we demand the presence of trees? Despite their secret importance, the appearance of trees in American cities corresponds with wealth, Per Square Mile reveals:

Research published a few years ago shows a tight relationship between per capita income and forest cover. They found that for every 1 percent increase in per capita income, demand for forest cover increased by 1.76 percent.

It’s easy to see trees as a luxury when a city can barely keep its roads and sewers in working order, but that glosses over the many benefits urban trees provide. They shade houses in the summer, reducing cooling bills. They scrub the air of pollution, especially of the particulate variety, which in many poor neighborhoods is responsible for increased asthma rates and other health problems. They also reduce stress, which has its own health benefits. Large, established trees can even fight crime.

Fortunately, many cities understand the value trees bring to their cities.

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The American Geography Of Incarceration

We may peruse neighborhoods on Google Maps, read about suburban sprawl and new city developments, but millions of Americans exist in a different, ignored geography. Via the The Funambulist:

Prison Map is a project developed by Josh Begley, a graduate student at NYU. Let’s recall that 2.5 millions people are living in prison in this country. Such a project illustrates therefore a sort of hidden urbanism in which 0.8% of the American population live for a given time.

They illustrate a geography of exclusion [and] often ironically appear similar to European palaces with well-ordered classical plans.

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Los Angeles’ Hidden Original Subway System

Gelatobaby‘s Alyssa Walker went on an unmissable clandestine urban exploration tour — through the abandoned subway system nestled below L.A., revealing an uninhabited sub-city filled with strange sights:

Behold the Subway Terminal Building, hidden in plain sight in the middle of downtown LA, where at one point during the 1940′s over 65,000 riders were shuffling down into the depths of Los Angeles to board a train which traveled beneath the busy streets. We found ourselves in a vast, pillared space that, even with the tracks and trains removed, felt very much like a subway station. We did reach the end, where there was, of course, graffiti. After being used as a fallout shelter, the tunnel was sealed in the 1960s.

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21st Century Folk Art: Foreclosure Quilts

quiltsQuilts often contain symbolic worlds reflecting aspects of the broader community or society. Artist Kathryn Clark creates “foreclosure quilts”, which are based on maps of cities, with holes representing foreclosed homes:

From 1999 to 2004, I worked for a private urban planning firm designing New Urbanist neighborhoods throughout the US. In 2007, as foreclosures began to occur I questioned my work. Did I add to this in some way? I was aware early on that these foreclosures were just the beginning of something bigger yet I felt alone when I mentioned it. Few agreed with me or seemed concerned.

It was important to me to present the whole story in a way that would captivate people’s attention and make a memorable statement. Making quilts seemed an ironic solution. Quilts act as a functional memory, an historical record of difficult times.

The quilt is pieced together using patterns of neighborhood blocks taken from RealtyTrac maps.

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Ikea Is Building Its Own City

ikeaIf you’ve ever lingered in a display at an Ikea store, wishing you could remain there forever, now is your lucky day. The Globe and Mail reports:

The Swedes now want to place you and 6,000 neighbours into a neglected corner of your city, design an entire urban world around you, and Ikea-ize your lives. Ikea’s city-building ambition is in a triangle of post-industrial wasteland in the far reaches of East London. Their vision is to turn this grey netherworld into a tightly packed neighbourhood they’ll call Strand East.

This will be an all-rental private neighbourhood, run and overseen by a private company. And here is where living in an Ikea neighbourhood might come to resemble a long day in an Ikea store: The company wants you to be in a neat, clean, pleasant environment. And it very much wants you to have fun. Those things that normally just happen in life will be carefully managed from above.

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Why Walking Is Political

Commuters-on-railway-stat-008Via the Guardian, Will Self argues for the symbolic, basic importance of walking as a force against corporate and state control:

Put bluntly: deprived of mechanized means of locomotion – the car, the bus, the train – and without the aid of technology, the majority of urbanites, who constitute the vast majority of Britons, neither know where they are, nor are capable of getting somewhere else under their own power.

Year on year, the number of journeys taken on foot declines – indeed, on current projections walking will have died out altogether as a means of transport by the middle of this century. Now we are alienated from the physical reality of our cities.

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Suburban Sprawl Highways As Historic Tourist Attractions

3739750449_86e3796b18Is this what will become of the highway? The Guardian dissects the bizarre spectacle of sold-out bus tours of outer London’s very bland M25 motorway:

Long in tedium and inescapably circular, the M25 is not so much The Road to Hell, as Chris Rea once sang, but life itself. However, Britain’s least loved motorway was almost beneficent on Monday when viewed from the seats of the first sell-out coach tour of the 117-mile London orbital.

There were several coach tours of the M25 in the 1980s and perhaps it is no coincidence that the 2012 version has proved so popular. The M25 was opened by Margaret Thatcher in 1986 and will endure as a monument to her era far longer than wars or broken unions. A visible symbol of individualism and the triumph of the car, the motorway was widened by the Blair government, building on the Iron Lady’s legacy in every way.

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