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.
Tag Archives | Urban Planning
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.
When Landsat 5 launched on March 1, 1984, Las Vegas was a smaller city. The outward expansion of the city is shown in a false-color time lapse of data from all the Landsat satellites.
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.
The 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.
The landscape of our post-recession country is littered with the carcasses of abandoned malls — fallen, ghostly temples of twentieth-century consumerism and suburbia. In an interesting two-year-old piece, Design Observer wonders what to do with them. Utopian schemes from wild-eyed planners abound:
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Dead malls, according to Deadmalls.com, are malls whose vacancy rate has reached the tipping point; whose consumer traffic is alarmingly low; are “dated or deteriorating”; or all of the above. A May 2009 article in The Wall Street Journal, “Recession Turns Malls into Ghost Towns,” predicts that the dead-mall bodycount “will swell to more than 100 by the end of this year.” Dead malls are a sign of the times, victims of the economic plague years.
The multitiered, fully enclosed mall (as opposed to the strip mall) has been the Vatican of shiny, happy consumerism since it staked its claim on the crabgrass frontier — and the public mind — in postwar America.
Would 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:
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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.
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:
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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.