Santa Monica Complete Green Street Breaks Ground

From bustler

The Ocean Park Boulevard Complete Green Street will be a model for future sustainable green street projects in Santa Monica as well as elsewhere in Southern California. In itself, it will stitch together a previously divided neighborhood, conserve water, protect the ocean from runoff, and provide a vibrant pedestrian and bicycle avenue to and from the beach. As a template for change, it will show how streets designed for automobiles can be transformed into inviting parts of the urban landscape

Image courtesy of John Kaliski Architects

Image courtesy of John Kaliski Architects

Designed by John Kaliski Architects, in conjunction with Lawrence Moss & Associates, Landscape Architects, and Kimley-Horn & Associates, Civil Engineers, the Ocean Park Boulevard Complete Green Street recently broke ground on December 12, 2011. When completed in early 2013, it will be the longest complete green street in the City of Santa Monica, and one of the longest in Southern California.

Image courtesy of John Kaliski Architects

Image courtesy of John Kaliski Architects

A critical look at the problems facing the developing world and a rallying call to change that picture – will it too fall on deaf ears – can anything be done till the system is on its knees – must we in fact become anarchists too – or stand on the sidelines while we watch the decline and fall of the “empire” ?

Hwaairfan's Blog


Food Sovereignty in Africa: Reclaiming the Right


By Hwaa Irfan


As leaders from ‘Arab Spring’ countries remind the West of promised aid during the 2012 Davos World Economic Forum, On wonders what has been understood given the growing anxiety of the severity of the debt crisis and the consequences of related policies facing the West. Host and founder of the annual World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab prepared to face the reality of the current global situation stated:

“We have a general morality gap, we are over-leveraged, we have neglected to invest in the future, we have undermined social coherence, and we are in danger of completely losing the confidence of future generations…

“Solving problems in the context of outdated and crumbling models will only dig us deeper into the hole.

“We are in an era of profound change that urgently requires new ways of thinking instead of…

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Using Critical Cartography as a Tool for Urban Intervention/ MIT Urban Studies and Planning (Feature)

Featured in!  A new research project led by Annette Kim, Ford International Career Development Professor of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT,  is setting out to celebrate and legitimize the sidewalk life of Ho Chi Minh City by mapping what it does and what it contributes to the life of the city. The effort bridges urban design and social science research while also aiming to make a practical intervention in the city’s landscape.

In Celebration of Sidewalk Life

Using Critical Cartography as a Tool for Urban Intervention

A new research project led by Annette Kim, Ford International Career Development Professor of Urban Studies and Planning, is setting out to celebrate and legitimize the sidewalk life of Ho Chi Minh City by mapping what it does and what it contributes to the life of the city. The effort bridges urban design and social science research while also aiming to make a practical intervention in the city’s landscape.

Street Vendor Interview

In spite of the fact that street vendors provide 30% of the city’s food and account for 30% of its employment, a series of recent decisions by the Vietnamese government is attempting to clear the sidewalks of vendors in a move to modernize the city and appeal to tourists. Based on conventions of traffic engineering that see anything on the sidewalk as an impediment to flow, planners are of the opinion that tourists don’t want these crowded sidewalks. But research shows that the lively sidewalk life of Ho Chi Minh City is a vital part of the city’s appeal and represents an amenity many westerners strive to create at home.

While the Vietnamese are a highly literate people, for instance, they also have an elaborate and colorful language of non-verbal symbols that enlivens the culture of their streets: crumpled paper in a brick means someone nearby can sell you gas for your moped; someone rattling a wooden snake is saying s/he could give you a massage; someone tapping a ceramic bowl with chopsticks is saying s/he can sell you a noodle dish; and a freestanding sculpture of tire wheels means you can get your moped repaired close by. The symbols change from year to year but people are so chatty you can always get the latest interpretation.

Tourism Study

While the city’s indigenous public views sidewalk activity as a longstanding part of their culture and appreciates the low-cost goods and services street vendors provide, so far they seem unsure how to react to the new rules except to find marginal ways to work around them. And because the vendor’s€™ claim to sidewalk space never appears on planner’s€™ maps, it i€™s easy for them to be simply cleared rather than recognized and managed.

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MIT SLAB – sidewalk laboratory – view details and animated maps

Cathedral or Bazaar?

From faslanyc  a review of a seminal article from computer programing which has relevance to all those who are involved in design in the city – how much we drive topdown “perfect planning” and how much we are able to relinquish this to a more “crowd-sourced” participation is questioned. 

[a bazaar in Baghdad; image from flickr user micmol]

The other day we were spending a little time with Eric Raymond’s seminal essay “The Cathedraland the Bazaar”.  We do it periodically as a way of self-medicating against the annoying notion of emergent urbanistic ideologies bandied about in the halls of higher learning, and as a reality check for our own childish notions.  The 1997 essay about the design lessons learned from the Linux system is full of insightful, potent jewels that might inform new models of landscape practice.  More important, simply reading this nerdy computer man’s essay is an aesthetic experience:
Linux overturned much of what I thought I knew. I had been preaching the Unix gospel of small tools, rapid prototyping and evolutionary programming for years. But I also believed there was a certain critical complexity above which a more centralized, a priori approach was required. I believed that the most important needed to be built like cathedrals, carefully crafted by individual wizards or small bands of mages working in splendid isolation, with no beta to be released before its time.

Linus Torvalds’s style of development—release early and often, delegate everything you can, be open to the point of promiscuity—came as a surprise. No quiet, reverent cathedral-building here—rather, the Linux community seemed to resemble a great babbling bazaar of differing agendas and approaches (aptly symbolized by the Linux archive sites, who’d take submissions from anyone) out of which a coherent and stable system could seemingly emerge only by a succession of miracles.
Throughout the essay Raymond pays extra attention to the mechanics of the Linux system and his materialist analysis leads to surprising conclusions which are cleverly titled with captions such as “Release early, release often” and “On Managementand the Maginot Line”.  When diving in to details such as Linux kernel release mechanisms he bores down in on them, nerdily fumbling them around in his hands, poking it with sticks, and examining them under looking glasses.
My original formulation was that every problem “will be transparent to somebody”.  [Linux creater] Linus demurred that the person who understands and fixes the problem is not necessarily or even usually the person who first characterizes it. “Somebody finds the problem,” he says, “and somebody else understands it. And I’ll go on record as saying that finding it is the bigger challenge.”

In the cathedral-builder view of programming, bugs and development problems are tricky, insidious, deep phenomena…  In the bazaar view, on the other hand, you assume that bugs are generally shallow phenomena—or, at least, that they turn shallow pretty quickly when exposed to a thousand eager co-developers pounding on every single new release. Accordingly you release often in order to get more corrections, and as a beneficial side effect you have less to lose if an occasional botch gets out the door.

But the problem with being clever and original in software design is that it gets to be a habit—you start reflexively making things cute and complicated when you should be keeping them robust and simple.

What Is Your Water Footprint?

An interesting visualisation of water footprints around the world from Protein

What Is Your Water Footprint?


Harvard Graduate School students of Architecture and Design Nickie Huang and Joseph Bergen’s latest project gives a visually compelling insight into the extremity of water footprints throughout both the developed and the developing world. Entitled What Is Your Water Footprint? and creating using a combination of Adobe Flash, Illustrator and Textmate, the interactive map incorporates an extensive range of data-sets with both factual and statistical information regarding the water resources available to different countries and individuals therein.

Although nothing new, data visualization has gained an increasing amount of popularity over the past few years, the visualizers remark on the power of the data visualization as a communicative medium, especially in the sense that almost anything can be reduced to a set of data. Moreover, the project is completely dynamic in the sense that, based upon the understanding that there are certain gaps in the datasets, users are invited to e-mail the designers if they feel that they can contribute to the accuracy of the visualization. The full project can be viewed here.

  • Water2

Crime- and Poverty-Challenged Design – VPUU Khayelitsha Cape Town

A feature on an innovative approach to making informal and semi formal settlement s safe by intense public participation and a radical inclusionary approach is features in Gary Hustwit’s film,Urbanised post from  from Praxis in Landscape Architecture

Khayelitsha Township via The Guardian

How can designers improve the quality of life for residents of the poorest and most dangerous parts of cities? It is a daunting problem, and the temptation is either to say that the problem is too big or that a huge infusion of cash is needed to even get started. What if some of the problems of the poorest and dangerous places could be ameliorated, at least, by design that does not cost a fortune? The figure for total world population living in cities by 2050, cited in the Gary Hustwit film, Urbanized, is 75%! And 1/3 of those people will be living in slums. It’s time for creative thinking!

One of the many interviews with Gary Hustwit on Urbanized is found in Urban Omnibus. Hustwit describes a project in a township outside of Cape Town, South Africa that is striking in its success, both as participatory design and as a well-conceived, modestly priced solution to improving quality of life for area residents. In Hustwit’s words:

the idea of participatory design — of using the public as a design compass instead of just getting a reaction to projects that are already proposed — is not being employed as much as it might. It’s really inspiring when you see it happening and working, like the VPUU (which stands for Violence Prevention by Urban Upgrading) project in Khayelitsha in Cape Town

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Landform Building: Stan Allen & Marc McQuade

More investigations on the origins of Landscape as the source or basis of architecture and its divergence form the precepts of Landscape Urbanism and its closer alignment with Mat -Building as I commented in recent article: Diller Scofidio + Renfro Beat Out Strong Competition at Aberdeen City Garden Project the thickening of the land into a multilevel connected landscape is the antithesis of New Urbanism and other reactionary ideas of how we build the cities fabric, integrating existing fragments, infrastructures, retail clusters and green spaces into a new vision of public to private space as a set of nested hierarchies within a dense urban context, : embedded “heterotopias”  a la David Graham Shane’s  Recombinant Urbanism and Urban Design since 1945 or in semi rural “natural” environments,. such as the visitors centers, experiential museums and restaurants built at historical or “natural wonder” sites,  which in their nature use are still actually very urban.

A book review by Ethel Baraona Pohl from Domus

In their recent book, Marc McQuade and Stan Allen analyze the evolution of the critical relationship between architecture and landscape

Landform Building

Stan Allen and Marc McQuade, eds. in collaboration with Princeton University School of Architecture. Schirmer/Mosel, 2011 (416 pp., US $65)

The common link between landscape and architecture can be defined by the concept of megastructure, or at least this is the first message perceived when opening the book Landform Building and flip through its pages. But this close relationship has been changing fast in the last ten years, from the biological to the geological; the desire to make a responsive architecture is now fulfilled with references to landscape. As Stan Allen points, now a parallel trend looks not to the biology of individual species but to the collective behaviour of ecological systems as a model for cities, buildings and landscapes: “Architecture is situated between the biological and the geological—slower than living but faster than the underlying geology.”

Image: Vicente Guallart, a Barcelona-based architect whose work explores the mineralogical remaking of whole terrains – including how to make a mountain

The start point of this new way to understand architecture was in the early 1990s, when the emergence of Landscape Urbanism was focused on experiments on folding, surface manipulation and the creation of artificial terrains. Mostly all of these strategies can be related with some avant-garde projects of the 1960s, such as Hans Hollein’s Aircraft Carrier City in Landscape or Raimund Abraham’s Transplantation I; a time when architectural proposals included per-se the transformation of landscape, better explained by Erwin Rommel [quoted by Marida Talamona], “Any work of architecture, before it is an object, is a transformation of the landscape.

Natural tectonic can be understood as the architectural reconstruction of nature, as pointed by David Gissen and it could be a positive approach if we start thinking again on the idea that architecture can also bring nature back into the view and experience of the city. We want to end quoting Gissen: “Through this lens, we understand “nature” as something that was (past tense) in the city. By bringing it back, we reconstruct the former reality of the city but also acknowledge the end of nature as we understand it.”

[1] Landform Building, Architecture’s New Terrain. Conference at Princeton University School of Architecture [visited on 29th August 2011]
[2] Thinking big. John Rajchman talks with Rem Koolhaas [visited on 29th August 2011]
[3] Michael Jakob, “On Mountains, Scalable and Unscalable” MS [4] Reyner Banham, “Scenes in America Deserta”. The MIT Press, 1989.
[5] Fumihiko Maki, “Investigations in Collective Form.” 1964. PDF available. Visited on 29th August 2011]
[6] Kenneth Frampton, “Megaform As Urban Landscape”. University of Michigan, 1999.

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Nature as Infrastructure- An Interview with Kongjian Yu

An architecture report from Domus by Ethel Baraona Pohl

Turenscape’s founder Kongjian Yu demonstrates how nature can be a cost-free service provider in an urban context. Ecology is a synonym of economy

The cross-disciplinary project is an urban stormwater park and a national nature reserve. It filters storm water from the city and protects against flooding. The new urban district of Qunli New Town was zoned with only 16.4% of developable land as permeable green space

Ethel Baraona: Let’s talk about the close relationship you have with natural environments. Where does this interest come from?
Kongjian Yu In Chinese tu means dirt, earth and ren means people, man. So, Turenscape means “people from the land”, the wonderful metaphor behind our name is that we are “the land and the people”. I come from a rural area and grew up with people who lived there for decades, which gave me a true sense of nature. I started Turenscape with my wife and a friend. One of our first projects began in 2000. We finished it in 2002. Suddenly it became really famous. People were admiring projects they never had seen before in China.

A network of walkways is built into the pond-andmound ring allowing visitors to observe the wetland, which Turenscape planted with native marsh grasses and silver birch trees. Platforms and viewing towers lend panoramic views of the surroundings

Is ecology part of an economical system?
That is a key point. Economy means ecology. Nature has no waste. If species can’t have minimum energy to survive, they die. So, nature is economy. We should consider the city as an organism and parks should provide all these services. At the same time this project is very economic. We used a very simple cut-and-fill system on the ring with a minimum cost. We built the sky-walk, a kind of jungle inside the park, with wood, bamboo, stone: all local materials. And it is important as a social node too.

Read the full interview

Read other posts on Turenscape and Konjian Yu
Terragrams -delivering the landscape

The Conscientizacao of the Landscape: An Interview with Kongjian Yu

Invisible Fields

From Domus An interview from Barcelona by Ethel Baraona Pohl

I  see this exhibition, which I will only be able to see by means of its representation in images from cyberspace, as a tangible sign of the distorted relationship we have the technologies which both bind and isolate us. A the very time we see this massive increase in invisible wave and electromagnetic fields filling all the available space we are made aware by microbiologists that we were always surrounded by fields of the microbial clouds that make up our atmosphere and the rhizosphere below it and permeate our bodies and all the objects that make up the biosphere. Ironically both these large scale urban electromagnetic fields and our fossil fuel  activities,  themselves the results of ancient sunlight stored by living organisms,  have polluted and killed off incomprehensible numbers of the very microbes we depend on for our livelihood in the soils and atmosphere and in our bodies (seeInteractivos? Garage Astrobiology – Microbes and EMF. 

Maybe it is time we became aware of this relationship – is it in fact not more important of our survival than these transient communication waves – after all when we examine what is being transmitted how much of it has any real value. In the words of Frank Zappa talking about Television : “I may be vile and pernicious , but you can’t look away! Don’t touch that dial folks, I’m the slime oozing out of your TV set,”

I s this what these fields contain and imply – our serfdom to the consumption system – or our empowerment to resist and reform it?

Clara Boj and Diego Diaz, Observatorio, Interactive installation, 2008

We inhabit intangible territories. The networks of invisible infrastructures which surrounds our world are extensive and growing day by day. In this context, Invisible Fields explores how the understanding of our world and our cosmos has been transformed by the study of radio waves. For a better understanding of this concept, José Luis de Vicente and Honor Harger have curated the exhibition starting with the invention of telecommunication technology at the end of the 19th century, and explaining how the radio spectrum became a tool for rethinking the world we live in. A world within an enigmatic landscape where there’s no geographical distance and is based on technologies of information and communication.

On this context of enigmatic topologies which has been there for more than a century, the projects presented at this exhibition simply makes visible the territories created by invisible waves. As Lucy Bullivant pointed in 2005 [1]:

“Electromagnetic space—also called Hertzian space—is physical and nonvirtual. It consists of a ghostly poetic ecology that exists just beyond our familiar perceptual limits.”

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A Dynamic New Magazine on African Urbanism

I had to read about this in [polis]register on the link and get your free copy it looks interesting and its by the African Centre for Cities – Tau is a very innovative and creative designer – well done!

It has been nearly four months since we breathed a huge sigh of relief. After more than a year of meetings, informal conversations, exorbitant coffee bills and more meetings, we finally launched CityScapes at the Open Book literary festival in Cape Town. A brief introduction: CityScapes is a biannual print magazine focusing on cities in the Global South, an initiative of the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town. Don’t judge us by our geographical location: The cover of the launch issue features a photograph taken on the opposite end of Africa — a portrait by Moroccan artist Yto Barrada.

CityScapes has a core team of four diverse individuals: urban theorist Edgar Pieterse, who is also director of the Centre for African Cities; Camaren Peter, a sustainability researcher and scientist; journalist and arts writer Sean O’Toole; and myself, Tau Tavengwa, a bookmaker, designer and accidental researcher. The four of us spent a lot of time grappling with the various dialogues about cities in Africa. At the same time, we tried to figure out how they connected to larger conversations about urbanization and development in the Global South. One of our main conclusions was that there was need for a publication — something disciplined and thoughtful but also rambunctious — that would adequately serve a range of practitioners (scholars, architects, urbanists, journalists, artists, photographers, essayists and all other sorts of cultural factotums) saying interesting things about the “the city.”

The second issue of CityScapes is due out on April 30, 2012. It will be as eccentric and enquiring as the first.

Tau Tavengwa is co-editor, creative director and co-publisher of CityScapes.

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