Blog » weekly snapshot
- January 7, 2011BY ANIKA JESI
A Master Plan on Wheels
What if cities’ basic elements weren’t stationary? “Switching City,” a proposed master plan for a small city in Norway, utilizes existing railways to move public functions within and outside of the city, making them more widely accessible, as well as weather adaptable.
The “Most Advanced High School” in the United States to be Demolished
A crumbling exterior and overwhelming dropout rates has contributed to the decision to demolish Chicago’s South Shore High School. However, plans to build a selective new campus in its place has raised racial and socioeconomic tensions, as well as questions about what will become of South Shore’s current students.
The Mayor Wants You to Lose Some Weight
Fed up with the high costs of health care, communities around the country are pushing for new methods to improve the health of their citizens. Mayors in states such as California, New York and Utah are partnering with the Center for Disease Control to implement public health measures such as monitoring cities’ health trends and air quality, as well as providing more bike paths.
7 Billion, National Geographic Magazine
National Geographic has released a compelling video modeling what a world population of 7 billion by the end of 2011 would look like, and what the implications for the planet’s resources would be.
Conflict Over Squatter’ Camp Tests Argentina’s Kirchner
Due to a lack of adequate public housing in Buenos Aires and rising immigration rates, hundred of families are being forced to move into the city’s public spaces. The squatter’s actions have brought to light many of the political and social problems behind the country’s urban slums.
- December 17, 2010BY ANIKA JESI
Armstrong Place tour [Photo Credit: Colleen McHugh]
Cities Embrace Temporary Fixes for Stalled Construction Projects: The economic downturn has left more than just financial scars on cities. It has left physical scars in the form of vacant lots and partially-built projects, the products of abandoned and stalled development. In order to spruce up these eyesores, cities are turning to temporary "quick fixes" to make more productive use of the land.
It's Time to Update the Definition of "Smart Growth: One author argues that the definition of "smart growth" needs to evolve in order to address a broader range of urban issues, such as food and water access, equity, and health.
Tour Embraces a Town's Ugly Truth - It's a Dump: One man is taking advantage of Belgium's most dilapidated city by offering a tourist attraction to showcases the ugliest part of the Charleroi, Belgium. Nicolas Buissart leads an Urban Safari around the city in which tourists can climb a slag heap, explore a never-before-used metro station, and walk down streets thought to be the "ugliest in the country".
From Steel to Tech, Pittsburgh Transforms Itself: A strong tech movement in Pittsburgh, PA is helping the once steel-centered city emerge from its industrial past and reinvent itself as a hub for technological innovation and education.
Using Waste, Swedish City Shrinks its Fossil Fuel Use: The city of Kristianstad, Sweden reached an impressive goal of using virtually no fossil fuels to heat the homes and business of its 80,000 residents. Instead, Kristianstad generates its energy through natural waste byproducts produced by the many food and farming businesses in the city.
- December 11, 2010- posted by Anika Jesi
Younger Greens Reject Old Ideas About Urbanity: John King argues that the approval of a new measure in Berkeley to promote density, transit oriented development and revitalization of the CBD is an example of the recent generational shifts in urban priorities.
Cycle City, USA: With the approval of their 2030 Bicycle Master Plan earlier this year, and the implementation of an ambitious marketing campaign to spark bicycle ridership, is Portland set to become America’s first world-class biking city?
Chicago Shutters Infamous Public Housing Complex: Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project, the city’s most infamous symbol of failed public housing, is set to close this month as a part of the Chicago Public Housing Authority’s “Plan for Transformation.” Although the closing of the complex undoubtedly marks the end of an “ugly era,” Cabrini’s former residents still face an uncertain future.
Los Angeles Mass Transit is Expanding: The largely auto-centric city of Los Angeles is finally making a push for major mass transit with a light rail line and new subway extensions. However, some ask whether the city’s sprawling geography and car-loving culture would even allow it to become a transit-oriented city like Paris or New York
An Airport Both TSA and Travelers Can Love: A second terminal is in the works for the SF International Airport, the first of its kind to attempt a Leed Gold Certification. The new terminal would include such sustainability features as “hydration stations” for visitors to refill water bottles, and food pavilions curated by SlowFood serving locally-sourced meals.
Photo Credit: Colleen McHugh
- November 13, 2010BY ANIKA JESI
Demolition of the Transbay Terminal
School Brings Farming to the Big Apple: A formerly vacant lot in the East Bronx now serves as a classroom for The New York City School of Urban Agriculture, a new venture aimed at helping students use urban farming to foster a healthy food culture in their community.
Washington Rethinks its Rules on Building Height: Washington, D.C. is reexamining its outdated zoning laws that restrict building height in the city. While some argue that taller buildings would diversify the cityscape, allow for greener construction, and prevent gentrification, others worry that raising the height limit could jeopardize the unique character of the city.
Lindin Alley Planners in SF Went Extra Mile: After five years, numerous bureaucratic hurdles, and lots of determination, Lindin Living Alley has finally sprung up in Hayes Valley, adding to the collection of SF parks created by “bootstrap urbanism.”
Neglect Threatens Many of Italy’s Cherished Ruins: Over the centuries, Italy’s ruins have survived earthquakes, volcano blasts and pillaging, but as of recently, some of them are crumbling due to poor upkeep and negligence alone. The loss of such treasures could spell trouble for the country’s tourism industry.
Market on a Mission: Thanks to neighborhood planner Jeremy Shaw, a once derelict block in SF’s Mission District is now home to a vibrant community market hosting music, food and family activities every Thursday.
Photo Credit: Colleen McHugh
- November 5, 2010BY ANIKA JESI
Elections Cloud High-Speed Rail's Future, Just as New Survey Shows It's Potential: The recent wins of politicians opposed to high-speed rail funding could threaten to stall rail projects in several states such as Florida and Ohio when, only days prior, the American Public Transportation Association had released a survey showing that 62% of people would patronize high speed rail service.
Sustainable Growth Formula Eludes Many China Cities: While some Chinese cities are making strides towards sustainable development, many others are still struggling to accommodate rapid urban growth in a sustainable manner. Failure to address these issues could mean serious consequences for the country's standard of living, as well as for the environment.
Tanzania Road Plan In Serengeti Offers Prospects and Fears: The New York Times looks at a controversial proposal in Tanzania to build national a highway straight through the center of Serengeti Park, an area that currently houses one of the most spectacular and rare ecosystems left on the planet.
Will UK's Cuts Force Poor Families Out of London? With Britain's government enacting tough new policies to slash housing aid and rent subsidies, thousands of low-income families are leaving the city in search of cheaper living costs. This exodus threatens to erode London's prized "patchwork" of mixed-income and multi-cultural neighborhoods.
The Potential for Solar Power is Enormous: Greenpeace's Solar Generation 2010 report shows the tremendous potential for solar power as a source of energy that could, theoretically, power 6,000 times our global energy consumption.
Photo Credit: Colleen McHugh
- October 23, 2010BY ANIKA JESI
SPUR members toured Recycle Central last week [Photo Credit: Colleen McHugh]
Can We Farm in Skyscrapers? Author Dickson Despommier thinks we can. His newest book on "vertical farming" advocates for growing food in multi-story urban agriculture centers as a way to cut down on the resources traditionally involved in producing and transporting crops.
How SoHo Can Save the Suburbs: As more young families opt to live in cities rather than suburbs, suburban renewal has taken on a new level of importance for many of these areas. Richard Florida looks at how "edge cities" nation-wide are turning their unused spaces into "hip hotspots," in an attempt to remake themselves into vibrant, livable places.
Tales of Bike Lane Abuse: A report sponsored by the Manhattan borough president found that many of NYC's signature bike lanes are frequently intruded on by cars, pedestrians, and even buses that use the lane as a short cut for getting around traffic.
How Hollywood Learned to Ride the City: A video by The New York Times follows professional bike coach Dave Jordan as he spends a summer teaching Hollywood stars urban bike riding in preparation for their upcoming roles. This marks a new trend in filmmaking, in which the industry is beginning to stray from its typical car-driving characters and portray more bikers in movies.
Public Access to S.F. Bay Tied to Private Projects: According to John King, the migration of San Francisco's Exploratorium from the Palace of Fine Arts to Piers 15 and 17 may offer a model for how private development can bring out about quality public space.
- October 16, 2010Anika BY ANIKA JESI
The Visitacion Valley Greenway [Photo Credit: Colleen McHugh]
Vancouver Council Approves Six-Month Trial for Hornby Bike Lanes: Vancouver approved a six-month trial to test out a new network of protected bike lanes in one of the city's busy arterials. The trial, which would replace 158 parking spots with bike lanes separated by concrete barriers, will continue despite worries that the lane could contribute to parking troubles and decreased patronage for the businesses along the street.
Portugal Plans the First 'City with a Brain': Portugal makes plans to build the world's first sustainable "city with a brain," complete with sensors in every building that would monitor occupancy, energy use and temperature, and adjust the city's power and water generation based on those factors.
How Los Angeles Might Look in the Future: CNN's Richard Quest reports on what a more sustainable future for Los Angeles might look like now that "sprawl has hit the wall." Can techniques like infill help create a more sustainable, walkable and livable LA?
Great Places in America: Public Spaces: The American Planning Institute releases its 2010 list of best public spaces in America. The parks, streets and neighborhoods were judged according to how well they are able to accommodate bikes, pedestrians and transit, provide a sense of comfort and safety, and utilize their existing topography.
Footbridge an Elegant New Icon in the East Bay: According to John King, a new pedestrian bridge in Pleasant Hill has brought "visual spark" to an area with no real sense of space, exemplifying how sometimes great design is worth the high price tag it can often come with.
- October 8, 2010BY ANIKA JESI
Sinking ARC: On Thursday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cancelled the ARC project, the nation's largest mass infrastructure plan to connect New Jersey and New York with a much needed second tunnel under the Hudson River. Rather than raising the state's relatively low gasoline taxes to cover the cost of the rail, the governor opted instead to funnel the money into local road projects and existing transit repairs.
A Car-free Street Grows in Queens: Two years ago the park-starved community of Jackson Heights, NY banded together to turn a busy street into a car-free public space on Sundays. This year, the makeshift park moved one step closer to permanence when neighborhood activists were able to get the street closed 24/7 for the entire months of July and August.
Threat of Global Warming Sparks U.S. Interest in Geo-engineering: With the threat of global warming looming and the recent collapse of climate legislation, policy-makers are debating if "wacky" geo-engineering strategies, such as reflecting sunlight back into the sky, or sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, are a good idea for tackling climate change.
Evil People Live in Modernist Houses in Popular Films: Why is it always the "bad guys" that live in modern homes? A new book by author Ben Critton offers an investigative but lighthearted exploration into how modern architecture is maligned in popular culture through the repeated image of evil people residing in modernist dwellings.
My Commuted Commute: A short film made by Oikofugic Productions shows how some cities have poorly designed bike lanes that don't account for how the roads are actually used, oftentimes putting cyclists in greater peril than if they were just to use the car lanes.
- October 1, 2010BY ANIKA JESI
The Tenderloin National Forest. [Photo Credit: Colleen McHugh]
Seattle Chooses NY Design Firm for New Waterfront: The same urban design firm that helped dream up the Highline in NYC has been selected as the lead designer for Seattle's new waterfront transformation, one of the more significant civic projects in the city's history. The $830 million project will attempt to reconnect Seattle to its central waterfront after the ancient Alaskan Way viaduct is torn down.
Austin Comprehensive Plan Process Frames Big Choices for Future: With Austin's population expected to double in the next 30 years, the city is finally doing what it has long avoided--creating a comprehensive plan of how the city will adapt to handle an influx of newcomers. Many hope the plan will allow Austin to grow economically, without sacrificing the small-town feel that made it attractive to much of the population.
How Sprawl is Lengthening Our Commutes and Why Misleading Mobility Measures are Making Things Worse: A new study by CEOs for Cities examines the costs and causes behind urban congestion, adding to the increasing body of evidence that compact development means shorter commute times and less money spent on highway maintenance.
Grocery Stores Try Setting Up Fake Farmers Markets: Local farmers markets have gotten so popular that chain grocery stores are now attempting to cash in on this success. Both Safeway and Albertsons were caught setting up fake "farmers markets" outside their stores in attempts to market their produce as locally grown.
Ads for Imaginary Buildings Highlight Real Lack of Development: In attempt to draw attention to the many vacant buildings in New Orleans, Rob Walker has created the "Hypothetical Development Organization," a project which gives dozens of empty buildings hypothetical futures by tacking architectural renderings of imaginary development onto their facades.
- September 25, 2010BY ANIKA JESI
Valencia Streetscape Improvements [Photo Credit: Colleen McHugh]
Bike Sharing Expands in Washington: The nation's capital is setting a positive transit example with its rapidly expanding bike-share program that has grown tenfold over the past couple of years. Influenced by DC's success, neighboring cities are now adopting similar bike-share programs.
Garbage Mountains Slowly Morph into $160 Million New York Park: One of the country's largest landfills may someday become one of New York's greatest parks. Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, which served as city waste-center and eyesore for more than half a century, is slowly being converted into what will eventually be the second largest park in NYC.
A Rift Over Transit-Housing Plan: Long Island developers are turning to transit-oriented development (TOD) as a way to cure the Island's "suburban woes" as well as making the area appealing to younger and lower-income residents. However, local opposition against density is keeping plans such as these from taking shape.
Cities Lead the Way in Action to Halt Climate Change: Author Michael Coren suggests that cities and local governments will be much more effective in halting climate change than federal or international government, because the rate of growth and change within a city can allow for serious climate innovation, and timely implementation.
Paris Offers Water with Bubbled, but No Bottles: In an ongoing attempt to green Paris, the city has now installed free sparkling-water fountains with the hopes of curbing residents' bottled water consumption.