May 28th, 2009
Urbanization is defined as the process of transition from a rural to a more urban society. Statistically, urbanization reflects an increasing proportion of the population living in settlements defined as urban, primarily through net rural to urban migration. This transition will go on well into the second half of the 21st century. Urban mobility problems have increased proportionally, and in some cases exponentially, with urbanization, a trend reflected in the growing size of cities and in the increasing proportion of the urbanized population. Since 1950, the world’s urban population has more than doubled, to reach nearly 3.16 billion in 2005, about 48.7% of the global population. While it is clear this transition will continue to occur, it remains to be seen how cities will change to accommodate these new comers. Transportation in urban areas has always been shaped by the capacity and requirements of urban transport infrastructures, be they roads, transit systems or simply walkways. More fundamentally transportation in cities can be seen as a system to link nodes of importance in the city. Therefore, in order to see how cities and transportation in particular can change in the coming times, first let’s look at how nodes have and perhaps will continue to develop.
Nodes exist within the city as areas that are main focuses of the city, and areas of interest, that act as city centers. While all cities have nodes, their organization varies greatly. Historically, movements within cities tended to be restricted to walking, which made medium and long distance urban linkages rather inefficient and time-consuming. Thus, activity nodes tended to be clustered and urban forms compact. Many modern cities have inherited an urban form created under such circumstances, even though they are no longer prevailing. The dense urban cores of many European, Japanese and Chinese cities, for example, enable residents to make between one third and two thirds of all trips by walking and cycling. At the other end of the spectrum, the dispersed urban forms of most Australian, Canadian and American cities, which were built recently, encourages automobile dependency and are linked with high levels of mobility. Many major cities are also port cities with maritime accessibility playing an enduring role not only for the economic vitality but also in the urban spatial structure with the port district being an important node. Urban transportation is thus associated with a spatial form which varies according to the modes being used. What has not changed much is that cities tend to opt for a grid street pattern. This was the case for many Roman cities as it is for American cities. The reasons behind this permanence are relatively simple; a grid pattern jointly optimizes accessibility and available real estate. In an age of motorization and personal mobility, an increasing number of cities are developing a spatial structure that increases reliance on motorized transportation, particularly the privately owned automobile. Dispersion, or urban sprawl, is taking place in many different types of cities, from dense, centralized European metropolises such as Madrid, Paris, and London, to rapidly industrializing metropolises such as Seoul, Shanghai, and Buenos Aires, to those experiencing recent, fast and uncontrolled urban growth, such as Bombay and Lagos.
The evolution of transportation has generally led to changes in urban form. The more radical the change in transport technology, the more the urban form has been altered. Among the most fundamental changes in the urban form is the emergence of new clusters expressing new urban activities and new relationships between elements of the urban system. In many cities, the central business district, once the primary destination of commuters and serviced by public transportation, has been changed by new manufacturing, retailing and management practices, whereas traditional manufacturing depended on centralized workplaces and transportation, technological and transportation developments rendered modern industry more flexible. In many cases, manufacturing relocated in a suburban setting; if not altogether to entirely new low costs locations. Retail and office activities are also suburbanizing, producing changes in the urban form. Concomitantly, many important transport terminals, namely port facilities and rail yards, have emerged in suburban areas following new requirements in modern freight distribution brought in part by containerization. The urban spatial structure shifted from a nodal to a multi-nodal character.
As we continue to grow and develop our cities, I see us continuing on this multi-nodal path. While our cities are entering a period perceived to be of reurbanization, and the revitalization of downtown cores, I still feel a multi-nodal will continue. This can even be seen in large dense cities, such as New York, where districts developed around different needs, such as the business core around Wall Street, the high rise development in midtown, the residential areas flanking the park, the shopping node of 5th Avenue, and entertainment around Broadway. Furthermore, as our population grows and our interests continue to diversify, areas will develop around core interests. For instance in Houston, a multi-nodal system can be seen in that there is a large business district, as well as a large shopping district. Both act nodes and centers while smaller nodes of the same purpose exist throughout the city.
Modes of transportation are not the only things to have changed over the years we as people have as well, as stated above, we are more diverse and individual then ever. Another way we have changed is that we have also become more personal, and private especially with the advent of the internet. This more privatization I feel is one of public transport’s downfall in my opinion, and one of the reasons for its success having a limit. I feel the future of transportation ultimately lies in inventions such as the podcar. A “podcar,” also called “personal rapid transit” — a system of vehicles that provide on-demand, private, nonstop travel. These vehicles can carry people or light freight. They ride on small, overhead guideways — like a monorail or people mover — above existing roads, and are powered entirely by electricity. Picture the car as an elevated, driverless taxi. It’s under computer control, so there would be no accidents, thereby saving lives and lowering insurance costs.
However, this is merely my opinion, the key to transportation’s future is to see how it will continue to grow and better connect these node; that is until the next radical change in transport technology.
May 14th, 2009
Governments play an important role in urban design. If working correctly, they can help to enhance a city and further good sustainable growth to the city. Smart Growth is a movement that is trying to fight urban sprawl which many view as a near impossibility in the coming years. Here I view two projects that fight urban sprawl.
When the U.S. Navy announced in 1993 that it would close the Orlando Naval Training Center, the city of Orlando saw an opportunity to build a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood that would make the base property once again part of the community. The city’s Base Reuse Commission organized to plan the property’s future, engaging citizens in hundreds of meetings over two years to help devise and refine a plan to redevelop the base. At visioning workshops, citizens described what they wanted: a variety of housing types, a vibrant main street, public access to lakes, and linkages with existing neighborhoods. The new development was named Baldwin Park. Since the first model opened in 2003, Baldwin Park has sold lots and houses faster than any comparable project in the area. Baldwin Park will have 10,000 residents living in 4,100 homes, ranging from rental apartments to custom homes, built in architectural styles traditional to the area. In addition, 6,000 people will work in offices throughout the neighborhood and in shops in the Village Center. Everyone can enjoy over 450 acres of lakes and parks, including over two miles of lakefront property reserved for public use. With public schools near and in Baldwin Park, local children can walk to school.
Facing the decline of its Villa Italia shopping mall, the city of Lakewood, Colorado worked with citizens, civic groups, and a local developer to transform the property into Belmar-the real, walkable downtown that this Denver inner suburb had lacked. Belmar’s traditional grid of narrow streets and small blocks replaces the footprint of the old mall. These new, pedestrian-friendly blocks will have one million square feet of shops, restaurants, and other services. The development will also include 1,300 new homes, including townhouses, loft apartments, and live-work units. Belmar will have 700,000 square feet of the first new Class-A office space built in the area in over a decade. Nine acres of parks and plazas will give people a place to get together, relax, and enjoy festivals, markets, and other entertainment. Belmar also offers galleries and studio spaces to artists to make the development an arts hub. Upon Belmar’s completion, the city estimates it will add $952 million to the local economy and will directly create over 7,000 permanent jobs.
These two projects show two cities working to help improve their cities and show good future development of mixed use communities. In the case of Orlando, they dealt with government owned land, while in Lakewood they focused on private owned land that was in disrepair. I find the case of Lakewood to be very encouraging as many malls are falling into disrepair throughout the country.
May 7th, 2009
The 2030 Challenge is a challenge issued to architects to make carbon neutral buildings by 2030. It is a very important goal as global warming, of which buildings are the main contributor due to energy consumption. Global warming is a very important issue as it is drastically altering the surface of our planet, especially as water levels rise, it is also killing off species of animals. As we are the cause of this change, it is our responsibility to rethink how we live, and as architects how we design. In this essay I looked at two very different projects one which is built to be carbon neutral to help stop global warming, and one that is being designed in response to global warming and how it is affecting our planet.
Zira Island , by BIG Architects sits off the bay of Baku, Azerbaijan, in the Caspian Sea. It is designed to be a carbon neutral urban area. The design is based off of the natural mountainous landscape of Azerbaijan. Solar, wind, and tidal power will power the area. In addition to rain water, waste water will be collected for irrigating the crops and other vegetation on the island. The island will cool and heat its buildings using water from the sea. The landscaping of the island is derived from wind simulations of the microclimates created by the mountains. Swirly patterns created by the wind moving its way through the Seven Peaks inform the planting of trees and the design of public spaces. Where the winds and turbulence are strongest the trees becomes denser, creating lower wind speeds and thus a comfortable outdoor leisure climate.
A different project that is being designed in response to global warming and climate change is Open Sailing. This is an idea for a community that will float around the world growing like a natural organism. It is a drifting village of solid and comfortable shelters surrounded by flexible ocean farming units; it is fluid, pre-broken, reconfigurable, sustainable, pluggable, organic and instinctive. They are currently building the first prototype that will sail from London to Rotterdam later this month. While there have been many discussions about living in communities openly in the ocean, as I discussed last week, most are purely conceptual. If this is successful it will be a very interesting to see what follows. Below is a link to a video about the project.
These two different projects look at global warming very differently. While one looks for a solution, the other acts as if it is inevitable. I am very intrigued by the open sailing project to see how it further impacts architecture. I think it is pushing design, where as Zira Island is already using solutions that exist and does not try to further design to solve or respond to global warming.
April 30th, 2009
Cities are the future of our civilization, in 2007 the world population became more urban then rural for the first time in our history. Unfortunately cities are also one of the largest contributors to pollution. As our cities continue to grow and new cities are created, it is important that sustainable solutions are created to better impact the environment. There are many creative ideas for future cities that have resulted in many new ideas on what a city is, in this post I have two proposals for two dramatically different cities.
First is the city of Dongtan, China which sits on a 1200 square Km island in the Yangtze River close to Shanghai. The city will be powered by both wind and solar power. The island will be fairly dense in order to promote walking, also residential and commercial buildings will be intermixed so people can easily travel between home and work. There will also be a very strict parking time limit of around 15 minutes in order to further promote clean transportation. Food is also thought of in the plan, underground farms will be created that will grow plants using UV light allowing for food production to happen 24 hours a day. One drawback is that due to the soil of the island buildings will not be able to go beyond 3 to 4 stories thus restricting the cities overall density and population.
Another more radical sustainable city has been designed by Vincent Callebaut Architects called the lilypad. The lilypad is a floating city and was designed in response to rising water levels. The city is designed to either hug the coast near local cities or to float around via the gulf streams. The cities run on wind, solar, hydroelectric, and biomass energies that would actually create more power than the island would consume, and also helps to eliminate CO2 emissions by absorbing it into its specially designed skin of titanium dioxide. The city is both above and below sea level and would house about 50,000 people. An artificial lagoon sits in the middle surrounded by much flora and fauna, will filter rainwater so it can be reused. Obviously as it is a floating city, transportation within the city does not include vehicular transport.
These two ideas are indeed very different. While the city of Dongtan is more practical and is actually under construction, the lilypad offers many innovative ideas such as its skin, that help to further push design. Both ideas are essential to create sustainable cities as we must think about how we can be sustainable in both the short and long term.
April 28th, 2009
Solar power is the most readily available energy source on the planet, however it is an intermittent energy source, meaning it usually needs to have another source as a backup during periods with limited sunlight. Solar power works through photovoltaics, or solar cells, arranged in panels which absorb the sun’s rays and convert them into energy. Unfortunately it is not a very efficient process, on average usually only about 8% of the sun’s rays are utilized and converted into energy, and storing is also a problem as it is very difficult, and usually requires a great deal of space. Once the energy is created however, it has many applications.
Solar panels are seen in wide use in housing as well. This house in Australiadesigned by Tom White and Alexander Michael, is completely solar powered. The panels are fixed to the angled roof and face a direction that allows for premium exposure. Unlike in some architecture that simply place the panels on a basic roof, here the panels make a statement, and become an integral part of the design, appearing to float above the home, yet they still provide shade and shelter.
An even grander project using solar energy is the idea for a new city in Florida that would be the first solar powered city in the world. Babcock Ranch, a collaboration between Florida Power and Light and the developers Kitson and Partners, would run entirely on a 75 megawatt $300 million solar generator. Some features of the city will be the use of smart grid technology which will allow all residents to monitor their energy consumption. Solar powered charging stations that will be placed throughout the city will allow electric cars to be used in the community as well. Management tools will also be used to make sure each home and business is running as efficiently as possible.
Another exciting field that solar is having a great impact on is infrastructure. Solar panels are already widely used as power sources for street lights, but there is also great ideas that would allow are streets themselves to power our cities. One idea is that of putting heat absorbing cells a few centimeters under asphalt roads which absorb a great deal of heat. The cells would then transform the heat into usable energy.
So, solar energy is an excellent option as an alternative energy source. Its availability makes it one of the best options for the future. One great aspect that these three projects show is the application of solar technology, and how it can be used on small projects like household objects, all the way up to a fully powered city. The one drawback is the efficiency of the technology, and how little the panels are able to absorb, however, as technology improves this will become less of a problem.
April 9th, 2009
April 7th, 2009
Vertical farming is a large force in the coming future. As our society continues to grow and urbanize more food will be needed and as fuel costs continue to rise, it will become even more expensive to purchase said food. Therefore, it makes sense for vertical farming to occur, creating green oases throughout the urban fabric. A vertical farm is a building in the middle of a dense urban area which allows for large scale agriculture to occur and serve the large surrounding population. While it is clear that vertical farming will be necessary in the coming years the question is what kind. There are many different kinds of vertical farms being proposed, I feel that in order to be successful the vertical arm must be something more than simply a farm. In this post I will examine two different vertical farm proposals and examine which kind of farm best impacts the city.
The Italian firm of Studiomobile have designed a vertical farm that uses salt water to water the plants for the city of Dubai. Dubai is the perfect city for a vertical farm, as it sits in the middle of a desert where little arable land is available. Currently most food is imported to Dubai making it very expensive. By using vertical farms transportation costs would become practically nil. However since it sits in the desert water is also very hard to come by, so the firm created a system that could run off of the salt water from the near by gulf. The idea uses the Seawater Greenhouse process, which cools and humidifies the air using salt water, which then ventilates through the greenhouse where sunlight is used to distill fresh water from the salt water which is stored and used to irrigate the crops. As a result crops would be able to grow year round in a climate that would not normally be able to sustain any vegetation. The design uses a tall vertical element with several pods coming off that contain sky gardens to house the plants. In the spire, the clean water is stored. The structure is purely an agricultural one, and would serve no other purpose.
Another farm idea can be found in the design of an off the grid vertical farm for Seattle by the firm of Mithun. In the design the building houses not only levels of agriculture, but also housing for the farmers, areas for fish farming, and even areas that could be used to raise chickens and other poultry. The building would become not only a self sustaining city in itself as it would be a place where people feed live and work, but it would also become an integral part of city providing a large array of food types to the city. In its design, the building showcases its function, with a green exterior.
Both buildings work well as they both consider what works best for their city and region. With water so scarce in Dubai it makes sense for the salt water function to occur, and with Seattle being a leading city of the green movement in the U.S. it makes sense for the building to incorporate as much green functions as possible, being off the grid, and combing the city with the farm. In my opinion, the farm in Seattle is an example of what will work best as a vertical farm. Since it incorporates housing in it as well, it almost becomes a city unto itself. It not only creates its own community, but also gives the building more of a purpose outside of farming and provides an instant customer base for the products grown. In conclusion there are many different ideas out there regarding vertical farms, and it will be very interesting to see how they change the developing city., and how the city will impact their development.
March 31st, 2009
Here are some interesting sites I have found in looking at vertical farming
March 31st, 2009
Hello Everyone, my name is Nick Currer and I am a third year architecture student with an urban design minor from Houston, Texas. I also have been an RA for the past two years and work over the summers with the admissions department in the Rising Star program where I work with high school students. I am very excited to learn more about urban issues that we will be facing in the upcoming years. I think it is very important that we learn as much as we can about the problems we will be facing as designers in order to better understand how our work will effect its surroundings. See you around class!
January 28th, 2009
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