nluken + urban_planning   4

Centre for Urban Pedagogy
The Centre for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), winner of the 2012 Curry Stone Design Prize.
film  urban_planning  from google
december 2012 by nluken
The High Line Brought Down to Earth: Chicago's Bloomingdale Trail
It's been exactly one month since Rahm Emanuel assumed the mayoralty in Chicago, and already pedestrians are beginning to feel the Mayor's presence on city streets everywhere. Emanuel has given free reign to new CDOT commissioner Gabe Klein to introduce a series of measures in envisioning a more multi-modal, accessible, and interactive city whose streets serve a variety of functions. Klein has responded in a flurry of pedestrian-oriented activity, already implementing Chicago's first protected bike lanes, floating the idea for Chicagoans to do the "Barnes Dance" via diagonal street crossings, and proposing to transform the city's "under-utilized" bus shelter screens into gigantic smart-apps that indicate wait time for bus service, current bike- and car-sharing inventory information, and how long it would take to walk to one's final destination. Perhaps the biggest sign that Emanuel and Klein are pushing the city's functional form forward though is last week's news that design work on the long-proposed Bloomingdale Trail is moving ahead.

The dormant, 2.65-mile elevated railway line is often compared to New York's successful High Line project, and while the two projects share similar characteristics (two fallow, elevated railroad lines being remediated and reapplied), the discussion over the design of the Bloomingdale Trail indicates its function will differ significantly from the High Line. The High Line unravels as a highly manicured park that prohibits dogs and bikes, and exists as a bit of an open-air gallery piece. In contrast, the Bloomingdale Trail was included as part of Mayor Emanuel's transportation initiatives. As Adolfo Hernandez of the Active Transportation Alliance puts it, "The High Line is a passive space. The Bloomingdale Trail is meant to be an active space that can connect neighborhoods via bike and walking transit."

Emanuel is certainly aware of the economic benefit the High Line has brought to surrounding areas in New York, and no doubt hopes to see comparable rates of return in Chicago. Yet, unlike in New York, where the High Line has effectively created new neighborhood conditions that have changed the character of its surroundings, the success of the Chicago model is based more upon its functionality as a space that seamlessly integrates itself into the neighborhood fabric, and activates some of the locked-up potential in the immediate vicinity. In essence, the Bloomingdale Trail may be a more organic answer to many of the criticisms lobbed against the High Line in the past, such as in the recent Witold Rybczynski New York Times piece, "Bringing the High Line Back to Earth." Recognizing that most cities don't have New York's density and built-in, already activated assets, Rybczynski questions whether other cities should be looking towards the High Line as a model for reclaiming and remediating vacant spaces.

Ben Helphand, President of the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail, echoes Rybcyznski's doubts. "The High Line is a wonderful open space - it's just not something that can be replicated cookie-cutter across the world, just like Bilbao can't or shouldn't be replicated for every new museum," Helphand states. "What we do have, and will continue to have, are remnants from our industrial past, and increasingly, our auto-indulgent heyday. These remnants of rail lines, canals, river edges, factories, landfills, quarries, and too-wide streets can be reclaimed as new, active, often odd-shaped spaces." Rather than glossing its identity over with audacious design, the Bloomingdale Trail aims to reenergize itself as a space that provides "a mixture of fun, exercise and transportation." Helphand continues, "I would not be surprised if you saw thousands using the Trail as part of their morning and evening commutes, connecting to existing bike routes to the Loop and the bike boulevard system on the west. It also has convenient connections to two CTA train stations, the Metra station at Clybourn, and several major bus routes. For students at the 12 schools within easy walking distance of the Trail, it'll help provide safe and healthy routes to school." The Bloomingdale Trail as envisioned is not a gallery; it's a functional corridor.

Such a cohesively designed remediation project could serve as a more realistic example for other like-minded projects across the country, and even other spaces within Chicago, such as the Englewood ERA Trail. Hernandez, of Active Trans, believes the development of the Bloomingdale Trail could act as as the first domino to drop in spurring further movement. "There are different challenges in different communities, but the Bloomingdale Trail can be a catalyst. Most important though, the community has to inform the character the trail will take." Seeing the pace that Emanuel and Klein are setting, it may be soon that Chicagoans are setting examples for other cities and activating spaces all over.

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Environment/Sustainability  Urban_Planning  from google
june 2011 by nluken
How urban planning accidentally created the perfect space for protest in Egypt's Tahrir Square [Design]
Dwell magazine has a fascinating interview with UC Berkeley architecture professor Nezar AlSayyad, about the peculiar urban design that went into Tahrir Square, the locus of so many protests in Cairo. AlSayyad, who also heads up the university's Center for Middle Eastern Studies, explains that the square - which isn't in fact square at all - is perfectly designed to host a massive anti-government protest. Here's why. More »
Design  Architecture  Egypt  Egypt_protests  Tahrir_Square  Top  urban_planning  from google
february 2011 by nluken
Resiliency Theorists in Chicago
Seed Magazine has a fascinating piece about efforts to apply scientific "resiliency theory" usually reserved for ecological systems, to urban centers. Resiliency theory is a way of conceiving dynamic systems to gauge how they react to changes in inputs and how embedded feedback systems behave over time. By looking at cities through a resiliency lens, theorists hope they can better understand how cities change, grow, and safeguard themselves, and perhaps even better plan systems to protect the general welfare and improve quality of life.

From the piece:

The Urban Network has research sites in 12 cities: Bangalore, New Dehli, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Chicago, New York City, Phoenix, Canberra, Helsinki, Istanbul, and Stockholm. These cities span the globe and differ vastly in terms of culture, history, and economic development. The ultimate goal, according to Thomas Elmqvist, lead researcher of the Network, is to do a comparative analysis of these cities. How are they similar or different with respect to handling development? How do they compare it comes to withstanding shocks and surprises?

"As humans, we should try to understand how to manage systems in order to avoid passing thresholds," says Elmqvist. But this is especially difficult in urban contexts, which have already been so transformed by humans that they've breached most of the thresholds ecologists are familiar with. When great expanses of concrete and steel now exist where trees and streams once did, new tipping points must be defined for places that are, as Elmqvist puts it, "already tipped."

Case studies are now underway in each of the Network's 12 participating cities. But in deciding what kind of data to gather, researchers have had to ask themselves: What would a city look like through the lens of resilience?


A city's lifeblood is a continuous flow of stuff--fuel, consumer products, people, and services that enter it either actively, through human effort, or passively through natural processes like solar radiation, atmospheric currents, and precipitation. Ecologists often talk about these resource flows in terms of inputs and outputs. They've developed several budgetary models of accounting for them, including the well-known "ecological footprint."

The resilience approach, according to ecologist Guy Barnett of the Urban Network's Canberra research team, focuses less on the resources that cities consume and more on the interdependencies along the chain of supply and demand. Dependence on a single type of fuel as an energy source, for instance, creates a highly vulnerable system--especially if fuel prices are volatile or if the supply is prone to disruption.
Consider what happened just outside of Melbourne in 1998. Several explosions at Esso Australia's natural gas plant there killed two people and halted power supply to the city for nearly two weeks. As a result, the regional dairy industry, which relies on natural gas to power its milk pasteurization, was forced to shut down several of its plants. Some 25 million liters of raw milk went to waste.

So what went wrong? From a resilience perspective, it was partly the drive for efficiency. If the dairies had hedged their risk with backup fuel supplies, building more resilience into the system, milk pasteurization would not have ground to a complete halt. The number of supervisors at the gas plant had been reduced from four to one, and all the engineers had been relocated to the head office in Melbourne, leaving just one person at the controls. Simply having more people could have helped safeguard against catastrophe.

Efficiency per se isn't the problem, says Barnett. But the way efficiency is conceived, and pursued, is often too narrow. Society strives for efficiency by trying to eliminate apparent redundancies, but things that seemed redundant in a stable climate turn out to be valuable when conditions change. "The quest for increasing efficiency tends to result in systems optimized towards single rather than multiple solutions, centralized rather than distributed organizational responses, all of which are counter to the fundamental concepts of resilience thinking--'redundancy,' 'diversity,' and 'modularity,'" says Barnett.
Chicago  Chicagoland  Urban_Planning  from google
february 2010 by nluken

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