Things tagged city:
In December 2012, Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was on vacation in Berlin when he decided to detour to the Netherlands. He wanted to get a firsthand sense of the famed Dutch approach to water management. Hurricane Sandy struck six weeks before, and in the aftermath, President Obama asked him to lead a task force, whose objective was not just to rebuild but also to radically rethink the region’s infrastructure in light of climate change.
In the Netherlands, a man named Henk Ovink offered to be Donovan’s guide. Ovink was the director of the office of Spatial Planning and Water Management, meaning, essentially, that it was his job to keep the famously waterlogged country dry. As he learned about various Dutch innovations, Donovan was struck by the fact that Ovink looked at water as much in cultural as in engineering terms, which was a function of the centuries-old need of the Dutch to act together for protection.
From the outside, the temporary shelter for Syrian civilians in Kilis, Turkey, doesn’t look like an inviting place to live. It looks like a prison. All around are olive groves, but here, Turkey suddenly runs out. A metal archway announces the customs gate to Syria. To its right stands what is more formally known as the Republic of Turkey Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency’s Kilis Oncupinar Accommodation Facility. High gates bar entry, and barbed wire tops the walls. Police officers and private security mill about.
Many of the world’s displaced live in conditions striking for their wretchedness, but what is startling about Kilis is how little it resembles the refugee camp of our imagination. It is orderly, incongruously so. Residents scan a card with their fingerprints for entry, before they pass through metal detectors and run whatever items they’re carrying through an X-ray machine. Inside, it’s stark: 2,053 identical containers spread out in neat rows. No tents. None of the smells — rotting garbage, raw sewage — usually associated with human crush and lack of infrastructure.
Robin Hanson in Overcoming Bias:
Urban economics studies the spatial distribution of activity. In most urban econ models, the reason that cities aren’t taller is that, per square meter of useable space, taller buildings cost more to physically make. (Supporting quotes below.) According to this usual theory, buildings only get taller when something else compensates for these costs, like a scarce ocean view, or higher status or land prices.
Knowing this, and wondering how tall future cities might get, I went looking for data on just how fast building cost rises with height. And I was surprised to learn: within most of the usual range, taller buildings cost less per square meter to build. For example, for office buildings across 26 US cities, 11-20 stories tend to be cheaper than 5-10 stories, which are cheaper than 2-4 stories (quote below)
Steven Kurutz in the NYT:
Visitors to the High Line often marvel at the panorama the elevated park affords: open-sky views across the Hudson River, an unbroken sightline up 10th Avenue to Midtown and beyond. But in recent months, in a section of the High Line around 23rd Street, a more intimate, domestic cityscape has emerged.
Where the park widens to form a seating area with bleachers and a lush lawn, several apartment buildings rise up and enclose the space on either side. Three are newly constructed glass and steel towers that just began filling with residents, and the most prominent of them, the architect Neil M. Denari’s sleek HL23, is so close it’s as if parkgoers could walk right into one of the multimillion-dollar apartments.
Interestingly Uzbekistan is where the north gridlines would meet.
William Gibson in Wired:
I wish I had a thousand-yen note for every journalist who, over the past decade, has asked me whether Japan is still as futurologically sexy as it seemed to be in the ‘80s. If I did, I’d take one of these spotlessly lace-upholstered taxis over to the Ginza and buy my wife a small box of the most expensive Belgian chocolates in the universe.
He overplays the magic, but if you try and see things through his eyes, the future (and Tokyo) seems much cooler. Why not dream a little.
“Ten years ago, we used to dream that cities would become slum-free,” says Muhammad Khadim of UN-Habitat. “The approach has changed. People see the positives. The approach now is not to clear them but to improve them gradually [and] regularise land tenure.”
Cameron Sinclair, who runs the non-profit design firm Architecture for Humanity, goes further. “A slum is a resilient urban animal. You cannot pry it away,” he tells me. “It’s like a good parasite. There are some parasites that attack the body and you have to get rid of them but, within the city, the informal settlement is a parasite that acts in harmony with the city, keeps it in check.”
Elisabeth Rosenthal in the NYT:
While American cities are synchronizing green lights to improve traffic flow and offering apps to help drivers find parking, many European cities are doing the opposite: creating environments openly hostile to cars. The methods vary, but the mission is clear — to make car use expensive and just plain miserable enough to tilt drivers toward more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.
Hong Kong architect Gary Chang has renovated his tiny apartment four times since he’s owned it. The most recent renovation is called “The Domestic Transformer”.
Mr. Chang hopes that some of his home’s innovations might be replicated to help improve domestic life in Hong Kong, which has been troubled in recent years. The population grew by nearly a half-million in just the last 10 years, and between 2003 and 2007, reports of new cases of child, spousal and elder abuse nearly doubled, something social workers attribute in part to new social pressures caused by the city’s ongoing shortage of space.
“It’s a big problem,” Mr. Chang said. “Killing each other is not uncommon.”
“People feel trapped,” he said. “We have to find ways to live together in very small spaces.”
In Mr. Chang’s solution, a kind of human-size briefcase, everything can be folded away so that the space feels expansive, like a yoga studio.
The wall units, which are suspended from steel tracks bolted into the ceiling, seem to float an inch above the reflective black granite floor. As they are shifted around, the apartment becomes all manner of spaces — kitchen, library, laundry room, dressing room, a lounge with a hammock, an enclosed dining area and a wet bar.
Britain looks very different from the skies. From a bird’s eye view of the nation, its workings, cities, landscapes and peoples are revealed and re-discovered in new and extraordinary ways.
Included in the NYPL’s recent addition to the Flickr Commons project is Changing New York, a selection of photos taken of NYC in the 1930s by Berenice Abbott as part of a government program for unemployed artists.
Robert C. Wiles, 1947
On May Day, just after leaving her fiancé, 23-year-old Evelyn McHale wrote a note. 'He is much better off without me ... I wouldn't make a good wife for anybody,' ... Then she crossed it out. She went to the observation platform of the Empire State Building. Through the mist she gazed at the street, 86 floors below. Then she jumped. In her desperate determination she leaped clear of the setbacks and hit a United Nations limousine parked at the curb. Across the street photography student Robert Wiles heard an explosive crash. Just four minutes after Evelyn McHale's death Wiles got this picture of death's violence and its composure.
Via Super Colossal.
See also Crashing to Earth, Again and Again
An article in the New York Times on facade engineers Front Inc. They are responsible for engineering the facades of The Seattle Public Library, the Toledo Glass Museum, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York and the CCTV Building in Beijing amongst others.
Very poorly written article, but interesting subject.
Via Super Colossal.
A collection of photos of old gas stations from Camilo José Vergara’s amazing Invincible Cities project, which if you haven’t seen, you need to check out.
Niko Koppel at The New York Times.
BACK in the 1970s, a gutsy blonde named Jill Freedman armed with a battered Leica M4 and an eye for the offbeat trained her lens on the spirited characters and gritty sidewalks of a now-extinct city.
Side note: WTF does nyt think it is doing with the video features? You can’t have your average print journalist produce a video (though they seem to do fine moving to the radio docu style as seen in the “audio slide shows”).
That's at Tsukemen Gonroku, a wonderful cold noodle shop, it's 20m left from exit A5 of Ryogku, go visit next time you are in Tokyo.
Ever since v-2.org went down for the count, I get a fair number of requests to repost this minifesto on “open-source constitutions for post-national entitites,” from 2003. It’s goofy, it’s naïve, it’s grandiose and pompous…and I present it to you now exactly as I wrote it then. Enjoy!