Tag Archives: Urban Design

Just around the Corner

The Architectural Association in describing ‘Landscape Urbanism’ says what Landscape it is not. It is NOT:

“…understood as a scenographic art, beautifying, greening or naturalising the city.”

And then what it IS;

“…scalar and temporal operations through which the urban is conceived and engaged with.”

Thus, Landscape Urbanism prioritises the phenomenological experience of the city, while distancing itself (perhaps defensively) from the visual aesthetic. Perhaps an ironcial realisation of this preference for the non-aesthetic is the prediction by James Corner of the disappearance of the city into the landscape. Perhaps this prophecy will be realised quite differently than the romantic post-industrial ruin?  Corner, typified by the high line project, focuses on the rehabilitation of the abandoned elements of the city and post-industrial landscape.Can landscape urbanism be artfully conceived? 

Perhaps the city of the future will afterall disappear under the advance of the landscape, but once again capture something of the beauty which is now itself abandoned by its favourite profession?

Liveability: understanding quality of life

The Danish architects BIG (the Bjarke Ingels Group) have designed an extraordinary hybrid tower Scala Tower to house the municipal library, conference centre, shopping and a luxury hotel. It also provides public space to the city of Copenhagen.

Although it seems not quite fully resolved as to the programmatic and landscape elements, the way the building emerges from the ground ‘like a tree’ with a glassy bark trunk and yet sits well within the traditional urban fabric like a sinuous counterpoint is truly inspirational.

With a population of just over a million people and the famous Tivoli Garden, Kongen’s Have in the city centre  and the Fredericksborg Slot Baroque gardens in Hillerod the Danes have the benefit of aesthetics, cultural and recreational opportunities aplenty.

So apart from contributing to Denmark’s already stellar reputation for being on the forefront of design how does Scala Tower contribute to the quality of life in Copenhagen? Political measures of quality of life in liveability terms are both objective [divorce rates, safety and infrastructure]  and subjective [life satisfaction surveys].  So, the Danes have gained a great piece of civic infrastructure in a city which is already considered relatively crime free. I wonder whether that will show up on the next life satisfaction survey!


Nothing but blue skies…

Vincent Callebaut has designed what he calls an ‘anti-smog parasite project’ for the city of Paris. He says “its role is to apply all the avant garde renewable energies so as to fight against the Parisian smog.”

Beyond its heroic environmental application Callebaut demonstrates some interesting architectural ideas some reminscent of Foster’s  Gherkin gone green! He also has a sensitive feel for creating interior space with structure….an effect present in the Gherkin, but enhanced to considerable affect in this project.

Undoubtably he was a fan of meccano as a child!




Seine it before?

If the Parisian plan to build a replica of the Sydney Opera House goes ahead half the world will be able to save their airfare to Australia and visit the Opera House and the Effiel Tower simultaneously. Perhaps Sydney need only build an Effiel Tower on the harbour and Australians will have no need of a trip to Paris?

Still, the Opera House undeniably looks good wherever you build it. You can’t blame the Parisians for their good taste!

Perhaps an enterprising young Australian or Danish architect will suggest to the French that they can come up with an original design that will do for the Seine River what the Opera House has done for the harbour in Sydney…..

The city of Graz in Austria has made a low-key addition to the River Mur. While the Brazilian architects Architectum have designed a mobile gallery for the Thames.

As for landscape design? Well tree-lined rivers are not always a priority.


Feeling blue seeing red


As many stakeholders in the redevelopment process recognise the issue of urban redevelopment is fraught. When young Swiss rioted during the Opera House riots the world wondered “how and why brutal contestation was possible in the land of wealth, stability, civic discipline” and almost full employment.

One Genevan philosopher of Polish heritage believed the riots were the result of youth who “didn’t know what to do with unlimited freedom in a world of unlimited opportunities.”

The disturbances broke out when in 1980 the young people of Zurich were unable to organise rock concerts due to an unavailability of money and accommodation at the same time as “large sums of money went to the renovation of the Zurich Opera House.”

Beneath the idealic view of Swiss society it was reported that young people were cheated out of a right to Utopia by a recession, did not have stable families, had overworked fathers, cramped and impersonal living conditions in large blocks of flats and that the nuclear family which had replaced extended relational groups had become too small.

 http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1129&dat=19830528&id=yU0NAAAAIBAJ&sjid=mW0DAAAAIBAJ&pg=4926,6708929



The importance of being landed














The Danish artistic trio N55 came up with the concept of the walking house based on the gypsy caravan. Although reminiscent of Archigram’s Walking City, walking house is not an aesthetically sophisticated piece of architecture. However N55 have amazingly managed to achieve real life rather than paper mobility via renewable energy sources – a remarkable feat in anybody’s language!

In Archigram’s Walking City on the Ocean Ron Herron addresses the concept of “indeterminacy” or the idea of an architecture that can change. While N55 are more interested in exploring the idea of property ownership. They describe the walking house as follows:

“WALKING HOUSE is a modular dwelling system that enables persons to live a peaceful nomadic life, moving slowly through the landscape or cityscape with minimal impact on the environment. It collects energy from its surroundings using solar cells and small windmills. There is a system for collecting rain water and a system for solar heated hot water. A small greenhouse unit can be added to the basic living module, to provide a substantial part of the food needed by the Inhabitants. A composting toilet system allows sewage produced by the inhabitants to be disposed of. A small wood burning stove could be added to provide CO2 neutral heating. WALKING HOUSE forms various sizes of communities or WALKING VILLAGES when more units are added together. WALKING HOUSE is not dependant on existing infrastructure like roads, but moves on all sorts of terrain.”

Based on the nomadic culture of the Romani the project asks whether land ownership means some people have more right to stay on the surface of the earth than others. This question is fundamentally anthoprocentric. Of course the basic question could be extended to encompass an ecological perspective and indeed is not dissimilar to eco-centric ethical viewpoints espoused by the conservationist luminary Aldo Leopold.

For landscape architecture the value of land as place rather than passage and the capacity to garden and enjoy gardens are central values. Undoubtably the voice of landscape architects will be heard strongly as the debate proceeds and develops.

Designing for animal magnetism

roof-top-avairy-390x260a1The next generation of green roofs will be designed to ensure the survival of specific species providing much needed ecological space in the urban environment. BAM believe the next ecological objective in green roof  design is the creation of biotropes – living habitats for species such as migratory birds.

While not a roof habitat exactly, Neil Oxley came up with the idea of a man made tree for the city of Leeds to support bats, birds, butterflies, insects and even the much maligned urban fox. Kadas’ research into the potential for green roofs to support rare invertebrates  suggests there is greater potential for green roofs to promote urban habitats.

Restoration ecologist and resource planner Paul Kepart of Rana Creek believes in the near future green roofs will be graded according to a biodiversity index. In keeping with these concerns plant ecologist Christine Thuring emphasises the need for green roofs to form a series of  linked habitats or archipelagos.

It still seems some way off before we start to think of ways of providing green habitats – even roof space – for our larger land based fauna currently being displaced and endangered by urban activity.

Green dreams for social space

greentainer-project


The greentainer project by Exposure architects demonstrates the innovative social potential of relatively simple green roof spaces. By importing a modern green house to function as a flexible space for art exhibitions, soirees etc the social use of a roof garden space can be enhanced without detracting from the vibrancy of its outdoor quality.

The Residences 900  in Chicago is a beatifully executed (but more conventional) social space on a green roof. However, the benefits of a mixed garden to ecology cannot be underestimated. The roof garden on the 17th floor of the Washington Mutual Bank  is a little more zen. It creates a contemplative social environment reminiscent of a wind swept plain – yet provides views across Elliot Bay.


Light 2c by

textile-architecture-and-lightlight-sculptures

 http://sojamo.tumblr.com/post/74728983/synetic-textile-architecture-environmetally

The Made of Light project by Speirs Major and Associates Lighting Architects  http://www.madeoflight.com/mol/site_map.htm is a wonderful e-book that discusses the relationship between architecture and light in 12 simple themes.

1. Source – natural and artifical

2. Contrast – light and darkness

3. Surface – light and texture

4. Colour – spectral colour

5. Movement – where time meets space

6. Function – the ability to see

7. Form – visual shape of mass and volume

8. Space – the absence of mass

9. Boundary – to unify or separate

10. Scale – the comprehension of size

11. Image – creating identity and charater

12. Magic – phenomena which can inspire us

The photographs above pick up many of these themes in the use of light in the landscape.