Posts from the Friday Five Category

Wild robots could replace vanishing species, says Robotanica curator: “Robots could be released into the countryside to help restore damaged ecosystems, according to the curator of an exhibition held at Dutch Design Week last month.”

6 Cities That Have Transformed Their Highways Into Urban Parks: “Some cities have chosen to remove spaces designated for cars and turn what was once a highway into urban parks and less congested streets. Here we have six examples, some have already been completed, while a few are still under construction. To the surprise of some, most of the projects are in the US, which reflects that American designers are looking into further studying European transport policies.”

Evaluation tool created to test for invasive plants: “The Horticultural Research Institute recently provided funding for a project to test an evaluation tool to help understand a nursery plant’s potential to become invasive. The Horticulture Research Institute say this tool, the “PlantRight Plant Risk Evaluation (PRE) Tool,” could provide the green industry with a protocol that is both practical and accessible for determining the invasiveness of new or existing ornamental plants. This information, the institute says, would be made available to the public.”

People-Mapping Through Google Street View: We readily differentiate between absolute and relative statistics at the city, county, and state level, because the total population is easily available. Yet we consistently neglect this fundamental arithmetic when it comes to streets and public spaces, because their denominators are tough to measure. While Google Street View images are not regularly used in scholarly research, they can be a cost-effective alternative to traditional social-surveying methods, under the right conditions.

LA-Más is building a more equitable Los Angeles: “Small businesses and streetscapes, boulevards and bodegas: These aren’t the typical aspirations of up-and-coming architecture firms. But the self-described “scrappy Angelenos” at the helm of LA-Más, a nonprofit architecture and policy practice, see things differently.”

Photo: Creative Commons 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)

The Color of Your City
“Being in a certain atmosphere encourages and empowers people to use color in a certain way. The Los Angeles sunshine is so bright it kind of sucks the color out, freeing you to use bold colors that would look jarring and out of place in a more gloomy place like London.”

How a Retro-Futurist Spends 3 Days in L.A.
“Geoff Manaugh, creator of BLDGBLOG and the author of A Burglar’s Guide to the City, is an architecture and design-focused writer and educator with a particular interest in a style colloquially referred to as ‘retro-futurism.’ He shares his picks for Three Obscure Days in Los Angeles.”

A massive storm flooded Houston. Experts say California’s state capital could be next
“As Northern Californians are recovering from wildfires and sifting through homes reduced to ash, officials in the state’s capital are struggling to prevent another type of natural disaster. Sacramento is more vulnerable to catastrophic flooding than any other major city in the United States except New Orleans, according to federal officials, a threat created by the city’s sunken geography.”

How Anti-Terrorism Design Can Also Make Cities More Livable
“While it’s impossible to fully protect every space where people congregate, the goal, wrote Coaffee, is to make spaces safer without making them feel like they were built for security instead of urban living. “The predominant view that is emerging is that security features should, where appropriate, be as unobtrusive as possible.”

Construction of an inflatable dam on the LA River could begin by January
“Frank Gehry told an audience at Urban Land Institute’s Fall meeting that he’s given up hope on the 51-mile concrete-ridden Los Angeles River. Now, at least one group is trying to prove Gehry wrong. Metabolic Studio is currently awaiting the proper permits to build an inflatable dam near the North Broadway Bridge in hopes that it would help keep more water in the river and reduce wastewater runoff into the Pacific Ocean.”

Gridlock resulting from vehicles and pedestrians “blocking the box” at the intersection of 1st Avenue and 57th Street in New York City. Photo by Rgoogin (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Worse Gridlock, More Inequality? 3 Ways Self-Driving Cars Could Change Cities: “Cities could be caught off guard by a new traffic crisis, and be forced to step in to regulate how many AVs they’ll allow on the road. They could also regulate the cost of these luxury rides to help pay for ride access in lower-income areas. Either way, the point is clear: Cities will need to be prepared to step in as this tech radically shifts the carefully planned “calculus” of urban transit.”

The Streets of Tomorrow: “Whether or not autonomous vehicles will allow for utopian cities of tomorrow depends on careful planning and policies today, says writer Brian Barth. And the future of autonomous vehicles might not look as green as we’re imagining. A new landscape by Ki Concepts on Honolulu’s Ford Island—site of the Pearl Harbor attack in World War II—weaves the richly layered history of the site into a sleek, cohesive design. And a new streetscape redesign by CRSA in the Sugar House business district of Salt Lake City turns a large thoroughfare into an inviting multimodal streetscape.”

Sight and Insight in the California Desert: “In our era of rapidly shifting domestic arrangements, nearly everyone — young people living alone or aging couples in communal compounds — seems badly served by architecture designed for the increasingly vestigial nuclear family. The cultish Marie Kondo’s admonitions to cast out the nonessential seems ripped from Zittel’s playbook; the conceptual underpinnings for the swelling phalanx of tiny, modular dwellings that evade byzantine zoning regulations and create a more mobile society can be found in Zittel’s experiments as well.”

A Controversial Plan to Drain Water From the Desert? Go for It, Trump Administration Says: “The publicly traded Cadiz Inc. — which has a market value of nearly $300 million — owns 34,000 acres in the valley, land that is surrounded on all sides by the Mojave Trails National Monument. You’d never know to look at it but underneath the arid land lies the Fenner Basin, a massive aquifer that holds between 17 million and 34 million acre-feet of water, about as much water as in Lake Mead. Cadiz currently uses the water for its 500 acres of farmland. But no one gets rich growing lemons in the desert.”

The Economics of the Office: Why Do We Still Commute? “There are many reasons to believe commuting is stupid. It wastes resources. It’s bad for the environment. It’s unproductive time that we’re not paid for. It costs us money. It’s stressful. It’s associated with higher rates of depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease, divorce, death, and a whole host of other maladies. We report we hate it more than anything else in our routines and that we’re happier when we get to more regularly work from home. Why, then, must office workers continue to do it?”

Urban Heat Island Effect_0

All Roads Paved with Asphalt Trap 90% of the Sun’s Heat—That’s a Problem: “For cities the problem is even bigger. On top of the rising temperatures, the urban heat island effect results in an additional 1.8 to 5.4°F burden for urban dwellers during the day and up to 22°F in the evenings. Concrete buildings, asphalt paved roads radiating accumulated heat throughout the night, and lack of trees contribute to the making of scorching cities. Active measures will be needed to reduce the risk of heat-related health problems.”

What the Garden-Hacking Grandmas and Grandpas of South Korea Know: “Gardening here is not a hobby. It comes from the realization within people that there is inherent value in tending a garden and taking time to be a part of nature.”

Meet Me in the Trees: “Aloft, the usual corporate sounds of clicking doors, conference calls, and heels on concrete melt away. A fall wind sweeps through emerald branches. Every once in a while, a pinecone drops to the deck with a soft thud. A sudden ruckus breaks the gentle morning hush: a squirrel scrambling for breakfast charges across the arms of nearby hemlock and western red cedar…”

Problem Not Solved, But Not a Problem: “Assembling a decade of design and scholarly research, Bélanger provides readers with a much-needed alternative history of urbanization (primarily in mid- to late 20th and early 21st-century North America), as well as a survey of the contemporary forces that drive urbanization patterns today. These aspects of the book are complemented by an account of the accompanying epistemological shifts brought about by new understandings of complexity and ecology as well as a resurgence of the importance of geography, and all of these facets add up to a convincing challenge to many of the ideological positions that continue to dominate the planning, design, and engineering of urbanism today.”

A Pioneer in Public Space: “Lawrence Halprin might not be a household name, but his work has been seen and enjoyed by millions of people in Downtown Los Angeles over the decades. The landscape architect designed the Bunker Hill Steps across from the Central Library, next to U.S. Bank Tower. He also created the design for one of Downtown’s few green spaces, Grand Hope Park, next to the FIDM campus. So it is only fitting that the late Halprin is being honored in a Downtown museum. Last month, the A+D Museum in the Arts District opened the exhibit The Landscape Architecture of Lawrence Halprin.”

Baca Architects and H+N+S Landscape Architects have turned a peninsula at a bend in the Waal River, near the German-Holland border, into a seasonal island. (Baca Architects)

What Can Cities Do to Go “Blue”?: ““We need to acknowledge that the water is eventually going to do what the water wants to do, and shift our approach, as human populations living on the Earth, from one of trying to dominate nature to one that acknowledges the power of nature and works in synchrony with that,” says English. “We’ve already set ourselves down this path of dams and levees and water control systems, and it’s really hard to turn back. But we don’t need to keep replicating that. We don’t need to make the situation worse. It’s time to step back from the approach of control and fortification.”

Of Walking On Concrete: “The LA river runs for 54 miles and functions as the de facto the spine of the city. People may try and correct me on the mileage and say the river is 51 miles long, but I walked it with my GPS on the whole time. I ended up walking 56 miles but, to be fair, I did get a little lost at one point. If I followed its whole course, I’d walk from Canoga Park in the western San Fernando Valley all the way down to the port of Long Beach: one end of the city to the other.”

Landscape architects now design for mass shootings: “While urban planners and architects can’t hope to stop all the forces that lead to a mass shooting, they can understand how the crowd flees. And they can design spaces to discourage crimes of opportunity and reduce the damage an attacker can do, as this elementary school has. When people have to shelter in place, it is the past work of architects that determines just how safe those places are. Outdoor spaces designed by architects and built with crowd dynamics in mind might save lives when the next concert suddenly turns into a bloodbath.”

Older People Will Need Much Better Transit: “Protected streets, denser neighborhoods, and accessible medical care make urban life safer and healthier for everyone—especially the 65-and-up crowd, one of the fastest growing segments of the U.S. population. By 2030, nearly 20 percent of Americans will be 65 or older, up 6 percent points from 2015.”

How Your Yard Can Help Save Your House from Fire: “Seeing images like these, of a friend’s house in Sonoma, got me thinking about how you can prevent fires through your landscape, a.k.a. “firescaping.” As a homeowner, making a few simple changes to your yard can protect your house from capricious flames and help prevent wildfires from spreading without restraint. Here are a few fire prevention tips.”