Posts from the Friday Five Category

Beyond Streets & Avenues: Simple Visual Guide to Different Types of Roads: “They’re not just named at random,” explains Edwards. And while “there’s no rule book for building a city there are naming conventions that are surprisingly strong — ones you’ll find across the world. There are exceptions, but if you comb through postal service guides, state departments of transportation and dictionaries you can start to decipher a code behind our roads.”

The High Line Effect: Are Our New Parks Trojan Horses of Gentrification?: “Parks are now for yuppies. Some of us might still have an image of green and open public spaces as being places where people of all incomes, races, backgrounds, and interests can mingle, freeing themselves from a system of which the city grid is the very embodiment. There is a long history of landscape architects designing and municipalities decreeing parks to be not just places where those with means could enjoy their leisure, but also artificial Edens where the working class could escape from their grim places of working and living. The latter option is becoming more and more difficult to find.”

Why Is Greenspace Different From a Park? “Greenspace is the non-place padding put between buildings to set them back from the street. Greenspace has a negative impact in many neighborhoods because it artificially spaces things out around it, reducing the amount of destinations within walking distance. It can also burden private property owners if they are required by law to landscape and maintain their greenspace.”

The Secret Life of Urban Crows: “But what if I were to tell you that the crows you spy in your yard are almost always the same individual crows? That those birds—usually two, a male and a female known as a territorial pair—don’t live there but fly in every day from 20 miles away? During the day urban crows rummage and build nests in a specific spot, in a specific neighborhood, then decamp for the evening to a massive, crowded roost outside the city—their own crow planet— and report back to the neighborhoods each morning. Like you, they commute to work.”

Can Virtual Reality Help Us Tackle Climate Change?: “Their new, 8-minute film Tree lets users experience life as a kapok tree from the moment it pierces through the earth to its death in a slash-and-burn farming operation. “Deforestation is a bigger contributor to climate change than the entire transport industry combined,” Zec emphasises, yet it’s not common knowledge. In addition to forest degradation, it accounts for 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.”

Climb inside the massive tunnel 60 feet below downtown L.A.: “No hardhat or miner’s light required: A 360 video tour of a Los Angeles subway under construction. Look up. Look down. Look all around as you bore under the city of Los Angeles, 60 feet below the brew pubs and poke shops with a crew of hardhats and the mechanical gopher of a machine that’s clawing out a new subway route.”

Soil Microbes May Be Orchestrating Tree Migrations: “As the climate warms and some tree species shift toward cooler, more hospitable habitats, new research finds soil microbes could be playing a crucial role in determining where young trees can migrate and how well they survive when they arrive.”

The Future Of Cities Is Hidden Beneath Their Streets: “As many urban centers attempt to make themselves safer and greener, more cities are turning to history to rediscover their older selves–digging into a time before the car reigned supreme, when cities were more walkable, bikeable, and livable.”

It’s Already Happening: “Coastal erosion is undoubtedly related to rising sea level. As a consequence of the relative rise in the temperature worldwide, the icecaps are melting, bringing about a rise in the ocean level. In low altitude areas, like Saint Louis, these phenomena cause an overflowing called marine flooding.”

How Singapore Is Creating More Land for Itself: “Twelve percent of the island is occupied by roads. What’s above roads? Nothing! If you put roads under buildings, you free up some land.” Sky bridges and midair concourses are already a part of some public-housing estates. As Wang told me: “In the future, you might see a little town or offices above the expressways. We might create space above our container ports.”

An artistic rendering of how the site of the Santa Monica Beach Restoration pilot project may look post-restoration.

‘Re-wilding’ a Santa Monica beach to protect against sea level rise: “At the north end of Santa Monica Beach, there’s a fenced off 2-acre section that looks a bit unkempt. It’s an experiment in “re-wilding,” or restoring the beach to what it looked like before humans altered it. The pilot project, a partnership of The Bay Foundation and Santa Monica, could also help protect the city from sea level rise.”

Endangered Brodiaea plant produces ‘super bloom’ in hills above Glendora: “This is the last place in Los Angeles County where they exist. And they are flourishing at super-bloom status,” said Ann Croissant, a plant physiologist, botanist, professor emeritus from Azusa Pacific University and the founder and president of the Glendora Community Conservancy.”

How your suburb can make you thinner: “What is it in the landscape of a community that makes people choose to walk? That’s a critical question for those who hope to redesign healthier towns. To get some answers, Saelens and colleagues wired up 700 people in the Seattle area with GPS trackers and mapped their routes when they walked. Then they analyzed what sorts of built environments were along those routes. They found that, roughly speaking, there are two types of walkers…”

All the Trees Will Die, and Then So Will You: “Fusarium dieback is on track to kill 26.8 million trees across Southern California in the next few years, almost 40 percent of the trees from Los Angeles to the Nevada border and south to Mexico. That’s more than just an aesthetic tragedy. It means that thousands of human beings are going to die, too.”

Mega-mansion development is decimating LA County’s tree population: “Many homeowners see greenery as purely ornamental as opposed to having an impact on public health. The rate of asthma is increased in areas where trees are not present because trees are very effective at filtering dust particles.”

The 20 Most Bike-Friendly Cities on the Planet: “With each edition, the Copenhagen­ize Design Company’s Index of the most bike-friendly cities in the world evolves. In 2011 we ranked 80 global cities; in 2013 we ranked 150. This year, we considered cities with a regional population over 600,000 (with a few exceptions because of their political and regional importance, and to keep things interesting). We ranked 122 cities. The top 20 are presented here.”

Understanding What Makes Plants Happy: “The big shift in horticulture in the next decade will be a shift from thinking about plants as individual objects to communities of interrelated species. We think it’s possible to create designed plant communities: stylized versions of naturally occurring ones, adapted to work in our gardens and landscapes. This is not ecological restoration, it’s a hybrid of ecology and horticulture.”

Construction to Begin On New Lincoln Heights Park After a Costly Environmental Cleanup: “The triangular shaped park will stretch from Spring Street on the north to nearly Main Street on the south, helping expand the existing Downey Recreation Center. The project will not only provide more green and recreation space to the area, it will also help improve water quality. Runoff from storm drains will be collected, filtered and treated using a variety of techniques before the water flows into the L.A. River and eventually the ocean, according to a project summary.”

The Future of Transportation is Already Here: “Builders and urban planners have learned to limit their thinking because existing regulations and clunky political processes have made it nearly impossible to innovate without years of negotiations. As a result, we’re laying the foundations for a transportation future that carries forward the problems of the past…But there can be another way forward, a new vision of transportation that upsets the four-wheel chariot mode.”

Young Architect Guide: 5 Ways to Tell Your Story Through Drawings Alone: “As all architects know, your project proposal is only as convincing as the drawings and models that you use to represent it, whether for your client, the planning committee of a town council or the judging panel of a design competition. While your ideas may be brilliant, they are only of value if you can communicate them convincingly to all of those different audiences, crafting an architectural narrative in a clear and compelling manner.”

Image courtesy of Marin County.

When Planning for Sea-Level Rise Turns to Play: “The Game of Floods is a choose-your-own-hazard-mitigation romp created by a team of local public works engineers and planners. Climate change may have its winners and losers, but this game—which earned Marin County a national award for public outreach by the American Planning Association on Wednesday— focuses on the value of collaboration and small steps in the face of a huge challenge.”

How Urban Landscapers Use Native Plants to Create Habitats for Wildlife: “Maintaining these natural processes on a local level will remain increasingly important as birds and other wildlife face displacement as a result of warming temperatures. In late June, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences described how “only 41 percent of US natural land area is currently connected enough to allow species to track preferred temperatures as the planet warms over the next 100 years.”

California Will Need Mountains of Sand to Save Its Beaches: “Without human intervention, many of the region’s beautiful beaches may disappear by 2100 as sea levels rise. If the Golden State wants to save its golden shores, it will have to add sand to them—and lots of it.”

The Sounds of ‘Mannahatta’ in Your Ear: “Sounds of 17th-century natural life in Manhattan — chirps, caws, groans, croaks, screeches — are now available on the website Unsung.NYC, where they are stitched adjacent to our (mostly) human-made 21st-century clamor. The result, “Calling Thunder,” is an aural bridge across four centuries.”

Urban designer Jeff Speck on walkable cities and economic development “In America it’s fair to say a walkable city is a city in which you can live a full and fruitful life without relying on an automobile. That doesn’t mean that a lot of people aren’t driving. It just means that the car is an empowering instrument of freedom, as opposed to a prosthetic device, which is what it’s become for so many Americans.”