Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How do you define your city?

In Melbourne at the recent AGIdeas conference, I was reminded of the launch of Melbourne's recent rebrand recently, a dynamic logo that really represents Melbourne's commitment to design. It got me wondering about what we have here in Brisbane - does our branding really represent what we're all about in Brisvegas?
A lot of scouring the internet later and I found that Brisbane had recently launched a new brand with the tagline 'Australia's New World City' - but not to a lot of fanfare. And I can see why - while the Melbourne branding is elegant, dynamic and representative of what makes Melbourne unique, the Brisbane brand is... safe. It doesn't make any out there statements about who we are or who we would like to be. But maybe that's because we don't know yet?
Following on from this, I recently read on the Map magazine website about the citid project. The project is crowd sourcing logos for cities all around the world, asking people to design a logo that they think best represents their town. The idea is to raise awareness of some of the less well known towns and end up with a logo for every city in the world. It's really interesting to see how people identify with their cities, for example a large number of the logos feature trains - demonstrating an affiliation with public transport. If you could re-do the Brisbane logo, what would you want to say?
(Image source)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Google Map Routes: Public and Private Transportation... and Now Bicycles Get Mapped!

In the United States, designated bike lanes and a growing bike culture have started to garner mainstream attention. And bicyclists now have a giant ally—Google.

At the 10th Annual American Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. in March 2010, Google announced their maps feature will include bike routes for 150 U.S. cities. The feature includes 15,000 miles of off-street bike trails.

Google made the decision after receiving a petition with more than 50,000 signatures for bike routes to be added to its maps. Google Maps introduced driving directions in 2005, and in 2007 the site added transit routes. Pedestrian navigation followed a year later. Now, it’s the bikers’ turn.

Online tools for mapping bike routes have existed for years, such as, which also points out bike shops along your route. But with an organization as enormous as Google collating bike-friendly travel information, two-wheel enthusiasts hope city planners and politicians will take note and improve bicycling conditions across the United States.

The League of American Bicyclists, who sponsored the American Bike Summit, hopes the Google feature will encourage wary would-be cyclists to get on the road, give more seasoned bikers the respect they deserve, and curb unnecessary motorist pollution by highlighting safe routes:
  • Dark green indicates a dedicated bike-only trail,
  • Light green indicates a dedicated bike lane along a road
  • Dashed green indicates roads that are designated as preferred for bicycling but without dedicated lanes

Eventually they will map the bike routes in Australia, but do you think it would be as successful as in the US?

Perhaps monitoring the preference that people have via Google can provide us with accurate data on which modes of transport people use, giving city planners the supporting information they need to justify a particular concept in relation to transportation.

Planning for people is the most important thing in designing communitites - but planning AROUND the existing inhabitants of a community is the key to creating great places.

Old Gasometres Given New Life

It is a bit like the perfect self-contained hemispherical world of Truman Show, but in real life … and times four. Once constituting the largest gasworks in all of Europe, a series of stunning cylindrical brick structures from the 1800s have found an uncanny new use in modern times as a completely domed-interior town-within-a-city on a spectacular scale.

In their second life, these gasometer buildings have been converted into a giant community of shops, residences, hotels, entertainment, civic, public and garden spaces interconnected by a series of soaring skyways and uncanny underground passages.
Located in Vienna, Austria, these century-old buildings were abandoned shortly after construction as they were no longer needed to hold coal gas – leaving each of the four industrial structures with nearly 1,000,000 square feet (92,900m²) of unused interior space under gigantic roof-spanning skylights above – but it took nearly a hundred years until someone would think to turn them into a town.

The interiors vary from one 230-foot-tall (70m) structure to the next, giving them each a distinctive appearance and functional personality. With over 1500 residents and 70 shops, restaurants, bars and cafes, it is no wonder that urban designers and planners from around the world have studied the unique architectural and cultural phenomena and the virtual online community that has arisen out of this giant connected gasometre city.
Its interesting that the designers wanted to keep the original facade, and only develop the hollow middle of each cylinder. Maintaining the historical memory of what used to be was evidently one of the main objectives of this development.
Even though this concept may seem a bit far fetched, at Newstead in Brisbane, there is the perfect opportunity to mirror this development; creating something iconic and bold for our city.

The old gasometre skeleton which is visible from Breakfast Creek Road has the potential to be transformed into something amazing. The site is currently under development (see below for the current site plan), but there is yet to be any indication of how the steel structure will be used.

It would be fantastic to see the gasometre used for something like mixed use / residential / commercial, but I'm not sure if Brisbane is prepared or ready for such a giant creative leap.