Sunday, August 29, 2010

Train Station Architecture From Around the World

If you were to describe Brisbane's train stations to someone, would words like 'beautiful', 'attractive', 'picturesque', 'breathtaking' or 'exquisite' come to mind? Probably not.

Train stations need not be boring or dreary! On the contrary, many operators of metros, subways or railways want to attract passengers with good station design. This often means a little extra effort and cost for the metro operators, but it seems to pay off when a metro is more than just a means of transport but something the residents can be proud of.

Works of art or sophisticated architecture can be delightful, inspiring and thought-provoking for daily commuters as well as an attraction for visitors. Distinctive colour schemes and works of art help passengers for orientation, especially in countries with a high level of illiteracy. Furthermore, there is evidence that vandalism diminishes in appealing stations because works of art and good designs are widely respected.

Below are some examples of amazing station design:

New York








Thursday, August 26, 2010

Exactly How Much Space Do Cars Occupy On Our Streets?

Have you ever wondered what the streets would look like with no cars? How much space would be available to pedestrians if vehicular traffic was not permitted where they are currently?

In 1975, an Austrian civil engineer named Hermann Knoflacher (a manager of the Institute for the planning of the transports and traffic at Vienna Technical University) developed the 'Walkmobile' which is essentially a wooden frame worn by a pedestrian with the purpose to show exactly how much space is occupied by a motorist.

The Walkmobile is a tool of protest against the record of cars in city that easily allows to visualize the irrationality of the vehicular urban traffic and the fact that it takes up an excessive part of the ground space. The experiment of Knoflacher has been repeated in different big cities in the world, from Austria to Thailand, showing the potential opportunities of the urban areas without cars.
The last picture especially, paints a very interesting picture of how our streets are being used by private motor vehicles. Another interesting note is that this 'protest' was performed 35 years ago.... I would think that the story of vehicular traffic today would be considerably magnifed than the transport climate in 1975.
The next time you are on the freeway in peak hour and stuck in bumper to bumper traffic jams - imagine each car as the Walkmobile and consider what the road would look like...

NY High Line Influencing Other Projects

New York’s High Line has been a smashing success - so much so that other cities are now trying to emulate it. Los Angeles is working on its own version called the Harry Bridges Boulevard Buffer - a 12 hectare, 9-block wide swath of land in the Port of Wilmington. And while the Buffer doesn’t extend along an abandoned railroad like the High Line, it does have one thing in common with New York’s project: it’s transforming an urban eyesore into a public space.

The park, designed by Sasaki Associates, will stretch 914m and feature a flat lawn along with a walkway 15 feet above. Harry Bridges Boulevard Buffer will also offer fountains, groves an amphitheater, lawns, and multiple pavilions. Multiple pedestrian bridges will ease congestion.

Sustainability will feature prominently, with solar panels, drought-tolerant plants, tree planting, and bioswales all integrated into the park.

Planning For Sea Level Rise: NY

As rising sea levels become more inescapable every day, some designers are planning for the future and creating concepts for how we might ultimately be forced to live. Turkish architects Sinan Gunay and Mustafa Bulgur, who have accepted our watery fate, say forget trying to hold the seas back, and just build higher. City(e)scape is their proposal for a new landscape built 70 meters above the water and attached to existing skyscrapers, creating a new ground plane.

When sea levels rise, the ground in parts of NYC will be swallowed up, leaving skyscrapers as pillars in the water. City(e)scape proposes to hook into these buildings at a higher level above the sea and create catwalks and a series of cubic structures strung between buildings. New streets would look something like the Highline Park, elevated above the water with vegetation as well as areas for growing food.
Building the new plane high enough would also allow for an increase in the sea levels, while a series of structures and connectors would lead towards the water for sea access. Some of the cubic structures would also be specifically designed for food production and water storage.

'Build a Better Burb' Competition Revitalizes Suburban Areas

Manhattan may be a densely developed, well-oiled machine, but the neighboring suburbs of this bustling metropolitan paint another picture. These spaces are littered with vacant lots, barren asphalt parking, and other signs of poor urban planning - elements that continue to reap socio-economic havoc in the communities where they are located.

Build a Better Burb” is a new design competition that sets out to recover 8,300 acres (roughly equal to the area south of 50th Street in Manhattan) in the Long Island boroughs of New York City.

The Build a Better Burb competition seeks to find a bold new design proposal that can retrofit underutilized spaces in suburban downtowns with more effective uses, forms and practices in planning and design. This competition aims to take hold of the pressing challenges these communities are facing and turn them into opportunities for economic productivity, environmental sensitivity, social sustainability, and beautification.

One interesting entry in particular comes from the design team of Tobias Holler, Katelyn Mulry, Sven Peters and Ana Serra. Their submission is called 'LIRR: Long Island Radically Rezoned – A Regenerative Vision for a Living Island'. Their proposal applys closed-loop principles on a macro scale. The resulting plan finds water, energy and waste neutrality, 100% of food is locally-produced, and the overall condition results in a 50/50 balance between nature and man-made.

The structures which sit at the bottom right of the image below, dubbed 'Bucky Domes' represent glass-enclosed high-density hydroponic farms, which will be responsible for producing food for all of Long Island. Wind farms sit offshore, taking advantage of the natural air currents.

Smart cells follow land use logic based on infrastructure - existing LIRR stations will be the focal point on which area subdivisions are made. Densification will occur within the downtown to more effectively utilize the man-made landscape, leaving open space in the surrounding area for agriculture and habitat restoration.

Fossil fuel-free transportation is the goal of the new system. To compliment the eco-efficiency of the existing LIRR, there will be restricted car access zones, eco boulevards with light rail, hybrid buses, and bikeways.

Downtown Hicksville is the model for revitalization, which follows four strategies that will alter vacant spaces and achieve the required suburban density.

New Apartment Complex in Taiwan Could Change the Way We Design Higher Density

Ever wondered how apartment buildings and unit complexes could incorporate more public green space full of natural light and open air for residents to use without people having to go to a park accross the street?

A firm called BIG has proposed a solution.

BIG has developed a modern, pixelated design for a community tower called Taipei City Wall, which comprises of stacked apartment blocks. BIG arranged the layout of the boxes in a way that maximizes the site area in order to provide more light for each residence and access to green space as well as recreational areas. The result is a residential complex with significant urban density that still retains many of the suburban qualities that some covet, like access to open space and lots of light.

Currently in progress, the Taipei City Wall will make use of an 82,000 sq meter site in Taiwan. The design process for the residential complex envisioned a series of boxes stacked upon one another, leaving gaps between each box to let in light and encourage natural ventilation. BIG first stacked the boxes linearly and vertically, then condensed the tower in an accordion fashion, leaving behind a three-dimensional checkerboard facade.

Each box measures 15 x 15 x 15 meters and overlaps enough for an elevator shaft to connect to the highest floor. Five different types of spaces are available for the residents; a green forest where you can enjoy a spectacular view of the city, a Japanese stone garden for relaxation and immersion, a wooden pool garden where you can go for a swim, a playground for the kids, and finally a rooftop terrace on the 25th floor. The hope for the design is that the ample recreation and green spaces create a place for a local community to grown and develop.

When considering higher density, and the current perceptions which favour private backyards rather than communal park space; this proposal might hold the key to gradually introducing higher density outcomes in Brisbane. Although you share spaces with other residents, there are several different areas and it is for residents only - so it's semi-private. The social benefits associated with communal areas would also create a healthier place to live.

Container Complex Proposed For Leeds Waterfront

Waterfronts that were once the bustling heart of industrial British cities are now more commonly seen as the hub of hot new property developments. However, initiatives like the 36 Calls Design Competition demonstrate that these property developments have the potential to be iconic projects with some great green credentials. One proposal which was shortlisted was from Aedas, which gives recognition to the industrial past of the waterfront with its ultra-efficient container-inspired modules, whilst injecting some truly modern and sustainable construction features into the complex.
The 36 Calls Design Competition was launched in Leeds in 2009 by The Architects Journal and British developer Citu. The competition brief demanded an iconic commercial space to fill a gap on the river Aire in Leeds, Uk.

Aedas' '
Container Calls' proposal integrates Passivhaus principles in its design while aiming to achieve a minimum BREEAM Excellent rating. The Aedas group explains: “The fabric of the modules is to adopt ‘passivhaus’ principles: high thermal mass, low air leakage and high insulation… The building has the potential to achieve zero carbon with the inclusion of further residual energy and a community combined heat and power plant.”

The proposal is also sustainable in its quest to create a new way for the community to interact within the building. It is designed to grow with the community, as the stackable nature of these container elements allows for change through the addition and subtraction of modules.

Los Angeles Dreams of a New Downtown River Park

A 100 year-old rail depot resides next to downtown Los Angeles, and next to the rail yard is the famous LA viaduct, a ribbon of concrete and steel cutting thought the heart of the city. A study was just released to re-envision this 20th century monolithic development as a 21st century park complete with a green belt, a transportation corridor, and a recreation area lined with mixed-use developments.

The master plan combines existing rail with man-made wetlands and features a green belt of trails for bikes and pedestrians that is fed by Union Station and connects a ring of mixed-use neighborhoods. Baseball and soccer fields are also incorporated into the plan.

Turning the viaduct into a wetland has the added effect of protecting the lower neighborhoods from the flash flooding that the concrete channel currently hastens. The project’s biggest hurdle is also the heart of the reclamation plan - the Union Pacific Railroad’s Piggyback Rail Yard is not currently for sale, according to the owner. Complex negotiations will have to take place for Union Pacific to relocate a major container yard.
As technology changes and the sourcing of alternative resources and materials (which are more sustainable and environmentally-friendly) becomes the norm, the development of 'brown-field' sites could become more common. Old industrial sites which are becoming redundant are unlocking enormous opportunites and potential that has just never been an option in the past.