Great lighting idea! SoMa could learn from Montreal!

Montreal Just Got Some ‘Speech Bubble’ Street Lights

Montreal Just Got Some 'Speech Bubble' Street LightsBernard Fougères

How do you make long, dark winter nights more fun and festive?

In Montreal, you create comic-book inspired speech bubble street lights. Conceptualized by Estelle Jugant and Yazid Belkhir of Turn Me On Design, the ”Idée-Ô-rama" project won a winter lights competition hosted by Avenue du Mont-Royal in 2012.

The project came to life this past December, when over 70 speech bubble lamps were installed along the Avenue. Each features winter-themed characters and symbols designed by artists Astro and Jean-François Poliquin. The lights grow brighter with nightfall. 

"Idée-Ô-rama" will be on display until February, and is expected to go up again during the next two winters.  

And here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how the speech bubbles were created and installed. 

All images courtesy of Bernard Fougères.

Jenny Xie is a fellow at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

A Paris Metro Car, Gift-Wrapped

A Paris Metro Car, Gift-Wrapped

A Paris Metro Car, Gift-WrappedClea Polar and Gabriel Defrocourt

A French artists’ collective gave the people of a Paris an unexpected Christmas present late last week: a giftwrapped metro train.  Armed with rolls of wrapping paper and tape, a group from production company Sisaprod descended on the Paris Metro’s Line 8 on Friday morning. Smothering every surface in fuchsia-colored paper, within minutes the group had transformed a car into a festive photo opportunity. The purpose of the action? Simply “to enjoy ourselves and to give other people pleasure,” according to Sisaprod lynchpin Clea Polar. 

Sisaprod have ambitions to take things further next time. “If RATP [Paris’ metro authority] want to do a project with us, then we could decorate an entire train” Polar told French site Itélé. Alas, it seems Paris transport bosses don’t share their enthusiasm. As soon as staff realized what had happened, the train was taken out of service and stripped back to its normal un-festive state.


As curious commuters look on, the artists set to work. (Courtesy Clea Polar and Gabriel Defrocourt)


Members of Sisaprod wrap a pole inside a car of Paris’s Line 8 metro. (Courtesy Clea Polar and Gabriel Defrocourt)


A gift-wrapped corner. (Courtesy Clea Polar and Gabriel Defrocourt)


The finished train, wrapped in brightly colored paper. (Courtesy Clea Polar and Gabriel Defrocourt)

                           

Feargus O’Sullivan covers Europe for The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

We Don't Know Nearly As Much About the Link Between Public Health and Urban Planning As We Think We Do

We Don't Know Nearly As Much About the Link Between Public Health and Urban Planning As We Think We DoShutterstock

In the mid-1800s, how we lived had a lot to do with how we caught disease. That’s when we first discovered the connection between overcrowded, unsanitary housing and the spread of cholera, tuberculosis, and yellow fever. Back then, the fields of public health and urban planning were practically one and the same.

The two have long since moved in different directions. But there’s growing concern that the communities we’ve built – full of highways, where few people walk, where whole neighborhoods lack food access – may be pushing us towards obesity, heart disease, and asthma. By this thinking, good architecture and urban planning could encourage us to walk more. It could mitigate pollution. It could illuminate the targeted need for amenities like parks and bike lanes in neighborhoods with the worst health outcomes.

An ambitious new decade-long project from the MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism and the American Institute of Architects is built on this premise. As Robert Ivy, the CEO of the AIA, wrote in an introduction to a thick new report on “the state of health + urbanism” from MIT:

When Americans think of health, we instinctively see in our mind’s eye the medical profession and the hospitals and clinics in which they treat illness. We usually do not think of architects and other design professionals. But what if we invited designers to help us reinvent aspects of preventive medicine? What if we adopted design strategies that lead to less sedentary lifestyles?

This is one of the most compelling challenges facing planners and architects in the 21st century. But the MIT report knocks down many of the assumptions that have become entrenched in how we think about health and cities: namely, that walkable cities are healthier than auto-oriented suburbs, that cars are a primary cause of our expanding waistlines, that too much fast food and too little fresh fruit are to blame for inner-city obesity.

Evidence of direct causation is scant throughout this entire emerging field.

In fact, MIT points out that American life expectancy has increased alongside motorization since 1950. Many inner cities actually have higher obesity rates than suburbs. Inner-ring suburbs have some of the best health outcomes. There’s no evidence to suggest that sprawl causes obesity, although there is some research arguing that people who already are obese opt to live in sprawling places.

Evidence of direct causation is scant throughout this entire emerging field (in part because the determinants of what makes us healthy are so complicated). The science on food deserts is particularly weak, as is research showing that ubiquitous fast food causes diabetes.

Along the way, the report critiques a number of current projects in eight U.S. cities that seem to be counting a little too much on these simple narratives. The report questions a strategy in Los Angeles to build more transit-oriented development, which could actually wind up moving more people into the city’s most highly polluted transportation corridors (trading one health problem for another). It dismisses a Chicago plan to build 17 grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods as an oversimplified solution to intractable obesity that will do little to dent it.

MIT also skewers Atlanta’s BeltLine project for failing to consider the increased traffic pollution that people using its trails and parks would be exposed to. “In order for the BeltLine to function as a ‘green lung,’” the report concludes, “vast new green space will be needed around the old rail line. This is economically and politically unfeasible in an area of higher density and land locked real estate.”

A recurring thread throughout the report is one of humility: We don’t know as much as we think we do, and there are certainly no silver-bullet design solutions for systemic public health problems. As MIT’s Alan Berger, Casey Lance Brown and Aparna Keshaviah write:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends
 a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic activity at minimum each week. That regimen will not be met through increased stair climbing instead of elevators and slightly more walking between parking lots and office buildings. These examples point to the need for reliable, meaningful research on ways to have design more effectively impact urban health.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t try (the eight case studies in the report are full of recommendations on what Atlanta might do instead of the Beltline, or how Chicago could consider its health inequalities beyond food deserts). But perhaps it’s a good moment to pause and take stock of what we can prove before old assumptions (cities are inherently unhealthy) simply get replaced by new ones (bike trails are good no matter where we put them even next to congested highways).

Top image: joyfull/Shutterstock.com

       

A Before-and-After Guide to Safer Streets

In the past decade or so, New York has seen a considerable decline in traffic fatalities (30 percent since 2001) and an even more dramatic decrease in the risk of serious injury among cyclists (72 percent since 2000). At the heart of these public safety achievements is better street design. City streets are far from perfect, but as officials have reduced space for cars, they’ve improved mobility for everyone.

Last month, the New York City Department of Transportation released a brief-but-handy guide [PDF] that uses before-and-after design renderings to illustrate five basic rules for street safety. The report calls its comparisons “the largest examination of the safety effects of innovative roadway engineering conducted in a major American city, or perhaps any city globally.” That’s a tall claim, but there’s no question that the five lessons embedded in these images merit notice from urban communities near and far.

1. Make the street easy to use. The idea here is to reduce the complexity of a given intersection in the eyes of all travelers. A safer city street will trade long, indirect crosswalks for shorter crossings and pedestrian islands. Removing low-volume legs from the traffic cycle will reduce wait times for everyone and eliminate complicated (read: dangerous) turns. Clearer lane designations — for left-turns and through traffic alike — make the whole intersection more predictable.

(For all image sets, the top image represents a “before” scenario and the bottom an “after.”)

2. Create safety in numbers. Counter-intuitive as it can seem, the safety-in-numbers effect suggests that more pedestrians and bike riders actually make streets less dangerous. Bike lanes are the obvious way to bring riders to an intersection, while islands, mid-block crossings, and direct pedestrian routes can do the same for walkers. Giving signal priority to pedestrians gets platoons of people in the streets before cars have the chance to turn.

3. Make the invisible visible. Clear sight lines can improve a street’s safety significantly. Curbs lined with parked cars can make it hard for a turning vehicle to see what’s in another part of the street. That problem can be addressed by removing some of the parking spaces closest to the corner — a process called “daylighting,” which increases visibility considerably (so long as parking enforcement is strict). Curb extensions that bring pedestrians further into the street have a similar effect.

4. Quality over quantity. Street engineers like to give cars as much space as possible, but removing lanes to reduce the complexity of an intersection can actually improve traffic flow. A jumble of un-designated lanes with competing signals has the potential to become much more congested than an intersection that bans complex turns and creates right-angle corners. Pedestrian plazas that take the place of former lanes can enhance visibility and the safety-in-numbers effect.

5. Look beyond the problem. Expanding the area of traffic analysis can unlock solutions across a wider wedge of the street system. Redirecting traffic to another part of the local network, for instance, can help decongest crowded intersections without eliminating important routes. Sometimes the best street design is really a corridor design.

All images courtesy of the New York City Department of Transportation [PDF].

                           

Eric Jaffe is a contributing writer to The Atlantic Cities and the author of The King’s Best Highway: The Lost History of the Boston Post Road, the Route That Made America. He lives in New York. All posts »

Envision Little Rock winners announced | Arkansas Blog | Arkansas news, politics, opinion, restaurants, music, movies and art

Check out this great article about this year’s Envision Little Rock competition from the Arkansas Times!             

Posted by on Fri, Dec 13, 2013 at 3:29 PM

click to enlarge'SILVER SPIRE': The student/public category winner. - ADEL VAUGHN AND MARY PATTERSON
  • Adel Vaughn and Mary Patterson
  • 'SILVER SPIRE': The student/public category winner.

One hundred years ago, urban planner John Nolen presented a master plan for the city of Little Rock. The 1913 “Report on a Park System for Little Rock” envisioned a “city in a park,” with a series of green corridors throughout Little Rock, including a riverfront park and the protection of Fourche Creek. The plan wasn’t implemented.

But the ideas Nolen presented are “as relevant today as they were then,” argues Bob Callans, a Little Rock landscape architect. For years, Callans has pushed for Nolen’s vision to get more recognition and for one idea in particular to be realized. Nolen’s plan saw Capitol Avenue as a ceremonial boulevard and called for an iconic structure at its eastern end to compliment the state Capitol building on the west end. For nearly 30 years, Callans has called for that iconic structure to be some kind of “gateway” to the city, “something you could identify Little Rock with from a distance that, as you come into town, you then actually go through it.”

“It wasn’t the right time,” Callans said, but with everything going on in the River Market and on Main Street, “now is the right time.”

Today — 100 years to the day and in the same building — Callans and the StudioMain building and landscape architects cooperative announced to a gathering in the rotunda at City Hall the winners of their collaborative Envision Little Rock 2013 Ideas Competition.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Callans told the 30 or so people assembled in the rotunda. He then quoted a line from Nolen’s proposal: “A certain complement of fresh air, of open space, of touch with nature, proves in the experience of cities vitally essential for wholesome development.” Each of five winning designs took the landscape architect’s vision to heart. 

The overall professional winner was Fayetteville architect John Krug, whose “Gateway Twin Towers” features tall curving commas on either side of I-30 that would frame the Capital on the west and a roundabout centered with a sculpture on the east.

The overall amateur award went to two UA third-year architecture students, Adel Vaughn and Mary Patterson, for “Silver Spire,” which would place a looming, twisting spire in a park just east of Interstate 30 on Capital Avenue as the iconic balance to the Capitol. The aluminum structure would reflect the lights of the city and could be ascended for a view of downtown Little Rock.

A total of 5,800 people participated in a people’s vote, choosing Krug’s “Gateway” (Envisioning an Icon category), Chris Sheppard’s “Urban Greenway” (Establishing Connections) and Maury Mitchell’s “Agri-city” (The Wild Card). Each won $250. The public voting prizes were funded by the Arkansas chapter of the American Institute of Architects.


click to enlarge'GATEWAY': The professional winner. - JOHN KRUG JR.
  • John Krug Jr.
  • 'GATEWAY': The professional winner.

Krug and the amateur team of Vaughn and Patterson each came away with prizes of  $1,500, funded by the city of Little Rock and the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.

James Meyer, of Witsell Evans and Rasco architects and a member of StudioMain, said the idea for the contest — which ran from May 15 until July 15 — was to get people thinking about the gateway idea and other ways to beautiful the city in what he called “performative” ways — that is, functional. 

There were 11 final entries. The design points the jurors were looking for included “recognition of John Nolan’s 1913 Plan for the city of Little Rock, a large/iconic solution; something characteristic/endemic of Arkansas, think ‘sense of place’; represent the “face” of Little Rock, become memorable; terminal point of Capitol Ave, visual/metaphorical dynamic with the Capitol, multi-use structure and high functionality is always good!”

click to enlargeKRUG'S GATEWAY - JOHN KRUG JR.
  • John Krug Jr.
  • KRUG’S GATEWAY

Callans said he sees a lot of potential for the development on the east side of I-30, whether the continuation of nonprofits or as a transportation hub. Metroplan has considered the east side of I-30 as station for a light-rail terminal. Whatever the path, Callans hopes Nolen’s vision figures in.

click to enlarge'URBAN GREENWAY': Winner in Establishing Connections category. - CHRIS SHEPPARD
  • Chris Sheppard
  • 'URBAN GREENWAY': Winner in Establishing Connections category.

click to enlargeWILDCARD WINNER: Maury Mitchell's "Agri-city" - MAURY MITCHELL
  • Maury Mitchell
  • WILDCARD WINNER: Maury Mitchell’s “Agri-city”

"I am an Architect" video

The Value of Urban Trees |

value of trees

This article is cross-posted from reginaurbanecology.wordpress.com

The Urban Forest Stewardship Network (UFSN) is an online resource for organizations, community groups and individuals working on urban forest initiatives across Ontario. It is a platform for sharing experiences and resources, and for capacity building.

The Urban Forest Stewardship Network was initiated by LEAF (Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests) in an effort to bring together community based urban forest groups from across the province.

One of their projects is to TAG URBAN TREES to show their value to those who benefit from them.  These tags can be placed on street trees and trees in parks or even on your own front lawn to display the benefits in Air Pollution Control, Water Recycling, Oxygen Generation, etc.

Image via UFSN

ARCHITECTURE + DESIGN NETWORK presents:
FAIL FEST: a lecture by Eric Howeler, AIA, LEED AP
Tuesday November 12th, 2013
Arkansas Arts Center lecture hall
Lecture begins at 6pm, preceded by reception at 5:30pm
Eric Höweler will present a lecture titled FAIL FAST on Tuesday, November 12th at the Arkansas Arts Center at 6 p.m., in the Center’s lecture hall, following a 5:30 p.m. reception. His talk is free and open to the public. Asked about the title he chose for his lecture, Höweler said FAIL FAST was part of a longer phrase, “Launch early, fail fast, iterate”, which, he believes, could easily serve as his firm’s motto. Born in Cali, Colombia, Höweler (AIA, LEED AP) received a Bachelor of Architecture and a Masters of Architecture from Cornell University. He is currently an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and principal at Höweler + Yoon Architecture/MY Studio in Boston. Prior to forming Höweler + Yoon Architecture, a multidisciplinary practice, operating in the space between architecture, art, and landscape, he was a senior designer at Diller + Scofidio and an associate principal at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates. He is the co-author of Expanded Practice, Höweler + Yoon Architecture/MY Studio (Princeton Architectural Press 2009) and author of Skyscraper: Vertical Now (Rizzoli/Universe Publishers in 2003). Awarded the Audi Urban Future Award in 2012, the Architecture League’s Emerging Voices award and Architectural Record’s Design Vanguard in 2007 for its efforts, the firm has participated in numerous exhibitions. Among their venues are the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston), the Institut Valencia d’Art Modern, the Museum of Arts and Design (New York), and the National Art Center (Tokyo). Höweler has lectured both nationally and internationally. The Art of Architecture lecture series is sponsored by the Architecture and Design Network, a nonprofit organization. Supporters include the Central Arkansas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the Arkansas Arts Center and the Fay Jones School of Architecture. For additional information, contact ardenetwork@icloud.com.

ARCHITECTURE + DESIGN NETWORK presents:

FAIL FEST: a lecture by Eric Howeler, AIA, LEED AP

Tuesday November 12th, 2013

Arkansas Arts Center lecture hall

Lecture begins at 6pm, preceded by reception at 5:30pm

Eric Höweler will present a lecture titled FAIL FAST on Tuesday, November 12th at the Arkansas Arts Center at 6 p.m., in the Center’s lecture hall, following a 5:30 p.m. reception. His talk is free and open to the public. Asked about the title he chose for his lecture, Höweler said FAIL FAST was part of a longer phrase, “Launch early, fail fast, iterate”, which, he believes, could easily serve as his firm’s motto. Born in Cali, Colombia, Höweler (AIA, LEED AP) received a Bachelor of Architecture and a Masters of Architecture from Cornell University. He is currently an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and principal at Höweler + Yoon Architecture/MY Studio in Boston.

Prior to forming Höweler + Yoon Architecture, a multidisciplinary practice, operating in the space between architecture, art, and landscape, he was a senior designer at Diller + Scofidio and an associate principal at Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates. He is the co-author of Expanded Practice, Höweler + Yoon Architecture/MY Studio (Princeton Architectural Press 2009) and author of Skyscraper: Vertical Now (Rizzoli/Universe Publishers in 2003).
Awarded the Audi Urban Future Award in 2012, the Architecture League’s Emerging Voices award and Architectural Record’s Design Vanguard in 2007 for its efforts, the firm has participated in numerous exhibitions. Among their venues are the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Institute of Contemporary Art (Boston), the Institut Valencia d’Art Modern, the Museum of Arts and Design (New York), and the National Art Center (Tokyo). Höweler has lectured both nationally and internationally. The Art of Architecture lecture series is sponsored by the Architecture and Design Network, a nonprofit organization. Supporters include the Central Arkansas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the Arkansas Arts Center and the Fay Jones School of Architecture. For additional information, contact ardenetwork@icloud.com.

PUT YOUR HELMET ON (by bu)

Chicago Business Owner: No Protected Bike Lanes Is a Dealbreaker

by Angie Schmitt


As our Chicago readers are well aware, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made bike infrastructure a key part of his economic strategy. Since Emanuel took office, Chicago has been adding protected bike lanes perhaps faster than any city in the United States. The famously sharp-tongued Emanuel has even pledged to attract businesses from other cities, notably Seattle, with top-quality bike infra.

Jeff Judge, owner of the Chicago-based startup Signal, says he won’t consider relocating to a city that doesn’t take bike infrastructure seriously. Image: People for Bikes


Well here’s one indication that it’s working. Mary Lauran Hall at People for Bikes reports Chicago business owner Jeff Judge won’t consider a move to another city unless its bike amenities can match what his employees have become accustomed to:


Judge recently weighed moving his marketing startup from Chicago to Boston when a Massachusetts-based company approached him about acquisition.

“The first thing I looked at was what the bike infrastructure is like in Boston,” said Judge. “It’s so important to me. I wouldn’t even give consideration to other cities that don’t have that sort of infrastructure built out, or at least plan to. Why fight against something when there are a lot of great cities in the country making sure that it’s an important attribute?”

Judge’s company is Signal, a marketing platform for small businesses. His small team works out of 1871, a coworking space for digital startups in downtown Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.

“We’re close to many protected bike lanes downtown,” explained Judge, who rides in Chicago’s new protected bike lanes on his commute to work. “For me and for my employees, it makes a big difference.”

- Streetsblog.net