Passive House-certified development offers affordable housing in South Bronx

June 17, 2020 by  
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New York City-based Curtis + Ginsberg Architects has completed Park Avenue Green, the largest Passive House development in North America that is inspirational in more ways than one. Designed in collaboration with energy consultant Bright Tower, the building is an energy powerhouse and a new affordable housing community with 154 apartments for low- and extremely low-income households — including 35 units reserved for people who were formerly homeless — in the Melrose neighborhood of the South Bronx. An airtight envelope, energy-efficient appliances and a rooftop solar array have reduced the building’s energy consumption by about 70% of the code-required standards, earning the project certification by the Passive House Institute U.S. (PHIUS). Completed in February 2019, Park Avenue Green has been crafted as a new neighborhood landmark with a 4,300-square-foot community facility on the ground floor. This facility currently houses affordable visual art studies and gallery space for Spaceworks, a nonprofit that provides low-cost spaces for artists. The ground floor also includes a bicycle room and community room for residents. Related: Are these zero-carbon domes the future of sustainable housing? To achieve the stringent energy standards set by PHIUS, the design team outfitted the building with a 34-kilowatt photovoltaic system , a cogeneration scheme, individual VRF heating and cooling units and efficient energy recovery units (ERV) in each apartment. Residents’ comfort and well-being are optimized thanks to these measures and abundant access to natural light that is let in through triple-glazed windows. Park Avenue Green also incorporates storm resiliency and other energy conservation strategies for long-term durability. “We are very excited to be part of the Park Avenue Green team, bringing the largest PHIUS Passive House Project to fruition creating much-needed affordable housing will the smallest possible carbon footprint,” said Mark Ginsberg, partner at Curtis + Ginsberg Architects. The $48.4 million Park Avenue Green project was developed by Omni New York, which also led the creation of the LEED Gold-certified Morris Avenue Apartments in the Bronx .  + Curtis + Ginsberg Architects Photography by John Bartelstone via Curtis + Ginsberg Architects

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How to have an eco-friendly picnic

June 17, 2020 by  
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Summer is just around the corner, and that means it’s picnic season. But a picnic with juice boxes and individually wrapped treats creates a lot of waste that only contributes to the growing plastic crisis. Have an eco-friendly picnic this summer instead and spend time enjoying and protecting the environment around you in real ways that you can be proud of. Eliminating waste Paper plates, paper napkins and plastic cutlery mean lots of waste for any picnic. Eliminate all of that by using cloth napkins and serving foods that don’t need extra plates. Items that can be eaten by hand don’t require forks and spoons. Sandwiches, vegetable slices, crackers, rolls, wraps — the list of great finger foods goes on and on. Related: How to replace single-use and plastic items in the kitchen Bring reusable cups and napkins on the picnic and take them with you when you leave. That means don’t bring any plastic straws or juice boxes, either.  Preparing the food Support the local community and small farmers by buying local when you’re shopping for ingredients. Go to a farmers market to get fresh, local ingredients. If possible, ride a bike over to the market and back so you aren’t adding any carbon emissions to the atmosphere when you do your shopping. Pack your food in silicone bags or glass containers instead of plastic containers to be even more green. Consider a meal that doesn’t include any beef. Environmentalists warn that beef production on a massive scale creates numerous risks to the planet, from the methane generated on cattle farms to the energy it takes to transport the beef. Opt for vegetarian and vegan options at the picnic to be as eco-friendly as possible. Related: Cool vegan recipes for a hot summer If you do end up with orange peels, wrappers and other waste at the end of the picnic, pick up all of these items instead of leaving them behind. Some food remains, like rinds and peels, can be added to the compost pile. Recycle or wash and reuse everything else that you possibly can. Grilling If you plan to grill for your picnic, plan ahead with the planet in mind. Grilling can release a lot of carbon emissions into the air; however, when done properly, grilling can be better for the environment than cooking in the kitchen. Solar cookers are a great option, but you’ll have to bring your cooker with you to the picnic and you need the weather to be in your favor for it to work. If you can’t use a solar cooker, you can use natural lump charcoal. Rather than lighter fluid, use a charcoal chimney. This is a green alternative to standard grilling. If you’re having a picnic in the park, there will be plenty of community grills available for use. Remember to take any aluminum foil and other waste with you when you leave the picnic area for proper disposal. Playing games It won’t do much good to prepare an eco-friendly meal and then play picnic games that create a lot of waste. A flying disc is a great option. Jump ropes can be folded and packed away easily, so this is another item to bring for some fun picnic activities. A simple rubber ball can be used to play kickball, dodge ball or any number of other sports. Keep eco-friendly games in mind when you’re thinking about picnic recreation. Choose activities that leave no waste behind and don’t alter the environment in any way. Keeping insects away Using bug sprays isn’t the best choice for an eco-friendly picnic. Stick to natural ways to keep bugs away, such as crushed lavender flowers or citronella to repel mosquitoes. Lavender oil is effective at keeping a number of insects away, including mosquitoes. You can also mix garlic and lemon to keep insects and even some animals away from your picnic area, although the smell that drives them away can be unpleasant for people, too. Related: 4 DIY herbal remedies that take the sting out of pesky bug bites Applying sunscreen Be sure to keep a reef-safe sunscreen on hand, and for added protection, pack a big straw hat. Don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen, too, to prevent harmful sunburn. Traveling If possible, bike or walk to your picnic location to reduce emissions . If that’s not an option, carpool or ride public transit to the picnic spot to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. All those little changes really do add up to be a big help to the environment. Images via Kate Hliznitsova , Toa Heftiba , Yaroslav Verstiuk and Antonio Gabola

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Tigers, humans at risk for coronavirus as ‘Tiger King’ zoo reopens

May 11, 2020 by  
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We’ve already seen interspecies transmission of COVID-19 happen in the Bronx , where an asymptomatic zookeeper infected five tigers and four lions. Now, as the infamous Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park reopens, will human visitors expose innocent tiger cubs to coronavirus ? Droves of people descended upon Oklahoma’s Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, made famous by the Netflix series ‘Tiger King’, when it reopened May 2. People are drawn by the hard-to-resist attraction of petting adorable tiger cubs, despite the cautions by wildlife experts. Related: ‘Tiger King’ drama overshadows abuse of captive tigers in US National Geographic reported on the first day the park resumed operations, noting the lack of pandemic precautions. The cubs worked long shifts and were expected to look cute for visitors who sometimes waited 4 hours to pet them. With hundreds of people feeding and petting tigers, the felines could contract the virus . It could also easily spread among the throngs of humans yearning to interact with tigers. Oklahoma’s pandemic restrictions had closed the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park for about a month. Many Netflix viewers had eagerly awaited its reopening. The true crime documentary miniseries ‘Tiger King’ focused on the life of former park owner Joe Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, who is now serving 22 years in prison for his crimes against humans and tigers. Maldonado-Passage’s former partner, Jeff Lowe, now owns the animal park. To keep a constant supply of darling cubs, some private facilities “speed breed” their tigers, according to National Geographic. Newborn cubs are quickly removed from their mother so that she goes into heat and breeds again. Cub-petting facilities constantly need little tigers that are in the sweet spot of 8 to 12 weeks old. Any bigger and they’ll be dangerous enough to hurt visitors. Tigers may then be bred, exhibited or possibly killed. At press time, the Bronx Zoo tigers and lions that tested positive for coronavirus are all recovering well. There have also been a few isolated cases of pet cats and dogs with the novel coronavirus. Via National Geographic Image via Wikimedia Commons

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Tigers, humans at risk for coronavirus as ‘Tiger King’ zoo reopens

LEED Gold-targeted library and community park has otherworldly appeal

May 1, 2020 by  
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Toronto-based architecture firm RDHA has completed the Springdale Library and Komagata Maru Park, a new inclusive gathering space for Brampton, a city located about 45 minutes west of Toronto. Designed as a visual contrast to the flat suburban environment, the architects created an undulating landscape of hills that is reinforced by the building’s mountainous form. Surrounded by walls of glass and solar shades, the green-roofed library is powered by geothermal energy and is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification . Completed in the summer of 2019, the Springdale Library and Komagata Maru Park is located on a physically constrained site bordered by a commercial plaza to the east, a main road to the south and a natural ravine to the north and west. Rather than fight the site’s unusual shape, the architects allowed the wedge-shaped plot to inform the design of the library, which was placed as close to the street as possible to preserve the site’s natural topography and irrigation patterns. The position of the library also maximized space in the rear for the neighborhood park, which consists of terraced contemplative gardens punctuated by 5-meter-tall letters that spell out the word “imagine”. Related: LEED Gold-targeted Ottawa library will honor local history The new Springdale branch library comprises 20,000 square feet of library program space as well as a 5,000-square-foot community multipurpose room. Floor to-ceiling windows fill the interior with natural light and are set back from the perimeter to mitigate unwanted solar gain. The windows are etched with a solar-responsive ceramic frit pattern with striated patterns ranging from white to dark gray that expand and contract depending on solar orientation. The undulating roof is punctuated with skylights and creates an “otherworldly” atmosphere. “RDHA designed a project that would be as much about a building as it is about establishing a landscape: from the organically shaped perimeter that joins building and courtyards; and the creation of an undulating topography between the fluidly shaped ceiling and mountainous green roof ; and the sloping floor slab of the interior and the flat landscape of the park,” reads the project statement. The library is also equipped with graywater systems and electric car charging. + RDHA Photography by Nic Lehoux via RDHA

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Studio Precht designs a fingerprint-like park for social distancing

April 27, 2020 by  
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Studio Precht has turned the rules of social distancing into a design guideline for Parc de la Distance, an innovative park proposal that ensures all visitors will be separated at least 6 feet from one another at all times. Created in the shape of a fingerprint with spiraling ridges represented by tall hedge rows, the conceptual park takes inspiration from both French baroque gardens and Japanese Zen gardens. The hedge-lined paths slowly spiral toward a center, where fountains are located. With all famous parks across Vienna closed due to the pandemic , Studio Precht wanted to create a safe way for local residents to get access to a brief time of solitude and nature. As a result, it has proposed Parc de la Distance for a vacant lot in Vienna that comprises multiple spaced-out pathways for individual walks. “Although our ‘Park de la Distance’ encourages physical distance, the design is shaped by the human touch: a fingerprint,” the architects explained. “Like a fingerprint, parallel lanes guide visitors through the undulating landscape.” Related: Architects propose produce markets designed for social distancing Each lane is bookended by an entrance gateway and exit gateway to indicate whether the path is occupied or free to stroll . The lanes are spaced 8 feet apart and flanked with nearly 3-foot-wide hedges on either side for visual separation. The height of the hedges vary along the path. Each individual path is 0.37 miles long and takes around 20 minutes to walk from start to finish. Although visitors are often shielded from view from one another, they will be able to hear the sounds of footsteps on the reddish granite gravel that line each path. “For now, the park is designed to create a safe physical distance between its visitors,” Studio Precht founder Chris Precht said. “After the pandemic, the park is used to escape the noise and bustle of the city and be alone for some time. I lived in many cities, but I think I have never been alone in public. I think that’s a rare quality.” + Studio Precht Images via Studio Precht

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Studio Precht designs a fingerprint-like park for social distancing

‘Tiger King’ drama overshadows abuse of captive tigers in U.S.

April 24, 2020 by  
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Netflix’s wildly popular “Tiger King” documentary series has been progressively sweeping the nation since it first aired on March 20. As an outrageous, binge-worthy drama released when self-isolation and uncertainty were spreading around the world, the show certainly came at the right time to provide an escape from the news. Overnight, it seemed, conversations that didn’t revolve around the coronavirus or Joe Exotic were hard to come by. Photos of celebrities who’d visited the zoos were flooding the internet, Joe Exotic’s power-ballads were hitting it big on Spotify and even President Donald Trump was fielding questions about the gun-toting zookeeper during press briefings. While the eccentric documentary reveals some disturbing truths about the enigmatic underworld it portrays, the show’s colorful characters tend to overshadow serious animal welfare issues. The dizzying murder-mystery component camouflages animal cruelty behind a jaw-dropping “you have to see it to believe it” drama. Now that the initial buzz of the show has started to die down, animal conservationists are begging the public to take a closer look at what the series failed to address: why, and how, these types of animal “sanctuaries” are legal in the United States. Related: Bronx Zoo tiger tests positive for coronavirus The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) believes that the illegal wildlife trade presents the most substantial incentive for exotic animal breeding and estimates that a vast majority of the captive tigers in the U.S. are living inside people’s backyards, roadside attractions and private breeding facilities. “Tigers should not be kept or bred for entertainment or trade in their parts and products,” said Leigh Henry, director of wildlife policy for WWF USA. “As a leader in promoting the conservation of tigers globally, the United States has a responsibility to manage the staggering 5,000 estimated captive tigers within its own borders.” The tigers remaining in the wild currently number around 3,900 and are continuing to be threatened due to poaching , illegal trade and habitat loss. Surprisingly, only an estimated 6% of the captive tiger population in the U.S. live inside zoos and facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Because tigers in the United States are regulated by a combination of federal, state and local laws, there is no single government agency monitoring the location, ownership or sales of the tigers or what happens to their parts when they die. According to Henry, any supply of tiger parts into the black market stimulates trade and customer demand, posing additional risks to the wild tiger population. Tiger abuse in the U.S. was on the radar well before Netflix aired “Tiger King.” In 2006, Joe Exotic’s GW Exotic Animal Park was fined $25,000 by the USDA for not providing adequate veterinary care or sufficient staff. Back in 2011, the Humane Society put an investigator undercover as an animal caretaker inside the park for about four months. They found hundreds of animals caged in barren conditions, cared for by workers with little-to-no experience and tiger cubs that were “punched, dragged, and hit with whips.” During that time, GW Exotic Animal Park was under investigation by the USDA for the deaths of 23 tiger cubs between 2009 and 2010. Even Emmy Award-winning comedian and political commentator John Oliver recently recalled learning about Joe Exotic in 2016. “Our researcher went back through his notes and did say, ‘It seems like the park he’s running is a little bit dangerous, we may not want to hold hands too closely with this, “ Oliver said . “Plus he started ranting about a woman named Carole.’” For the places that make their money from public encounters with tigers, continuous breeding is key in maintaining a constant supply of cubs for entertaining guests. Because of this, tigers are often inbred, causing birth defects and health issues that make them unsuitable for reintroduction into the wild . Most of the privately owned tigers in the U.S. are of mixed or unknown lineage, making them unable to participate in legitimate captive-breeding efforts in accredited zoos and institutions as well. “Facilities like Joe Exotic’s and Doc Antle’s masquerade as rescue or conservation operations, but in fact they breed tigers and subject the cubs, who are torn from their mothers immediately after birth, to stress and abuse,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and the CEO of Humane Society International. “After a few months, when the cubs are too large for close encounters with the public and the opportunity for profit is over, the cubs are caged, sold into the pet trade or die. This cycle of breeding for temporary use leads to a surplus of unwanted animals who languish in horrible conditions.” When it comes to ethical animal sanctuaries, the leading authority is the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS). This accrediting organization requires sanctuaries to meet animal-welfare standards exceeding the federal Animal Welfare Act minimum. National Geographic also outlines several things to look for when participating in wildlife tourism . According to the GFAS, sanctuaries must provide lifetime care for abused, injured or abandoned animals, and rehabilitation or rescue centers are meant to provide temporary care with the goal of either releasing animals back into the wild or placing them in permanent care. To be accredited in the AZA, the leading non-profit organization connected to zoos and aquariums in terms of conservation, companies must go through a rigorous application process . Both the AZA and the GFAS provide lists of accredited facilities on their websites. Since the documentary was filmed, 39 of Joe Exotic’s tigers have been rescued and are now living peacefully inside The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado (you can see a video of the tigers’ new living conditions here ). WWF and the Humane Society are continuing to call for greater supervision and protection of captive tigers with the introduction of the Big Cat Public Safety Act . The act and its accompanying bill prohibiting cub petting are scheduled to be voted on by the end of the year. One could argue that “Tiger King” inspired viewership in ways that a more deliberate, expose-style documentary simply could not accomplish. Though the more severe components of the documentary have been masked by a barrage of memes and Twitter-fueled jokes, the ones who suffered the most in this human drama were actually the animals . Hopefully, what begins to come out of “Tiger King” will be the public’s refusal to let spectacle overpower mindfulness and that we all learn to see beyond the flashy images to realize that animal abuse is wrong — no matter how captivating the abusers are. Via National Geographic and World Wildlife Fund Images via Pixabay

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Tour 5 national parks from home

March 19, 2020 by  
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As people social distance and shelter in place, they may feel the walls closing in on them. Fortunately, the National Park Service has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to offer free virtual tours of five beloved parks. Of course, the online experience isn’t quite like being there, but these tours are pretty cool and may inspire dreams of post-pandemic travels . The five tours feature Kenai Fjords in Alaska , Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, Hawaii Volcanoes, Bryce Canyon in Utah and Dry Tortugas in Florida. Each virtual tour is led by a National Park Service ranger. The varied terrains and activities help entertain viewers. Related: How National Parks benefit the environment The tour of Kenai Fjords lets you climb down a slippery, icy crevasse in Exit Glacier — much easier done virtually than in real life. In Carlsbad Caverns, viewers get a bat’s eye view to help them learn about echolocation. Hawaii Volcanoes features a walk through a lava tube and a trip up volcanic cliffs. Florida’s Dry Tortugas National Park consists of 1% Fort Jefferson and 99% underwater. Join a ranger for a virtual dive into this diverse ecosystem, including a swim through a coral reef and an exploration of the Windjammer shipwreck. As the Bryce Canyon tour points out, two-thirds of Americans can no longer see the Milky Way from their backyards. This tour highlights Bryce Canyon’s dark skies and allows viewers to tap around to check out constellations while listening to night sounds like owls and crickets. At press time, many National Park Service units are still open with reduced services and closed visitors centers. But this may change as the coronavirus situation progresses. “The NPS is working with federal, state and local authorities, while we as a nation respond to this public health challenge,” NPS deputy director David Vela said in a press release. “Park superintendents are assessing their operations now to determine how best to protect the people and their parks going forward.” So before setting out on that big drive to camp in a park, consider sitting tight on your couch and taking a virtual tour. + National Park Service and Google Arts & Culture Images via Wikimedia Commons

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Climate-adaptive park in Copenhagen wins Arne of the Year Award

February 10, 2020 by  
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One of Copenhagen’s newest green parks, the Sankt Kjelds Square and Bryggervangen, has just received Copenhagen’s most prestigious architecture prize — the Arne of the Year Award. Designed by Danish design studio  SLA , the nearly 35,000-square-meter urban park is most notable for its effective solutions to cloudbursts, a term describing sudden heavy rainfall that can trigger violent flash floods. Using blue-green space as a sponge for rainwater, the cloudburst adaptation project not only mitigates the effects of cloudbursts, but also increases biodiversity, improves health and quality of life for local citizens and reduces air pollution and the urban heat island effect. Completed in 2019, Sankt Kjelds Square and Bryggervangen comprises a large public space with a seamlessly integrated ecosystem of services for absorbing stormwater runoff and enhancing  biodiversity . The project, which was created by SLA in collaboration with NIRAS, Viatrafik, Jens Rørbech and contractor Ebbe Dalsgaard, replaced 9,000 square meters of asphalt with new green space. Nearly 600 trees — living and dead — as well as a lush planting palette have transformed the area into a green oasis.  In addition to strengthening biodiversity and providing cloudburst protection, the  green spaces  help slow traffic in the area. Urban recreational areas have also been built into the park as have dedicated bike lanes, wheelchair-accessible walkways, and stepping stone paths that wind through the dense forest-like environment.  Related: C.F. Møller’s Storkeengen tackles climate challenges in a Danish town “In the design of the project’s new nature, we use ecosystem services to not only protect the city from flooding after cloudbursts, purify polluted air, improve  microclimate  and provide a social foundation for the neighborhood,” Stig L. Andersson, founding partner and design director of SLA, said. “We also create a whole new experience of what it means to live in a city. In Sankt Kjelds and Bryggervangen, there is a new aesthetic connection between man and nature. A connection that too many people have lost in the city today, and which more and more people are requesting.” + SLA Images via SLA

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MVRDV to transform Seouls concrete-dominated waterfront into a vibrant, green oasis

December 18, 2019 by  
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Seoul has announced yet another inspiring eco-oriented urban project — a waterfront revitalization scheme designed by Dutch firm MVRDV . Dubbed “The Weaves,” the new public space will transform the Tancheon Valley and a portion of the waterfront along Seoul’s Han River from a concrete-dominated landscape into a thriving pedestrian-friendly destination defined by lush green landscapes. The highlight of the project will be a ribbon-like pedestrian bridge connecting the Gangnam district to Olympic Park, which comprises a series of intersecting white pathways. The government of Seoul selected MVRDV’s project as the winner of a design competition for its “great balance between ecology and the creative program.” Located between the former Olympic Stadium in the Jamsil district and Gangnam district in southern Seoul, the project will transform a 1-kilometer-long stretch of the Tancheon River as well as a significant portion of the Han River waterfront, which stretches east to west across the city. The design was created in collaboration with local firms NOW Architect and Seoahn Total Landscape Architecture. Related: MVRDV introduces a psychedelic blend of art and architecture in Paradise City “The central concept of ‘The Weaves’ was to intertwine three aspects of the landscape: natural ecosystems, access for pedestrians and elements of public program where activities can take place,” MVRDV explained in a statement. The three-part plan will begin by returning the river and waterfront to a more natural state that includes changing the river from a straight canal to a meandering stream flanked by green riverbanks with native vegetation. The second part involves developing a network of winding, interconnected paths — a form inspired by tangled silk threads in reference to Jamsil’s history of silk production — that also includes the repurposing of sections of highway into pedestrian thoroughfares. The third element of the design will be the park’s public program, which ranges from viewing points and an amphitheater to space for cafes and other amenities. The new public space will cater to locals and visitors alike and even includes a city branding opportunity in the Seoul Water Path, a pathway that extends out over the Han River to spell the word “Seoul” in looping script. Construction on The Weaves is expected to begin in 2021 and completion is planned for 2024. + MVRDV Images via Atchain and MVRDV

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MVRDV to transform Seouls concrete-dominated waterfront into a vibrant, green oasis

Fuksas designs a zero-impact public square in the heart of Sofia

December 13, 2019 by  
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Italian design firm Studio Fuksas has recently revealed designs for the new Sveta Nedelya Square, a “ zero-impact ” public space in the heart of Sofia, Bulgaria. Located in front of the medieval Sveta Nedelya Church, the project will bridge the city’s ancient roots and modern urbanism with a contemporary design that shows off the city’s historic architecture. As a beacon for sustainability, the square will feature transparent solar panels atop a “hi-tech canopy” of pavement modules and a rainwater collection system. Billed by the architects as “a key intervention for the entire nation,” the new Sveta Nedelya Square will represent the country’s forward-looking ambitions while paying homage to its cultural roots. “Our aim is to reduce the dichotomy between the ancient and contemporary city,” the firm explained in a project statement. “We started our design from the Roman framework, using the Cardo and Decumanus to extrapolate the square module, a pure geometric shape.” Related: Studio Fuksas completes Rome’s largest building in over 50 years Spanning an area of 34,000 square meters, the new Sveta Nedelya Square will be bisected by a tram line into two parts: a public park and a paved square. The design also proposes turning parts of the surrounding roads — the Kyaginya Maria Luiza Boulevard, Aleksander Stamboliyski Boulevard, Vitosha Boulevard and the Saborna Ulitsa — into pedestrian-only avenues. Visitors will be able to enjoy views of the ancient Roman cardo covered by protective panels of glass that can be walked on. Select pavement modules will be elevated to create a series of sculptural, vertical elements that form a forest-like covering, which will provide shade and will recall the shape of a rose, Bulgaria’s national flower. The curved shapes of the vertical elements also reference the northern and southern porticoed facades of the Sveta Nedelya Cathedral. The pavement modules are built with transparent solar panels that harness renewable energy, which is used to light up the square at night. The new Sveta Nedelya Square is expected to break ground in 2021, with completion slated for 2023. + Studio Fuksas Images via Studio Fuksas

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