London creates massive car-free zones as the city reopens

May 19, 2020 by  
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How do you simultaneously discourage people from riding public transportation, avoid automobile gridlock and maintain social distancing? By designating bike- and pedestrian-only streets. At least, that’s the approach London is trying as it eases its lockdown restrictions. Last week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced one of the world’s biggest car-free initiatives. Main streets between London Bridge and Shoreditch, Old Street and Holborn and Euston and Waterloo will be reserved for bicycles, walkers and buses. The network of car-free streets may expand, and trucks and cars might be banned from London Bridge and Waterloo Bridge. Related: Meet the urban planner responsible for San Francisco’s car-free Market Street Khan said in a press release that the pandemic is “the biggest challenge to London’s public transport network in Transport for London’s history. It will take a monumental effort from all Londoners to maintain safe social distancing on public transport as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased.” Officials hope that millions of journeys will instead be made on foot or two wheels. To further discourage motorists, London is reinstating and increasing “congestion charges” for drivers in heavily trafficked zones during weekday business hours. Certain essential workers who must drive private vehicles will be reimbursed. The mayor’s office emphasizes that for now, public transport should be a last resort. Some populations who ordinarily get to travel for free or at reduced rates — such as children, seniors and people who have disabilities — will have to pay fares as part of a large government bailout deal for Transport for London (TfL), the city’s transportation system. TfL has kept trains and buses running to transport essential workers while losing 90% of fare revenues and much of its advertising in tube stations as well as furloughing 7,000 members of its workforce. Doug Parr, chief scientist and policy director at Greenpeace U.K., endorsed the car-free plan. Parr said, “Not only will transforming our streets in a way that prioritizes pedestrians and cyclists, and makes it safer for people to move about as lockdown restrictions are eased, but by permanently restricting car use we can keep toxic pollution from filling our air once again.” Via The Guardian Image via Aron Van de Pol

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ODA designs an urban experiment masterplan for Chengdu

April 28, 2020 by  
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On the invitation of the Chengdu government, New York-based architecture firm ODA has created a visionary new masterplan for the southwestern Chinese city. Spanning 1 million square feet, the proposal would include four 13-story residential towers integrated into a 700,000-square-foot, mixed-use commercial park with modern buildings optimized for passive energy savings. Described by the firm as an “urban experiment in rearranging priorities for the public realm,” the masterplan emphasizes pedestrian-friendly design and indoor-outdoor living throughout. Located along a river, ODA’s masterplan engages multiple levels, from the riverfront at the bottom to the elevated walkways that provide access to rooftop terraces. The design departs from the traditional street experience by prioritizing pedestrian access. It also provides a wide variety of gathering spaces and green spaces, from the accessible green roofs and residential gardens to urban farming plots and reflection pools. Related: ODA to transform Rotterdam’s historic post office into a vibrant destination In addition to apartment buildings, the proposed development is home to a mix of offices and retail that primarily relate to the creative fields. “Anchor” offices would include space for architecture firms, graphic design studios, incubators, startups, fashion studios and interior design firms. Ground-level retail would activate the streetscape and include galleries, community kitchens, markets, artist studios, bakeries, breweries, maker spaces and other stores and restaurants. All offices, residences and retail spaces would have direct outdoor access, while the tiered architecture would ensure ample access to natural light and air throughout the development. “The design combines personal security with common territories that allows neighbors to see and connect with one another,” ODA said. “The idea is that the program is staggered, creating pockets of privacy and connectivity, nooks for relaxation as well as recreation. ODA believes this is what smart design means in the future. Design that meets all our needs, that speaks to the collective whole, and therefore the collective good.” + ODA New York Images via ODA

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ODA designs an urban experiment masterplan for Chengdu

Florida Aquarium captures baby coral breakthrough on video

April 28, 2020 by  
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The Florida Aquarium announced a breakthrough that may help save America’s Great Barrier Reef. Scientists at the Tampa-based aquarium have successfully reproduced ridged cactus coral for the first time. A video captures the tiny baby  corals  looking like undersea fairy lights as they take their first and only swim beyond the reef. Since a major  disease  outbreak attacked Florida’s coral reefs in 2014, scientists from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and NOAA Fisheries have rescued corals and moved them into labs. Florida Aquarium scientists are caring for adult coral colonies, coaxing them to breed and reproduce in the hopes of eventually restoring the diseased reefs. In the course of this rescue mission, scientists are discovering new info on coral biology, including the timing of babies and what coral larvae look like. “This breakthrough is just really exciting; we’re still learning basic new things you’d think we’ve known for hundreds of years,” said senior coral scientist Keri O’Neil. “It’s just people never worked with this  species  before and now that we have the opportunity to work with these corals in the lab, we’re going to find out so much more about them.” Ridged cactus corals are a type of brooding coral. This means they reproduce by releasing sperm into the water. Eggs within the parent coral are fertilized, and larvae develop. When the coral babies are sufficiently formed, the parent corals spit them into the water. The babies swim until they find a good spot on the  reef . Then they settle down for life.  This video  shows the phenomenon. Florida has the world’s third-largest barrier reef ecosystem. Often called “America’s Great Barrier Reef,” it extends from St. Lucie Inlet, north of Miami, to the Dry Tortugas, west of the Florida Keys. About two-thirds of the reef tract is within Biscayne National Park and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Reproducing ridged cactus coral is the latest in a series of coral breakthroughs at the Florida Aquarium. Last year scientists at the aquarium had the world’s first success at making a group of coral reproduce two days in a row. The aquarium is partnering with London’s Horniman Museum and Gardens in Project Coral, a program aimed at repopulating the world’s reefs. “With the success of this project, as a scientist, I now know that every year for the foreseeable future we can spawn Florida pillar corals in the laboratory and continue our work trying to rebuild the populations,” said O’Neil. + CNN Images via Pexels

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Inspiring rammed earth hospital brings affordable care to rural Nepal

April 28, 2020 by  
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An inspiring beacon of humanitarian architecture has arrived to one of the poorest and most remote regions of Nepal — the new Bayalpata Hospital in Accham. Opened earlier this month to replace an aged and overrun clinic, the new hospital is a model of sustainable rural health made possible through a collaboration between the government of Nepal and NGO Possible Health. New York City-based Sharon Davis Design crafted the 7.5-acre campus, which is built primarily from locally sourced rammed earth and powered by rooftop solar panels. Located on a hilltop surrounded by the terraced slopes of the Seti River Valley, the new Bayalpata Hospital is expected to provide low-cost, high-quality care to more than 100,000 patients a year from Accham and its six surrounding districts — a number that’s more than eight times its original capacity. The hospital comprises five medical buildings with outpatient, inpatient, surgery, antenatal and emergency facilities for 70 beds as well as clinical functions such as pharmacy, radiology and laboratory spaces. The campus also includes an administration block for offices, a 60-seat cafeteria and 10 single-family houses plus an eight-bedroom dormitory to house the hospital staff and their families. Related: Rammed earth Kopila Valley School is the “greenest school in Nepal” Because of the site’s remote and mountainous location, the hospital is primarily built from rammed earth using a low-tech construction method and local labor. Soil from the site was mixed with 6% cement content for stabilization and seismic resistance. This mixture was then formed into blocks with reusable plastic formwork and set atop foundations constructed from local stone, which was also used for pathways and retaining walls. Local Sal wood was used for built-in furniture, exterior doors and louvers. In addition to the thermal mass of the massive rammed earth walls, passive heating and cooling design strategies were used to keep the hospital comfortable year-round. The campus also includes a new water supply and storage, wastewater treatment facilities and bioswales to manage monsoon-driven erosion. The hospital’s south-facing roofs are topped with a grid-connected 100 kW photovoltaic array that is powerful enough to generate all of the campus’ electricity needs. “We see this project as a model of how rammed earth, and other vernacular materials, can be utilized to create modern architecture,” said Sharon Davis, principal of Sharon Davis Design. “Without local materials, this project may not have been possible because of its incredibly remote location — a 10-hour drive from the nearest regional airport and a three-day drive on narrow, mountainous roads from the nearest manufacturing centers around Kathmandu.” + Sharon Davis Design Photography by Elizabeth Felicella via Sharon Davis Design

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Inspiring rammed earth hospital brings affordable care to rural Nepal

MVRDV designs a sustainable urban living room for Shenzhen

March 27, 2020 by  
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Dutch architecture firm MVRDV has unveiled its competition-winning designs for the Shimao ShenKong International Centre, a new “three-dimensional urban living room” for the heart of Shenzhen’s Longgang district. Selected from nearly 30 competition entries, the winning proposal, also known as the Shenzhen Terraces, will introduce over 20 programs to a thriving university neighborhood. The project also focuses on sustainability and will integrate passive design principles, native landscaping, recycled materials and solar panels.  Named after its architecture of stacked plateaus, the Shenzhen Terraces project references forms of the nearby mountains while its predominately horizontal lines and curvaceous shapes provide a visual contrast with the vertical lines and hard edges of the surrounding high-rises. The terraced design also creates opportunities for large overhangs to mitigate solar gain as well as spacious terraces filled with plants and water basins for cooling microclimates . Bridge elements link various buildings to create a continuous elevated route.  Related: ZHA unveils LEED Gold-targeted OPPO headquarters in Shenzhen “ Shenzhen has developed so quickly since its origins in the 1970s,” said Winy Maas, founding partner of MVRDV. “In cities like this, it is essential to carefully consider how public spaces and natural landscape can be integrated into the densifying cityscape. The urban living room of the Shimao ShenKong International Centre will be a wonderful example of this, and could become a model for the creation of key public spaces in New Town developments throughout Shenzhen. It aims to make an area that you want be outside, hang out and meet, even when it is hot — a literally cool space for the university district, where all communication space can be outside. It will truly be a public building.” As a sustainable hub, the 101,300-square-meter Shenzhen Terraces will be home to a pedestrian-friendly landscape, a bus terminal and a mixture of functions — such as an art gallery, library, conference center and outdoor theater — conveniently placed near high-rise housing, commercial complexes and educational facilities. The landscaping, designed in collaboration with Openfabric, will mimic the curvaceous architecture and will feature native sub-tropical plants and recreation zones.  + MVRDV Images by Atchain via MVRDV

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An old mall becomes an urban lagoon and public square in central Tainan

March 18, 2020 by  
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In downtown Tainan, Taiwan, MVRDV has transformed a former shopping mall into the Tainan Spring, an urban lagoon and park. Commissioned by the city government as part of an urban revitalization masterplan, the adaptive reuse project not only provides a new public space that reconnects residents with nature, but also sets an inspiring example for how defunct malls can be given new, sustainable lives. Created as part of a masterplan to rejuvenate a “T-Axis” to the East of the Tainan Canal, the Tainan Spring project includes the transformation of the former China Town Mall as well as the beautification of a kilometer-long stretch of the city’s Haian Road, now redesigned to reduce traffic and improve pedestrian access . In replacing the old mall, the architects have “meticulously recycled” the building and turned the mall’s underground parking level into a sunken public plaza with an urban pool, planting beds, playgrounds, gathering spaces and a stage for performances. A glass floor exposes part of the structure of the second basement level below to connect visitors to the history of the site.  Related: MVRDV-designed market in Taiwan will grow food on a massive green roof “In Tainan Spring, people can bathe in the overgrown remains of a shopping mall. Children will soon be swimming in the ruins of the past — how fantastic is that?” said Winy Maas, founding partner of MVRDV. “Inspired by the history of the city, both the original jungle and the water were important sources of inspiration. Tainan is a very grey city. With the reintroduction of the jungle to every place that was possible, the city is reintegrating into the surrounding landscape. That the reintroduction of greenery was an important thread in our master plan can be seen in the planting areas on Haian Road. We mixed local plant species so that they mimic the natural landscape east of Tainan. I think the city will benefit greatly from this.” In two to three years, the newly planted beds will grow into a lush garden comprising native trees, shrubs and grasses to form a tropical jungle-like environment that will help offset the urban heat island effect . Visitors can also find relief from Tainan’s tropical climate in the urban pool and mist sprayers in the summer. The pool’s water level will rise and fall in response to the rainy and dry seasons.  + MVRDV Photography by Daria Scagliola via MVRDV

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CRA proposes reconfigurable roads and a floating garden to revitalize Luganos waterfront

January 21, 2020 by  
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Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) and Mobility in Chain (MiC) have unveiled a technologically savvy plan to better connect the Swiss city of Lugano with the beautiful Lugano Lake. Informed by studies on mobile and traffic data, the proposed regeneration of the waterfront will introduce dynamic public spaces that can take over parts of the roads, which can be reconfigured with zero, one or two lanes at different times of the day. This new, reconfigurable road system would be combined with smart signage, responsible street furniture and even renewable energy-generating infrastructure to facilitate a greener and more pedestrian-friendly environment. Currently, Lugano suffers from a disconnect to its lake due to a busy thoroughfare along the waterfront. To visually and physically provide pedestrians with better connections to the lake, the architects propose overhauling this main traffic artery with the addition of a dynamic road system that can turn sections of the street into pedestrian-only public spaces, such as playgrounds, a basketball court or other social gathering areas. At the same time, the intervention aims to preserve the historical value of the lakefront as designed by Pasquale Lucchini in 1863. Related: CRA grows a sustainable pavilion out of mushrooms in just 6 weeks The architects have also proposed a floating, rotating island for the lake that would be accessible to the public via a series of boardwalks. A garden would be planted on the floating island to highlight and preserve the biodiversity and native flora of Lake Lugano. The dynamic waterfront would also includes smart signage, responsive street furniture, heat-absorbing renewable energy technology and a series of mobility hubs that promote shared transit. “Lugano is committed in redesigning the front lake and the city center for the future citizens, focusing on a growing attention to dynamic public spaces , the coexistence of different mobility vectors, the development of green areas, the role of the water in city life, the impact of the landscape and much more,” said Marco Borradori, mayor of Lugano. “The path began in 2018, when the municipality went public with its vision and objectives, identifying innovation as one of the key points for urban development. The next step will hopefully be an open competition to create a new masterplan for the city of tomorrow. Our wish is that the vision could soon take the form of a realized project.” + Carlo Ratti Associati Images via Carlo Ratti Associati

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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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Community-oriented housing redefines a former industrial site in west London

November 15, 2019 by  
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London-based architectural firm Mæ has completed the second phase of Brentford Lock West, a urban regeneration masterplan that is providing quality homes — 40 percent of which are designated for shared ownership — designed to engage the waterfront environment and community. Taking inspiration from the site’s industrial past, the architecture complements its historic setting with distinctive sawtooth roofs that help funnel light into the buildings and the material palette of blond brick, in-situ concrete and reconstituted stone. In addition to designing for optimal daylighting, the architects have included mechanical ventilation heat recovery systems and high levels of thermal insulation to ensure energy efficiency . Completed at the end of 2018, the second phase of Brentford Lock West introduces an additional 157 homes to the mixed-use masterplan and includes a combination of lateral apartments, duplexes, penthouses and townhouses. All homes are “step-free” and follow the Lifetime Home Standard , a set of design principles that emphasize inclusivity, accessibility, adaptability, sustainability and good value. Each home is carefully oriented to maximize privacy as well as views, whether of the canal to the north or the city to the south. Related: RRA unveils mountain-inspired ski resort that emphasizes nature and community In designing the development, the architects worked with the local community and other stakeholders. As a result, community values have been embedded into the design of Brentford Lock West. One such example is the new “neighborhood street” — a shared space for pedestrians and cyclists that is landscaped and paved with herringbone brick — that knits the two phases together. Also at the heart of the development is a landscaped communal garden. Large cantilevered balconies engage the street below. “Continuing the architectural language of phase one, the second phase builds upon scale and massing, alongside the benchmark it set in terms of quality and sense of place,” the architecture firm added. “Holding the corners of each plot, six pavilion buildings are linked through rows of private townhouses and bridge structures that form entrance portals and house further accommodation above.” + Mæ Images via Goodfellow Communications

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Deciphering wine labels: the differences between organic, natural, biodynamic and sustainable wines

November 15, 2019 by  
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‘Tis the season for holiday celebrations, cocktail parties and family gatherings. But before you pop the corks on those bottles of wine, take a moment to understand what you are about to drink. If you are hoping to serve wine made with sustainably grown, organic grapes , read the label carefully before committing to the purchase, or you might not be getting what you expect. With words like “natural,” “organic,” “biodynamic” and “sustainable,” it can be hard to decipher which wine is truly best for the planet. Here are some tips to understand sustainable wine labels. Marketing is a powerful tool, and companies will advertise characteristics of their wines that they think will appeal to the consumer. However, the terminology can be so confusing that a winery might misguide you without meaning to. Some words are so similar that you (and they) might even assume they all mean the same thing. Related: This is how climate change will impact wine Fortunately, steps have been taken to standardize the verbiage on these labels so you can better understand what’s in the bottle. But there is still variation throughout the food and beverage industry, especially for wine. Here is the terminology you are likely to see and exactly what it all means for the wines you imbibe. Organic or 100 percent organic wine In the U.S., the term organic is regulated and must fit into specific criteria. However, even within that criteria, you will find different wording. For example, wines made from organically grown grapes are grown without the use of pesticides , fungicides, herbicides, etc., and these wines do not contain sulfites added during wine production. (Organic wines do contain naturally occurring sulfites.) Note that the standards for “organic” classifications in Canada and Europe allow for a small amount of sulfites to be used during production. Biodynamic wine Biodynamic wines are organic, and these wines also follow farming ideologies dating back to the 1920s, when Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher and academic, presented scientific support showing that in order for a grape to reach its potential, the entire vineyard must be taken into account. In addition to growing grapes without chemicals or common additions such as yeast, the lunar and astrological cycles are often considered when making decisions about the health of the vineyard . These wines are also produced without interference to adjust for acidity. For example, instead of making changes during fermentation and flavor development, the focus is on healthy roots, soil and the atmosphere of the vineyard as a whole. Like the term “organic,” “biodynamic” wines have earned certification by meeting specific requirements. The governing board that approves the label is the Demeter Association, a branch of an organization dating back to 1928 during Steiner’s efforts to bring societal awareness about biodynamics in agriculture. Sustainable wine This label is fairly subjective and typically refers to the way the vineyard is managed more than the way the wine is produced. A vineyard (or farm) that aims to grow crops sustainably is concerned with the impact on the planet. This means using natural methods of balancing the soil, such as crop rotation. It can also mean using energy or water-saving practices . If your wine is made “sustainably,” it likely means it was made organically in accordance with the typical goals of sustainable farming, but don’t assume it’s organic without the label identifying it as such. Natural, all-natural or 100 percent natural wine When you see the word “natural” on a label, be aware that there are limited regulations surrounding the use of this term. There is no distinction between “natural,” “all-natural” or “100 percent natural.” Manufacturers of all types of food can slap this wording on labels. But most producers in the wine industry see the “natural” classification differently. For wine-making, a natural wine is the result of a natural process, meaning that process involves as little intervention as possible throughout the stages. In other words, the wine is fermented grapes in their most natural form. That means that a natural wine is organic and sometimes biodynamic, but organic and biodynamic wines are not always natural. Furthermore, any of these wines may or may not be sustainably produced. Because there is no oversight committee for a “natural” label, selecting a wine is all about getting to know the winemaker and asking questions at the tasting room. If you live in a wine region, buy locally so you can see the vineyard and know the source of your bottle. If you don’t live near a winery, do you research online. Most wineries are proud to share their growing practices and provide transparency if they are using sustainable, organic, natural or biodynamic methods. Via Wine Spectator , Eating Well and The Guardian Images via Shutterstock

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