Chengdu Tianfu New Town Landscape blends tradition and modern living

February 19, 2021 by  
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International design firm MLA+ has unveiled designs for Chengdu Tianfu New Town Landscape, a proposal for a vibrant landscape corridor, as part of an international design competition hosted by the southwestern Chinese city. Inspired by Chengdu’s rich history and strong local character, the architects crafted a 210,000-square-meter linear space that puts a modern spin on local cultural icons such as tea houses and opera. The site-specific approach of blending traditional culture with modern forms gives the competition entry its unique appearance that celebrates Chengdu throughout. Developed for Chengdu Tianfu New Town, located about 25 kilometers south of downtown Chengdu , the Chengdu Tianfu New Town Landscape aims to help define the area’s central business district as a new core of the city. “[Chengdu] is a city where various elements clash into unique identities: eastern lifestyle and western culture, traditional and modern spaces, city and nature,” the architects explained in a press release. “It is also a city famous for its layback and leisure lifestyle. Chengdu’s way of life sets it apart from other major cities in China.” Related: MVRDV unveils sustainable Chengdu Sky Valley masterplan The architects highlighted Chengdu’s unique qualities with a series of modern architectural and landscape forms that are rooted in traditional design. One example can be seen in their interpretation of the tea house — an important social space for locals — as shared gathering spaces for informal meetings and casual gatherings inserted into bamboo gardens in the central landscape corridor. The centuries-old Sichuan Opera is also celebrated with a nearly 800-square-meter water stage that can accommodate events for up to 2,000 people. Elements that focus on Chengdu’s more recent accomplishments include the “Food Hill,” an undulating landscape of green hills with integrated tables for outdoor eating and pop-up street food markets to emphasize the vibrant food culture of the city, which was recognized as Asia’s first UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy in 2008. Attention is also given to the city’s growing street sports and hip-hop culture in the “Red Wall Playground,” a dynamic space inspired by the local tradition of red walls. + MLA+ Images via Frontop

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Chengdu Tianfu New Town Landscape blends tradition and modern living

This "super plant" can actually absorb air pollution

February 19, 2021 by  
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Scientists at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) have found that Cotoneaster franchetii could help absorb pollution on heavily trafficked roads. In a study that compared how different plants tame pollution, RHS scientists found this species of cotoneaster to be the most effective. The plant was compared to other shrubs, including western red cedar and hawthorn. According to the researchers, cotoneaster turned out to be a “super plant” that could act as a carbon sink for fossil fuel pollution. However, the study established that the plant was really only helpful in areas with high traffic. In comparison to the other plants in the study, cotoneaster was found to be 20% more effective in absorbing pollution. In quiet regions with limited pollution, the plant was found to be less effective. Related: The Ray integrates plants and pollinators along I-85 “On major city roads with heavy traffic, we’ve found that the species with more complex, denser canopies, rough and hairy leaves such as cotoneaster were the most effective,” said Tijana Blanusa, lead researcher. “We know that in just seven days, a one-meter length of well-managed dense hedge will mop up the same amount of pollution that a car emits over a 500 mile drive.” Air pollution is a big concern in the modern world. RHS conducted a survey that involved over 2,000 participants to find out their take on pollution matters. The survey revealed that 33% of respondents have been affected by pollution but only 6% had taken steps to combat the situation in their own gardens. But researchers are hopeful that sharing how powerful cotoneaster and similar plants are could help the public participate in improving air quality through gardening . “We are continually identifying new ‘super plants’ with unique qualities, which, when combined with other vegetation, provide enhanced benefits while providing much-needed habitats for wildlife,” said Alistair Griffiths, director of science and collections at RHS. “We’ve found, for example, that ivy wall cover excels at cooling buildings, and hawthorn and privet help ease intense summer rainfalls and reduce localized flooding . If planted in gardens and green spaces where these environmental issues are most prevalent, we could make a big difference in mitigating against and adapting to climate change.” + Royal Horticultural Society Via The Guardian Image via Père Igor

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This "super plant" can actually absorb air pollution

A new LEED Gold civic center will reinvigorate downtown Long Beach

January 19, 2021 by  
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As part of Long Beach’s largest public-private partnership effort to date, international architecture firm SOM has helped inject new life into the downtown area with the Long Beach Civic Center Master Plan. This 22-acre project celebrated its grand unveiling of multiple LEED-targeted civic buildings late last year. The Long Beach Civic Center Master Plan, which has redesigned the downtown as a new and vibrant mixed-use district, targets New Development LEED Gold certification. Launched in 2015, the Long Beach Civic Center Master Plan provides a new heart for public life in the City of Long Beach. The LEED Gold-targeted, 270,000-square-foot City Hall and LEED Platinum -targeted, 232,000-square-foot Port Headquarters buildings, both completed in July 2019, are designed with energy-efficient, under-floor air conditioning systems and an abundance of natural light. The solar-powered, 93,500-square-foot Billie Jean King Main Library that opened to the public later that fall is also designed to achieve LEED Platinum certification. Related: SOM designs a low-carbon waterfront community for China’s “most livable city” The masterplan includes design guidelines for the development of 800 residential units and 50,000 square feet of commercial development. A regional bicycle network, buses and the Metro Blue Line have been woven into the design to promote a pedestrian-friendly environment. The historic Lincoln Park has been revitalized as well to better engage a greater cross-section of the city’s population. “Targeting New Development LEED ® Gold certification, the new Civic Center plan optimizes operations and maintenance, maximizes street parking, introduces plazas and promenades, and expands bike infrastructure to create a hierarchy and quality of place,” SOM explained in a project description. “The proposed sidewalk configurations, along with the scale and density of tree planting, create not only a welcoming and walkable environment, but a differentiated sense of place — one that befits the city’s dynamic center for culture, recreation, education, and government.” + SOM Images via SOM | Fotoworks/Benny Chan, 2020

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A new LEED Gold civic center will reinvigorate downtown Long Beach

Artist Camille Walala envisions a carless Oxford Street for London

December 31, 2020 by  
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The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has been a lot of things, and one of them is an opportunity to delve into creative design. So when established artist and designer Camille Walala biked onto the typically bustling Oxford Street during the first lockdown in London, the creative juices started flowing. Seeing the empty street prompted Walala to imagine what the space could look like if it were permanently converted from a street to a pedestrian-only hub. Her trademark blocky and colorful architectural installments became a central element in the design, with bold elements that stand in steep contrast to the street’s current two-dimensional, monochromatic and car- polluting status. Related: Barcelona to transform Eixample streets into car-free zones Walala sees the project as an expression of love for a city she’s called home for 23 years — a city that has provided endless inspiration and opportunities throughout her career as an interior and street art designer. “I found myself with more and more opportunities to develop my practice and ideas — to play with pattern and colour at larger and larger scales,” Walala explained. “If I’d lived somewhere else, if I’d not been rooted in London’s creative scene, surrounded by the people I was, I don’t know if I’d even have become an artist.” The vision came during a bike ride with Walala’s partner, creative producer Julia Jomaa, and the event sparked an imaginative discussion about how the space could be used for public gathering along the lines of an agora in ancient Greece. The image for the space on Oxford Street, however, is not only functional but visually demanding with contrasting bright colors alongside black-and-white geometric patterns. A massive, centralized water fountain is surrounded by seemingly interlocking geometric blocks. It’s a little like a larger-than-life Lego installment. Striking planters curve throughout the area, providing seating and a space for interacting with nature. Although the design is an inspired vision of what the area could be, it’s also a potential realization of “a serious proposal for a new, more enriching urban landscape.” The discussion of creating a car-free capital isn’t a new one, but Walala’s dramatic and artistic spin may just be the inspiration the city needs to make the change toward a pedestrian-focused plaza for generations to come. After all, a pandemic is the perfect time to contemplate the future. “This project is my what-if portrait of the city of tomorrow, and my own projection of what the London I love might one day look like,” Walala said. + Camille Walala Via Dezeen Photography by Camille Walala with Omni Visual and Dunja Opalko

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Tartu turns a major street into a car-free haven for a month

October 1, 2020 by  
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For the entire month of July, the Estonian city of Tartu transformed one of its main streets in the heart of the city into the Autovabaduse (Car-Free) Avenue, a popular pedestrian-friendly paradise. The project not only observed COVID-19 social distancing guidelines but also gave local businesses a much-needed economic boost. Commissioned by the local government, the Car-Free Avenue 2020 project was designed by Tõnis Arjus, Ragnar Kekkonen, Maris Peebo and Anna-Liisa Unt. The area used for the urban intervention spanned approximately 8,000 square meters and accommodated a wide range of programming, from dance courses and morning yoga to national radio broadcast pop-ups, concerts and more. Tartu is the second-largest city in Estonia and is slated to become the European Capital of Culture in 2024 with the slogan “Arts of Survival.” The recent Car-Free Avenue project fits in perfectly with the city’s agenda for development, which prioritizes sustainability. The main street that was closed — known as Vabaduse (Freedom) Avenue — was selected for its location between the classical old town and the river Emajogi that flows through the city. The Car-Free Avenue helped to better connect the old town and river and provided a jumping-off point for revitalizing the riverside. Related: London creates massive car-free zones as the city reopens “It [also] created a public discussion all over Estonia on climate change, excessive car ownership and different methods in tackling the issues of building a sustainable future,” the designers explained in a project statement. The month-long urban intervention attracted people from all over Estonia and abroad, counting around 18,000 visitors in the first three days. The road was completely redesigned to create a versatile, car-free public space that abided by social distancing rules. All of the design elements follow a 2-by-2-meter module, including the grass portions, which were cut into 2-meter stripes. + Tartu Autovabaduse Images by Mana Kaasik, Maanus Kullamaa, To?nis Arjus, Eva-Maria Tartu

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Tartu turns a major street into a car-free haven for a month

This luxurious home is a pollutant-free paradise and it’s for sale

October 1, 2020 by  
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Located in Norwalk, Connecticut, this recently listed pollutant-free home at 88 Old Saugatuck Road has been void of chemicals, insecticides and pesticides for more than 26 years. The house has been rebuilt to 100% green standards by the seller, an award-winning LEED AP interior designer specializing in sustainable luxury, green consulting and holistic homes. The house at 88 Old Saugatuck Road isn’t just an energy-efficient, green home built with non-toxic materials and finishes — it is also a stunning example of a residence with clean air . The indoor air is refreshed every 20 minutes with a specialized heat recovery ventilation system that exchanges indoor air with fresh outdoor air. The system filters out allergens like dust, pollen, mold, mites, dander and VOCs all while recovering up to 80% of the heating and cooling energy. There is even a whole house central vacuum system designed to prevent dust from going back into the air while vacuuming. Related: IKEA’s new air purifying curtain will decrease indoor pollutants Thoughtfully constructed with fewer natural resources to minimize its environmental impact , the house also has custom, FSC-certified solid rock maple cabinetry throughout. The cabinetry is free from interior particleboard and formaldehyde-based finishes. Additionally, the walls and trim are painted with no-VOC, water-based latex paint. During the remodel, when a wall was taken out between the original kitchen and living room, the design team reused the appliances in a lower-level catering kitchen rather than purchasing them new. The garage has a charging station for electric vehicles as well as an automatic air filtration system that activates for 20 minutes each time the car pulls in to filter harmful fumes. To reduce electromagnetic fields, there is metal-clad cable electric wiring used instead of non-metallic sheathing. For landscaping, the property’s 1.15 acres are planted with trees and pines to help filter out any car fumes from the street and organic, perennial gardens to promote less maintenance. A driveway storm drain filters pollutants before runoff can enter local waterways, and a five-ring meditation walkway can be found in the back garden . The 4,094-square-foot, single-family home has three bedrooms, three full baths and a two-car garage. + Coldwell Banker Images via Coldwell Banker

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This luxurious home is a pollutant-free paradise and it’s for sale

Third Nature imagines a zero-emission regenerative city district in Bergen

September 28, 2020 by  
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An old logistics port and ferry terminal in Bergen, Norway has been reimagined into an inspiring zero-emission district where nature-based climate adaptation, a community-based sharing economy and renewable building materials will take center stage. Copenhagen-based architecture studio Tredje Natur (Third Nature) is the mastermind behind this grand vision, a 40-hectare mixed-use development known as the future Dokken. The design follows principles of a regenerative city, from the emphasis on public transportation and pedestrian-friendly spaces over car-oriented transit to the inclusion of low-carbon construction strategies, such as adaptive reuse and building with renewable and reusable materials. Developed for the Bergen Municipality in close collaboration with Entasis, Matter by Prix and MOE, the future Dokken regenerative city concept seeks to fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement . Located along the water, Dokken is continually being expanded upon with surplus materials, such as granite rubble, from infrastructural works around the city. The architects aim to better connect the area’s enlarged footprint with two primary elements: a new urban “allmenning,” a climate streetscape that builds on Bergen’s existing urban fabric with unique public spaces, and an all-encompassing, nature-based loop that would create a new 4.5-kilometer coastline. The coastline would introduce a massive, publicly accessible green space connected to the natural harbor-front. Related: Futuristic eco-city powered with renewable energy is unveiled for the Maldives To inject new life into the area, the first phase of the Dokken development would include The Sea Quarter, which comprises the Institute for Marine Research, the Directorate of Fisheries and the new Bergen Aquarium housed within the old Harbor Warehouse; The Sugarhouse Square, a new public space; and Under the Bridge, a place for experimental urban interventions and grass-roots initiatives located under the Puddefjord Bridge. New housing would be built of renewable and reusable materials, while car parking would be tucked underground to create a pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly area with close access to light rail. In total, the urban development encompasses 535,000 square meters of mixed-use, cultural and civic buildings.  “Creating a regenerative city is about integrating sustainability into all the discrete parts if the city, great or small,” the architects said. “In a sustainable future, everything — from our everyday consumer habits to the total ecological footprint of the city — must work together in circular processes, which won’t destroy our nature and climate. The sustainable city must correct the sins of the past by recreating lost narratives and reuniting separate areas and processes — and, in the case of Dokken, by creating new connections and reuniting Bergen with the water.” + Tredje Natur Images via Tredje Natur

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Third Nature imagines a zero-emission regenerative city district in Bergen

Could a private car ban make NYC more livable?

July 29, 2020 by  
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When COVID-19 brought New York City’s traffic to a shadow of itself, Vishaan Chakrabarti, former New York City urban-planning official and founder of Manhattan-based design firm Practice for Architecture and Urbanism (PAU) , drafted an ambitious plan for a car-free future. Dubbed N.Y.C. (“Not Your Car”) , the proposal calls for banning private cars to create a more livable city via cleaner air, fewer car deaths and greater space allocated to the pedestrian realm. PAU’s reimagined roadways would also bolster infrastructure for cycling, ride-sharing and public transportation.  According to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign , over half of New York CIty’s households do not own a car, and the majority of people who do own cars not use them for commuting. However, the amount of space that Manhattan devotes to cars adds up to nearly four times the size of Central Park, as seen in a diagram shared in The New York Times . PAU’s proposal asserts that banning private cars would not only reduce traffic but would also improve life for almost everyone who lives and works in dense American cities by freeing up space for new housing, parks and pedestrian promenades. Related: London creates massive car-free zones as the city reopens “In the case of New York City, the air in the Bronx and Queens, which are largely populated by immigrants and people of color, is more polluted than the other boroughs due to traffic sitting idle on the roads leading to Manhattan,” PAU explained. “Among other ailments, long-term exposure to polluted air is thought to increase the deadliness of COVID-19 , which is a direct result of structural racism in the city. By improving air quality, and thus reducing the health risks that invariably come along with it, the city can begin to tackle the environmental racism that plagues our communities.” The plan also offers suggestions for reengineering car-free roads with two-way bike lanes with protective barriers, dedicated bus lanes, larger dedicated trash areas to replace parking spaces, and additional crosswalks. Bridges would also be rethought; the seven-lane Manhattan Bridge, for instance, could replace four car lanes with bus lanes, paths for cyclists and a pedestrian promenade, while the remaining lanes would be used for taxis and ride-share vehicles. Local communities would also be encouraged to take part in deciding how to reclaim their car-free roads. + Practice for Architecture and Urbanism Images via Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

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Could a private car ban make NYC more livable?

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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London creates massive car-free zones as the city reopens

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

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