SOM designs a low-carbon waterfront community for Chinas most livable city

October 14, 2020 by  
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Global design firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) has unveiled designs for Jiuzhou Bay, a new 5.6 million-square-foot mixed-use neighborhood in coastal Zhuhai, which was recently named China’s most livable city by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Selected from a shortlist of 10 global design firms, SOM’s proposal targets a low-carbon scheme that makes use of the region’s abundant natural resources — the sea and the sun — to generate renewable energy and reduce the development’s environmental footprint. Located in China’s southern Guangdong province in the Pearl River Delta, Zhuhai is a burgeoning tech hub with a reputation that has been recently elevated by a connection to the international finance and tourism centers Hong Kong and Macau via the longest sea-crossing bridge in the world. The new development will be a beacon for sustainable growth in the tech-heavy region that the architects say may soon rival Silicon Valley. The proposed Jiuzhou Bay development will include state-of-the-art office spaces, residences, retail and infrastructure, such as a robust transportation hub that offers connections to land, sea and rail across more than 40 acres. Related: Historic Zhuhai sugar factory to be reborn as a low-carbon cultural hub The city’s maritime history has also greatly informed the architects’ design decisions, particularly with the five modular canopies that wrap around the three sides of a 1.8 million-square-foot port to form a series of covered pedestrian alleyways, a lively retail environment and interlinked courtyards along the waterfront. Solar panels and rainwater harvesting systems would be integrated into the canopies. The masterplan also includes a lighthouse-inspired skyscraper with offices, a 20-story Ritz Carlton hotel , a sky bar and an observation deck. “The forms of the canopies are inspired by the local legend of the Fisher Girl and reflect the fishing nets commonly seen on the coastline throughout the region,” said Sean Ragasa, design director at SOM. “We wanted our design to resonate with the culture and history of Zhuhai, and to evoke a story that’s familiar to everyone who lives there.” + SOM Images via SOM

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SOM designs a low-carbon waterfront community for Chinas most livable city

CRA unveils designs for Biotic, a high-tech district in Brazil

September 8, 2020 by  
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After two years of development, international design firm Carlo Ratti Associati and consultancy firm Ernst & Young have unveiled their masterplan designs for Biotic, a high-tech innovation district in Brasilia, Brazil. Inspired by the Brazilian capital’s modernist masterplan engineered by urban planner Lucio Costa and architect Oscar Niemeyer, Biotic was conceived as an extension of the city’s historic layout as well as a reinterpretation of the city’s iconic superblocks to create a more nature-centric community with greater mixed-use programming.  Developed for public real estate company TerraCap, the 10-million-square-foot Biotic would be located between the UNESCO World Heritage “Plano Piloto” — the foundation of Brasilia in 1960 — and the 42,000-hectare Brasilia National Park in the northwest of the Federal District. The proposed technology and innovation district focuses on “domesticating nature” to allow residents, workers and visitors closer contact with nature in both public and private areas. Related: How Barcelona “superblocks” return city streets to the people The Biotic project expands on Brasilia’s iconic Superquadra (or superblock ) modules by subdividing each into pedestrian blocks with street fronts. These internal neighborhoods would not only be protected from traffic and pollution, but the inward-facing spaces would also promote social cohesion and community. The masterplan also champions mixed-use programming — a feature that was typically avoided in Brazil’s modernist urban planning in the mid-century. The architects intend to take advantage of Brasilia’s year-round mild climate to cultivate stronger connections with nature. For example, outdoor offices would be designed with curtain walls that could open like real curtains. Digital technologies embedded into plazas , pedestrian zones, shared vegetable gardens and other spaces would be used to monitor sunlight, wind and temperature and create comfortable working environments while allowing close contact with nature. “The office buildings, hovering above the ground level, are designed for sun and wind to come in,” said James Schrader, project manager at CRA. “Thanks to a system of openable wooden facades that can slide along the building like a curtain, the interior spaces will open to the exterior, allowing users to enjoy Brasilia’s weather. This project merges the interior and exterior into one space.” + Carlo Ratti Associati Images via Carlo Ratti Associati

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CRA unveils designs for Biotic, a high-tech district in Brazil

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?

NBBJ to design Tencents futuristic Net City in Shenzhen

June 17, 2020 by  
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Global design firm NBBJ has won an international competition to design Net City, a 2-million-square-meter masterplanned Shenzhen district for Tencent, China’s largest internet company. Envisioned as a “city of the future,” Net City will prioritize “human-centric” and sustainable design through the inclusion of an extensive public transit network, a green corridor and energy-generating systems. The abundance of greenery will also help the project meet the goals of China’s Sponge City Initiative so that stormwater runoff is collected and managed throughout the campus. Developed for the 320-acre peninsula along Shenzhen’s Dachanwan, Net City was created to meet Tencent’s growing office needs in the upcoming years. The mixed-use masterplan covers roughly the same size and shape of Midtown Manhattan and will be centered on a new Tencent building that is surrounded by a living quarter with schools and an assortment of retail spaces and other amenities. The buildings will range in height from single-story structures to three-story towers as part of an overarching design vision for differentiated spaces with strong sight lines to nature. Related: MVRDV designs a sustainable “urban living room” for Shenzhen “A typical city calls for simplistic and efficient zoning to keep everything under strict control and facilitate the flow of goods, cars and people,” said Jonathan Ward, design partner at NBBJ. “This principle was driven by a love for the industrial age machine. In today’s computer-driven world, we are free to imagine a highly integrated city that brings ‘work, live, play’ closer together to foster more synergy between people. This fits in perfectly with the collegial, collaborative culture of Tencent.” A public transit network with a subway, bus and shuttle system as well as a folding green corridor for pedestrians, bicycles and autonomous vehicles will shape a pedestrian-friendly environment. General vehicles will be diverted underground. In addition to an abundance of green space ranging from recreational parks to wetlands, Net City will also include rooftop solar panels, green roofs and environmental performance trackers to reduce the district’s overall environmental footprint. + NBBJ Images via NBBJ

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NBBJ to design Tencents futuristic Net City in Shenzhen

First Smart Forest City in Mexico will be 100% food and energy self-sufficient

November 8, 2019 by  
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Milan-based architecture firm Stefano Boeri Architetti has unveiled innovative designs for a nature-infused smart city in Cancun, Mexico that will serve as a model for resilient and sustainable urban planning. Created for Honduras-based textile conglomerate and property developer Grupo Karim, ‘Smart Forest City – Cancun’ is a proposed alternative to plans for a shopping district in the area. The masterplan would reforest a 557-hectare site — currently used as a sand quarry for hotels — and create mixed-use development that would be completely food and energy self-sufficient. The proposed Smart Forest City – Cancun would house 130,000 residents as well as 7,500,000 plants of 400 different species selected by botanist and landscape architect Lauri Gatti. More than 200,000 trees would be planted to create a ratio of 2.3 trees per inhabitant, while the remainder of the vegetation would be mostly shrubs, bushes, green roofs and vertical gardens. “Thanks to the new public parks and private gardens, thanks to the green roofs and to the green facades, the areas actually occupied will be given back by nature through a perfect balance between the amount of green areas and building footprint,” the press release stated. Related: Stefano Boeri will revitalize Genoa with sustainable energy-producing urban design With help from the German company Transsolar, the mixed-use development would be surrounded by a ring of solar panels that provide enough renewable energy to meet the residents’ needs. The city would also include an agricultural field belt that wraps around the urban area. The fields would be irrigated by a water channel fed by an underwater maritime pipe and treated with a desalination tower. Parking for traditional vehicles would be located on the city periphery; a MIC (Mobility in Chain) system would provide internal electric and semi-automatic vehicles to transport residents and visitors throughout the development. As a testing hub for sustainable urbanism , the Smart Forest City – Cancun proposal includes a center for advanced research large enough to host international organizations, university departments and companies. The center would include research and development facilities dedicated to sustainability issues and green infrastructure. + Stefano Boeri Architetti Images via Stefano Boeri Architetti and The Big Picture

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First Smart Forest City in Mexico will be 100% food and energy self-sufficient

Canada unveils its first chemical-free public outdoor pool and it’s gorgeous

September 13, 2019 by  
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Toronto-based architects, gh3* have just unveiled a stunning chemical-free natural pool in the city of Edmonton, Alberta. The Borden Park Natural Swimming Pool, which replaced an existing pool that dated back to the 1950s, was incorporated with several innovative natural filtration processes that uses a combination of stone, gravel, sand and botanic filtering to keep the waters clean and pristine. The project was a massive undertaking from the start. The old pool and infrastructure had to be completely gutted to make room for the new, completely chemical -free swimming pool. The whopping 64,465 square foot complex is made up of seasonal pavilion and landscaped pool area that accommodates up to 400 swimmers. In addition to the main swimming area, there is also a kids pool. Next to the outdoor area, a large contemporary building houses the universal changing rooms, along with showers and bathrooms. There is also a sandy beach and picnic area, as well as a volleyball court and exhibition space. Related: Chemical-free community swimming pool is filled with recycled rainwater filtered through plants To create an all-natural swimming pool that was safe for swimmers, the designers had to work within Canada’s ultra strict regulations for public swimming pools. To completely avoid the use of chemicals was challenging, but the team worked with several experts to create a balanced ecosystem where plant materials, microorganisms and nutrients come together to create a system of “living water.” The pool water is filtrated in two ways: using a biological-mechanical system or using the constructed wetland and gravel filter filled wtih Zooplankton . These soil-free systems allow for a chemical and disinfectant free filtering system in which water is completely cleaned via a natural process as it circulates. The system entails a long circulation process that sees the water flow through a sand and stone pond first, then a hydro botanic pond. Adjacent to these ponds, a granular filter PO4 adsorption unit was installed that runs along the gabion walls that run the length of the pool, allowing the water to circulate from one end to the other unnoticed. The entire system allows for a natural, chemical-free cleaning process that is entirely eco-friendly and safe for swimmers. The natural swimming pool is the firm’s latest addition to the Edmonton area. In 2015, the designers unveiled a gorgeous glowing mirrored pavilion in the same area. + gh3* Photos via gh3*

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Canada unveils its first chemical-free public outdoor pool and it’s gorgeous

The planet is losing an area of forest cover the size of the UK each year

September 13, 2019 by  
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The rate of world deforestation continues to accelerate, despite governments’ promises to reverse it. Now, the world loses 64 million acres a year of forested land, which is equivalent to the size of the United Kingdom, according to a new study by Climate Focus . Thirty-seven governments as well as many multinational companies, NGOs and groups representing indigenous communities have signed the New York Declaration on Forests since it sprang from the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in 2014. This declaration pledged to cut the deforestation rate in half by 2020 and to end it by 2030. Unfortunately, this feel-good, non-legally binding declaration has been hugely unsuccessful. Since the declaration was penned, tree cover loss has skyrocketed by 43 percent, while tropical primary forests have been slashed. The world is now in worse shape than when the well-intended pledge was made. Some countries are making an effort. Indonesia slowed its rate of deforestation by a third between 2017 and 2018. Some countries, such as Ethiopia, Mexico and El Salvador, are determinedly planting trees. But these attempts are overshadowed by deforestation in much of Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa. Major forests in these regions saw marked decreases in tree cover between 2014 and 2018. Latin America lost the most forest by volume, but Africa experienced the greatest increase in the rate of deforestation. Of course, the recent Amazon wildfires are bringing deforestation to a whole new level. Climate scientists worry about feedback loops, where climate change makes trees drier, leading to increased flammability and more fires and carbon dioxide, which in turn makes things drier, hotter and even more flammable. “Deforestation, mostly for agriculture, contributes around a third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions,” Jo House, an environmental specialist at the University of Bristol, told The Guardian . “At the same time, forests naturally take up around a third of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. This natural sink provided by forests is at risk from the dual compounding threats of further deforestation and future climate change . The continued loss of primary forests at ever-increasing rates. despite their incalculable value and irreplaceability, is both shocking and tragic.” + Climate Focus Via The Guardian Image via Robert Jones

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The planet is losing an area of forest cover the size of the UK each year

Get serious about climate change with this board game

April 30, 2019 by  
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For years, concerned environmentalists have been warning decision-makers to stop playing around and get serious about climate change . But for California’s Marin County, the game might be the only way to getting people and lawmakers into taking climate change seriously. Game of Floods, the board game developed by Marin County, is intended for students and urban planners to introduce players to the complexities of climate adaptation in a fun and engaging way. Marin County is located within the San Francisco Bay Area and although it is one of the country’s wealthiest counties, the threats of sea level rise and climate change are still insurmountable. According to  City Labs,  the rapidly rising sea level threatens to flood billions of dollars worth of roads, homes and businesses within 8 miles of Marin’s shoreline in the next 15 years. This imminent threat includes 10 to 20 percent of the county’s buildings and thousands of residents. The Marin Community Development Agency created an interactive board game to educate planners, community organizations and citizens about the seriousness of climate change and flooding, and the difficulties of reaching a collaborative solution. City Lab’s Laura Bliss calls the Settlers of Catan-style game, “a choose-your-own-hazard-mitigation romp created by a team of local public works engineers and planners.” How to play ‘Game of Floods’ The goal of the game is to develop a vision for the year 2050 on the fictional Marin Island, which represents conditions that apply to counties throughout the Bay Area. Four to six players select community assets to protect, which range from hospitals, to roads, farms, electric plants and bird colonies. The players then move through flooding and sea-level rise scenarios, select different adaptation strategies and defend their choices. Players are forced to consider a multitude of benefits, trade-offs and consequences for each choice, which inevitably sparks debate between the players. Each strategy is analyzed for its environmental impacts, social consequences and price tag. The ultimate objective of the game is to hear each player’s strategy reach a group consensus of the best vision for 2050. Who can play? Due to its widespread popularity, anyone can purchase the game from the County of Marin for $50 , which offsets the cost of its printing and production. The game is intended to educate students, community groups, residents, planners, professional networks and to spark citizen engagement regarding climate change throughout the area. Related: Global warming will melt over 1/3 of the Himalayan ice cap by 2100 Five fast facts on flooding Tragically, carbon emissions are already at an irreversible level that is causing glaciers to melt into the ocean and increase sea level. The media has shown the devastating impacts on arctic species such as polar bears, but what does sea level rise mean for people throughout the world? Here are some alarming facts from the  Mother Nature Network to get your attention: 1. Every inch of sea-level rise equals 50 to 100 inches of beach loss. Think of the ocean as a massive bowl. Every drop of water added into the bowl brings the water level higher up the sloped sides. These sides represent beaches, coastal roads, wetlands and shorelines around the world. 2. The number of days with coastal flooding in the U.S. has more than doubled since the 1980s . A study by Climate Central analyzed the increase in flood days in coastal cities and estimated the percent of that increase that is directly related to human causes. The report found the number of flood days more than doubled in many cities and attributed more than 60 percent of that increase to “unnatural” sea level rise in every city. 3. Up to 216 million people will live below sea level by 2100. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 300 to 650 million people live on land that will be below sea level by 2100, according to current trends in flooding. 4. Sea-level rise contaminates drinking water. When the level of the sea rises, salt water can enter fresh ground water and aquifers. This is called salt water intrusion. Although municipalities can process the salt out of the water, this procedure is complex, costly and requires significant infrastructure to create a desalination plant. 5. Coastal flooding will cost major cities $1 trillion every year if they do not take drastic steps to adapt. Without preventive measures, cities and their residents will have to pay for costly damage to infrastructure, including buildings, roads and utilities. Game of Floods originally launched in 2015, but the County of Marin has released updated editions due to its popularity.  The game  won many awards , including the American Planning Association’s National Planning Achievement Award and California Award of Excellence, a California State Association of Counties Merit Award and a Marin County Innovation Recognition Award. Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) use the game for their staff and outreach activities. “It all boils down to getting a conversation started about a very important topic,” Roberta Rewers of the American Planning Association told CityLab . “It visualizes what could happen in a community, and it gets people thinking about how choices have impacts.” + Marin County Images via County of Marin

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Get serious about climate change with this board game

The Michael Pollan lens on transportation

March 27, 2019 by  
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Can healthy eating principles also foster a healthier transport evironment?

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The Michael Pollan lens on transportation

Why mobility is a climate change issue

January 16, 2019 by  
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It’s emerging as a key way that cities can promote sustainability and reduce transportation emissions.

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Why mobility is a climate change issue

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