Toy Cities. Our friends at Planetizen tell us that Avondale, AZ had urban planner James Rojas over for a playdate of sorts. Citizens who took part in this re-visioning session got to use pipecleaners, Legos, blocks, and other assorted toys to build their ideal version of the city. According to Rojas, this bottom-up community planning method breaks down barriers and allows people to exercise a degree of creativity not often found at the typical charrette.
Food Oases. Streetsblog questions the much hyped notion of the “food desert”: is it media myth or reality? It seems that urban areas aren’t always as lacking in food stores as they seem, at least depending on your definition of supermarket. Even the USDA, who recently debuted their new food desert locator, might be a bit confused about what constitutes a food desert. (In fact, the web application says that a part of Dedham, MA is a food desert. Maybe they don’t count the Star Market that’s right near that Census tract…)
Suburban Swan Song. Slate’s architecture columnist Witold Rybczynski has penned an obit of sorts to that symbol of suburban sprawl, the McMansion. He posits that when the recession is over people will be in the mood to buy homes again, but that they may be hesitant to purchase a behemoth of a building that costs a lot to heat and cool.
Green Alert. Inhabitat takes a look at the latest in the green roof trend in the form of sloping roofs on townhomes in the City of Brotherly Love. It seems that the historic Center City has a new (and almost LEED certified) infill development called Bancroft Green. The high-end homes here sport some nifty plant covered roofs as well as geothermal heating and herb gardens that capture storm runoff and spaces designed specifically for bicycle storage.
Urban Archaeology. Our friends at Rustwire show us that there can be a kind of mournful beauty in industrial decay, as seen in a photo essay of defunct Ohio steel mills by Paul Grilli. The amazing images are part of a series by the Youngstown-based photographer, who is working to document every steel mill in the area.
Hot Chile. Inhabitat tells us that, aside from the Fenix capsule used to rescue trapped miners in October 2010, Chile can now boast of another design innovation that will benefit mine workers. In an effort to shield them from the relentless heat and sun of the Atacama Desert region, AATA Architects has come up with a motel-like residence made of shipping containers. And that’s not even the coolest part – they plan to cover the entire complex with a huge canvas roof to protect the men from the harsh environment.
Who’s the Boss? Design Observer ponders who architects are really working for. The potential for tension between designers, financiers and sometimes communities is nothing new. But adding a tyrannical dictator to the equation makes the question all the more compelling, especially when that dictatorial regime might misuse the involvement of a name-brand starchitect to purchase a “commodity of cultural acumen.”
Suburban Poor. Poverty isn’t just an inner-city problem. Planetizen brings news that the suburban city of Mississauga, Ontario is trying to come up with ways to best reach those populations that it deems underserved. Borrowing an idea from nearby Toronto, they want to identify ‘priority neighborhoods’ that are in need of access to services.
Shifting Skyline. London’s famed skyline may be getting an addition, and it’s not a new building. The Architect’s Journal tells us that Mayor Boris Johnson recently approved a plan by architects Wilkinson Eyre and Expedition Engineering for a proposed cable car system designed to link two key 2012 Olympic venues, the O2 Stadium and the Excel Exhibition Hall.
NYC’s Youngest Landmark. The New York Times City Room blog reports that NYC has four new landmarks: the Engineer’s Club, the Neighborhood Playhouse, Greyston Gatehouse and the Japan Society, which having been completed in 1971, makes it the youngest of the city’s historic landmarked structures.
Red Hook North. Meanwhile NYT Magazine reports that Red Hook developer Greg O’Connell hopes to do for tiny Mt. Morris, NY what he did for a slice of once-decrepit Brooklyn waterfront. Will the former NYPD detective’s progressive form of gentrification and downtown revitalization work in an ailing upstate town?
Onion domes in Paris. Inhabitat shares the news that the Russians are coming to Paris, in the form of a new domed church and cultural center. Situated near the Eiffel Tower, this new structure is the result of bi-national collaboration from the architects at Arch-Group and Sade Sa.
Tobias Wong, the so-called “bad boy” of design, has his first solo show at SFMOMA. The honor comes posthumously, as Wong died in 2010 at the age of 35. Henry Urbach, SFMOMA’s Helen Hilton Raiser Curator of Architecture and Design, developed the exhibit, which features over 30 works by the late artist/designer.
Wong’s designs, which he commonly referred to as “postinteresting” and “paraconceptual,” often played with the subversion of today’s consumer culture and the obsession with wealth and the toys that often accompany it, as well as post-9/11 American anxiety and its material manifestations.
Triangle Fire Open Archive. This March marks the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, a 1911 catastrophe that killed 146 people, many of them poor immigrant women. That fire became a rallying cry for the labor movement in America and an impetus for the creation of the fire codes of today. The Triangle Fire Open Archive commemorates the event in a very modern way, with user-generated contributions that allow the larger community to tell the story of the fire and critically reflect on its relevance today. (And today, March 16, the Brooklyn Historical Society give visitors a rare chance to view the archive in person from 3pm to 7pm.)
Slumming it in SoHo. Today’s SoHo may be home to glitzy galleries, high-end retail, and the east coast branch of the infamous Karadshian clan, but it wasn’t always so swanky. In fact, as Ephemeral New York tells us, it was sort of smelly, especially along a blighted stretch of West Broadway that was better known as “Rotten Row.”
History of Urban Design 101. Urban Omnibus dives into the history of urban design as an academic discipline and talks with Parsons prof Victoria Marshall about how schools are shaping urban designers of the future.
Chez Simpsons. Las Vegas is a study in architectural illusions, with its own versions of the NYC skyline, the Eiffel Tower and Venice’s Grand Canal. But nearby Henderson, NV has its own architecture fantasy bona fides: Curbed tells us that Henderson was once home to the house that the animated Simpsons family called home.
Our friends at The Feast bring us news that molecular gastronomy guru Ferran Adria plans to build a campus for his elBulliFoundation that’s reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss fantasy. Adria aims for this complex to be ultra sustainable, with a goal of zero emissions.
Wondering what you might expect to find inside these whimsical, Wonka-esque structures? So were we. We hear that the current plan calls for an archive and brainstorming space (yes, brainstorming). Even more exciting, there will be “coral-like ceramic caverns” for the foundation’s chef-scholars to work in.
With a kitchen this crazy, we can’t wait to see what culinary creations are sure to follow.
Buffalo-based architect Dennis Maher has devised his own version of adaptive reuse – he’s remaking abandoned buildings into sculptures. Inspired by the shrinking Rust Belt city where he lives and works, his sculptures “honor the former lives of these raw materials” in a way that is striking and thought-provoking. The large works of art in Undone-Redone City are complex, and offer us a new way of seeing buildings, or at least their elements. In Maher’s creations, a door and some flooring and a window frame might all mesh together to form a new shape and a new function that the original builders probably never imagined.
Click through for a slideshow of Maher’s sculptures.