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.
Nature’s Benz. LA Autoshow reveals a radically green Mercedes-Benz concept called Biome– it’s made of organic fibers, powered by the sun, and releases pure oxygen into the air! The system behind this model is called “Mercedes-Benz Symbiosis,” in which vehicles are seamless part of the ecosystem.
Facebook’s Exodus. According to the New York Times, Facebook is moving out — of the office clusters in Palo Alto — and into an insulated 57-acre corporate campus in Menlo Park, California, which is to be renovated by San Francisco-based Gensler. About 2,000 workers, including Mark Zuckerberg, will be moved in within next 10 months. These young 20-somethings don’t want a sleek corporate office, but something idiosyncratic and soulful, which the new campus aims for.
Code Green. Crain‘s reports that the New York City Council continues to green up the city’s building codes. A trio of bills looks to “create more energy-efficient roofs.” While the first bill requires more reflective and less heat-absorbent roof materials, the second removes building-height limitations from solar thermal equipment and electric collectors and the third bill will add heat and power systems to the list of allowable rooftop structures.
Well-spoken Vowell. Chicago magazine talks to Sarah Vowell about Chicago — and a little New York — architecture. “It’s what I do for fun: Go see buildings. I like architecture because it’s so nonverbal,” she said, and then goes on to discuss her personal relationship with the Carson Pirie-Scott Building. Vowell recently finished her new book on Hawaii called Unfamiliar Fishes.
Block by Block. Brooklyn-based illustrator James Gulliver Hancock is attempting to draw All the Buildings in New York in quite beautiful pen and ink sketches like the one above. Watch a video of the artist explaining his inspirations, style, and how a chained up wheelchair is architecture after the jump. (via Gothamist.)
Green Boom. Blair Kamin takes a look at the sustainability of two billowing icons in Chicago and New York. Studio Gang’s Aqua Tower is going for LEED certification while Frank Gehry’s New York tower will not seek the USGBC’s approval but claims to be green nonetheless. Kamin notes the importance of such moves, saying of Gehry: “What he, in particular, does–or doesn’t do–can have enormous influence, not simply on architects but on developers.”
Trolley Boom. NPR has a piece on the explosion of streetcars across the country with planned or completed systems in over a dozen cities.
Bike Boom. Cycling advocate Elly Blue discusses a new study on Grist stating that bikes deserve their own infrastructure independent from autos. And not just a striped bike lane, Blue notes, but separated lanes called “cycle tracks” like one installed along Brooklyn’s Prospect Park West.
Soane Boom. The Independent reports on a planned renovation to the Sir John Soane Museum in London, that architect’s treasure trove of antiquities and architectural memorabilia from across the world. Plans include opening up a new floor that hasn’t been open to the public since Soane died in 1837.
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.
Where one architect might see an incinerator, Bjarke Ingels, principal at Dutch firm BIG, envisions a ski slope. Ingels has been fond of the mountain typology and he hasn’t been all that subtle about it, giving projects names like Mountain Dwellings and emblazoning Mount Everest on the side.
In his latest competition-winning proposal for Copenhagen, BIG takes the concept one step further, with a mountain you can actually ski down.
One year ago, a catastrophic earthquake tore through Haiti killing 200,000 people. Today, some progress has been made to return to normality but a Goliath mountain of rubble that was once Port au Prince still must be cleared and housing built for the vast population living in ruins and tents.
Toward that end, ARCHIVE, Architecture for Health in Vulnerable Environments, has announced the winners of a housing competition and will build five houses that promote healthy living in Haiti this year. Winners from around the world paid special attention to limit the transmission of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, the leading deadly diseases in the country.
Students enrolled in a sustainable design-build course at Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont closed out 2010 by building their own house – a rather tiny house. Covering a mere 96 square feet, the structure cost only $20 a foot for a total price tag well under $2,000. No small feat for a bespoke building, especially considering this tiny house has gone green in a big way.
Since opening in 2008, The Green Building in Louisville, Kentucky has been quietly awaiting the verdict on just how sustainable the three-story adaptive reuse project really is. As expected, the 115-year-old former dry goods store designed by California-based (fer) studio announced that the project received LEED Platinum certification, becoming the city’s first Platinum building.
New York City Council passed legislation Wednesday that aims to save the city one billion gallons of drinking water a year. Four bills slated to be implemented by summer 2012 will curb bottled water usage, reduce leaks, refine water efficiency standards, and ban some water-inefficient equipment.