Ah – buildings for the Greenway! Thankfully the BSA is on top of things, and trying to push along planning for these empty spaces. Commercial properties? Ground floor retail? A building at Dewey Square? All the buildings ‘don’t have to be museums’? Brilliant – let’s hope we start to see some of these ideas unfold.
Putting an actual building at Dewey Square would be great – holding that space out front of South Station, and improving the streetscape along Summer Street. That, and I was just saying the other night while leaving the Fisherman’s Feast (in the North End) that what the Greenway seems to desperately need is a bar (really, more than one). It’s a strange scene there at night, with most people (it seems) just passing through the space – unless some special event is going on. I say dope little cafe by day, classy bar at night.
One thing I’m tired of hearing about is the scary shadows, blah blah blah. Sure, we need to be careful of blocking out the sun – but people have complained about tall buildings being suggested for the EAST of the Greenway. I’m not going to insult a ninjas intelligence and explain why that’s ridiculous – but c’mon son.
The Boston Society of Architects has announced a new design/ideas competition – entitled SHIFTboston – calling on participants to answer a deceivingly simple question: What if this could happen in Boston [‘this’ being your submission]. SHIFT is looking for the most radical ideas that could change Boston for the better, and create a more dynamic city. The winner will receive $1,000.00 – and, along with honored runners-up, will be exhibited across the city and as part of the SHIFTboston forum [which I believe has something to do with an exhibit at Boston’s ICA, which would be cool if true].
Long story short – here’s your chance to put your money design where your mouth is and propose your vision for a better Beantown. Personally, I’m feeling some pressure from my ego to enter – as I talk so much shit around here…
Overview of the Competition Brief
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
THINK PLAY THINK NEW THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
The SHIFTboston Ideas Competition 2009 is calling on all innovators to submit the most provocative ideas for the City of Boston. SHIFT would like competitors to think: WHAT IF this could happen in Boston?
SHIFT seeks to collect visions that aim to enhance and electrify the urban experience in Boston. Innovative, radical ideas for new city elements such as public art, landscape, architecture, urban intervention and transportation. Competitors could explore topics such as the future city, energy efficiency and ecological urbanism.
YOU TELL US.
Submissions are due on December 11th, and require a $35 entry fee [pretty cheap, if you ask me].
Now, to piggy-back on to this topic of improving the Hub – why isn’t the Rose Kennedy Greenway a runaway success? The Boston Globe raises the question today, to which I’d like to respond with another question: why should it be?
Diagrammatically, the Greenway is little more than a green roof over the now subterranean expressway [as the Globe points out] – and in reality, the park does little to shake this fact. For those of you not familiar with the project, the Greenway is a narrow band of green surrounded by traffic [I’d estimate that if you combined the roads on either side of the Greenway, then they would be wider than the park itself]. There is little protection from the elements, and nearly no ‘privacy’ from passing traffic. Having lunch on many parts [not all] of the Greenway is like eating on a traffic island.
Now, all of this criticism is incredibly unfair. Local firms are still in the process of designing structures for the Greenway, and the trees and other vegetation haven’t had adequate time to fill in and create a sense of ‘place’ and ‘park’. I’m sure in another 5 years or so it will be a much different, and more successful, place.
BUT, with that said – does Boston need another un-programmed park? The Boston Common is less than a 10 minute walk away, with the Public Gardens just past that. Within the Common and Gardens you nearly have the sense of leaving the city amongst the towering trees and hilled landscape – like a mini Central Park. If you’d prefer something along the water, try the Esplanade – where there is a continuous park along the Charles River, reached by pedestrian bridges to avoid getting run-down by a Masshole. If you need more than that, there’s Commonwealth Ave down to the Fens, into Jamaica Pond and eventually the Arboretum – Boston’s ‘Emerald Necklace‘. Then drop on top of all that the unique neighborhood parks – Pope John Paul park is less than a 10 minute walk from my apartment, and provides a number of beautiful spaces along the Neponset River.
Basically, we’ve got parks and open space – ‘more’ isn’t better. Other than providing a place for workers to eat outside on nice days and a brief patch of green for tourists to walk through on their way from the Aquarium to Faneuil Hall, what is the function of the greenway? Who is it meant to attract? What happens there?
For any of you interested in the SHIFTboston competition, I’d suggest looking at the Greenway as a way to transform the city. Open space in Downtown Boston is a rare thing, and the Greenway could be put to better / more interesting + dynamic use.
“In a cold, cold land…
The Mayor of the City decided to create a new settlement. He did not want to conceive just a city plan, but to reveal a new emotion, a new political vision. He loved to repeat a sentence “the city is too important to put it into the hands of the architects”.
Many meetings and workshops with citizens were organized to decide how to go forward with this new project. The Mayor invited a famous urban planner to the workshop, who showed pictures and drawings of many urban models. People were always happy seeing pictures of public spaces, squares, courtyards, gardens etc… otherwise they were just a bit afraid – fearful of those projects made by the very famous masters, drawn by urban planners as “heroes”.
But how to organize such a complex system? What form will the city be? This was the problem: can the desires of the community be shown black on white?”
Video by 2A+P architettura.
[Sectional perspective of underground city – click images for larger view]
An underground Venice in the US Southwest? My ninjas, please. This was my second reaction to this project – after my inner sci-fi / dystopian fiction geek and Frank Herbert fan thought, “yeah, this is pretty dope – and I’d probably be down to live there”.
My peculiar willingness to live in a dystopian, water-starved future aside, the Sietch Nevada – designed by MATSYS for “Out of Water: Innovative technologies in arid climates”, exhibited earlier in ’09 at the University of Toronto – attempts to address the very real issue of the future of the increasingly arid American Southwest.
Lured by cheap land and the promise of endless water via the powerful Colorado River, millions have made this area their home. However, the Colorado River has been desiccated by both heavy agricultural use and global warming to the point that it now ends in an intermittent trickle in Baja California. Towns that once relied on the river for water have increasingly begun to create underground water banks for use in emergency drought conditions. However, as droughts are becoming more frequent and severe, these water banks will become more than simply emergency precautions.
Inverting the stereotypical Southwest urban patterns of dispersed programs open to the sky, the Sietch is a dense, underground community. A network of storage canals is covered with undulating residential and commercial structures. These canals connect the city with vast aquifers deep underground and provide transportation as well as agricultural irrigation. The caverns brim with dense, urban life: an underground Venice.
[View of the urban life among the water bank canals]
MATSYS has rooted the concept of this proposal, quite seriously, in the world created in the Dune novels. This fictional universe focuses on an arid planet, where the indigenous people live in ‘sietch‘ communities in the desert – conserving, recycling, and worshiping their water. Applying this concept to the American Southwest, MATSYS has created a subterranean city – taking the idea of waterbanking one step further, creating an underground canal system that both provides water to the inhabitants and allows for necessary irrigation of the proposed garden spaces in the center of each of the sietch’s cells.
This cellular structure, in plan, allows for the large underground structures seen in the rendering above – while creating large open spaces that open both to the sky or to the newly-formed cavernous world below. Those cells that open to the desert are terraced to allow for urban agricultural project, while those below open to create large civic spaces for public use – much like any other city.
[Plan above ground (left) and below ground (right)]
The grim idea that we will need to retreat below-ground due to catastrophe aside, the concept of a subterranean metropolis carries fascinating implications. Would this be ‘greener’ than our current development? Could people really live like this, below ground, without being pushed to do so by some kind of devastating disaster?
Pretty sick, I think – no matter how you look at it.
[click images for larger view]
The future well being of cities around the globe depends on mankind’s ability to develop and integrate sustainable technology.
Sydney, Australia-based LAVA [Laboratory for Visionary Architecture] has been named the winner of an international competition to design a city center for Masdar – the super green city designed by Foster + Partners for Abu Dhabi, UAE. LAVA envisions Masdar Plaza as an “Oasis of the Future”, highlighting a number of various sustainable technologies while creating an engaging urban plaza that ‘stimulates social interaction’. They’ve focused on adressing three issues which they’ve deemed key to the project:
1. Performance – to demonstrate the use and benefits of sustainable technology in a modern, dynamic, iconic architectural environment.
2. Activation – to activate or operate the sustainable technology in accordance with the functional needs of this environment, 24 hours a day, and 365 days of the year.
3. Interaction – to encourage and stimulate a social dynamic where the life, values, ideals, and vision of the population of Masdar evolve.
The major architectural feature of the plaza is a number of lily pad-like ‘umbrellas’, reminiscent of Wright’s dendriform columns in the Johnson Wax Headquarters. These ‘umbrellas’ provide much-needed shade during the day, and further strengthen the ‘oasis’ metaphor by creating a multi-layer canopy with ‘umbrellas’ of varying heights and sizes. These shading devices are not static, however – they open and close, allowing for an unobstructed view of the sky after sunset. LAVA claims the design is based on the sunflower, stating that the ‘umbrellas’ are to be solar-powered – and that part of their function will be to absorb heat during the day, to be released during the cool desert night.
As in the case of an oasis, the Plaza is the social epicentre of Masdar; opening 24-hour access to all public facilities. Interactive, heat sensitive technology activates low intensity lighting in response to pedestrian traffic and mobile phone usage. The Plaza is able to change into an outdoor cinema for international events and national celebrations. Buildings surrounding the Plaza form gorges, evoking mystical comparisons with the Grand Canyon and the entrance to Petra.
The ‘Oasis of the Future’ demonstrates sustainable technology in a user-friendly architectural environment – flexible use of space, outdoor and indoor comfort, and optimum performance.
These large ‘umbrellas’ are not unknown to desert climates. While this design proposed by LAVA is fairly high-tech and cutting edge, similar shading devices can be seen in regions with a similar climate – in particular, I’m thinking of the large shading structures at the Al Hussein Mosque near the Khan El Khalili bazaar in Cairo, Egypt [images: 1, 2, 3]. While square rather than circular, these structures providing shade for an outdoor prayer space are essentially the same as those proposed by LAVA. I can’t remember, but I think they may even have a specific name? Drop a comment if you know anything more about these ‘umbrellas’, or if you’ve seen them being used in other locations.
All that said, I don’t mean to take away from LAVA’s design, which looks like it could be a beautiful space. The layering of so many of these structures is incredibly visually interesting, while being simple enough to not be ‘in your face’ – I can only imagine that the lighting in the plaza will be incredibly dope with all of these ‘umbrellas’ open.
::view more images of this project at here AMNP’s Flickr page::
::images, info + quoted text courtesy of Laboratory for Visionary Architecture::
[click images for larger view]
We can always count on the ninjas over at BIG to never hold back.
BIG [The Bjarke Ingels Group] has won a limited invitation international competition to design Kazakhstan’s new National Library in the nation’s capital, Astana. Slated to encompass an estimated 30,000 square meters, BIG’s proposal was selected by a jury including the Prime Minister of Kazakhstan and a panel of architects.
Much like some other projects we’ve seen proposed for the country, Kazakhstan is once again going ‘all-out’ – selecting a proposal whose form is based on the Mobius strip, and whose design is dope and equally outlandish. The design will integrate some public/civic functions within the library – surrounding a ‘continuous loop’ of stacks that spirals through the Mobius strip shape. The form will be simplified, internally, into stacking and stepping volumes that are then wrapped in a facade treatment that will give the library its twisting shape – creating, at the same time, what look to be some interesting interior public/open spaces.
Part of the project’s purpose is to serve as a representation of Kazakhstan’s growth, and the future of the country as a major influence in Central Asia. This eye-popping and I’m sure to be iconic design will therefore serve both as a cultural institution within Kazakhstan itself, and as a cultural and economic symbol of Kazakhstan internationally.
The following quoted text is the press release, from BIG:
The design of the National Library combines four universal archetypes across space and time into a new national symbol: the circle, the rotunda, the arch and the yurt are merged into the form of a Moebius strip. The clarity of the circle, the courtyard of the rotunda, the gateway of the arch and the soft silhouette of the yurt are combined to create a new national monument appearing local and universal, contemporary and timeless, unique and archetypal at the same time.
~ Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner on the Astana National Library 2009
Being one of the future cornerstones of Kazakh nation building, and a leading institution representing the Kazakh national identity, designing the library went beyond a mere architectural challenge. The new National Library in Astana, Kazakhstan’s new capital since 1997, shall not only accumulate history but also provide a foundation for new futures for the nation and its new capital. It will serve as an intellectual, multifunctional and cultural center, with a primary goal of reflecting the establishment and development of a sovereign Kazakhstan, its political history, and the Head of the State’s activities and role in the development of the country.
The National Library will be the place where the citizens of Astana, the people of Kazakhstan as well as international visitors can come to explore the country’s history, its diverse cultures, its new capital and its first president. The Library will accommodate and communicate with all segments of the population: civil servants, politicians, researchers, students, museum historians and staff. The Library is conceived as a symbiosis of urbanity and nature. Like Astana, which is located in the heart of the Kazakh mainland, it will be integrated into the heart of a re-created Kazakh landscape. The park around the library is designed like a living library of trees, plants, minerals and rocks allowing visitors to experience a cross section of Kazakhstan’s natural landscape, and personally experience the capital’s transition across the country from Almaty to Astana.
What is a library but an efficient archive of books and a path for the public to reach them.
~ Thomas Christoffersen, the Project Leader on the National Library
In the library they will be able to study the history of the Kazakh culture and language present in the massive collection of books, magazines, film and other media. The archive is organized as a circular loop of knowledge, surrounded by light and air on both sides. On the periphery a 360 degree panorama of Astana – at the heart of the building a contemplative courtyard domed by the heavenly light blue of the celestial vault. The simplicity and perfection of the infinite circle allows for a crystal clear and intuitive orientation in the vast and growing collection that will populate the shelves of the National Library. The ideal addition to the perfect circle will be a series of public programs that simultaneously wraps the library on the outside as well as the inside, above as well as below. Twisting the public program into a continuous spiraling path tracing the library on all sides, creates an architectural organization that combines the virtues of all 4 complimenting models. Like a Mobius strip, the public programs move seamlessly from the inside to the outside and from ground to the sky providing spectacular views of the surrounding landscape and growing city skyline.
The 2 interlocking structures: the perfect circle and the public spiral, create a building that transforms from a horizontal organization where library museum and support functions are placed next to each other, to a vertical organization where they are stacked on top of each other through a diagonal organization combining vertical hierarchy, horizontal connectivity and diagonal view lines. By wrapping the transforming composition of spaces with a continuous skin we create a Mobius strip volume where the facades move from inside to outside and back again.
The envelope of The National Library transcends the traditional architectural categories such as wall and roof. Like a yurt the wall becomes the roof, which becomes floor, which becomes the wall again.
~ Thomas Christoffersen, the Project Leader on the National Library
::click images for larger view – additional images at AMNP’s flickr page::
[note: Does this mean that the ‘architecture of excess’ isn’t dead? Because this project is CRAZY.]
Well, my ninjas, it looks as if Foster has been kicked to the curb in San Francisco – and will not be getting that stimulus project that the Architect’s Newspaper reported on a while back. Instead, a local firm will be chosen to work on the project and receive the stimulus pay. To all my non-US based ninjas: I’m sorry to be so ‘pro-USA’ about this whole stimulus thing, but I expect you to be upset if your government is going to hire non-local designers on projects whose entire purpose is to create jobs and get people working/making money. Every ninja for him/herself around here these days…
*caution: rant ahead*
Really, I thought this was important because the legislation that dealt with whether or not stimulus funding had to be awarded to ‘local’ workers was some bullshit, pandering to ‘blue-collar’ Americans [steel manufacturers, in particular, I believe]. Look, I want politrick-cians to make sure ‘blue-collar’ workers are protected, but I hate that the rest of us are marginalized in their rhetoric. Do I work in a steel mill? No, but I still live here + vote. Architects, engineers, and designers are all US workers, too – our interests should be protected by our supposed representation as much as the next ninja. Those of us in ‘white-collar’ professions are just as desperate for work in this recession – and as the government is fairly consistently pushing for a ‘knowledge economy’, people who bought into the concept and became an architect or engineer [or whatever] instead of a construction worker [incurring massive debt, oftentimes, along the way] should be considered in the stimulus bill, too.
Anyways, this should all be in writing somewhere – guilt and bad publicity should not have entered into the decision to not award this stimulus project in SF to Foster. It should have been in the original legislation – and now it should be amended.
It was announced last month that BOLLES+WILSON was the winner of an international design competition for the new Korça City [Albania] Center Master Plan. The BOLLES+WILSON entry was chosen for its “Scenographic Urbanism” concept – described as “a choreographing of new buildings and public spaces, which pays close attention to the existing grains and potentials of this small but spatially complex city”.
BOLLES+WILSON identified five zones for the revitalization of the 197,000 sqm city center. Each zone possessing its own unique character together they add up to a network of urbane public spaces.
The extensive spectrum of solutions filled out in visual vignettes and disciplined by precise plan geometries was chosen by the jury as the template for Korça’s future.
Bustler actually has more information on the project – including plans and diagrams further explaining the actual design that you should definitely check out. I, on the other hand, simply wanted to showcase these siiick vignettes that were done for the competition – because they had me pretty geeked.
Taken for a Ride is an amazing documentary by Jim Kleina and Martha Olson that documents the efforts to derail mass transit in America. Ever wonder why the U.S. has the worst mass transportation system in the industrialized world? Using historical footage and investigative research, this film tells how GM fought to push freeways into the inner cities of America, and push public transportation out.
I just came across this documentary, which had been recommended to me but I hadn’t seen. Good thing we bailed them out with all that government funding to save their asses – you know, since they’ve always looked out for the interests of the US public.
::Video Sundays, or VS, is a weekly feature here on AMNP. For more architecture-related videos, click on any Sunday in the sidebar calendar â€“ or on the â€˜videosâ€™ category in the â€˜archjutsuâ€™ section. And donâ€™t hesitate to submit suggestions for video features to architecture[at]myninjaplease[dot]com::
LA has successfully reduced gang-related violence in 16 of it’s public parks, since starting th Summer Night Lights program – where they essentially keep the parks well-lit until midnight. The program uses a combination of private and public funding to provide the extended lighting, along with sports leagues, disc jockeys and food four nights a week in the parks through August. And all for under $3 million – which seems like a small price to pay for public safety and some community building. Looks to be proof that small concerted efforts can have huge impacts on our cities [I’m talking at you, Obama – and your ‘Office of Urban Affairs’]
.:via the NY Times->