When urban infrastructure meets nature’s designers, amazing things can happen
We humans are problem solvers. We’re doers. We encounter challenges and complicated situations and we find ways to surmount them—crafting tools, erecting bridges, programming computers. We’ve innovated and designed our way out of countless predicaments and, dammit, we will forevermore.
We are also hopelessly arrogant.
See, we humans sometimes forget that we are not the only innovators and designers out there. We’re not the only ones able to creatively adapt our way through tricky or threatening conditions. We forget about nature.
Despite geologic barriers and in the face of scientific advice, huge infrastructure projects of the 20th century brought water to the arid Southwest and fueled the growth of a megaregion. But now that era of infrastructure-enabled growth is over, leaving planners, developers and policymakers looking for new ways to sustain growth and rising demand amid diminishing resources.
With the one arm he had left after fighting for the Union during the Civil War, John Wesley Powell led a team of 10 men and four boats on what was likely the most extreme and adventurous fact-finding mission since Lewis and Clark stumbled upon the West Coast of North America. It was 1869, and this was neither the first nor the last river voyage Powell would command.
Grounding architecture within a larger building ecology.
Regional issues such as stormwater treatment and energy production have become major elements of the design of architectural projects, even at a very small scale. As demand for natural resources rises and the impact of pollution spreads, taking these issues into consideration is likely to become a more important part of urban planning and architecture. This year’s national AIA convention recognizes the shift with its theme “Regional Design Revolution: Ecology Matters.”
But many argue that the long-term thinking of regionalism is still a burgeoning concept.
Next month's World Cup in South Africa will bring a lot of attention to the country, and a lot of opportunity. Though many hope the country will see an economic benefit, the biggest impact is likely to be the creation of urban infrastructure.
In one month, the world's most popular sporting event will begin, drawing billions of spectators to screens all over the planet. In another month, it'll all be over.
As America's metropolitan areas meld into "megaregions", officials and policymakers will need to figure out how to deal with their shared and growing infrastructure problems. Consider the ball rolling.
The growing population of America is creating major metropolitan regions that can span state lines and encompass tens of millions of people. These emerging regions are projected to continue to grow, and as they do, their infrastructure is expected to struggle to keep up with the pace of expansion. In areas like transportation, energy and water, how these regions meet the needs of the near future is a question nobody quite knows how to answer.
As the population rises, underused and empty spaces are going to fill in. How well the transition works depends on shifts in demographics and infrastructure, as well as architecture. A studio of UCLA architecture students were asked to plot that transition. But before they could be architects, they had to be planners.
It started with the masterplanning. Then, there was the city block. Then the buildings took a general form. If there was time, the buildings would get their details, like structural specification. But there wasn't a whole lot of time.
Probably not what you’d expect from an architecture course.
Over the course of the year, the Planetizen staff editors review and post summaries of hundreds of articles, reports, books, studies, and editorials related to planning and urban development. Now, we take a look back at 2008 and the trends and issues that defined the year in urban planning.
The economy and the housing market dominated the news this year, but there was also a considerable amount of coverage related to the Presidential election and President-elect Barack Obama. Transportation investment and city living were also major themes of the year. Read the full summaries below to see how these stories played out in 2008...
Without comparable scales for mapping, development and design, cities can’t truly communicate.
For cities to operate well, city functions need to operate at the same scale. Mismatching scales create broad problems for the “system” of a city, and especially for those trying to manage the city form.
James Higgins, a regional manager at the mapping software firm ESRI cites the example of Doha, Qatar. This is a middle-eastern city that is undergoing a huge wave of growth. He showed a picture of downtown Doha, with dozens of high-rises under construction. The problem is that the infrastructure for each of these buildings was constructed at different scales...
A bit of bizarre news caught my attention recently and it got me thinking. It was about these roads in Japan that had been designed to play music as cars drive over them. The engineers behind this idea cut thousands of grooves into the roadway, separated them by certain specific intervals, and then drove their cars. What resulted is a weird humming melody that reverberates in the cars as they drive. The video linked below showing the roads and their songs is awesome, but so much more could be done.
These singing streets are an impressive novelty, but this idea could be far better utilized to improve road safety. Using this same sort of groove-cutting, sound-producing method, it seems like road engineers could make major progress in the reduction of traffic accidents.
The strike has begun! Negotiations have broken down between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, forcing Hollywood's TV and movie writers into a strike. What, you may be asking yourself, does this have to do with planning? Well, to put it bluntly, this strike is arguably the most important opportunity in American history for the widespread development of infrastructure and public works projects.
What planners need to do is take advantage of the void left by the striking writers and whip up some new TV shows and movies that center around the construction of massive public works projects. Those big Hollywood budgets will revive the nation's infrastructure needs, and at the same time keep its people entertained. After two full days of the writers strike, Hollywood is practically aching to hand out some of its money for new material.