1. Melbourne Metro Swanston Street Project
This mega project headlines this week’s newspapers around town. Estimated to cost $11 billion, the megaproject is expected to start construction in 2018 and finish by 2026. The proposed route will run just 10m beneath Swanston Street, over existing underground railway lines, the citylink route and under the Yarra River. With the timing of just one day after the scrapping of the East West Link tunnel, the Victorian Government has made it loud and clear: more public transport, for less car. Public response, however, has been mixed. Beside the praise for the new Government for axing the East West Tunnel project, many are concerned about the unresolved geotechnical challenge & the potential disruption along Swanston Street. Financially, the $11 billion project won’t seem to be supported by the Federal Government, leaving the bill split 3-way between State Government, Commonwealth and private sector. Read more here.
As part of a series of short essays by The Guardian exploring the rise (and fall) of cities through architecture, Nick Gadd tells the story of The Royal Exhibition Building, a building that epitomises the transformation of Melbourne from a sleepy town to a world city. Design by Joseph Reed for the 1880 Melbourne International Exhibition, followed by a decade of immense cultural, social and economic activity. Journalist George Sala on his visit coined the famous term “Marvellous Melbourne”, registering the city as a legitimate rival to Sydney. Throughout history, the building has been used for multiple purposes, namely an aquarium, pageants, concerts, royal visits host, hot air balloon ascents, boxing matches… It even became a temporary hospital during the global influenza pandemic of 1918-1920. The building stands today as an icon of the city and will be for long time.
99% Invisible is a radio show about design, architecture & the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world. This week episode #160 talks about the design of lock and the act of lock picking history. Lock’s invention dated back as far as ancient Egypt and is continued to be developed today. In 1770, Joseph Bramah, an English polymath engineer, created the famous Bramah lock which was said to be unpickable. He even turned it into a lock-picking competition that lasted for 70 years until an American locksmith named A. C. Hobbs visited England for the 1891 World Expo, and cracked open the Bramah lock. This has marked the end to our brief era of ‘perfect security’, since which we have never gotten it back. The world today has moved away from trying to invent the perfect lock and focuses more on social order formation. Only when you live in a well organized society that you will truly feel safe, and no locks in the world can provide that.
4. Urban Code – Anne Mikoleit & Moritz Purckhauer
Urban Code is an engaging and easy-to-read book co-authored by Anne Mikoleit – researcher and PhD candidate, teaching architecture and urban design in the Department of Architecture at ETH Zurich; and Moritz Pürckhauer – a former researcher at ETH Zurich and a current practitioner in Zurich. The book offers 100 observations/lessons undertaken in New York City neighbourhood of SoHo, attempting to investigate and decode the inherent logic of the city. Urban Code is essentially a book about place experience, written creatively and descriptively using day-to-day languages and scenarios to explain how city works and why people behave or interact the way they do in urban environment. Below are some of my favourite extracts from the book:
Salespeople possess analytical knowledge of the district – […] Salespeople are analysts. The survive in the dense jungle of competing business, they must constantly appeal to the wishes of their customers. As subtly as possible, they elicit the consumer’s most urgent desires, only to project them in the next moment onto store design, product layout, price, and hours of operation.
Tourist carry bags –The street realm has always been, and will continue to be, a form of advertisement. From small entrance signs, through large display windows and billboards to plastic and paper bags, a broad spectrum of efficient marketing strategies has developed. Shopping bags are becoming more and more popular as objects of advertisement.[…]
No entrance is the same as any other entrance – The differing needs of either proximity or distance to public life are reflected most quickly in the respective expression of the entrance position. When, as in SoHo, entrances constitute a direct transfer to the public realm, they become meaningful points of personal contact, and they facilitate sustainable use through shops on the ground floor.
Pedestrians walk on sidewalks– […] Apart from its chief task, that of leading pedestrians safely from point A to point B, it also serves as a sales floor, promenade, meeting point, jogging route, eating space, store, playground, recovery area, workplace, and cellar entrance. […] sidewalks that fulfill non of these supplementary functions will also carry no passersby. Therefore, the sidewalk being used as such depends on a colorful diversity of usage.
Small public squares are busier than large public squares – The smaller a public square, a courtyard, or a crossroad, the greater the probability that one will meet one’s neighbor or friend. Therefore not only the presence of these places, but also their size has an impact on social networking in a locality. As William H.Whyte wrote in “The social life of small urban spaces”, “I end, then, in praise of small spaces. The multiplier effect is tremendous, it is not just the number of people using them, but the larger number who pass by and enjoy them vicariously, or even the larger number who feel better about the city center for knowledge of them. For a city, such places are priceless, whatever the cost.
This book was published in 2012 in conjunction with the exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA) by Barry Bergdoll – The Phillip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design MoMA & Reinhold Martin – Director of Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architect. The Museum paired 5 interdisciplinary teams – each assembled by one or more emerging designers – to create ideas for alternative futures in response to the ongoing mortgage-foreclosure crisis and to encourage different kind of public conversation about housing and, in large, about cities. Their starting point is a major body of research in The Buell Hypothesis The Buell Hypothesis re-framed the question of housing, in particular the single-family suburban house, as a question of publicly negotiable cultural values. The so-called “American Dream” – the idea that full participation in civic and social life is premised on home ownership – has centered the single-family house in defining settlement patterns and reinforcing zoning codes, housing policies, construction techniques throughout America for more than a century. The Buell Hypothesis argues as follows: change the dream and you can change the city. Change the narratives guiding suburban housing and the priorities they imply – including spatial arrangements, ownership patterns, balance between public and private interests, mixtures of activities and services that any town or city entails – and you begin the process of redirecting suburban sprawl The open brief called for suburban municipalities, often unknown to most people but those who live and work there or nearby. The chosen sites yielded a set of suburbs with shared characteristic across the country: all are set within a major corridor between two cities that are growing rapidly in the coming decades. More importantly, all have experienced high rates and risks of foreclosure yet contained sizable tracts of publicly owned lands which are potentially available for public/private initiatives that could test new design ideas. Unlike New Urbanism movement, Foreclosed challenged the status-quo, zoning restriction, tax codes… and devised new models with different ways of living, legislating and financing.
The 5 projects are: MOS Architect: Thoughts on a Walking City – The Oranges, New Jersey VISIBLE Weather: Simultaneous City – Temple Terrace, Florida Studio Gang Architects – The Garden in the Machine – Cicero, Illinois WORKac – Nature City – Keizer, Oregon ZAGO Architecture – Property with Properties – Rialto, California. Little of what is proposed in this volume can be built today, not because it exceeds our technological capacities but merely because it demands a willingness to re-envision not only the types of places we build but the way we own and administer them.