May 16, 2007

Cycling Friendly Cities

Funded by the Dutch, script by ex-Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa. You know it’s going to make you feel good about cycling – and the possibility of transforming our cities.

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I’ve often wondered what sort of worldview comes from being raised on Vancouver Island. Thomas Homer-Dixon is its most thoughtful native at the moment, and he has an important piece in today’s Globe and Mail.
Here if you subscribe.

Prepare today for tomorrow’s breakdown

What causes societies to collapse, and are our modern societies at risk of collapse themselves? Many of us, today, have the intuition that things are out of control and that our societies could crash. We see headlines about extreme weather, impending oil shortages, avian flu and horrible terrorism in distant places. Some people, especially those of a religious disposition, even think we’re entering end times. Parallels with ancient Rome are common; images of doom abound in preaching and fiction.

Not cheery reading on a day like today.  But worth it.

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May 13, 2007

Almost without notice, there’s been a change in attitude towards engineering infrastructure in the city.  No longer does urban plumbing have to be utlitarian.  Latest example: the pumphouse for the emergency salt-water pumping system (that will hopefully provide a secure supply of water when the Big One shakes things up).
Here’s what you’ll see under the north side of the Granville Bridge along the Seaside bike route:

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Looks like the Canadians are having an impact. Past-Co-director of Planning, Larry Beasley, and other locals have been consulting in Abu Dhabi – one of the emirates undergoing cataclysmic growth. Possibly because they can look at the excesses of Dubai, they’ve taken the advice to purse a more sustainable approach:

Abu Dhabi will respect, be scaled to and shaped by the natural environment of sensitive coastal and desert ecologies,” [Falah Mohammed Al Ahbabi, associate director of urban planning] said, commenting on the potential environmental impacts of the developments.

More here.
And more here on Masdar – the proposed new town being designed by Foster and Partners – in the current issue of Car-Free Times (scroll down a bit).

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If the Cheonggyecheon – the daylighted stream that runs through Seoul – was (a) in an English-speaking country or (b) could be pronounced easily in English, everyone reading this blog would likely know of it.   I’d say that it’s the most extraordinary public space created anywhere in the world in this still-young century.
Here are some shots taken by Hye-Yeon Park, an associate at the San Francisco architectural firm of Field Paoli.

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May 13, 2007

Canal + The March of the Emperor (English Subt.)

From the London International Awards for commercials. (Thanks Freshlist.)