Yo-Yo Pedestrian Zones: What Makes Urban Walkability Flourish or Fail?

7 hours 44 minutes ago
[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

A bustling car-filled street by day and a 1,500-foot pedestrian promenade on weekend nights, Sai Yeung Choi Street South in the dense neighborhood of Mong Kok was the stage upon which urban life in Hong Kong played out – markets, music, dancing, protests, parties. Clashes with police. Noise. So much noise, in fact, that after 1,200 complaints in a single year, the district council decided to end the street’s 18-year run as a part time pedestrian zone and reopen it to vehicular traffic 24/7. What will this mean for a city where public transit accounts for 90 percent of daily passenger trips, yet infrastructure revolves around cars?

Mong Kok

Mong Kok

Some Hong Kong residents see the Mong Kok street’s closure as emblematic of the cultural battle between everyday transit-riding urbanites who embrace city life and everything that comes along with it (including noise) and ‘elites’ who flood cities from elsewhere and expect to change how they operate to better fit their own needs. This might sound familiar to, say, San Franciscans. Walkability is a crucial quality-of-life factor for many city dwellers, but it remains in tension with both car culture and a general lack of affordability. So why do some major pedestrian zones in big cities flourish while others fail?

A History of Mixed Success

The pedestrian mall as we know it today was born in the German city of Kassel soon after the end of World War II. British bombers had leveled 80 percent of the city. City planners tasked with rebuilding decided it was the perfect opportunity to re-orient the old town’s streets to create a direct connection from the center square to the main railway station and create a distinct shopping district where pedestrians could stroll along the streets without worrying about cars.

The fountain-filled square, called Treppenstrasse, was soon copied by other German cities, and the idea spread throughout Europe. Meanwhile, in America, the first pedestrian mall opened in 1959 in Kalamazoo, Michigan and multiplied in a similar fashion, all in the hope of reviving depressed downtown areas.

What these pedestrian zones were essentially trying to recapture – in a shiny new package befitting the 1950s – was the charm of meandering medieval streets no more than a few meters wide. Crucially, these often cobblestoned streets were built at a human scale, designed to accommodate people strolling along with carts and horses rather than rows of parked vehicles and 48-foot-long semi trucks. That’s rarely the case now, especially when attempting to retrofit spaces built for cars into pedestrian-friendly areas that attract a lot of foot traffic and, ultimately, spending.

There was one major problem with ‘50s pedestrian malls right off the bat. At the time, few people lived downtown. As soon as workers went home for the day, the promenades were abandoned. It would be decades before populations began to shift toward urban centers en masse, and in the meantime, the pedestrian mall experiment was declared a failure. Fewer than 15 percent of the malls that opened during that era remain in place today.

This process of pedestrianizing certain blocks and then reopening them to traffic continued throughout the 1970s, ‘80s and ’90s, by which time shoppers were demanding plenty of free parking and covered spaces. Walking outdoors to shop and dine was old fashioned; the suburban mall reigned supreme.

Lunchtime on K Street

Chicago’s State Street pedestrian mall closed after 17 years in 1996 due to a drop in commercial activity. In Buffalo, New York, there weren’t enough people spending time downtown to support its pedestrian zone. In Sacramento, K Street went from a vibrant destination to a wasteland to a bustling pedestrian zone and back to a wasteland before the city ripped out the pedestrian-friendly infrastructure and reopened it to traffic in 2011 – only for locals to call for reversing the decision yet again, just five years later.

But what about the ones that work? New York City temporarily closed a 2.5 acre-section of Times Square to vehicular traffic for safety reasons, but it became so popular with pedestrians, the city made it a permanent feature and even had the architecture firm Snøhetta redesign it. Denver’s 16th street mall is thriving, as is Miami’s Lincoln Road Mall. Smaller college towns like Charlottesville, Iowa City and Madison have maintained popular pedestrian zones as crucial parts of their identities. In Europe, the cities of London, Paris, Oslo, Madrid, Milan, Dublin and Stockholm all have plans to create or expand significant car-free areas.

Walkability Requires Careful Planning – And Greater Equality

From all these failures and successes, it seems like the keys to making cities more walkable long-term are tailoring the scale and design of pedestrian zones to the setting, expecting roughly 15-year cycles of changing trends, accommodating businesses with features like early morning loading zones, figuring out where all the vehicular traffic will go instead to avoid worsening congestion and standing firm in commitment to reducing car usage in the area. That last point might just be the hardest one to tackle.

Some shoppers would rather give up on trying to access downtown areas due to a lack of parking than ride the bus instead, and as long as city planners continue to build massive parking garages, urban streets will remain snarled. Pedestrian zones must be integrated with public transit, taking the pressure off the streets and allowing equitable access. By many accounts, we’re moving toward an era in which car sharing will vastly reduce the number of vehicles on the roads, so we might as well begin planning for it now.

Sixth Street

Closing certain blocks to vehicular traffic part-time, like Austin’s Sixth Street, could be a convenient workaround for many cities, or at least a way to test the waters. But that brings us back to Mong Kok, which could set a precedent for the closure of Hong Kong’s other pedestrian zones due to noise complaints amidst worsening air quality from automobile emissions. Licensing systems for vendors and performers could help, but the greater problem remains the fact that Hong Kong has begun to prioritize the needs of drivers over those of the vast majority of the population.

If we want thriving cities where people actually want to congregate, walk around and spend money, we have to preserve their historic character, cultural traditions and mix of income levels. That means addressing inequality directly and limiting the influence of wealthy residents who try to sweep evidence of that inequality under the rug, like homelessness in San Francisco.

Beneath the revival of big cities around the world is a deep economic rift that makes it hard for service workers, teachers, nurses and firefighters to live in the cities where they work, let alone shop. The urban tides might pull the affluent back out into the suburbs before long, anyway, so our cities should be designed to thrive with or without them.

Top image: Times Square pedestrian redesign by Snøhetta

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[ By SA Rogers in Architecture & Cities & Urbanism. ]

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60 Years Later: Original Le Corbusier Interior Design Vision Finally Realized

1 day 7 hours ago
[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Fixtures & Interiors. ]

When Le Corbusier designed his Brutalist Unité d’Habitation structures in Marseilles and Berlin, the architect imagined these as models for the future of vertical urban living. But, as they say in war: his plans didn’t survive contact with the enemy.

Completed in 1958, the Berlin version in particular was altered internally prior to construction, meaning that the original layouts and details Corbu had it mind were largely left on the drawing table, replaced instead by cheaper, German-drafted plans. At least until German-American architect Philipp Mohr (images Didier Gaillard-Hohlweg) bought a unit in the building.

He purchased a condo that, at the time, “was all entirely white and looked more like a prison, or the typical 1980s German social housing, than anything Corbusier had ever designed.” Even the ceiling heights were out of alignment with the original design.

Mohr went beyond restoring the 1958 format format, studying historical design documents at the Foundation Le Corbusier and the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine in Paris to see past what was actually built.

With the big picture in hand, he set about studying colors, lighting, finishes, plans and other details of Corbu’s to replicate his original vision as much as possible.

Having finished the renovation, Mohr believes the space is better for it. “The colours are timeless and very soothing and inviting,” Mohr says. “The use of wood and natural finishes is comfortable and homely. The proportions are pleasing and the relationship to views and light is positive and uplifting.”

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[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Fixtures & Interiors. ]

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Superspace Re-Imagines Prague’s Victory Square as a Social Center

2 days 18 hours ago
Courtesy of Superspace Courtesy of Superspace

Istanbul-based studio Superspace has proposed a design for Prague’s Victory Square that transforms the dead zone in the middle of Prague into a space flourishing with nature and social activities. The simple but effective solution inverts traffic and pedestrian access to create a green urban center, where markets, art festivals and even wintertime ice-skating can take place. Tall, local evergreen trees would be planted in the horseshoe shape surrounding the inner ring, creating an iconic visual impact while shielding the community space from the noise of the busy traffic area beyond.

Courtesy of Superspace Courtesy of Superspace
Courtesy of Superspace Courtesy of Superspace

The current design of Victory Square encourages heavy traffic congestion and its central green space is inaccessible and redundant. Superspace’s proposal increases the permeability of the space, as well as creates a holistic central urban space surrounded by easily accessible traffic lanes.  

Courtesy of Superspace Courtesy of Superspace

The form of the ring derives from the transition between the horseshoe plan and the existing central roundabout. It creates an intimate community space nestled within the trees, an oasis within the city.

Courtesy of Superspace Courtesy of Superspace

News via: Superspace

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Top 20 A' Design Award Winners

2 days 20 hours ago
Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

The A’ Design Award is an international award whose aim is to provide designers, architects, and innovators from all architecture and design fields with a competitive platform to showcase their work and products to a global audience. Among the design world's many awards, the A' Design Award stands out for its exceptional scale and breadth; in 2015, over 1,000 different designs received awards, with all fields of design recognized by the award's 100 different categories. This year's edition is now open for entries; designers can register their submissions here.

Organized as a way to showcase excellent designers in all disciplines and from all countries, the A' Awards are peer-reviewed and anonymously judged by an influential jury panel of experienced scholars, important press members, and experienced professionals. The awards offer prestige, publicity and international recognition to A’ Design Award Laureates through the coveted A’ Design Prize system. You can learn more about the call for entries process here.

A’ Design Competition results are announced every year on April 15. Best products, projects, and services worldwide that demonstrate superior design, technology and creativity are rewarded with the A' Design Award; the symbol of excellence in design and innovation. There are five different levels of distinction: Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron A’ Design Awards are distributed annually in all design disciplines. Designers, companies, and institutions from all countries are annually called to take part in the accolades by nominating their best works, projects, and products for award consideration. See more on the result announcement here

Entries will be judged by A' Design Award's jury of hundreds of experts from around the globe including scholars, professionals and media members. Each jury member is required to sign a jury agreement and follow a code of conduct. In addition, jurors may not be employees of the participating companies to avoid conflicts of interest. This jury process has been designed to lead to a more fair and equitable awards process, with no single juror exercising undue influence on the results of the awards. You can find out more about the jury and its process here.

The A' Design Award & Competition also has a network to reach millions of design-oriented audiences worldwide.  A’ Design Awards winners were seen directly at the A’ Design Award website 24,404,321 times. They also have 71,017 users on their platform and 45,906 project submissions. See more on the award in numbers here

Winners of an A' Design Award receive a trophy alongside a host of other benefits: a certificate, inclusion in an exhibition, inclusion in a yearbook publication, winners' badges, an exclusive interview to be featured on the A' Design Awards website, inclusion in the world design rankings, an invite to a gala night hosted by the awards for networking, feedback notes from the award jury, and participation in an extensive PR campaign are all offered to winners among other benefits. Click here to see the full list of benefits.

The submission period for the A' Design Award closes on February 28. You can submit your designs here. After the winners are announced on April 15th, a selection of architecture-related winners will be featured in a post on ArchDaily.

Below we have selected our Top 20 A' Design Award Winners. 

Tofana (Hotel) / Lukas Rungger

Platinum A' Hospitality, Recreation, Travel and Tourism Design Award Winner, 2017 - 2018

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

 Light Waterfall Sales Center / Kris Lin and Jiayu Yang

Platinum A' Architecture, Building and Structure Design Award Winner, 2017 - 2018

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

Cloud Park (Xixi Center Office and Business Building) / Meng Fanhao

Platinum A' Architecture, Building and Structure Design Award Winner, 2017 - 2018

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

Qingtie CR Town Sales Office Sales Office / Kot Ge - LSDCASA and Studio HBA

Platinum A' Interior Space and Exhibition Design Award Winner, 2017 - 2018

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University (Architecture - Education Facility) / Andrew Bromberg at Aedas

Platinum A' Architecture, Building and Structure Design Award Winner, 2013 - 2014

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

Villafound Jade Hotel Lijiang Lodge / Nie Jianping

Platinum A' Architecture, Building and Structure Design Award Winner, 2016 - 2017

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

ICE Krakow (Concert and Congress Centre) / Ingarden & Ewý Architects Ltd.

Platinum A' Architecture, Building and Structure Design Award Winner, 2014 - 2015

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

Seehof: a Garden Architecture (Hotel) / Noa

Platinum A' Hospitality, Recreation, Travel and Tourism Design Award Winner, 2017 - 2018

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

 Heavenly Water Service Center / Zhenfei Wang

Platinum A' Architecture, Building and Structure Design Award Winner, 2016 - 2017

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

Google Campus Dublin (Office Interior Design) / Camenzind Evolution

Platinum A' Interior Space and Exhibition Design Award Winner, 2013 - 2014

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

City Lounge, St. Gallen (Urban Living Room) / Carlos Martinez and Pipilotti Rist

Platinum A' Street Furniture Design Award Winner, 2016-2017

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

Hubertus Hotel / Elisabeth Mitterer, Lukas Rungger, and Andreas Profanter

Platinum A' Hospitality, Recreation, Travel and Tourism Design Award Winner, 2016 - 2017

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

Brickkiln Folk Inn and Museum (Make Village Newborn) / Kevin Hu

Platinum A' Interior Space and Exhibition Design Award Winner, 2017 - 2018

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

Gamsei (Cocktail Bar) / Buero Wagner 

Platinum A' Interior Space and Exhibition Design Award Winner, 2013 - 2014

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

Yukyu En Hofu City Crematorium / Shunmyo Masuno

Platinum A' Landscape Planning and Garden Design Award Winner, 2016-2017

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

Zhongnan Mansion Clubhouse / Kris Lin and Jiayu Yang

Platinum A' Interior Space and Exhibition Design Award Winner, 2017 - 2018

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

Black Eagle Residential House / Perathoner Architects 

Platinum A' Architecture, Building and Structure Design Award Winner, 2016 - 2017

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

Malangen (Family Retreat) / Snorre Stinessen

Platinum A' Architecture, Building and Structure Design Award Winner, 2017 - 2017

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

Wuhan Wushang Mall Cinema 9F / Ajax Law & Virginia Lung

Platinum A' Interior Space and Exhibition Design Award Winner, 2017 - 2018

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards

G Space Hair Salon / Ming-Hong Tsai

Platinum A' Interior Space and Exhibition Design Award Winner, 2017 - 2018

Courtesy of A’ Design Awards Courtesy of A’ Design Awards
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Measuring Wheel: Ditch Roll-Up Tape for a Coin-Sized Pocket ‘Rollbe’ Ruler

4 days 7 hours ago
[ By WebUrbanist in Gadgets & Geekery & Technology. ]

Architects, carpenters and other design and construction professionals often carry measuring tape wherever they go, but this small wheel makes for a much less bulky companion tool.

Measuring trundle wheels used to determine distances by rolling on a surface are not new, but they are big, and this design miniaturizes their function while maintaining a critical advantage: it can measure up to effectively any length as long as its operator keeps track of the number of spins.

The Rollbe comes in various sizes, but at its smallest it is just a few inches in circumference (around an inch in diameter), making it fit like a coin and easy to carry on the go. It also comes with a pouch, turning it into a keyring.

Thanks to the curved design and rolling function, it can measure not just flat but also curving and irregular surfaces, an advantage over a traditional measuring tape. The device also clicks with each rotation, making it easier to track the number of turns.

Designed by The Work of Mind, a Canadian company, the idea came from an unlikely direction — it wasn’t an attempt to figure out measuring, but to find new uses for coin-sized options. Numerals and markings are etched into the stainless steel using laser engraving to prevent fading over time. A larger version is also available — less portable, but a nice thing to pack in one’s kit of tools.

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Best Tiles Suitable For Your Home

5 days 20 hours ago

It’s easy to think that you can install the tiles you want in your home, whether it’s your kitchen or bathroom or in an entryway. However, it takes more than choosing and watching helpful videos online to know how to install tiles properly. Consider a few reasons why it’s always good to choose the type of tiles for your home carefully.

The following tips will guide you in making the right choice.

1. Slip Resistance

Slippery floors are very dangerous especially if your home has children, elderly and disabled people. When choosing tiles, make sure you go for tiles that are slip resistant. A bathroom is the most affected part of your house and that is where most accidents tend to happen. You can choose to have pebbles, mosaic or ceramic tiles for your bathroom. Make sure the source of your tiles is reliable. This will ensure the safety of your floors or walls. Your kitchen too will need tiles that safe since there are a lot of activities that involve water and soaps in there that can make you slide and fall.

2. Quality

This measures the materials’ ability to withstand foot traffic and scratches. Tiles that are weak in texture break off easily. It may also be dangerous especially if they are to be put on the wall in a house with children around. You will need tiles that show resistance to wear caused by movement of surfaces or materials in contact with them. You should check the tiles before work begins to ensure that they meet the highest standards.

3. Color

Just like everything in life, colors evolve with time and you need to choose a shade that is right for your home. Make sure that the colors create a suitable backdrop from which to decorate the rest of the space. As much as other things like soft furnishings, furniture, and décor play a vital role in creating a good ambiance, the choice of tile shade you make does as well. If your house is painted in different shades, you can go for tiles of the same plain color not to give your home a busy look. You can ask a professional to choose colors for you if you are not sure of what works best with your other home decors.

4. Water Absorption

Tiles that have low water absorption have higher mechanical strength. It is important to purchase and fire tiles at high temperatures for this make them less water absorbent. Tiles that absorb water easily do not last long and you will need to keep replacing or repairing them. Go for tiles that are waterproof. You can ask your contractor or the tile company to identify for you the tiles that are water resistant.

5. Chemical and Stain Resistance

Installing tiles that are stain resistance is hygienic for they are easy to clean. Ceramic tiles are known to resist stains because of their glazed surface. This means that you do not have to scrub hard to get off food particles that stick on the walls of your kitchen or have to fight for space with pests that come to feast on those particles. You just wipe your kitchen walls after cooking and you are good to go.it is also important to put tiles that can withstand the heat that comes from the kitchen heat without bending or cracking. These tiles should be strong enough and they should not expand or contract during temperature changes.

6. Durability

You will need to go for tiles that will give value to your money. Tiles installed on driveways are supposed to be those that can withstand heavy and frequent use by vehicles. Low-quality tiles will crack and contribute to tear and wear of your car tires. This also applies to the tiles for your bathroom walls. They should be able to endure frequent splashing of water. Do not go for tiles that fall off within a short period after they are installed.

The interior and exterior part of your house needs a good finishing. Tiles are a modern way of flooring or walling and they give your home an attractive appearance. Choosing the right tiles for your home is important for it reduces the work of maintenance and cleaning. The wrong choice of tiles can cost you a lot in keeping them in good shape and you may end up not liking the appearance of your home. It is also important to maintain your tiles after installing them. Avoid leaks of water pipes behind the tiling and make sure the outdoor tiled space has a good water drainage in case of rains.

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Holiday House on Prophet Ilias Mountain / Kapsimalis Architects

5 days 22 hours ago
© Giorgos Sfakianakis © Giorgos Sfakianakis
© Giorgos Sfakianakis © Giorgos Sfakianakis

Text description provided by the architects. The holiday house is located on the highest point of Santorini Island, on ‘Prophet Ilias’ mountainside. The building faces to the southwest and has a view of the Aegean Sea and the volcanic landscape. The residence consists of a living room, a dining area, a kitchen, a main bedroom and two bathrooms oriented towards to the view.

© Giorgos Sfakianakis © Giorgos Sfakianakis
Plan Plan
© Giorgos Sfakianakis © Giorgos Sfakianakis

The elongated, rectangular form is nestled into the slope. The excavation material that has resulted during the construction period, was used to shape the main façade of the house and its surrounding landscape. The house is integrated to the cliff-side, leaving the least possible imprint.

© Giorgos Sfakianakis © Giorgos Sfakianakis

Aim of the project is to merge the interior and exterior space of the house. The long, sliding glass door of 10meters length, opens and links the relaxation-cooking interior zone with the courtyard and the swimming pool. The interior space becomes an exterior one, under a shadow and at the same time expands into an infinity pool, an exterior lounge area and a wooden deck that compose the external space. Two main free standing walls highlight the two entrances of the holiday house, through two lateral staircases.

© Giorgos Sfakianakis © Giorgos Sfakianakis

Inside the residence, sections made by bricks, wood and glass separate the different rooms. Skylights on the rooftop allow the natural light into the space. Natural materials like oak, walnut wood, grey and beige rough marbles and black steel create warmth, while some colourful pieces of furniture, create a joyful mood. Stone and concrete are the materials that define the exterior form of the house. Wild Mediterranean plants, some of them into cylindrical pots made by black steel, are sparsely placed outdoor.

© Giorgos Sfakianakis © Giorgos Sfakianakis
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