Category Archives: 2 – transports

Parking, repurposed.

On Reinventing Parking, a post wonders about the possibility of turning parking spaces into something else.

A good case study is Rome: here, zoning laws and parking requirements are rarely enforced and so, as soon as the land values rise, parking spaces turn into something more profitable.

Here are a few examples:

On the other side, in Switzerland zoning laws and parking requirements are strictly enforced:  anyway, garages are still able to be repurposed.

Here is an example in Lausanne: a parking garage turned into a supermarket.

The major of Rome is on Flickr!

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I just discovered that Mr. Gianni Alemanno, Major of Rome, is on Flickr.

Here we see his set about te opening of the new BRT in Rome.

Good to see that more and more politicians are entering the blogosphere!

New BRT under construction in Rome

Wandering around the web, I discovered today a good news from Rome: A brand new BRT opening in the south-east of the city. The new infrastructure will start from ANAGNINA subway station and extend further east, passing through Cinecittà Est and Tor Vergata. All details of this infrastructure are here (PDF).

ATV Map

(image: Roma Metropolitane)

Almost all the line will run along a highway, with the exception of the first kilometer, along Via Ciamarra. In this first kilometer, some interesting interventions will be made.

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(source photos: skyscrapercity)

Thanks to this intervention, a previously anonymous road turned into a sort of Spanish Rambla.

Will it become a new center for outdor activities, like similar projects in San Francisco or New York?

We’ll see. In the meantime you can give your opinion in the poll:

Mixed-use Suburbs

Some days ago, at the conference “desperate houses” at the EPFL, I heard about a  research, realized by the architectural firm Raumbureau, saying that, in the suburbs, around 1 over 5 houses is refurbished as office space.

If this tendence goes on:

  • Little by little, suburbs will become true villages with offices, shops, post offices, sall hospitals… (a similar project was shown at the conference),
  • Density is not the only solution to urban sprawl, other solutions (much more “open source”) are available,
  • The houses in Aigle, which I saw some days ago, can become something really interesting in a few years!

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New Urbanism vs. Suburbanism

retrofitting suburbia in 3 steps

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(photo: flickr)

This month, everybody talks about suburbs (and about the prominent feature of suburbs, cars): some posts on RSR website (here, here and here), the last edition of the forum Ecoparc: So, it’s the right moment to talk about this subject, and to propose a strategy to align autorities and developers’ interests.

1 – Complete the streets

First step, completely in the hands of public powers, is completing the streets. In many cases, people drive instead of walking because roads are designed for cars rather than for people. Let’s see some examples:

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Aigle. Sidewalks are too small. Pedestrians are not protected from traffic

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Aigle. Vehicles-only road

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Aigle. Crossing forbidden (but people cross here anyway)

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Aigle. Pedestrian underpass, not very appealing.

And here, some good examples:

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Aigle. Trees, sidewalks and outdoor cafés.

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Aigle. side street.

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Aigle. Landscaped entrance to the shopping center (with bus shelter included)

2 – Allow and promote mixed-use developments

In this case too, public powers have the choice. A good zoning code should allow suburbs to be reconverted into  mixed-use districts, in order to reduce distances between houses, shops and workplaces.

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Aigle: houses on this side street could be easily turned into shops.

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Garages: this space could be easily be turned into shops or ateliers

(image: flickr)

3 – Crowdsourcing

The first two steps were were dedicated to public powers, the third one is dedicated to developers. Single-family houses and cars are, above all, industrial products, sold with a well-established marketing policy. So, mixed-use development should be marketed focusing on things that single-family houses couldn’t offer: common spaces, a vibrant community, walkable neighborhoods. At the same time, mixed-use development should keep the image of a customized house in a natural environment, image that made the single-family house so popular.

A good way to achieve this goal could be crowdsourcing: build a Cohousing or Coworking community, organize events in order to make future cohousers/coworker meet (i.e. a few-days trip) then go on all together to a developer  in order to build our dream’s  home. And the community could create new synergies and promote new features, like co-buying and mobility plans.

The rise and fall of the “Unité d’Habitation” – 2/7

In the beginning of the XX century, steamships were crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Each one of them could carry 2000 passengers for a 15-days trip between Europe and America, and in these days it became for them a sort of new house.

The image of all these people living, loving, fighting, making business, all in this big floating superstructure entered the social imagery of the time and little by little, more and more nautical elements were integrated into architecture.

In the first buildings, this integration was limited to decorative elements, as we can see in the examples here below.

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A tipycal steamship’s deck (image: wikipedia).

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Mies van der Rohe, house in Weissenhof, Stuttgart, 1927 (image: wikipedia). Note the stairway parapets, directly inspired from the Steamship’s deck.

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Giuseppe Terragni, Casa del Fascio, Como, 1936 (image: wikipedia). while the image of the buildings recalls steamships’ multiple decks, its plan still recalls renaissance palaces.

the whistle stop train tour

Following the same route that Abraham Lincoln rode 150 years ago, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Dr. Jill Biden made their way to the inauguration on a whistle stop train tour that wove its way from Philadelphia through Delaware and Maryland on its way to Washington.

“To the children who hear the whistle of the train and dream of a better life — that’s who we’re fighting for. That’s who needs change,” President Obama said at one stop along the way. “And those are the stories that we will gather with us to Washington.”

After several years in which trains have been neglected in favour of cars and planes, Obama’s choice of trains as a symbol of the new hope for USA is indeed a good news!

(source: The White House)

The future of automobile infrastructure: Antonio Segni Bridge, Rome

Usually, a highway is a mono-functional road, designed to carry cars from one place to another at a maximum speed.  But, sometimes highways don’t carry so many cars as expected,  and other uses start to appear.

An example of the re-use of highways was the Antonio Segni Bridge in Northern Rome, the east-west road in the photo here below.

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(image: microsoft virtual earth)

Designed to be part of the Milan-Naples highway, the Antonio Segni Bridge has survived as an isolated stretch when the motorway was re-routed on a more external path. Closed to traffic for almost ten years, it has become the favorite place for pedestrians and cyclists’ sunday strolls. When it was opened to motorized traffic, few cars passed on the Bridge, and pedestrian and cyclists still continued to use its sidewalks as a shortcut to reach otherwise far neighborhoods.

Some improvement could be made in order to make the bridge a more interesting place:

  • wider sidewalks and zebra crossings.
  • more pedestrian connections to nearby neighborhood.
  • a landscaped median.

Here is a similar example, from Minneapolis:

video: streetsblog.org

Tysons Corner turns into a downtown

“From ancient times, what made a city a city was how it functioned, not how it looked. And this is especially true today, for we have not built a single old-style downtown from raw dirt in seventy-five years.”

(Joel Garreau, Edge City: Life on the New Frontier, Chapter 2)

This is how Joel Garreau described in 1991 the trend in urban planning in USA and in most developped countries. Downtowns were a thing of the past, office parks, shopping centers, single-family houses and motorways were the future. One of the symbols of this “Life on the New Frontier” was Tysons Corner, an area capable to attract offices and retail, but lacking public space. (the description of Tysons Corner by Joel Garreau, is here).

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A typical Tysons Corner road (image: Microsoft Virtual Earth)

18 ans later, Tysons Corner has become one of the symbol of post-war urbanism’s excesses: the lack of public spaces forces dwellers and workers to go everywhere by car, and traffic jams occur every day.

In order to solve the problem, Fairfax county approved a master plan which will thansform Tysons Corner in an “old-style downtown”:

  • A new metro line to Washington,
  • a new series of pedestrian spaces,
  • smaller blocks and more through roads.

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(image: Tysons Tomorrow)

After Brasilia, another 20th century city reinvents itself.

further readings: