Category Archives: A – News

Basel, Gundeldinger Feld

Today, I’ll take you to Basel, at Dornacherstrasse 192,where an old factory has been transformed into a neighborhood center, Gundeldinger Feld.

The history of this place could be the same as many other places around the world: a 19th century factory in the inner city suddenly moving to the suburbs in order to look for more space, an urban void opening up in the neighborhood, maybe some developer buying the buildings in order to turn them into  expensive lofts… But here the story takes a different path. The architectural firm INSITU, composed mainly of people living in the area, develops a project willing to promote local, indipendent business and improve the cultural offer of the neighborhood. They submit their proposal to the factory’s administrators: a Limited Company, composed of the architects themself will buy the buildings, renew and rent them to the different businesses.

Most of the architects from INSITU have previously worked in Africa, and thus they apply here most of the principles developped in their African experiences:

  • reuse of buildings in a way that minimizes the changes in the structure;
  • use of massive materials (concreetes, bricks, wood), easy to repare and with a long lifespan;
  • possibility, for a large and diverse population, to come and enjoy the area.

Today, Gundeldinger Feld includes a mixture of activities and business, including:

The central alley. The restaurant Eo Ipso on the left, offices on the right.

Details of the central alley. Here, all the works have been a new pavement for the alley, some flower pots and some bike racks. Thanks to laws in Basel encouraging car-free projects, no parking space is provided within the area.

Flower pots are not fixed. Customers can move pots as they like, and give their own touch to the alley.

Blinde Kuh restaurant, and its Braille-labeled bottles. In this restaurant, all waiters are blind, and people eat in complete darkness. Definitely worth trying!

A hall waiting to be renewed.

Another hall, turned into a public library. Lots of the factory equipement (cranes) are still on place.

The Rock-climbing training hall. Here too, cranes and other industrial equipements are still visible.

What lessons could be learnt from this project? Here are mine:

  • sustainable development won’t be made of futuristic materials (for example, we can compare Gundeldinger Feld with this project still in Basel) or over-determined, Le Corbusier-style projects, but of simple, reproducibile solutions. (more readings on this subject are on the website “emergent urbanism“)
  • In order to be accepted from the main audience, sustainable development has to be fun: somebody will adopt it because of their environmental committment, some others just because it’s fun or convenient. And all together, all these people will make the business thrive.
  • Small business need small rents, but not too small rents. Too expensive rents will make the area accessible only to the most luxurious brands, while too cheap rents will let small business survive without caring too much of their customers. And projects like this need business who take care of their customers!

Did you like this place? Vote for it on Cooltownplaces.com!

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:

Lausanne Dimanche

These days, lots of people have asked me for addresses and ideas for sunday and evening shopping. And so, here is the list: Lausanne Dimanche

Ada Lovelace day: Jane Jacobs

Today is Ada Lovelace day, a day in which each blogger should talk about a woman who changed the world in her field: a good occasion to talk about the person who gave the biggest contribute to contemporary urbanism, Jane Jacobs.

XIX and early XX century were the century of machines, a century in which the mainstream idea was the possibility to explain everything as the sum of a series of deterministic movements. Cities were explained on the same principles, and deterministic solutions were proposed to solve the problems concerning urban development.

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(image: wikimedia commons)

Jane Jacobs was the first to show the limits of this approach, showing how it led to a car dependent, socially impoverished society. Against the deterministic approach of mainstream architecture, she proposed an approach based on life sciences,  stating that cities grow in the same way as living organism do.

Most of her battles were against new expressways and neighborhood destructions, and now most of her ideas are supported by the new urbanism and complete streets movements.

For further readings:

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)

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:

New bus network in Lausanne

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(image: wikimedia commons)

From Sunday december 14,  the new bus network will be operational in Lausanne.  The main changes will be:

  • Lines 5,6 and 45 will be suppressed or re-routed in oder to avoid superopsitions with the metro,
  • Lines 4,6 and 15 will be merged into the new lines 4 and 6,
  • New line 21 will connect Blécherette and the railway station, passing through Beaulieu and Chauderon,
  • New line 22 will connect Clochatte and Flon, passing through  Rue Centrale and Rue Saint-Martin,
  • New line 25 will connect all the southern districts, from Pully to Bourdonnette,
  • Regional lines 60, 62 and 65 will terminate near metro station of Flon, Croisettes and Sallaz.

New network plans can be downloaded here and here.

(source: TL)

New shopping area opens in downtown Lausanne

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On November 26th, a new shopping area has opened in the Flon area in downtown Lausanne. The new complex includes a supermarket (Migros) and some smaller shops, and is located close to Lausanne-Flon subway station (lines M1, M2 and LEB), making it a perfect example of Transit-Oriented-Development.

With the opening of the new complex, Flon area turns into a major commercial-entertaining-business center at the scale of the entire Lausanne-Morges metro area.

(source: 24heures)

luxury trains come back to Italy

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(source image: flickr)

Luxury trains have come back to Italy. in 2005, SeaTrain has renewed some trains from italian companies FCU and Vesuviana and turned them into Roma Express and Napoli Express.

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(source image: flickr)

Rome Express runs from Civitavecchia Harbour to Rome S. Pietro Railway station, leaving passengers in the very heart of Rome, and avoiding them an unnecessary and potentially dangerous detour through Termini.

Napoli Express runs along Naples Metro lines 3 and 4, from Napoli Porta Nolana to Pompei, Ercolano and Sorrento. A shuttle bus is provided between Naples Harbour and Napoli Porta Nolana.