Tag Archives: public spaces

Urban Beaches

Summer approaches, time to pack our stuff, fill our car and leave for a long long trip, that wil take us, after several hours, to a nice beach very far away…

(image: wikipedia)

Or maybe not. Why do we have to travel so much to find a place that makes us feel good? There is another solution, cheaper and nicer, that can change our town in a tropical island: the Urban Beach.

Close one of the main streets to cars, fill it with sand, put deck chairs all around, add a swimming pool and some bars serving cocktails and the job is done!

(image: flickr)

The most famous urban beach was for sure Paris, with its Paris-Plages, but now the idea is spreading all around: Vevey- Plage, Flon-Plage in Lausanne, Trop’yc in Crans-Montana

Did you like this idea? rate it on cooltownplaces.com!

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!

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:

New Urbanism vs. Suburbanism

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.

drancy_-_les_premiers_gratte-ciel_de_la_region_parisienne_

(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:

Shared Space

Two kind of space exist: The highway, regulated by signs, and the public realm, regulated by social rules. But lots of public realms are designed as highways.

source: shared space

from “Adapt the city to cars” to “Adapt the city to social networks”

In 1971, Georges Pompidou said: “Adapter la ville à la voiture” (adapt the city to cars), in a world where people wanted to go faster and further, and reach in a reasonable amount of time more and more places. A new world was born, made of countryside houses, motorways, shopping centers, big buildings: a world whose biggest examples are cities like Brasilia.

37 years later, the world has changed. The shift has moved from “going faster and further” to “meeting the right people and find the right thing”. And, regarding to the city, the new motto could be “Adapter la ville aux réseaux sociaux” (adapt the city to social networks). How will the “social network city” be? A good overview can be found here: Social Network City will be full of meeting places, hotspots, events, unconventional shops, customized objects…

And how will it look like? First, online classic will jump out of the screen and appear in the real life:

(image: wikipedia)

Then, forums, blog and social networks will invade the real life, and turn into “real world discussion forums

(sources: oh my marketing!, trendwatching)