Metro Public art in Brussels

3 06 2011

by Siham Saleh

While I was in Brussels, Belgium to do our project of Cities and Culture module, I recognized very interesting way of using public art in the underground of metro stations. It is obvious that the network metro in Brussels was interestingly enhanced and addressed the non-places such as station and make the intensively used space enjoyable and place of opportunities.  The  public art  were various between ( steel sculpture, wall picture in oil and wall mosaic etc) this information about the location and type of art are available at   

The following pictures are one of the public arts that I saw while I was there, it is a piece of imaginative public art  of 16 x icarus (hanging bronze figures and plaster ceiling relief) in comte de flandre metro stop. The way of using art as I noted that was to fill the very high area of the space and also shows the creativity of artists in Brussels. However, it is clearly that these works helps to express  the character of the community and its identity.



2 06 2011

by Vlado Kabat

Growing and expanding cities is a common phenomenon since tearing down the city walls which surrounded the settlements. Cities usually expand both vertically and horizontally.I found an interesting article about ambitious project -expanding under the ground of Amsterdam.

This project called Amfora is approved by the city council and is supposed to be started in 2018. From my own experience I can say, that the city is quite overcrowded, full of tourists and as many other metropolis, it suffer from traffic jams and its lack of parking spaces, even when the most popular means of transport is bicycle.

This very expensive project comes from Dutch studio Zwarts & Jansma. The underground city Amfora will be built 30m under the ground with 100 000m2 and 50km of tunnels. It will contains parking places (50 000), leisure and sport activities (cinema, bowling, tennis and squash courts…) and shopping areas. The aim of the project is to lighten overloaded city centre.  Developers believe that high costs of this project will be retuned and also this underground city will become a new touristic attraction of the city.

However, there are many people against this project, e.g. british teoretic of architecture Michael Hammond says that these plans are against principles or sustainability. Builders will have to solve the problems with underground water and many canals for which the city is famous. However, the project is technically possible and there is still time to solve the problems.

Cohesive communities & walkable neighbourhoods

31 05 2011

By Harvé Dhillon

Recently, seeming a lot of our projects have included residential design, I was reading about cohesive communities and how both architecture and urban design can contribute to the social integration of residents in a positive way. Malaysia is an ethnically diverse nation with three main races and many other ethnic minorities hence the importance of its social cohesiveness and unity of people is important in order to create a stable social and economic environment. Thus, neighbourhood design has had an important impact contributing to the racial harmony of Malaysian suburbs. The simple solution is to encourage walking, by providing local amenities within walking distance such as shops, schools, community centres, health centre the of course there is better health and furthermore reduces the need to use the car. Socially, walking will encourage the meeting and greeting with neighbours and a sense of community. Planners in Malaysia have managed to create these neighbourhoods by simple and inexpensive interventions and as a result forge communities with naturally strong ties and racial interaction and integration.

  • Make pedestrian-friendly pavements mandatory.
  • Make the planting of shady trees mandatory, too.
  • Place wakaf (small huts) and simple furniture along streets to provide resting places.
  • Place schools, libraries, mosques, temples, community centres and some shops within true walking distance of clusters of houses so people are encouraged to walk rather than drive.
  • Promote bicycling by providing proper pathways as well as bicycle parking spaces.


31 05 2011

by Vlado Kabat

Funtheory is an experiment project with initiative of Volkswagen run in the Swedish capital- Stockholm. It’s a campaign with an aim to make people do things which are not very comfortable, things that people do not tend to do in the first place, or in other words funtheory tries to change people’s lazy behavior. Competitors were creating projects and the best ones were awarded. Some of the projects were actually quite interesting which tried to improve people’s behavior in public spaces by making it fun to do.

One of the most successful projects was created in a metro station in Stockholm. The target was to attract people to use stairs rather than escalators by creating a working piano on the stairs that interact with the pedestrians . Creators argued, that signs on the walls saying: ”Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator and feel better.” are not convincing enough. The other project encourages people to use bins for trash rather than throwing in on the ground.

If you are interested in these projects there are more on their homepage   

Shoe Tree in Heaton

30 05 2011

Posted by Jun

About a year ago, when I went for a walk in Jesmond Dene, I bumped into this slightly mysterious scene of trees on which hundreds and hundreds of shoes were hung, in Armstrong Park. According to a web page, young people throw their shoes up to the branches celebrating the end of their exams whilst I imagined, secretly, a more melancholic story like out-grown feet of adolescence and their leaving old shoes.

Repetitive actions of anonymous individuals can be found elsewhere too. Piles of rock built one by one, by mountain climbers can be easily found in mountains in Korea. Some people say that it was a kind of ritual of asking mountain goblins not to disturb their journeys. Also, I saw a bicycle-tire tree in Hulme,Manchester, which was less attractive than the shoe tree.

By the way, the best part of this shoe tree is that there is an annual harvest(!) of shoes because the numbers of shoes need to be controlled in order to protect the trees.


Stockholmsporten master plan

27 05 2011

by Akshay Varma

As I stumbled upon some master-plan examples, this particular one caught my attention. Urban Design as an academic process is restricted as I see it, majorly due to the time factor and the structure of the course being fairly a skill developing one. But it’s the professional firms that give us a leading example of creative designs, within the constraints of budget and policies.

The following is the winning entry of the ‘Stockholmsporten master plan competition’, by the Danish firm BIG. The brief was to design an inviting entrance portal into the city of stockholm at the intersection of a newly plan super-junction.

Birds Eye view of the model   

View through the approach

In order to create an interesting landscape form without majorly altering the actual topography itself, a reflective, self-sustaining hovering sphere mirrors the surrounding area, creating 180º view of the city for the drivers below. 30% of the sphere’s surface is wrapped with photovoltaic film, producing enough energy to keep it floating as well as to supply 235 residences in the neighborhood with electricity. The object serves as a visual icon and landmark that greets the entry point into Stockholm, reflecting the elements of the season and the urban life beneath it.

View of the hovering sphere from the highway

The overall plan features a slight raising of the land to reduce the noise from the center, forming a bowl-like valley between the city and the surrounding neighborhoods. To create a diverse experience when moving in and around the area, the 580 sqm design is divided into multiple pie-shaped sectors that host a variety of different landscape qualities, from pine-and oak forests to wetlands; grass lawns to hilly terrain.

View of the neighborhood

View of the change in landscape

Matter of Taste?

26 05 2011

Posted by Jun

I found the Lancaster Square Routes Project which aims to ‘upgrade’ public spaces in the Lancaster city centre and I learned that the Sun Square is part of the public spaces to be ‘rejuvenated’ in the proposal. It could be said, probably, that, when I saw Sun Square, the weather was so perfect so that I did not see the claimed neglected feeling. However, there are some elements in the design that makes me dubious about the aesthetic quality it would bring about if realized.

To me, the square has good juxtaposition of humble side elevations of buildings, the distinctively decorated ‘Music Room’ facade and the well-grown tree. I think the unusual juxtaposition gives the atmosphere of ‘hidden gem’ as the proposal calls it. To make it clear, I am not arguing that we should keep the space as it is. Facilitating more interactions between buildings and the square, putting better seating or better accessible pavement would surely improve the place. However, covering the bare elevation with Greek mythology themed art-work, putting highly mannerist topiary trees and high-maintenance fountain in such a intimate-scale square seem, simply, too much. It just reminds me of Art Nouveau obsession revived by entrepreneurial urban landscape rhetoric. I hope that the proposal will be upgraded when they secure the fund for the project.

The Current Sun Square