Bicycle culture

2 06 2011

by Vlado Kabat

Cycling is a convenient replacement for cars in cities suffering from never-ending traffic jams, not only for families with lower income, it is becoming a trend in a healthy life style. From the cities that I have visited, two of them stayed in my mind as the cities of bicycles.

First of them is Copenhagen which claims that 36 % of people are cycling to work, school or universities. Cycling is integrated into S-train network and the Copenhageners are allowed to take their bikes on the trains for free. The city wants to encourage even more people to use their bicycles. Police started to operate on the bicycles since 2009 to improve visibility and contact with citizens.

The other city is Amsterdam. There is a huge bicycle multi-storey parking right in the city centre. On the roads, cycling lines have their own traffic lights and turning lanes. People are not bothering with stylish bicycles, most of them are all using old ones without many modern features. No wonder, because one bicycle is cheaper than a one day transport ticket. (We saw bicycles for less than 5€) As typical tourists I and my friends bought the transport ticket instead of riding the bicycle. We had an impression that the trams were used mostly just by elderly, injured or people who were not able to ride the bicycles at the time.


Urban design obsession:

2 06 2011

By Majeda Hattar

After working on the design code for the fight deport site this semester, I started to have this obsession about checking every single detail in streets and public realm, analysing the details and categorise them into good examples versus bad examples.

What I found interesting is the big difference in quality, design and appeal between Grainger market area and the other parts of the city. Especially, when I walking to Grainger Street through Percy Street, you can notice the poor quality of the pavement and pedestrian crossings, but as soon as you reach the gates area you can automatically feel the difference. You start to see the organised uniform design, materials, and street furniture.

What I actually find really interesting is the relation between the monument and Grainger Street, according to vehicle access and material the changing in priority and users can be felt while crossing this area, as the material of the street is very good studied to serve the function of the street.


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.

The Solidere Beirut: living example of Urban Design gentrification!

2 06 2011

By Majeda Hattar


Beirut, the capital of Lebanon is considered a metropolitan city in special conditions. As a city, Beirut is known for its extraordinary life style, and the ability to rise up again after suffering from many years of war.

During the civil war in Beirut, the city centre was the part to be most affected, as it was divided into two parts, and most of the fighting was happening around it. When the war was over in 1990, the city centre was more like a city of ghosts, with huge damages.

A conservation and regeneration project was taking place in the destroyed city centre of Beirut, transforming the badly affected buildings into a new fancy city centre with luxurious flats, offices, high end retail shops, open spaces and streets.

The Solidere (Beirut new city centre) has become on of the tourists destinations in Lebanon, and enriched the whole area financially also.

However, this project was based on taking the properties of these old building from their individual owners and compensated them by giving them some assets in the company owning the project.

As a result, residents and shops owners were forced to move out of the centre, leaving their homes, properties, and memories.

Since then, Beirut city centre was never the same again. It became an empty fancy luxurious city waiting for tourists in summer to visit and spend some money in there, and the real Beirut exists only in the memory of a nation that suffered for years of war for power, identity, and existence.


beirut after war

the solidere


Where to live?

2 06 2011

by Vlado Kabat

I am sure that you have heard about various lists of the best cities to live in according to some criteria. I looked at the one which seems to be the most veracious. Mercer’s Quality of Living Survey is being updated every year. It compares over 200 cities with 40 criteria. New York has got constant score of 100 and the other cities are ranked with comparison to it. The ranking is based on the livability of the cities and the base criteria are education, hygiene, safety, health care, culture, recreation, environment, political and economic stability, public transport.  It is interesting that international companies sometimes choose their next place to open the office according to this list.

In recent years among the top dominate European cities and all of them were in German speaking countries. The other ones in top 10 were from Canada, Australia and New Zealand. So here we have the ranking, which city would you choose?

1. Vienna (108.6) 2.Zurich(108.0) 3.Geneva(107.9)  4-5.Auckland(107.4) 4-5. Vancouver(107.4) 6. Düsseldorf(107.2) 7-8.Frankfurt (107.0) 7-8.Munich(107.0) 9. Bern(106.5) 10.Sydney (106.3)

Before seeing this list, two of my ‘tops’ were Munich and Vienna, so for me the ranking is quite trustworthy.

Home Sweet Home: A Tool for Community Participation?

2 06 2011

By Lizzie Bird

After being enchanted by the Pop-up book PopVille see PopVille: The Pop Out City while doing some research for my design thesis I came across a project by Subject to Change called home sweet home – this link takes you to the interactive website.  home sweet home is an installation show where each individual audience member has the opportunity to choose a house to personalise and become part of a perfectly formed, miniature, cardboard community.  The development has a number of services to help individuals settle in, including Local FM Radio Station, a postal service, a notice board, and a local council.  Neighbours can introduce themselves and explore their community as it develops. They can make decisions on street names and other community issues.  When the community is complete a street party is held. This is when residents socialise together before taking their miniature house back to their own life sized home.   

Subject for Change uses home sweet home as a vehicle for community consultation to enable testing of a wide range of complex issues – urban, architectural, social and environmental.      The project event was held at the London Festival of Architecture in 2008 and has since then toured the UK and further afield to America and Japan. Summer 2011 exhibitions are planned in Canada. See their gallery of projects. I thought it was an interesting idea – sort of big society on a small scale?!  

Follow this link to see a BBC News article on the Norwich 2010  Exhibition – there’s a good video of the project here which shows how the community developed over the festival period.

The homo and the creative

2 06 2011

by: Ha mh Thai

“Why cities without gays and rock bands are losing the economic development race”

Richard Florida

The idea that makes me decided to search for a gay city comes from Richard Florida as he find out that the places with highest concentration of gays are also favorite place for the creative (as they are both ‘non-standard’). The list of places is quite long including Manchester, Brighton (UK), Los Angeles, California, Chicago (US), Sydney, Cape Town, and so on.

Brighton Festival Open House (2007)

Brighton Festival Open House (2007)

Within the limitation of this post, I will highlight some findings about City of Brighton & Hove (East Sussex, UK). Brighton acts as a magnet for lesbians and gay men from all over the world attracted to its bohemian atmosphere, open minded attitudes and raffish air. Brighton has now long been known as Britain’s number one gay resort. The art community in Brighton is extensive and is showcased once a year by the artist’s open house event during the Brighton Festival. On the beach, the famous Brighton Artists Quarter is located between two piers. Rows of Victorian fisherman workshops which were converted into small galleries and studio spaces accommodate a collection of artists and performers. Throughout the year, thousands of high quality artworks can be viewed, enjoyed or purchased by the general public, bring great benefit to the area.