Category Archives: municipal

Introduction to New Urbanism

Here is a short video introducing the concept of new urbanism:

(via US consultants TND Engineering)


Better street design

Some links:

Complete streets coalition

Living streets UK

Denver living streets

Green wall eco flop

Paradise Park
Paradise Park

This looks like a serious case of a client and architect hopping on to the green bandwagon and then falling off with a crash… my last post was on Patrick Blanc, a scientist who has for years studied what attributes are required for a successful ‘vertical garden’ and has a track record of many installations around the world.

Enter a local council and an architectural practice looking for a green icon in the borough. It was decided a ‘living wall’ was the statement they needed and went ahead, notably without any input from Patrick Blanc. Well, they got what they wanted, according to the Architect’s Journal, it was high profile and was shortlisted for and apparently won some awards. But two years later – well look at the photo. The Architects Journal has an article with some scathing quotes from other practitioners and other architects commenting on the article don’t hold back.
My take-home thougths on this:
  1. Greenwashing anyone? There is a lot of infrastructure, materials, pumps and maintenence required to make it work. Ostensibly a green wall should contribute to insualtion, cooling and so on but whether it outweighs the embodied input is questionable.
  2. Beware of fads in architecture. Unlike clothing fashion its not easy to change a style after two years and it will remain, mocking…
  3. Architecture awards are not a good indicator of good architecture.
  4. What is it about local government and maintenence? It seems like it was a lack of maintenence of the irrigation pump system. (They are not admitting it of course).
  5. What is wrong with just using a creeper? Grows in the ground, naturally clings to the wall, needs same amount of maintenence, looks pretty much the same…

A good looking book by Howard Liddell that takes aim at the green hubris is Ecominimalism: the antidote to eco-bling.

Durban’s Early Morning Market: what would Yunus do?

It looks like the demolition of 20090420_WarwickJunction_EditedDurban’s historic Early Morning Market, home to thousands of informal traders, is inevitable. The city powers have bulldozed this through, ignoring the environmental specialists; heritage specialists; development specialists; academics and not least the traders themeselves. This is to make way for a new shopping mall with all the economic blandness that it entails, converting the thousands of micro entrepreneurs into at best a few hundered wage earners, with all profits going into ‘Big Retail’.

I find it sad as this place pulsates with energy and while it is indeed chaotic and lawless, it has incredible potential to emerge (with good planning and management) as a cenre for micro-business and local trade, whilst retaining the heritage and unique atmosphere of the space.

What is ironic (and which makes it sadder still) is that none other than Muhammad Yunus is currently in the country, sharing in the successes of investing in the poor with his microfinancing methods of Grameen Bank.

I suggested to an activist organisation opposing this development that they should make contact with him and get him to opine on the issue. I have no doubt on which side he would come down on.

What would Yunus do?

Here is an interview by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, where he is due to speak.

Tony Lankester asks: where is South Africa’s Muhammad Yunus?

The text of a petition to the city council is pasted below:

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How could I forget

As an engineer involved in sanitation, how could I forget World Toilet Day?

Parking regulations are more interesting than you think

Why? Because they can have a profund effect on the liveability of a neighbourhood.

This article explores some of the issues.