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* Architecture & Design: Ten Ways to Transform Cities through Placemaking & Public Spaces

Posted by the editors on Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Ten Ways to Transform Cities through Placemaking & Public Spaces

Architecture & Design: Ten Ways to Transform Cities through Placemaking & Public Spaces:  “..In 2011, UN-HABITAT and Project for Public Spaces (PPS) signed a 5-year cooperative agreement to aspire to raise international awareness of the importance of public space in cities, to foster a lively exchange of ideas among partners and to educate a new generation of planners, designers, community activists and other civic leaders about the benefits of what they call the “Placemaking methodology.” Their partnership is helping to advance the development of cities where people of all income groups, social classes and ages can live safely, happily and in economic security and in order to reach these ambitious goals, the duo recently released 10 informative steps that cities and communities can take to improve the quality of their public spaces.

UN-HABITAT Executive Director Joan Clos i Matheu believes that “what defines a character of a city is its public space, not its private space. What defines the value of the private assets of the space are not the assets by themselves but the common assets. The value of the public good affects the value of the private good. We need to show every day that public spaces are an asset to a city.”

Building inclusive, healthy, functional, and productive cities is perhaps the greatest challenge facing humanity today, but when done right, they can jumpstart economic development, help build a sense of community, civic identity and culture, facilitate social capital and community revitalization. Investing even a little bit into the quality of a public space delivers a significant return to a city that has the foresight to see its value.

Because urbanization is the definitive reality of the 21st century and because it is occurring most rapidly in places with the greatest lack of urban planning, UN-HABITAT and PPS came up with the Placemaking method in order to create places where the community feels ownership and engagement, and where design serves function, meeting basic human needs. The process will identify and catalyze local leadership, funding and other resources, drawing on the assets and skills of a community rather than on relying solely on professional “experts.”

Their 10 Steps to Success are:

1. Improve Streets as Public Spaces

Streets are the fundamental public space in every city, but many are choked by traffic, so Placemaking encourages the planning of cities for people and places, not just cars. The ideal street will be able to sustain different modes of transportation, whether it be car, rail, tram, bicycle or pedestrian, and all will work parallel with each other. Planning out a hierarchy of corridors ranging from major boulevards to quiet neighborhood streets will also affect what develops on that street and create more appropriate street-building interactions. Creating more pedestrian-friendly streets in general will provide spaces for interpersonal interaction and foster a sense of community that is impossible in a primarily vehicular road.

2. Create Squares and Parks as Multi-Use Destinations

if public squares and parks are planned around major public destinations, they build local economies, civic pride, social connection and human happiness. These spaces serve as “safety valves” for a city, where people can find either breathing room and relaxation in a well-planned park space or fear and danger in a badly-planned one. The most successful public spaces are “multi-use destinations” with many attractions and activities, where citizens can find common ground and where ethnicity and economic tensions can go unnoticed.

3. Build Local Economies Through Markets

Historically, the essential function of any urban center has been a crossroads where people have come together to exchange goods and ideas and public markets have been at the heart of most cities since ancient times. Markets are traditionally the most productive and dynamic places in our cities and towns, where the exchange of news, politics and gossip takes place and where people solidify the social ties that are essential to a healthy society. Markets do many things for cities, including but not limited to encouraging entrepreneurship, sustaining farmland around cities, strengthening ties between urban and rural areas and improving access to fresh food. Replacing the traditional market with a supermarket – a staple in the US – has proven to have no social value and has only deteriorated existing community ties.

4. Design Buildings to Support Places

Buildings with interesting interiors may be architecturally successful to some but it is the architecture that permeates outwards beyond the facade and towards the street level where it engages the city fabric that is the most successful because it is built with the human scale in mind. It is especially important to invest in public institutions like museums, government buildings and libraries so that they engage their surrounding urban environment and foster more opportunities for interpersonal interaction.

5. Link a Public Health Agenda to a Public Space Agenda

It’s nothing new that a healthy city offers citizens basic infrastructure like clean water, ablution facilities, sewage treatment, access to healthy food and safety in public areas. Healthcare facilities should serve as community centers, libraries should provide health education and services, public markets should be a source of fresh, affordable and nutritious food and transportation systems should encourage walking and reduce car traffic and air pollution. Where people feel a sense of ownership in their cities, they are more likely to take better care of the common environment and of themselves, resulting in a reduction in daily stress and less neighborhood crime thanks to an active public realm.

6. Reinvent Community Planning

When planning projects within an established community, it is very important to identify talents and resources in that community – people who can provide historical perspective, insights into how the area functions and an understanding of what is truly meaningful to local people. Planners should always partner with local institutions and involve them from start to finish because communities have a more holistic vision for their public space than the more limited outside professional and can act as valuable facilitators and resources. Good public spaces are flexible and respond to evolution of the urban environment, so keeping the community in long-term control ensures that the space will adapt to their changing needs.

7. Power of 10

The principle of the Power of 10 is the importance of offering a variety of things to do in one location – making a place more than the sum of its parts. For example, a park should not only be a park, but a park with a fountain, playground, food vendor, nearby library, etc. If a neighborhood has 10 places that each have 10 different things to do, then that neighborhood is on the right track; but if that city then has 10 neighborhoods of this nature, all citizens will be guaranteed excellent public spaces within walking distance of their homes.

8. Create a Comprehensive Public Space Agenda

Both top-down and bottom-up strategies are needed to develop, enhance and manage public space – leadership at the top is essential but grassroots organizing strategies are also integral to its success. A city must honestly assess public spaces and their performance and make bold decisions based off of this analysis. For example, New York City decided to carve a public plaza out of all of its 59 community board districts, Chicago decided to implement a small tax on new development to fund improvements of surrounding public areas and, internationally, Brazil launched an ambitious initiative to build 800 “public squares” in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities across the country over the next 3 years.

9. Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper: Start Small, Experiment

On the other hand, big is not always better – or the only strategy. Small moves like creating places to sit, a sidewalk, a cafe, planning a community event, organizing a container garden or painting crosswalks all have positive effects on a community and its public space. Informal settlements in particular are already accustomed to lightweight, innovative strategies that can rethink their environment, so implementing small changes here and there can really add up.

10. Restructure Government to Support Public Spaces

There’s no getting around it: you need local leaders, funding and other resources in order to create successful public space. There is hardly ever an official power structure in a community that focuses on creating successful public realms – the existing public structure sometimes even impedes successful public space. Each governmental department usually has a specific, narrow approach – transportation deals with traffic, parks with green space, etc – but if the ultimate goal of governance, urban institutions and development is to make places, communities and regions more prosperous, civilized and attractive for all people, then government processes need to change to reflect that goal. Cities need consensus-building, city consultation processes and institutional reform that enhance citizenship and inclusion and work for the public good, removing bureaucratic obstacles to quickly add value to a place and demonstrate future potential.

With these strategies in mind, it is the hope of UN-HABITAT and PPS that more communities around the globe will take on the responsibility of creating better public spaces for their people and will make it into a real priority that will fuel smarter urban development. (Reference: PPS Publication)..”  Very interesting ideas of prime importance..

image: Courtesy of Flickr user Chrissy Olson; article: Porada , Barbara. “Ten Ways to Transform Cities through Placemaking & Public Spaces” 21 Apr 2013.ArchDaily.

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Posted in Architects, Architecture, Architecture & Design in China, Architecture + Design, Contemporary Architecture, contemporary design, Cultural Architecture, Design, Designalog, Green Design, Hospitality Architecture, Humanitarian Design, Landscape Architecture, Mixed-Use Architecture, Public Architecture, Public Facilities, Public Parks, Social Architecture, Sustainable Architecture, Sustainable Design, Urban Design | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

* Architecture: Zaha Hadid: Changsha Meixihu International Culture & Art Center

Posted by the editors on Thursday, 7 March 2013

Zaha Hadid - Changsha Meixihu International Culture & Art Center

Architecture: Zaha Hadid: Changsha Meixihu International Culture & Art Center: “..the capital of the south central chinese province of hunan is in the midst of incredible population growth and rapid urban development.  at the center of a stimulus worth 130 billion USD is the idyllic meixihu lake, now primed for an ambitious set of cultural projects. zaha hadid’s winning design for the ‘changsha meixihu international culture and art center’ broke ground in october after distinguishing itself as a composition of serpentine curves forming a complex that contains a contemporary art museum, a multipurpose hall, a hotel, and various ancillary facilities. the central plaza emphasizes the pedestrian urban experience by helping to create incidental meeting areas and generating cultural capital in form of a sculpture garden and expansive exhibition space. views of the lake are framed by the museum’s three-petal form, unfurling around a central atrium. outward views are afforded by ribbons of glazing and balconies that serve the dual purpose of admitting daylight into the galleries. the multipurpose hall is a pointedly variable space, with public access to retail areas and restaurants nestled in a sunken courtyard. the focal point of the plan comes by way of the grand theater, slated to be the largest performance venue in the city with an 1800 seat capacity. new zealand-based acoustic engineers at marshall day won a december bid to optimize sound performance in the central auditorium. the three major programs, while discrete buildings, are linked by sinuous passageways, curved white planes and an architecture of baroque intonations..”

See some of our other posts on work by Zaha Hadid Architects:

image: © zaha hadid architects; article: Designboom

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Posted in Architects, Architecture, Architecture & Design in China, Architecture + Design, Awards, Contemporary Architecture, contemporary design, Cultural Architecture, Design, Designalog, Galleries, Hospitality Architecture, Mixed-Use Architecture, Product Design, Public Architecture, Public Facilities, Retail Architecture | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

* Residential Architecture: WFH House by Arcgency

Posted by the editors on Tuesday, 26 February 2013

WFH House by Arcgency

Residential Architecture: WFH House by Arcgency: Arcgency have designed the WFH House in Wuxi, China.  “..The design is based on Nordic values. Not only according to architecture, but also design objects. These values are defined as: • Flexibility. • Build for people, human values. – Good daylight conditions, different types of light. • Reliable (long term) solutions. – Healthy materials, recyclable materials, design for disassembly strategies. • Materials that age gracefully. • Access to nature, greenery. • Minimalistic look. • Playfulness.  Sustainable global housing: The WFH concept is a modular concept, based on a design principle, using 40 feet high cube standard modules as structural system. The structure can be adapted to local challenges such as climatic or earthquake issues. Online customization-tools give clients the possibility to decide their own version of the house concerning layout, size, facade, interior etc. The configuration happens within a predefined framework that will ensure high architectural value and quality of materials. Building-components are prefabricated and on site construction can be limited..FLEX space: The FLEX space is the heart of the house. It contains the living room, kitchen and can be used for multiple purposes. Parts of the room are double height, creating perfect lighting conditions. The rest of the space is one storey height, defined by the landing that creates access to the spaces on the second floor. In each end of the FLEX space there is access to the surroundings and daylight. The boundary between inside and outside disappears, when the doors open. This is a fundamental part of the design; to be able to open let nature in. It is a consequence of having varying requirements for inside temperature and definitions of what domestic functions takes place inside and outside..Geometry: The geometry of the FLEX space is defined by the two rows of modules, and can easily be modified to specific wishes regarding size. The FLEX space has a number of possible solutions for subdivisions. Both on one plan or two plans. It can also be one big space, creating a lot of light and openness. The kitchen elements are built into the wall (into the technical module). It creates more floor space and also makes connection to water and plumbing easy. The kitchen can also be extended with at freestanding element, defining the work area of the kitchen. From the FLEX space there is access to all spaces. This eliminates square meters used for logistics. It is possible to make larger openings from the FLEX space into the rooms, again creating flexible solutions within the same system..The size of the bedrooms is defined by the half of a module (15m2). There are four bedrooms, and they can be used for multiple purposes: A parent’s bedroom, kid’s bedroom, workspace etc. Three of the bedrooms have windows on two facades, creating a mixed light. It is possible to remove the wall, or part of it, facing the FLEX space. This adds flexibility to the layout and shows the structural systems ability to adapt do different needs..The landing creates access to the second floor, but can also be used as a space for play, relaxation or work. It gives the inhabitant the possibility to draw back, but still enjoy the company of people in the house. You are in the FLEX space, but because you are on the first floor you are drawn back from the action. It is an ideal place for a quiet retreat and still being able to observe what is going on in the house..”  Ample glazing, natural light, views; interesting modular concept and interior volumes..

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image: © Jens Markus Lindhe; article: “WFH House / Arcgency” 21 Feb 2013. ArchDaily

Posted in Architects, Architecture, Architecture & Design in China, Architecture + Design, Contemporary Architecture, contemporary design, Design, Designalog, Interiors, Prefab Design, Residential Architecture | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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