NASA scientists aimed to create more stable spaceships, but inadvertently found a way to make buildings safer during earthquakes. In an example of the hummingbird effect, an interstellar innovation presents an opportunity to change the way buildings are “earthquake proofed”. This has particular promise for cities on North America’s west coast as they prepare for the “really big one“. More broadly, the innovation underlines the potential to apply existing technology to new fields and the value of cross-sector cooperation.
Re-thinking human relationships with water is critical for climate change adaptation. Waterfront cities have undertaken a range of initiatives to address sea-level rise and future water deficiency. Shaped like an upside-down umbrella, Tåsinge Plads, a public space in Copenhagen, uses clever landscaping and materials to both manage flood control and increase quality of life. The collaborative designs overcame restraints of traditional engieneering solutions. Would you agree that today’s complicated issues are better served by creative multidisciplinary approaches?
Canada’s infrastructure deficit is estimated to be $123 billion and growing. This wasn’t lost on national politicians during the recent national election, with the winning Liberal party promising $125 billion for infrastructure over the next decade. In the lead up to the new federal budget, ReNew Canada outlined what they expect to see. It includes major funding for Canada’s big cities, big investments in public transit, and consistent, long-term funding for municipalities. As Renew Canada notes, “If you build stuff, it should be a busy few years ahead.”
As sites of opportunity, cities have a long history of attracting new, poor residents. Terrible housing conditions for these newcomers was well documented and in response, governments began offering social housing. Balancing quality of life, good design and cost has remained a stubborn challenge, however. Numerous designs have been tested, with varying success. Recently, a low-rise, high-density approach has regained popularity. This typology is promoted on the basis of encouraging eyes on the street and creating well-defined spaces, while lower building heights reduce costs. While the success of this typology within current socioeconomic context(s) remains to be seen, a return to this typology suggests that architects, social advocates and policy-makers may be closing in on the (contextually-dependent) Goldilocks of social housing.
As drones move from a rare novelty to ubiquitous tool, questions about their role in cities have steadily increased. While many concerns persist, according to New York magazine, the proliferation of drones could also help solve many challenges cities face today. Car-free delivery, infrastructure analysis and disaster relief or noise, chaos and crashes? The urban impact of drones could be widespread. The big question is whether they will be a good thing for cities.
Major increases in city land values, a side-effect of a revived appreciation for urbanity, have pushed planners, developers and designers to reconsider formerly overlooked spaces. A creative and pragmatic outlook is useful to maximize the value of these spaces, including New York’s Highline and Miami’s Underline. Now an exciting new generation of designs are emerging, such as Toronto’s Under Gardiner and New York’s Lowline. The marriage of market and creativity is a powerful force to enhance our cities.
Failed Architecture posed this provocative question as guest editors for 2ha magazine’s A State of A Nation issue. As FA’s editors admit, “this a problematic investigation since suburbia is too big to fail…and impossible to define”, but it does provide insight into the qualities and weaknesses that make suburbia both appealing and despised. Reflecting on this dominant development 20th century can help us understand where our cities have been, and where they are going.