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They just don’t build virtual cities like they used to

In the NYC Panorama, the Empire State building is only 13cm tallPhoto: John Pavlus The Panorama of the City of New York is one of a kind: Built under Robert Moses himself for the 1964 World's Fair, its 9,335 square feet encompass "every single building constructed before 1992 in all five boroughs," or 895,000 individual structures. (The panorama was updated many times through 1970, and then again in 1992.) Standing before the map is like looking out the window of a plane while flying into or out of LaGuardia, only you actually have the opportunity to find your own house, …

Read more: Urbanism


The road to success

Do you live in one of the nation’s ‘smartest regions for transportation’?

You might not see much similarity between More people walk to work in Boston than in any other city in the country.Photo: Steve MinorYolo County, Calif., with its open farmland and small cities, and the densely packed streets of New York City. But both are on the Natural Resource Defense Council's list of "America's Smartest Regions for Transportation." The list is a result of a study done by the NRDC's Smarter Cities Project, in collaboration with the Center for Neighborhood Technology: The study... compares and profiles U.S. cities based on public transit availability and use; household automobile ownership and use; …


Winning ways

Philips wants to reward some innovative urban ideas

A rendering showing how rooftops in Sana'a, Yemen, could be used to collect water.The ideal of smart cities -- technologically advanced, forward-thinking, and green -- is big in corporate circles these days. IBM has its "Smarter Cities" program, Cisco has its "Smart+Connected Communities," and the giant electronics corporation Philips has been promoting the concept of "Livable Cities" lately. (This webcast they put together with participants including urbanism guru Richard Florida and former London mayor Ken Livingstone gives a good overview of what they mean by that.) Philips is currently sponsoring a "Livable Cities Award" ("designed to generate practical, achievable ideas …


The village green

Are the British building the perfect town?

The U.K.'s greenest, cutest town. Image: Red Tree (2004) LLPCharles, the prince of Wales, is building the U.K.'s greenest town. We know what you're thinking, because we've seen Hot Fuzz too: It's important to be suspicious of British villages that look too good to be true. But Sherford, a planned eco-town that was just approved for construction in southwestern England, has a lot going for it. It won't be finished until 2020, so we don't know yet if it'll be secretly full of armed grannies, but on paper at least it's pretty cool. The activist formerly known as Prince: You'd …


I'd buy that for $50,000

An exclusive with the artist behind Detroit’s new Robocop statue

An iron pour from Westbrook's performance at the University of West Georgia's Art Incend event in October 2008.Photo: Casey WestbrookImagine a 10-foot-high steel bong filled with industrial grade coke that spews fire like Mordor and reaches temperatures hot enough to turn your radiator into a pool of molten slag. In the background, dimly illuminated by orange flames, Old Detroit at night. Just across the street, its most potent symbol of urban decay: Michigan Central Station, a 230-foot tall Beaux Arts monolith gutted like the carcass of some prehistoric animal, empty since Amtrak abandoned it in 1998. Rising from the privately …

Read more: Urbanism


Thank you very mulch

Bayview Greenwaste provides fertile ground for San Francisco’s urban agriculture revolution

Hayes Valley Farm is flourishing where a freeway ramp used to be. (Photo by Zoey Kroll.) Just a few years ago, they were abandoned freeways, dilapidated back yards, and institutional dumping grounds. But today, thanks to San Francisco's urban agriculture renaissance, many of these pockets of underutilized land are being transformed. And one local company -- Bayview Greenwaste -- is playing a key role, by transforming waste into mulch, and giving it away. The city's largest agricultural experiment to date may be the Hayes Valley Farm, which is growing on the former site of a freeway ramp. The ramp was …


Trust in the Rust Belt

This is Flint, Michigan, in all its pain and all its glory

Buick City parking lot, 2010.Photos: Wes Janz, except when notedCross-posted from Places [at] Design Observer, an online journal of architecture, landscape and urbanism, published in partnership with Design Observer. "Distressed are big chunks of Detroit, Flint, Gary, Chicago, East St. Louis, and Cincinnati." This is what I wrote after completing the weeklong Midwess Distress Tour with my Ball State colleague Olon Dotson and a dozen architecture students in October 2006. "Depressed. Dysfunctioned. Disoriented. Devolved. Dissed. Dissing. How many abandoned buildings should I photograph and take others to photograph before we get the picture? How many houses do you have to see …


Greener by design

Peter Calthorpe on why urbanism is the cheapest, smartest way to fight climate change

Peter Calthorpe.Cities may be the trendy topic du jour, but Peter Calthorpe has been talking about the benefits of urbanism since the 1970s. In 1993, he was one of the founders of the Congress for the New Urbanism, an influential national organization that promotes walkable, mixed-use, transit-rich development. Now Calthorpe has come out with a new book, Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change. In it, he argues that sustainable urban development must play a key role in the fight to reduce carbon emissions and counter climate change. He writes: Confronting climate change is a little like the war on …


your water wings for the dating pool

TreeShagger: 10 great green date ideas

Don't need no car to take me on a date. (Photo by Sara Hurt.)

Welcome to TreeShagger, our new column on green dating. If you've got green dating questions, send 'em our way!

So Valentine's Day came and went, and you're in the doghouse since you couldn't get a reservation at Olivebee's Factory? Cheer up, smuckers! Lean in close for some non-obvious, mostly cheap green date ideas, many of which I've tested for you myself. These aren't "green" in the sense that you're eating hummus and watching An Inconvenient Truth outside on a blanket made of stars -- boooring! -- but they're low-impact, legitimately fun things that don't require buying crap. Bonus points if you bike, bus, or walk! Ready?


Look, Mom, No Car!

How buses and ferries and light rail have made it cool to live in New Jersey [VIDEO]

Ever heard the phrase "transit-oriented development" and felt like you'd rather take a nice nap than learn what it means? Well, wake up and spend 3 minutes and 18 seconds watching this video from the Streetfilms crew. It shows how investment in excellent transit (light rail, buses, ferries, and commuter trains), along with some zoning changes, has made the New Jersey Hudson River waterfront a fine place to live and work -- one where you don't have to drive to enjoy shopping, dining, and just being. The area has attracted some $5 billion in residential development since light rail came …