Are ‘smart cities’ not as smart as they think they are?

Smart cities like Masdar, in Abu Dhabi, are all the rage. But are they intelligent in the right way?Photo: Trevor PattCross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Intelligent cities” and “smart cities” are all the rage right now, especially in corporate image advertising related to emerging technology. But is there a downside? I think there may be, insofar as those phrases are used to describe tech-based panaceas for urban problems whose roots lie not in a lack of sophisticated information flow, but in a half-century or more of dumb growth patterns, central-city disinvestment, and poor neighborhood design.    Just a …

Riding onto the Sunset

Traffic-snarled LA goes bike-wild with 1,600 miles of lanes

The Backbone Bikeway Network proposed by the L.A. Bike Working Group was incorporated into the city’s master plan for 1,680 miles of new bike lanes.Graphic: LA Bike Working GroupThe cab driver who cut off Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa when the mayor was riding his bicycle last year may have done the city a huge favor. After the incident, in which he fell from his bike and broke his elbow, Villaraigosa started talking a lot more about the importance of bicycles to the city’s future. And on March 2, he signed a kind of astonishing bicycle master plan, which had …

stick it to the man

Move over, Banksy: Candy Chang’s art might actually save the world

Photo: Cesar HaradaCan art save our cities? If it’s Candy Chang’s crowdsourced fantasy urban planning, then yeah, probably. Chang’s “I Wish This Was” project challenges New Orleans residents to project their ideal neighborhood onto the still-struggling post-Katrina landscape. The installation is simple: just a bunch of blank “my name is”-style stickers that say “I Wish This Was.” What would you like to see in that boarded-up shop window? Food? Bikes? Tacos? Art supplies? A sex place? Fill in a sticker and slap it on up there. It’s all fantasy, of course, and everyone knows it. But it gets people thinking …

Baby, it’s cold outside

Rooftop garden porn to get you through winter

Winter’s relentless grip will give way, we promise. Come summer, even those of us deeply ensconced within a concrete jungle will kick it in under the shade of glorious greenery. You need a little of that right now, don’t you? Step in, sit down, and take in the warm air of these rooftop oases.   Photo: jwilly Air drop us in. Never make us leave.


Your guide to a great green weekend in Portland

Portland’s swanky Sapphire Hotel.Photo: Sarah Gilbert Can you think of a greener city than Portland? Nope, didn’t think so. The City of Roses occupies a warm, squishy spot in the hearts of many a biker, climate hawk, and nature-lovah. We asked you to share your fave local breweries, organic cafés, and green hangouts, and compiled your best ideas into a car-free guide to a great green weekend in Portland. Friday night Click to enlargeFrom the Amtrak or Greyhound station, arm yourself with $2.05 and follow these directions to the Portland Hawthorne Hostel (they work if you’re coming from the airport …

from the town of bedrock

Check out Helsinki’s underground shadow city

Itakeskus underground swimming complexPhoto: Lewis Martin From the country that brought you the world’s spookiest children’s series, please meet the underground city. Helsinki, Finland’s capital, has decided to defeat sprawl by building down instead of out. Incised into the city’s bedrock are a swimming pool, a shopping area, a church, a hockey rink, and a data center, not to mention “parking caverns” and a bunch of the city’s necessary municipal doodads. An underground shadow city! Seriously, you guys, how is it possible for Finland to be so creepy and cool? Some of the benefits here are obvious — it reduces …


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, …

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 …

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