Urbanism

IKEA to design an entire neighborhood

Exciting news for those whose entire house is populated by IKEA furniture (we know you're out there): the Swedish furniture company is going to be building an entire neighborhood in London. We know. It'll be like living in the IKEA store! With a Swedish meatball shop on every corner and 24/7 access to lingonberry jam. (There will also be a floating cocktail bar. That’s not an obscure IKEA store joke. There will just be a floating cocktail bar.) IKEA is planning some smart features for the 26-acre, 1,200-home neighborhood. It'll be mixed-use and feature underground parking. The company also says …

Infographic: World’s tallest buildings OF THE FUTURE

(click to embiggen) Buildings are getting to be so tall that the Council on Tall Buildings came up with a new name for their most extreme versions: Megatall. This is density taken to an extreme that may not be all that helpful. For one thing, people, goods, and water have to be moved all the way to the top of these things, and that requires a lot of energy. In addition, above a certain height, structural elements take up more and more of a building's interior space, reports Sun Joo Kim at SmartPlanet. Here's the full list of the world's …

Urbanism

In praise of the humble pothole

Photo: Topsy Qur’etThis may be the “most wonderful time of the year” for holiday music fans, but it’s a terrible time to drive: Constant freezing and thawing and the pounding of holiday traffic create craters in the asphalt large enough to swallow a Cooper Mini, leaving us to pick our way through a minefield of potholes.  But who says that’s such a bad thing? Potholes are a perennial topic of griping in cities worldwide, given their tendency to damage unsuspecting vehicles, threaten bicyclists, and impede all modes of traffic. We debate their origin (“Did they really start in ancient Rome?”), allow them a …

Cities

Cities: Not quite as awesome as we like to think

Photo: David Graham If you Google the term “a scholar and a gentleman,” the first result to pop up is a picture of Witold Rybczynski — or it would be if there were any justice in the world. Rybczynski is an architect, author, and professor of urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania. He has written a dozen or so books on technology, architecture, real estate — even a natural history of the screwdriver. He knows The City like it’s nobody’s business. So it was notable when, in a blog post a few weeks back, Rybczynski opened a can of Jedi-style …

Has dense living gotten too dense?

Thinkers like Ed Glaeser, whose ideas have been discussed frequently on Grist, assert that density is an unalloyed good, and even Manhattan isn't dense enough. But there is another strand of thought about cities, which is that they are neither green nor sustainable, and it's exemplified by everyone's favorite foul-mouthed catastrophist, James Howard Kunstler. In a new piece in Orion magazine, helpfully summarized by Treehugger's Lloyd Alter, Kunstler asserts that even the reviving urban cores of our cities are doomed. DOOOOMED!!! I see our cities getting smaller and denser, with fewer people. Skyscrapers will be obsolete, travel greatly reduced, and …

Adorable video defends public transportation

Here's a sweet 30-second plea for the improvement of the public transportation used by 35 million Americans every day. Because there should be many tens or hundreds of millions more of them, but at the rate we’re going now, that’s not looking likely. Eighty-four percent of transit systems have raised rates or cut service. Is this any way to handle the inexorably increasing price and environmental consequences of our ever more desperate quest for oil?

How Baby Boomers doomed the exurbs

Homes and strip malls in America's outer-ring suburbs, which contained most of the country's most expensive homes in the 1990s, are now worth less than what it cost to build them. And the land beneath them is worth effectively zero, says Brookings Institution senior fellow Christopher B. Leinberger, in a powerful op-ed arguing that the future of the country is urban and walkable. Simply put, there has been a profound structural shift — a reversal of what took place in the 1950s, when drivable suburbs boomed and flourished as center cities emptied and withered. What's driving this transition? The two …

Cities

Re-Occupy Main Street: Entrepreneurs revive down-and-out business districts

Designer Will Phillips (pictured) and John Bolster have opened Sandtown Millworks in a former bank with help from a Operation:Storefront grant.Photo: Elizabeth Evitts DickinsonLast week kicked off that special time of year when indulgence and guilt face off in the ultimate death match, prompting headlines like this one in the “healthy living” section of the Huffington Post: “Can holiday shopping count as exercise?” (Uhm, no.) This year, small businesses across the country are harnessing the spirit of the Occupy movement in the hopes of reclaiming the spirit of the holiday season. If you plan to shop, they say, buy local, …

Turning vacant lots into parks reduces violent crime

A new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology analyzes a 10-year project in Philadelphia to turn abandoned lots into public parks. As it turns out, the project hasn’t just eliminated eyesores — it’s also reduced crime. Gun-related assaults, vandalism ,and criminal mischief all dropped off significantly in the reclaimed spaces. The researchers theorize that this is because manicured parks suggest to would-be criminals that an area is being watched over by concerned citizens who might call the cops. Also, lawns aren't as good for storing guns and other contraband as lots overgrown with weeds and trash. The researchers …

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