A Dining Table for the Neighbourhood

the landscape table

The Landscape Table is a platform for cultivating, processing, cooking and sharing the food at the centre of the FARMPARCK in Brussels, Belgium. Thanks to the edible and medicinal plants inserted into the table itself, the installation invites the public to meet and eat in direct contact with a landscape that is a bounty for the senses – sight, smell, touch and, above all, taste. The essence of this project is to involve the visitor in the landscape, farming, nature and cooking through shared moments.

FARMPARCK puts to the test a new model for a public space combining the characteristics of a park and farmland, where food is grown, cooked and eaten by the neighbours. There is a vegetable garden, an animal farm, a kitchen, and a compost toilet which is to transform the park’s organic waste into “terra-preta”  (black earth, a rich and fertile soil) for the park and the surrounding area. FARMPARCK, which happens in a multicultural neighbourhood, meets both social and ecological needs. It was set up as a prototype from May to September 2014, but continues to be active today. Picture: Eric Dil.

Older Buildings Increase Urban Vitality

older smaller better buildings“All across America, blocks of older, smaller buildings are quietly contributing to robust local economies and distinctive livable communities. This groundbreaking study demonstrates the unique and valuable role that older, smaller buildings play in the development of sustainable cities.

Building on statistical analysis of the built fabric of three major American cities [San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.], the research demonstrates that established neighborhoods with a mix of older, smaller buildings perform better than districts with larger, newer structures when tested against a range of economic, social, and environmental outcome measures.”

Older, Smaller, Better. Measuring how the character of buildings and blocks influences urban vitality“, National Trust for Historic Preservation, May 2014. Via Lloyd Alter.

Micromachines: Decentralized Urban Services in South-Asia

VelochariotArchitects Damien Antoni and Lydia Blasco have compiled an interesting document that focuses on small-scale technology in countries like India, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. They photographed, and made technical drawings of miniature taxi’s, family run water turbines, domestic rain harvesting systems, pedal powered kitchens, home digesters, and the like.

The architects consider their work to be a toolbox, a starting point for thinking outside the conventional norms and recepies. They argue that decentralized services are more flexible, provide more autonomy, and are more efficient in space, energy and materials.

Antoni and Blasco present, in their own words, an equivalent to Neufert’s “Architect’s data“, the book for architects that records standardized dimensions for centralized systems. “Micromachins” is written in French but the visuals dominate.

“Micromachins”, Damien Antoni and Lydia Blasco, 2011 [download the page to get the high resolution PDF-document]. Thanks to Yann Philippe Tastevin. Update: the architects have added a new link with colour pictures and English translation.

The Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit (SUDU)

sudu

The ‘Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit’ (SUDU) in Ethiopia demonstrates that it is possible to construct multi-story buildings using only soil and stone. By combining timbrel vaults and compressed earth blocks, there is no need for steel, reinforced concrete or even wood to support floors, ceilings and roofs. The SUDU could be a game-changer for African cities, where population grows fast and building materials are scarce.

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Building with Mud and Steel Frames


Building with mud and steel frames is an interesting hybrid between industrial and non-industrial technologies. Two examples:

Building with mud bricks and steel frames 2 “Kazakh architect and artist Saken Narynov created a superstructure able to host what we could call an adobe vertical city. In fact, the structure is used as a matrix that can be more or less densely filled with multifamily habitation units. The traditional earth based material thus hybrids with the steel structure in a very unusual and interesting way and the space resulting between the habitation units and the structure is beautifully occupied by mazes of staircases and elevated pathways.”

“The design recalls recent works by the Chilean architect Marcelo Cortes, who employs a steel meshwork onto which mud is sprayed, but on a far greater scale. Cortes has developed a “quincha metalica”, a form of traditional quincha construction (mud and straw packed between a bamboo or wood frame) that uses a steel frame work.”

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Obsolete Technology Prints and Photograph Collections

Tissandier collection

Three wonderful collections from the Library of Congress, showing obsolete technologies.

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London Traffic Improvements (the Bressey Report, 1938)

London traffic improvements

In 1935 Sir Charles Bressey was appointed by Hore-Belisha, Minister of Transport, to make a comprehensive and systematic survey of the roads of Greater London. It was clear that the infrastructure required radical improvement to keep up with the expansion of traffic and Belisha said that Bressey’s report “would stir the imagination of the whole country”.

The report was published three years later and laid out a reconstruction scheme for London based on a detailed 30-year plan for highway development. Bressey’s plan to deal with traffic involved tunnels, overhead roads, new arterial and circular highways and ‘parkways’ linking the city to the rest of the country. Before any of this could be implemented the plan was interrupted by war and aerial bombardment. Nevertheless, many of Bressey’s ideas would influence post-war reconstruction and subsequent schemes for the capital’s reorganisation.

Source (if you’re in a UK school or library, you can access a movie about it).

Via Ptak Science Books, where you can see more illustrations of the “traffic improvements” outlined in the “Bressey Report”. Check out this blog, by the way, there is much more to be found (about 900 posts on the history of ideas and technology, to be precise…). It is written and illustrated by John Ptak, an antiquarian science bookseller.

Related: Magic Motorways, a similar plan for US cities.

London traffic improvements

Roadtown – a Railway in the Basement, a Promenade upon the Roof

Roadtown “The Roadtown is a scheme to organize production, transportation and consumption into one systematic plan. In an age of pipes and wires, and high speed railways such a plan necessitates the building in one dimension instead of three – the line distribution of population instead of the pyramid style of construction. The rail-pipe-and-wire civilization and the increase in the speed of transportation is certain to result in the line distribution of population because of the almost unbelievable economy in construction, in operation and in time.”

Roadtown“, Edgar Chambless, 1910.

More here, here, here and here. Via Alpoma.

City Life – Lessons in Vanity

“Already in the western world and Japan millions of city-dwellers and suburbanites have grown accustomed to an almost hermetically sealed and sanitized pattern of living in which very little of their experience ever impinges on non-human phenomena. For those of us born to such an existence, it is all but impossible to believe that anything is any longer beyond human adjustment, domination, and improvement. That is the lesson in vanity the city teaches us every moment of every day. For on all sides we see, hear, and smell the evidence of human supremacy over nature – right down to the noise and odor and irritants that foul the air around us. Like Narcissus, modern men and women take pride in seeing themselves – their products, their planning – reflected in all that they behold. The more artifice, the more progress; the more progress, the more security. We press our technological imperialism forward against the natural environment until we reach the point at which it comes as startling and not entirely credible news to our urban masses to be told by anxious ecologists that their survival has anything whatever to do with air, water, soil, plant, or animal.”

Quoted from (again): “Where the Wasteland Ends“, Theodore Roszak, 1972. (Amazon link).

Lost London

lost london

Picture gallery. Via Things Magazine.