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.

Obsolete Technology Prints and Photograph Collections

Tissandier collection

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

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Peak Asphalt: the Return of Gravel Roads

gravel roads

“Gravel roads don’t mean the end of transportation. We’ll just have to slow down considerably, and that may not be a bad thing.”

Read: The return of gravel roads.

Picture: a strip road.

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

Street life

Approximately 1.3 million people die each year on the world’s roads, and between 20 and 50 million sustain non-fatal injuries. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists make up almost half of those killed on the roads. Global status report on road safety / country profiles.

Magic Motorways

Futurama city for the motor age

In the “Highways and Horizons” pavilion at the 1939-40 World’s Fair in New York, General Motors presented Americans with “Futurama”, a vision of the city of 1960. Norman Bel Geddes designed an enormous scale model, showing a utopian city rebuilt for the motor age, completely separating cars and pedestrians. Five million people came to see the exhibit, waiting more than an hour for their turn to get a sixteen-minute glimpse at the motorways of the world of tomorrow. There
is a technicolor movie of the show online, as well as the accompanying book that Geddes wrote to explain his (and the motor industry’s) ideas (or propaganda): “Magic Motorways“.

Update: another movie here (via). Related: London traffic improvements (the Bressey Report, 1938).

How to Depave the Planet

how to depave the planet

The crack garden. “A crack team of guerrilla gardeners will undertake tactical missions to etch similar tectonic fissures in the parking lots of failed suburban malls and abandoned inner neighborhoods of post-industrial cities. With pneumatic drills or with pick axes and some elbow grease, they’ll wound the earth’s (un)natural asphalt skin, so that forgotten ecologies may return and hopefully fester”. Via Pruned. More how-to information here.

Street life in 1905

(Source)