BRAZILIAN AQUARIUM: Acquario Ceará planned for the northeastern Brazilian city of Fortaleza
As reported in City Lab, Brazil will soon boast the largest aquarium in South America. When it is completed in 2015, Acquario Ceará in the northeastern Brazilian city of Fortaleza will be the world’s most recognizable aquarium—an architectural statement. It may also be the most truly American project in the Western Hemisphere.
The U.S. is designing, engineering, constructing, and even financing Acquario Ceará—a design showpiece meant to drive tourism in the state of Ceará after the World Cup. In what has to be a global first, a U.S. federal agency is building a blobitectural marvel on another continent in order to create jobs for small businesses at home.
But will the new aquarium be a good investment? Critics point to the need for more pressing infrastructural projects, schools, and other basic services. Fortaleza lacks the cultural infrastructure to change quickly from a regional tourism hub to a global tourism center. The article by Kriston Capps concludes:
"It may be a hell of an aquarium when it’s finished. But from a distance, it looks like two bad effects compounded: Bilbao Effect-meets-World Cup aspirational development."
LIVING CITY WALLS: Urban built environments are alive with commercial advertisements, political propaganda, informal signatures, unauthorized graffiti, and commissioned street art. We can read a society’s history by the expressions on its walls. Here we see an anarchist question taken to its logical conclusion:
QUESTION EVERYTHING… WHY?
A good question!
CITY OF WALLS: São Paulo’s new master plan discourages gated condominium towers (condominios fechados)
São Paulo’s ambitious new urban master plan prohibits gated-off buildings in parts of the city and encourages new developments that provide street-level interaction with retail.
Jodana Timerman reports in City Lab that this new effort to curb street life-killing modernist building designs could have a lasting impact on the city’s culture: what São Paulo’s streets look like and how its residents interact with each other.
These measures are only part of a recently approved 150-page plan that creates strong incentives for transit-oriented development and limits the amount of space devoted to new parking. Critics (aka developers) argue that the policies could very well drive up housing prices.
Still, the hotly debated plan, which took nine months to gain approval, promises many benefits and echoes planning trends in other parts of the world. The new master plan also includes land access opportunities for poor residents and other progressive urban and regional policies.
EUROPEAN ENERGY GEOGRAPHY: Although European leaders are under pressure to increase the EU sanctions against Russia, following the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, this maps tells us exactly why there may be resistance in the continent.
In the past, the EU has been reluctant to impose U.S.-style sanctions on key sectors of Russian economy. Many European countries rely on Russian energy and exports to the country. Explore the maps here to see just how dependent the EU is on Russia.
EMPIRE STATE BUILDING: Taken on the spur of the moment with my iPhone on June, 13, 2014, at 9:40 pm, as I was strolling around Midtown Manhattan, I was surprised later how evocative the image turned out to be for me. Its stark, granular, and vertical qualities really capture my sense of Midtown Manhattan at night. The photo also reminds me Georgia O’Keeffe’s early paintings of New York buildings, such as City Night and New York—Night, 1926, and Radiator Bldg—Night, New York, 1927.
SIDEWALK MEMORIAL FOR MALAYSIA AIR 17: Walking along East 43rd Street in Manhattan, I noticed another impromptu sidewalk memorial for the 298 victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014. This one, appropriately, took place outside the Malaysian Mission to the United Nations. I find such spontaneous expressions of grief particularly moving, as their impermanence mirrors of the transience of life abruptly cut short by the tragedy.
BICYCLE CENTER: Congested São Paulo to open free cyclist hub
Infamous for its traffic congestion, São Paulo has worked for years to improve rapid transit and to provide bike lanes and bike-share kiosks. Now, it will have something more for cyclists: a massive new headquarters for all their needs.
Nora Lamm reports for Global Site Plans that South America’s largest city begins construction this week on the “Largo Bike” facility. It will feature bike parking, showers, maintenance and repair along with restrooms and changing stations. Rentals will be available through Bike Sampa, the local bike-share service. Use of the facility will be free to registered users.
Underscoring the city’s commitment to promoting cleaner transportation, the cycling hub will be open 24-hours-a-day. São Paulo approved the structure, which opens this month, in response to record levels of congestion on its roads, the article says. The city already has an extensive network of bike lanes covering 260 km (162 miles).
Sources: Cityscope and Global Site Plans
SIDEWALK MEMORIAL: The streetscapes of cities are alive with human energy and creativity. Urban landscapes — sidewalks, walls, and buildings — are full of human signatures, ranging from advertising, graffiti, venders, and other evidence of social interaction.
After tragedies, memorials often spontaneously arise to commemorate human losses, grieve for the lost ones, and sometimes to protest those responsible. After the 9/11 attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, for example, many memorials spontaneously arose to honor the many victims.
The images above show a memorial on Third Avenue between 42rd and 43rd Streets in Midtown Manhattan — not far from the United Nations and many national missions — where I recently passed an impassioned sidewalk memorial to honor the 298 people lost as a result of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17, 2014.
While the issue of culpability is now debated, the memorial reflects widespread dismay and anger at the destruction of a civilian airliner by military insurgents. The episode also underscores how a regional conflict in Ukraine suddenly entered global consciousness. As the New York Times noted, “For many, the disaster brought home a struggle that had seemed distant.”
INNOVATION CENTER: Can Ecuador’s planned city make the country a tech leader?
Ecuador is pouring more than $1 billion into a planned city two hours outside of Quito, designed to help the country emerge as a sort of “Silicon Valley of the tropics” over the next 30 years. Known as Yachay, the center is to become a research university and innovation center with a population projected ultimately to reach 100,000. But there are reasons to be skeptical, according to article by Jim Wyss in the Miami Herald. Read all about it here.
RESILIENT CITY: Extending Lower Manhattan’s shoreline with a multi-purpose levee
The proposed extension of lower Manhattan’s shoreline 500 feet into the East River is intended to protect the borough from storm surge. Graham Beck reports in Next City that the “Seaport City” concept would have another upside: commercial and residential development.
Revenue generated from the development could help New York City offset engineering and construction costs that could run into the billions, the article says.
The massive project, which would take decades to implement, would raise the shoreline 19 feet above sea level to cushion the impact of devastating storms like Hurricane Sandy in 2012. It also would fortify a protective berm under construction on the Lower East Side.
The goal is a more resilient Manhattan that’s less vulnerable to crippling floods. A May study commissioned by the city concludes that the proposed expansion is “technically, legally and financially feasible.”
Sources: Citiscope and Next City
“What is going on in San Francisco has been called a “culture war,” and yet the values each side espouses can sound strikingly similar. Protesters like those outside Davies Hall have fought for open and eclectic urban life. They want broader social-support systems, they’re angry about the Man’s systemic abuses. These are, at least in theory, values on which tech’s pursuits rest. Techies tend to have strong feelings about immigration barriers (they’re against them), universal health care (for that), and environmentalism (a big deal). In their minds, there’s no industry more closely aligned with the quirky culture of San Francisco — so why now, after decades in the region, are they being attached as interlopers from the wrong side of the ideological divide?”
Nathan Heller, “California Screaming,” New Yorker, July 7 & 14, 2014, pp. 46-53.
To answer the question posed above, there is no quick and easy answer. Heller suggests that the differences between the tech sector and the anti-tech protesters (reflected in the tech-bus and other protests) “appears to be less one of substance than of style” (p. 49), but there is certainly substance in the conflict. I would point especially to real-estate pressures and economic restructuring as having a lot to do with the raging conflict. While tech workers are not entirely responsible for gentrification in areas like the Mission District — which after all, has been mounting for decades — techies have unintentionally exacerbated the problem by settling in historically low-rent districts of eastern San Francisco and West Oakland, which are relatively affordable and convenient for commuting to the South Bay. Long-time residents, even those of the middle classes, feel pressured by astronomical housing costs, and the affluent tech sector represents these problems in the eyes of many. Clearly the tech sector could play a more constructive role in helping solve housing pressures on a region-wide basis — how about building more housing construction down in the South Bay, for example, near the tech campuses? Generally, this kind of participation in local and regional political debates about social policy, urban planning, and housing affordability would be beneficial in the San Francisco Bay Area.
SAN FRANCISCO: A spectacular nighttime view of San Francisco’s South Beach with the southeastern waterfront and Bay Bridge in the background — great lighting effects!
CITIES OF THE GLOBAL SOUTH: India, China, Nigeria to lead the coming global urbanization surge
The coming decades will be marked by a dramatic rise in urbanization — with India, China and Nigeria leading the charge. That’s one of several predictions in the 2014 World Urbanization Prospects report, released July 10 by the United Nations. Those countries are poised for the largest urban growth between now and 2050. India could add 404 million urbanites, followed by China (292 million) and Nigeria (212 million).
The coming population boom will have profound consequences for cities, particularly developing ones. Rapid or unplanned growth coupled with inadequate planning can result in sprawl, pollution and environmental harm, the report warns.
Despite swift urbanization, Asia and Africa are home to 90 percent of the planet’s rural population, now at 3.4 billion. As cities expand, that number may slide to 3.1 billion by 2050. An estimated 54 percent of humanity lives in urban areas today. The figure could rise to 66 percent by 2050 as cities add 2.5 billion residents. Megacities, with populations of 10 million or more, may increase from 28 in 2014 to 41 by 2030.
Sources: Citiscope and United Nations.
HISTORICAL URBAN GEOGRAPHY: Map of the historical Warsaw ghetto within the city of Warsaw, Poland. Established in 1940, it encompassed 30% of the city population before World War II, when the ghetto was largely destroyed by the Nazis.