Top 10 NYC Street Art Murals of 2014 (So Far)
NAVIGATING WASHINGTON D.C.: The District of Columbia has a well organized GIS database, as you can see above. The road file includes every single thoroughfare in the metropolitan area.
COMMUTING IN INDIA: Text-and-ride innovations to overcome urban congestion
In a country clogged with congestion, a handful of start-ups are using technology to more easily connect auto-rickshaw drivers with customers — an Indian twist to Uber and Lyft, the ride-hailing apps.
Source: Megha Bahree, “Text and ride in India,” New York Times, July 25, 2014
GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE: See How Blistering Hot Your City Will Get By The End Of The Century.
Hint: Las Vegas will be the new Saudi Arabia. How about your city?
WESTERN WATER CRISIS: Loss of groundwater worse than thought in the U.S. West
According to a new study by NASA and UC Irvine, the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin has experienced rapid and significant groundwater depletion since late 2004, posing a greater threat to the water supply of the western United States than previously thought. As reported by Deirdre Fulton in Common Dreams, satellites show groundwater supply at greater risk than previously thought.
Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission indicated the changes in the mass of the Colorado River Basin, which is thought to have lost nearly 53 million acre feet (about 17 trillion gallons) of freshwater between 2004-2013 — almost double the volume of the nation’s largest reservoir, Nevada’s Lake Mead, which recently fell to its lowest level since the 1930s.
The implications are ominous for irrigated agriculture and urbanization in the fast-growing western states, which rely heavily on the disappearing water. The Colorado River Basin, which is the water source for more than 30 million people and 4 million acres of farmland, has been experiencing the driest 14-year period in the last 100 years. More than three-quarters of the basin’s total water loss was from groundwater.
Photo above: Los Angeles Basin, taken by B. Godfrey, Sept. 7, 2012
INSTITUTIONALIZING MEMORY: The U.S. National Register of Historic Places
The National Historic Landmark list and other collections of historic sites were combined in 1966 into a new National Register of Historic Places. At its birth, the register contained 803 listings, about half of which came from the old Historic Landmark list.
Subsequently America discovered a passion for commemorating its history. There were 56 additions to the list in 1968, 360 in 1969, 880 in 1970, and in each year but one since 1971, at least 1,000 sites have been added. As of last week, it included 90,018 entries.
Source: Alan Flippen, “Registering History,” New York Times, July 23, 2014
This is the highest diversion rate of any major city in North America. San Francisco has set the goal of achieving zero waste, or sending nothing to the landfill or incineration, by the year 2020.
WOOLWORTH BUILDING TOUR: New dates added for the Untapped Cities tour of the grand Woolworth Building during August, October, November, December. This intimate, hour-long tour is led by Jason Crowley, a preservationist and architectural historian who is working to digitize and catalogue the New York Historical Society’s extensive collection of Woolworth Building archives.
SLUM STIGMA WORLDWIDE: What is in a name?
This article from Rio on Watch, an online newsletter of Catalytic Communities, discusses the contemporary rise of stigma about slums worldwide. The term ‘slum’ was actually disappearing from use in the late twentieth century, but the United Nations “Cities Without Slums” initiative, launched in 1999, pulled the word back into the center of development conversations, along “with all its inglorious associations.”
I would add that Mike Davis’s subsequent book on Planet of Slums, based largely on the 1999 U.N. publication, also renewed use of the term. Geographer Alan Gilbert suggests that, by defining slums and quantitative goals for reducing them, the U.N. is “engaging in the modern and perfectly proper practice of establishing ‘targets’ against which progress can be measured.” However, he argues that a ‘slum’ does not lend itself to being measured, in part because it is a relative, rather than absolute, concept.
"BAD ENGLISH SHAMING" — Europeans mock their politicians’ bad English
According to a hilarious recent article by Feargus O’Sullivan in City Lab, European politicians without full mastery of English, the contemporary lingua franca, risk ridicule by their own citizens.
Americans are notoriously negligent about learning foreign languages, so we can hardly gloat about this issue. Of course, it is a sign of contemporary globalization that knowledge of English is so important — and so convenient for native speakers! Plus, people like any excuse to ridicule their political leaders and other public figures, so English-language proficiency has become a new tactic to do so in Europe.
Exhibit A of the trend is an impassioned speech made this month by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Supposed to be in English. Renzi’s speech is so halting and garbled it’s hard to understand what he’s actually talking about. Since then, clips of Renzi’s stumbling performance have gone viral. Together, the subtitled speech itself and the humorous Rock and Roll take have gotten over 2 million hits between them.
Madrid Mayor Ana Botella’s attempts last year to sell her city as a contender for the Summer Olympics is Exhibit B. Mayor Botella’s halting English made her a national laughing stock, a reputation she has since solidified through gaffe after gaffe. Actually, from a native speaker’s perspective, her English perhaps does not seem too bad, but Botella’s speech has Spain laughing out loud.
Source: Feargus O’Sullivan, City Lab
UNDERGROUND NYC: Beneath the Streets Sheds Light on NYC’s Hidden World of Subway Graffiti Artists
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.