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Posts Tagged ‘citylab’


Photo: Elsa Soläng/ArkDes
Designed to be easily moved, each wooden Street Moves element includes a range of features. Above, seating, scooter storage, and a bike rack are good for neighborhoods near transit stops. 

To have the kind of cities we want, we can always rethink what’s there. But the space right outside our front door may be the place to start.

Feargus O’Sullivan at Bloomberg CityLab reports about an idea from Sweden.

“In 2020, as pandemic lockdowns forced billions of people around the world to become intimately familiar with their neighborhoods, one of the hottest ideas in urban planning was the ‘15-minute city.’ A vision for a decentralized urban area that allows residents to meet their daily needs within a quarter-hour walk or bike from their homes, the concept has been pursued as a means of cutting greenhouse emissions and boosting livability in a host of global cities — especially Paris, where Mayor Anne Hidalgo has embraced the model as a blueprint for the French capital’s post-Covid recovery

“Now Sweden is pursuing a hyperlocal variation, on a national scale. A plan piloted by Swedish national innovation body Vinnova and design think tank ArkDes focuses attention on what Dan Hill, Vinnova’s director of strategic design, calls the ‘one-minute city.’ … Sweden’s project operates at the single street level, paying attention to ‘the space outside your front door — and that of your neighbors adjacent and opposite,’ Hill says.

“Called Street Moves, the initiative allows local communities to become co-architects of their own streets’ layouts. Via workshops and consultations, residents can control how much street space is used for parking, or for other public uses. It’s already rolled out experimentally at four sites in Stockholm, with three more cities about to join up. The ultimate goal is hugely ambitious: a rethink and makeover of every street in the country over this decade. …

“Unlike the 15-minute city concept, Sweden’s one-minute city model is not about meeting the needs of all city residents at a hyperlocal level — that would overlook fundamentals like public transit, job access, or specialist health care. Instead, the spaces just beyond the doorstep are ideal places for cities to start developing new, more direct ways of engaging with the public, Hill suggests. They are a filter and a portal to the wider world; the atmosphere they generate and the amenities they contain speak volumes about how a community operates and what it values. …

The project seeks to break through assumptions — as prevalent in Sweden as elsewhere — that address streets primarily as places to move and store cars. …

“Though Street Moves’ first steps predate 2020, its choice of focus seems doubly relevant in the wake of a year when stay-at-home orders and street demonstrations reinforced a sense that our immediate neighborhoods are platforms where we must tackle and overcome the most fundamental of social hurdles. While its mix of removing car space and increasing community consultation may sound too utopian to be imitable in the U.S. or elsewhere, the basic tools Street Moves uses are American in inspiration — street furniture units based on the ‘parklet’ model.

“Vinnova’s plan works like this. With design firm Lundberg Design, the project has developed a kit of street furniture, designed to fit the dimensions of a standard parking space and built on hard-wearing pine decks. These units, inserted into the curb space, can be fitted depending on need with seating planters, bike or scooter racks, children’s play spaces or electric car charging stations attached. Easily connectable, the deck panels can either be stand-alone units, or configured to flank an entire street. …

“While municipalities may provide their own versions of this toolkit, the design of each street is based on workshops and conversations with local residents — including schoolchildren. Streets near transit stops might favor more bike parking, while those with cafés could opt for more seating. Some units might emphasize tree-filled planters, others play spaces. Piece by piece, these installations can transform streets into sites of sociability and mixing, joining up steadily into neighborhoods where the space used daily by residents extends little by little out into the open air. …

“The community design process matters as much as the street elements themselves, the project’s leaders emphasize. The installations are easily replaced, adapted or removed, making them provisional propositions instead of one-size-fits-all permanent solutions. Some could be experiments that eventually lead to more extensive redesigns; others might be seasonal. ‘The most important things about these prototypes we’ve made is that they could all be the wrong thing,’ says Kieran Long, director of Arkdes. …

“None of this direct engagement and transformation can happen, however, if cities themselves don’t have concrete ways to carry it out. Right now, many cities charged with the daily business of trying to collect garbage and keep schools running don’t, with some good reasons, necessarily have the firing of a new political imagination high on their agenda. In Sweden, where the government’s early reluctance to institute coronavirus lockdowns proved disastrous, the pandemic is further complicating this challenge — but it could also be contributing to a willingness to press the reset button.”

More at CityLab, here.

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Here’s a funny lead I got from @smallercitiesu (SmallerCitiesUnite!) on twitter today. It’s about tapping the body heat of cows in India and other poor countries to create electricity. And as you might guess, there are a couple of designing Finns behind it.

Caroline Pham writes at the magazine Good that Finnish design students Liva Kallite and Netta Korhonen created a bovine wearable that could help out some of “the approximately 1.3 billion people around the world who live without electricity. …

“Introducing the Cowolt, a two-piece ‘energy harvesting blanket’ outfitted with thermoelectric modules that essentially harness an animal’s body heat, turning it into charge for batteries. According to CityLab: ‘The difference between the creatures’ internal temperature of about 102 degrees and cooler, ambient air would then create electricity via the Seebeck effect. They estimate a vest could charge a 12-volt battery in 26 hours on the power of one robo-cow.’

“Creators Kallite and Korhonen, both students at the Aalto University School of Arts, Design, and Architecture in Helsinki, point out the deficiencies in alternate means of electricity like kerosene (inefficient, expensive, health risks), solar energy (high maintenance and high up-front costs), diesel power generators (too large scale for personal use), and micro hydro power (negative effects on natural surroundings). Essentially, these aren’t efficient options for those without electricity, and harnessing what these people might have on-hand, like farm animals, is a more realistic mode.

“Who knows whether it will actually catch on, but the hope is that Cowolt would provide enough charge to power smaller devices such as lamps, telephones, and radios, and thus provide those without stable sources of electricity with opportunities to be a little more self-sustaining in their everyday lives.” More here.

 

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