Building the World

June 22, 2018
by buildingtheworld
0 comments

Migrants and the Renewal of Culture

“Detail of Cyrene bronze head, circa 300 bce.” Image: British Museum and wikimedia.

Migrants have been a source of change, and renewal, throughout history. Cyrene, founded in 630 bce, several miles south of the Mediterranean Sea in Libya, became the first of five flourishing cities called the Pentapolis of Cyrenaica. Cyrene’s migrants brought fertile minds to a new land: it was here that Earth’s circumference was first determined by Eratosthenes. Fresh thinking, fostered in an atmosphere promoting science, technology, and art, produced an early map of the stars, the mechanics of doubling a cube, and research that developed prime numbers. The poet Apollonia was also a resident of Cyrene. What policies and cultural practices fostered such innovation? In today’s world, with migrants on the move and in the news, can we draw inspiration from Cyrene to build a better future?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

April 27, 2018
by buildingtheworld
0 comments

Bridges to the Future

“London Bridge Illuminated at Dusk,” by photographer burge500, 2006. Image: wikimedia commons.

The land of London Bridge just announced a span to a better environment, banning single-use plastics. The UK government states the measure will help eliminate any increase in what is estimated as over 150 million tons of plastic in our oceans. As a result, one million birds and 100, 000 sea mammals die from ingesting or getting trapped in plastic waste. Particularly concerning are smaller pieces of plastic like Q-tips and plastic straws that slip through filters into rivers and oceans. Scotland earlier led the ban on single-use plastics; the new law will be introduced across the Commonwealth.

In the United States, such environmental considerations are up to states and cities, banning or taxing single-use plastics: California was the first state in 2014; Boston recently joined the increasing group of cities with an urban plastic bag tax.

Corley, McKinley. “Another Big US City is Banning Single-Use Plastic Bags.” 18 December 2017. https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/another-big-us-city-banning-single-use-plastic-bags/

Nace, Trevor. “UK To Ban All Plastic Straws, Q-tips, and Single-Use Plastics.” 25 April 2018. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2018/04/25/uk-to-ban-all-plastic-straws-q-tips-and-single-use-plastics/#cb4a4ff11383

Thanks to Cherie E. Potts for suggesting this topic.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

 

April 13, 2018
by buildingtheworld
0 comments

Tale of Three Cities: Sydney, Australia

Sydney Opera House. Photographer: Steve Collis. Image: wikimedia.

Already the most populous city in Australia, Sydney’s headcount will double in the next four decades. Solution? Divide Sydney into three separate metropoles: Eastern Harbour City, Central River City, and Western Parkland City. Eastern has the Sydney Opera House and airport. Western will get its own airport, with the new city built as an “aerotropolis.” In-between, Central River will attract the best of both sides, it is hoped. New transport infrastructure, road and rail, will fulfill the strategic goal of “30-minute cities” offering travel from home to work in a reasonable commute. How will the new urban plan honor the First Nations? Australia has experience in city development: the town of Cooma expanded rapidly when chosen as headquarters for the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority, bringing water and electricity to rapidly growing Australia. Megacities, urban centers with more than 10 million people, are on the rise: in 1960, there were just two – New York and Tokyo; more than 40 megacities are expected by 2030. Will Sydney set a precedent?

Brooke, Kathleen Lusk and Zoë G. Quinn. “Badu Gili: Water Light.” 30 June 2017. Building the World Blog. http://blogs.umb.edu/buildingtheworld/2017/06/30/badu-fili-water-light.

Lo, Andrea. “Why is Sydney being split into three cities?” 12 April 2018. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/12/asia/sydney-three-cities/index.html.

United Nations. “The world’s cities are growing in both size and number.” http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/publications/pdf/urbanization/the_world’s_cities_in_2016_data_booklet.pdf.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

April 6, 2018
by buildingtheworld
0 comments

Haute Cuisine

Will city skyscrapers grow food, for a new twist on haute cuisine – high cooking? Here, Bosco Verticale in Milan, Italy. Image: wikimedia.

By 2050, 75% of us will live in cities, likely in high rise towers. Gustav Eiffel’s innovation of building up, supported by the force of curves and wind, demonstrated to the world that the future was in the sky. The Eiffel Tower of Paris is progenitor of today’s skyscrapers. In the United States, Chicago is said by some architects to have invented the skyscraper as a response to the city’s sudden population growth. When it opened in 1885, the Home Insurance Building reached 138 feet (42-meters) skyward, using steel in its structure: it was the first tall building to do so. 1892 saw the erection of the Monadnock Building, largest commercial edifice in the world, at the time. Fast-forward, and upward, Ping An Finance Center in Shenzhen, China reached a milestone: 1,955 feet (599 meters). By 2025, Asia will be home to more than 30 megacities: Tokyo, Shangai, Jakarta, Delhi, Seoul, Guangzhou, Beijing, Manila, Mumbai, Shenzhen top the list. According to Jorgen Randers, 2052, “The future will be urban, dense, and crowded.”

PingAn IFC, Shenzhen, China. Photographer: Posasihumvioa. Image: wikimedia.

Where will all those people live, and what will they eat? Some designers envision towers alive with bloom, absorbing rain, shielding sun, providing insulation, cleaning air, and perhaps even growing food. Examples include residential towers: Bosco Verticale, in Milan, Italy. In 2015, France’s capital passed a law mandating all new roofs be solar or green. Now, a further development: all Parisians may grow food on their premises. By 2020, the city known for haute cuisine may give another meaning to that adjective: more than 100 hectares (about 40% of a mile) of rooftops gardens and planted walls will grace the city, yielding 425 tons of vegetable, 24 tons of mushrooms. Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced a pan-Parisian “license to vegetate.” Metro operator RATP hosts a commercial garden; the French Post Office farms its roof, and even breeds chickens amid the aubergines.

Jacob, Sam. “Sky-rise living: Palace or prison? 11 January 2018. CNN Style. https://www.cnn.com/style/article/skyrise-living-sam-jacob/index.html.

Randers, Jorgen. 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years (2012) and The Limits to Growth (1972). http://www.2052.info/

Ye, Sonia and Cloture Achi, Sybille de La Hamaide, Louise Heavens. “Post office workers grow vegetables, breed chickens on Paris rooftop ‘farm.'” 26 September 2017. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france/agriculture-urban-roofstop/post-office-workers-grow-vegetables-breed-chickens-on-paris-rooftop-farm-idUSKCN1C11UX. 

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

January 19, 2018
by buildingtheworld
0 comments

Cities as Destiny

Cities may rebuild the world. Image: “Cirrus sky panorama.” Image: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos.

We started talking about all these things that we could do if someone would just give us a city and put us in charge,” said Eric Schmidt, CEO of Alphabet. Sidewalk Labs, subsidiary of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, won a public competition to design a part of Toronto’s waterfront. Some of the proposed winning ideas:

Sidewalk Toronto:

  • heated pedestrian lanes to melt snow;
  • self-driving bus system;
  • taxi-bots and van-bots for shuttles;
  • transit and bike-shares;
  • street side parks and public spaces;
  • tunnels for utilities, making grids easier to reach and repair.

Throughout history, cities have espoused new visions. Baghdad was drawn in three concentric circles during a vision. Singapore was the spontaneous agreement for an economic and cultural nexus, celebrating diversity. Brasilia was the first urban design built to be seen from the air. Will Toronto take the next step to realizing a new vision, if chosen as Amazon’s HQ2? Prime Minister Justin Trudeau termed the project an “innovation hub.” Some question sensors and data collection, also planned, challenging Sidewalk Labs’ claim: “privacy can be baked into the design.”

Which 20 cities made the short-list for Amazon’s HQ?. Image: München Tram 20. Wikimedia commons.

Toronto, along with Boston, made the short-list for Amazon’s second headquarters. Boston’s note: “We would like to move Boston forward in the process so we can continue to learn more about your community, your talent, and potential real estate options.”  Holly Sullivan, Amazon. While 19 cities in the United States made the list, one Canadian city joined the elite twenty: Toronto. Toynbee, in Cities of Destiny, explored cities that shaped history. What are your ideas for the future of the city?

Wingfield, Nick. “Amazon Chooses 20 Finalists for Second Headquarters.” 18 January 2018. The New York Times.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

January 13, 2018
by buildingtheworld
0 comments

Statues as Exchanges

“William Whitner extends a hand.” Image: hmdb.org

Need a winter coat? Hat? Check the statue. Anderson, South Carolina, residents hang a spare coat or hat upon the extended arm of a statue of William Whitner. The South Carolinian is known to energy historians: after conferring with Nicola Tesla, Whitner harnessed power in nearby Rocky River shoals, soon expanding to the Portman Shoals of the Seneca River. The Portman Shoals Power Plant became Duke Energy. Whitner sided with alternating current champions Tesla and Westinghouse (and against direct current advocate Edison) in the “current war.” As a result, Anderson, SC, became known as “The Electric City” becoming the first urban center in the United States with a continuous supply of power. Later, the TVA would do so on a broader basis. Whitner is immortalized with a statue in the center of Anderson (other monuments in town could also serve). When Carey Jones, Main Street Program, saw homeless people lacking winter gear, he extended a hand by hanging a coat on Whitner’s bronze arm. Soon, town residents emulated the practice, making warm clothing readily available to all. Cities have an opportunity to combine public art with sharing outreach. Is there an extra coat in your closet? Maybe a statue near you might extend a hand? In Boston, could sculptor Nancy Shön’s “Make Way for Ducklings” serve as an exchange for children’s clothing?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

December 22, 2017
by buildingtheworld
0 comments

Sinking Cities

Jakarta: originally Jayakarta or “Victorious City.” Muhammad Rashid Prabowo, photographer, Wikimedia commons.

Jakarta is sinking; sections of Indonesia’s capital city have lost 2 inches per year. Buildings in this dense city of 10 million people weigh down coastal land. Residential and business development increased demand for drinking water. Drilled wells, legal and illegal, caused the city to sink further. Draining urban underground aquifers is “like deflating a giant cushion.” Experts warn Jakarta must fix the problem within this decade. Climate change is worsening the situation: sea-rise could bring water even closer, as much 36 inches. Other cities may take note. Subsidence plagues Mexico City, built on a drained lakebed. Boston, shaped by landfill, contends with subsidence as well as sea-rise. New York is vulnerable to storm surge. The Erie Canal linking New York to the Great Lakes may hold promise as inland waterways play a new role in water protection. Inland Waterways International may offer innovations.  Coastal cities might find guidance from the Urban Harbors Institute in Boston. The East Coast of the United States is particularly vulnerable to sea-rise because of the steep sea-level slope just offshore that keeps the Gulf Stream channeled. Climate scientists place New  York, Boston, Norfolk, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami on the watch list. Put a price on it? Coastal storm “Sandy” flooding New York and New Jersey in 2012 cost $50 billion. Sea-level rise brings inundation, flooding, erosion, wetlands loss, saltwater intrusion, and damaged sanitation systems. Meanwhile, Jakarta is sinking faster than any city on the planet. As goes Jakarta, so may go other coastal communities. When the problem is solved, Jakarta will give new meaning to its original Javanese name: Jayakarta or “Victorious City.”

Brown, Sally, Robert J. Nicholls, Collin D. Woodroffe, Susan Hanson, Jochen Hinkel, Abiy S. Kebede, Barbara Neumann, Athanasios T. Vafeidis. “Sea-Level Rise Impacts and Response: A Global Perspective.” Coastal Hazards, edited by Charles W. Finkl. Springer, 2013.  http://www.springer.com/us/book/9789400752337/.

Climate Central. “These U.S. Cities Are Most Vulnerable to Major Coastal Flooding and Sea Level Rise” 25 October 2017. http://www.climatecentral.org/news/us-cities-most-vulnerable-major-coastal-flooding-sea-level-rise-21748. 

Crowell, Mark, Jonathan Westcott, Susan Phelps, Tucker Mahoney, Kevin Coulton, Doug Bellow. “Estimating the United States Population at Risk from Coastal Flood-Related Hazards.” Coastal Hazards, edited by Charles W. Finkl, pp. 245-66. Springer. DOI:10.1007/978-94-007-5234-4.

Kemp, Andrew C. and Benjamin P. Horton. “Contribution of relative sea-level rise to historical hurricane flooding in New York City.” Journal of Quaternary Science 28.6:537-541.

Kimmelman, Michael. “Jakarta Is Sinking So Fast, It Could End Up Underwater.” 21 December 2017. The New York Timeshttps://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/21/world/asia/jakarta-sinking-climate.html

Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency (SIRR). “A Stronger, More Resilient New York.” 11 June 2013. http://www.nyc.gov/html/sirr/html/report/report.shtml/

Yin, Jianjun, Michael E. Schlesinger, ad Ronald J. Stouffer. “Model projections of rapid sea-level rise on the northeast coast of the United States.” Nature Geoscience. 15 March 2009. DOI:10.1038/NGEO462. http://www.meteo.mcgill.ca/~huardda/articles/yin09.pdf

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

October 14, 2017
by buildingtheworld
0 comments

Capital Idea: New Nafta

Seeing earth from space, individual countries fade in the reality that regions may be the true nations. Image: wikimedia.

NAFTA is in the news, but it may soon be history. Now is the time for developing visions for a better, stronger, more sustainable, and kinder, regional alliance. One look from space shows not a troika of nations but a connected region. One aspect that should be added to current negotiations among Canada, Mexico, and the United States: water. The precedent of the Colorado River Compact may help address current considerations of shared water, especially transboundary aquifers? Another eau de vie, education: might scholarly and cultural exchange mingle the waters?

A new capital could signal the vision. It is timely. Recent earthquakes affecting Mexico City reopened conversation about the current capital built on a lakebed, not far from volcanoes. Should Mexico consider moving the DF? A federal district, such as Mexico’s capital or Washington, DC, is by definition its own moveable feast. If Mexico were to move the DF, could the new capital symbolize a regional vision embracing Canada, Mexico and the United States, in honor of shared resources? What architects should design the new city?

What’s in a name? Could TLCAN-ALENA-NAFTA become TAN? Image: wikimedia.

Finally, if Nafta emerges from current talks, it is time to unite nomenclature. How can there be a common vision when, at present, there are three acronyms for the same entity:

TLCAN – Tratado de libre comercia de america del norte https://www.sec-tlcan-mex.org/

ALENA – Accord de libre-échange nord américain http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/N-23.8.pdf

NAFTA – North American Free Trade Agreement http://www.worldtradelaw.net/fta/agreements/nafta.pdf

The new name might honor a letter from each treaty, resulting in a shared word with meaning in all three languages – TAN. Or initial the countries: cam or mac. But perhaps the alliance that really matters is bigger, representing the land as seen from space. Will these and other issues be debated at the XVII Congressional NAFTA & Border Issues Conference at the Library of Congress in Washington on 26 October 2017?

For more:

Eckstein, Gabriel. “Buried Treasure or Buried Hope? The Status of Mexico-U.S. Transboundary Aquifers under International Law.” International Community Law Review 13 (2011), Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

McHugh, James T., editor. Toward a North American Legal System. (2012), Palgrave Macmillan.

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

September 22, 2017
by buildingtheworld
0 comments

Mexico

Mexico. How to help? Image: wikimedia commons.

Mexico suffered two devastating earthquakes within weeks. A coastal temblor reached Chiapas and Oaxaca with disastrous damage. Soon thereafter, Mexico City was struck by an earthquake on 19 September 2017, anniversary of the 1985 temblor that also crushed lives, and buildings. In September 1985, 9,500 people died, 50,000 were injured, and 250,000 buildings were destroyed. In September 2017, building codes improved disaster statistics: fatalities were fewer than 1,000 but 3.8 million were without power, 27 buildings collapsed, and all schools were closed (2,000 were damaged). Rescue operations continued at the Colegio Enrique Rébsamen where children and adults perished, and hope raced the clock for those missing, some of whom messaged from within the rubble. Rescuers adopted a gesture requesting silence, saving lives as a result.

Mexico City was originally designed to float. Mexica leaders of the triple alliance that formed ancient Mexico (and gave it its name) ruled an enormous empire stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of (also named after) Mexico. Their choice for capital? An island in the middle of a lake. Lake Texcoco was the largest of five interconnected lakes. The Mexica built Tenochtitlan in the middle of Lake Texcoco, intersecting canal waterways as other cities used streets. Over 200,00 people lived there; 45 government buildings were surrounded by a main temple, ball fields for sport, and Montezuma’s palace of 100 rooms, each with its own bath.

Tenochtitlan, Mexico’s once and future capital that became Mexico City. Image: wikimedia.

In 1521, conquerors destroyed Tenochtitlan, drained Lake Texcoco, and built Mexico City. Consequences of locating the city on a drained lakebed appeared over time: during the past 100 years, Mexico City has sunk more than 30 feet. But the biggest problem may only now be realized. Since 1975, the area around Mexico City has suffered more than 50 earthquakes. The sedimentary lakebed is a dangerous foundation.

Earthquakes are particularly destructive in dense cities, especially capitals. Image: wikimedia.

Mexico City’s vulnerability is magnified by its population density coupled with its central position as capital. What other capital cities are similarly susceptible? Tokyo, Japan; Jakarta, Indonesia; New Delhi, India; Islamabad, Pakistan; Manila, Philippines; Kathmandu, Nepal; Port au Prince, Haiti. Doxiadis developed an anti-seismic plan for Pakistan’s new capital. Japan considered seismic implications when building Shinkansen. Now, Tokyo has launched an initiative to build a “spare-battery capital” to preserve essential records and services in an emergency. Mexico City may be particularly suited to such an approach: the heart of the city – the D.F. (Distrito Federal)  or CDMX – founded in 1824, has only 9 million people; the greater city population is 20.4 million, and growing. The DF is 500 square miles (1,485 square kilometers): is it movable?

Rebuilding Mexico will follow rescue and recovery. Building codes, especially for schools, hospitals, and multi-story construction, will improve. Decisions may shape destiny. How should essential systems like water, energy, transport, and city planning respond? Meanwhile, to help, here are some options: Topos México, Mexican Red Cross, Direct Relief, Global Giving, and Fondo Unido México.

For More:

Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities After Disasters. University of Massachusetts Boston. https://www.umb.edu/crscad

Rebuilding After Disasters: From Emergency to Sustainability. Edited by Gonzalo Lizarralde, Cassidy Johnson, Colin Davidson. Rutledge, 2009.

Rebuilding Urban Places After Disaster: Lessons from Hurricane Katrina. Edited by Eugenie L. Birch, Susan M. Yachter. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006. Podcast: http://www.upenn.edu/pennpress/podcast/inex.html#birchwachter/

Watkins, Derek, and Jeremy White. “Mexico City Was Built on An Ancient Lake Bed. That Makes Earthquakes Much Worse.” 22 September 2017. The New York Timeshttps://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/22/world/americas/mexico-city-earthquake-lake-bed-geology.html?mcubz=3

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

July 21, 2017
by buildingtheworld
0 comments

Forest Cities

We emerged from the forest; will forest cities return us to our natural state? Image: Shennongjia Forest, Hubei, China. Image: wikimedia commons.

China’s plans for a “Forest City” may establish a vision for a better urban future. New cities have often marked turning points in history. In the year 145 (or A.D. 762), the new Caliph of the Abbasid dynasty decided to move the capital to create a fresh vision. Setting off on horseback, Al-Mansur saw an auspicious spot, leapt from his steed, drew his sword, and carved three concentric circles upon the land. The new city? The Caliph named it Medinat as-Salam, “City of Peace.” Today, it is called Baghdad.

Liuzhou Forest City will not only be attractively leafy, it will literally eat smog. Commissioned by Liuzhou Municipality Urban Planning, Stefano Boeri Architetti designed the green vision:

Hosting 40,000 trees;

Growing 1 million plants of 100 species;

Absorbing 10,000 tons of CO2;

Eating 57 tons of fine dust and pollutants;

Producing 900 tons of fresh Oxygen.

Liuzhou, famous place on the Silk Road, builds upon the vision of Vertical Forests, as seen in Milan, Italy, or the Meir Lobaton & Kristjan Donaldson Torre Cuajimalpa in Mexico. Comparisons might also be made to Rhode Island’s tree-planting project designed by the School of Architecture, Art, and Historic Preservation of Roger Williams University.

No room to plant trees? Answer: CityTree, a green “wall” of plants with as much air-purifying power as 275 trees. Co-founder Zhengliang Wu of Green City Solutions recommends moss cultures because of their larger leaf surface areas.

Green Wall at Caixa Forum, Paseo del Prado, Madrid. Photographer: Mike Dixon. Image: wikimedia.

Cities around the world are seeking resilient responses to climate change. Energy, water, and transport systems are among the areas experiencing innovation. Sea level rise threatens many coastal cities including San Francisco and Silicon Valley, studied by system dynamics experts Christiansen and Libby. And it is not a moment too soon: by 2050, 75% of all the people in the world will live in cities. Will Liuzhou Forest City mark a point in history turning toward sustainability?

For Liuzhou Forest City video: http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-asia-china-40502622/welcome-to-liuzhou-forest-city

“Changing Cities in a Changing Climate,” Alexander F. Christiansen and Bradd Libby, DNV GL Group Technology and Research, Climate Action Programme. https://www.dnvgl.com/technology-innovation/city-resilience/index.html

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Skip to toolbar