New city plazas: Digital or not, interactivity key to great design

In San Francisco, two relatively new pedestrian lanes – Mint Plaza and Yerba Buena Lane – each linked to Jessie Street and within walking distance of each other, signal the rise of interactive design emerging and melding with street life downtown.

These clearings in the urban jungle point to what we can expect as the city grows; the best designs and spaces will be interactive in the way these plazas are, with new stores, arts and music venues and digital playgrounds.

Mint Plaza, the $3.5 million, 290-foot-long, L-shaped paved piazza that opened in November next to the dilapidated Old Mint building, took the place of dingy sections of Mint and Jessie streets off Fifth Street between Market and Mission streets.

The storm-water filtration system is low tech, but landscape architect Willett Moss says that it is the first time it is being used for public space in the Bay Area, in part to alleviate the stress on the city’s sewer system during storms.

“It is a prototype that the city may use elsewhere,” says Moss. The system, functioning imperfectly because the sandy soil is too porous and the water percolates through too rapidly, is still being fine-tuned.

Yerba Buena Lane is a model of how San Francisco’s urban districts are developing, with old and new architecture serving as arts and music venues, exhibition spaces and outdoor “living rooms.”

Designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, the museum is in the repurposed brick shell of the 1881 Jessie Street Power Substation, which was remodeled in 1906 by architect Willis Polk with Classical Revival terra-cotta embellishments. Libeskind’s version is capped with a cube-shaped blue concert hall that may become the museum’s most popular space.

New city plazas: Digital or not, interactivity key to great design
. Zahid Sardar – SFGate.com

Mediating Strata: Connecting Landscape, Building & Artifact

If landscape and human habitation are two dynamic forces that the built environment is able to draw from over time, how can architecture as a constructed entity engage in a more explicitly reciprocal relationship with the different components of a place? More specifically, how might architecture operate as a mediator between the layers of a site such that its manifold relationships to time and place are activated in the present?

The site and program in this project draw from two city blind spots in Ottawa–one a semi-vacated post-industrial landscape on the Ottawa River, the other a compound-like cultural institution–the Library and Archives of Canada, both of which possess different forms of collections. These represent layers of the geological landscape, the built environment and the cultural artifact, which are hidden or inactive to some degree within the fabric of the city and have been treated in this project as found elements to be used as a way of testing the thesis question. What emerged from the iterative visual, factual, and interpretive readings of the area formed the basis for the design of a looped path system and two interventions in the landscape.

A path was chosen as the means through which the various strata uncovered on the site could be negotiated, connected, and framed in a material and perceptual relationship with the individual. The trajectory offers a temporal experience that is based in the present as a body moves through space, while it simultaneously offers the possibility of engaging with static elements found in a landscape marking the past. Essentially the looped path design enables multiple ways of understanding the same objects and structures in space.

canadianarchitect.com – Canadian Architect – 1/10/2008.
Written by Erin Hunt, Dalhousie University, Ottawa for her Student Award of Excellence

Committee in awe of design for Agua Caliente museum

Members of the Palm Springs Architectural Advisory Committee were impressed Monday with the swirling design of the proposed Agua Caliente Cultural Museum.

Located at the southeast corner of South Hermosa Drive and East Tahquitz Canyon Way, the two-story, $40 million museum will include galleries, an educational facility and theater.

The architecture and landscape design were reviewed by the committee Monday and will now move to the Planning Commission and City Council for comment.

Because the museum is on Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indian land, the city and its commissions can review, but not vote on the project.

Committee in awe of design for Agua Caliente museum | MyDesert.com | The Desert Sun.

Jones & Jones Architecture/Landscape Architecture – Seattle

Could Harvard expansion restore Allston’s watery ways?

In the late 19th century, the banks of the Charles River near the Harvard campus were covered with marshes, cut through with small streams that advanced and retreated with the tides.
more stories like this

Then engineers took over. The tidal marshes were filled, land was reclaimed, and many of the streams were buried underground in pipes.

Now, as Harvard begins its expansion on the Allston side of the Charles, there is a push to return the area to a more natural state – part of an emerging national movement that touts the environmental benefits of landscape restoration.

For the last two years, Harvard, the city, the local community, and various groups including the watershed association have worked – sometimes contentiously – to determine the best course for the project. Bowditch said her group’s main goal is to figure out how the drainage systems in North Allston work and how to make them work better.

Could Harvard expansion restore Allston’s watery ways? – The Boston Globe.

New York’s Vacant Spaces

The words New York and Vacant Space seem like an phases rarely made in conjunction with the Big Apple. However Jeremy Miller’s article gives us a better insight into why there is Vacant Space in Manhattan and its neighbouring Boroughs.

It also is an article that gives many of us food for thought as urban planners and designers and how we look and design our cities. New York is grand metropolis in North America although it has had its problems over the years in terms of urban development, some of this linked to critical financial and cultural events in New York. New York is flourishing again with a vast amount of development in downtown especially around the Wall Street area. However, its in the streets above 96th street that development seems to have stagnated.

Jeremy gives us solutions to the problems of Vacant Spaces in cities and in particular the Boroughs of New York. An article that is well worth a read.

Filling New York’s ‘Vacancies’- Jeremy Miller – Gotham Gazette

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