Thursday, December 17, 2009

Piazza Times Square?

When the department of Transportation closed seven blocks of Broadway to cars this summer, New Yorkers were offered an object lesson in how profoundly urban space can be altered by a few traffic barriers and a bucket of paint. Within hours, the newly pedestrianized Times Square was colonized by wanderers, nearby office workers, and tourists calling home (“You will not believe where I am standing!”). But what, exactly, should replace an avenue formerly filled with cars? Three design firms were invited to suggest visionary ideas for the street’s future. None is particularly ... practical. But then again, this time last year, who would have expected to see our most famous boulevard transformed into a piazza? Dutch Designers West 8 created some ideas: It is crucial that Times Square not be further transformed into a theme park or playground: It must be robust, substantial, urban, and timeless, while amplifying the neighborhood’s singular reputation. To make Times Square a true public square, we propose repaving it with an LED-lighted “carpet” whose pattern suggests fireworks, spinning ticker tape, Champagne bubbles, and the New Year’s ball drop. Times Square is dedicated to the idea of verticality. How to add green in such a place? Make high, elevated places for solitary trees—“tree pedestals” that synthesize the Olmstedian lanterns of Central Park and the neighborhood street tree. Read more in NYMagazine.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Amsterdam European Green Capital Finalist

The City of Amsterdam has made great efforts to promote greener means of transport, and successfully. The citizens now prefer bicycles over cars. With roughly 750,000 residents, Amsterdam is the biggest city of Holland and part of the great metropolitan area ‘Randstad’. The Dutch are fond of biking, and Amsterdam has always been a popular city for cycling. And now bikes have overtaken cars! Studies show that in the period 2005 to 2007 residents used their bicycle an average of 0.87 times a day and their car 0.84 times. Approximately three out of four of Amsterdam residents own a bicycle, and bicycles are the most commonly used means of transport. Over the last thirty years, the municipal authority of Amsterdam has worked hard on encouraging bicycle use by providing cycle paths and lanes; bicycle and pedestrian friendly roads and an extensive network of parking facilities for bicycles.The main bicycle routes through the city are part of the ‘Hoofdnet Fiets’ bicycle network. A complex network of bicycle routes through the entire city, which ensures all of Amsterdam is safely and comfortably accessible by bicycle. With this project description and this presentation Amsterdam is running for the European Green Capital Award.

Friday, December 11, 2009

New York leading the way

Bikes will soon become a more familiar sight around office cubicles in New York City. Today a new bike access law takes effect in the city, stipulating that buildings with freight elevators must allow employees to use those elevators to take their bikes upstairs. Passed in July, the law aims to encourage bicycle commuting by eliminating worries about the security of street parking. One company that does offer employees showers, bicycle parking and even a bike-sharing program is the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather North America. When it moved to a new office on 11th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, bike parking was a priority, said Gunther Schumacher, Ogilvy’s chief operating officer. The company’s previous landlord had been unwilling to accommodate bikes, as were public garages that Ogilvy had approached about renting space. Now, the agency has racks for 150 bikes in its own garage, including 50 that Ogilvy bought for employees to ride to meetings or run errands. On an average day, about 75 people cycle to work, Mr. Schumacher said. “We’re in a very young industry, and we depend on people who have fresh new ideas on a daily basis,” he said. Read on in the New York Times.