Month: November 2014



Yesterday I saw the end of the film « Tracks » (2013), which renders the story of the 1.700 miles trip that Robyn Davidson made from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean (Australia) in 1977. The plot describes how the teenager prepares for a solitary trip, along four camels and a bitch, and the travel experience in the desert; there are some parallels with castaway stories, as “Life of Pi”, and in visual terms the film is a treat.

What interested me is a detail. Due to the way in which the story develops, there are many farewells. But the most relevant are not those in which someone gets on a vehicle to go away, but those in which the character simply walks away normally. Some minutes later I saw some minutes of “Jane Eyre” (recent version, same actress). And again the same situation; the character alone under the rain in the middle of an English moor, just walking. As when in the Bible there are descriptions of the distance by foot between villages. Some days ago I also saw a part of a Polish film, “Aftermath” (2012); it Is about a horrible story (a 1941 pogrom as seen from 2001), but the interesting thing in this context is the way in which the two peasant brothers (one freshly arrived from Chicago, where he lives) move by walking most of the time, sometimes over long distances.

From a “simple” point of view, these stories would be impossible in such a country as the United States, land of the car, with cities without sidewalks (I say simple as reality is probably more complex, and not only there)…  but there is more to be said when it comes to shoes…

On awards (5) Salzburg central Station

A graphical description of the station by the architects

A graphical description of the station by the architects

Salzburg central station, which I visited this summer, is undergoing a refurbishment according to a project by Kadawittfeldarchitektur, a german architecture practice that won the 2009 competition. The project has been awarded in the 45th edition of Austria’s Staatpreis Design in the architectural and urban project cathegory (given by the Federal Ministry for Economy, Family and Youth to ÖBB, the national railways, as the project developer), and the 2012 European Steel Award.

The station was configured as a dead-end (outbound trains moved on reverse) until 2010, when continuous tracks were installed that, along with 4 new platforms, delivered a capacity improvement.

View from the end of the platform

View from the end of the platform

A detail: the historical glass and steel vault on the foreground, and the extension

A detail: the historical glass and steel vault on the foreground, and the extension

The use of steel with Y-shaped posts and large spans is not necessarily the most economical solution, but the results are interesting; it is always hard to find the right price for something that you will see every day, and can subsequently become boring. Under the platforms there is a long corridor connection both sides of the station; it is well lit, mainly due to the fact that the stair shafts are not limited to the stair itself, but run from one to another encompassing the whole corridor. It is not on my snaps, but I remember some kind of smart approach to the details to integrate in the corridor design the differences in level between both ends.

est-salzb-3 est-salzb-6

Biblio (104) A book on the Chile National Urban Planning Award

Premio Nacional de Urbanismo Chile

I’m fully aware I’ve just written about this same subject just a few days ago; here it is about a monograph on the recipients of the award since the first edition. As I mentioned, this award has been clearly irregular along time. An award first attributed in Chile in 1971 and kept in hold until 1996 is as if it was first attributed in England in 1978 to have a second edition in 1998; sometimes the debate about ideas is transposed to the political landscape in such a way as to make some matters irrelevant for a time.

I have no reason to doubt of the interest for the Chilean nation of the works of each award recipient, but I will focus on the highlighted works; the first time it was a social housing project, the second one a metropolitan and infrastructure planning experience, and the following ones integrate increasingly sustainable development and public participation.

Maps 2014 (39) All those Duch buildings

edificios nl

The Waag Society, a Dutch institute for the arts, sciences and technologies, has developed with designer and software engineer Bert Spaan a map of all the buildings in the country. The maps represents the age of the buildings with a colour code and displays some data about each element.

On awards (4) Chile National Urbanism Award

borde costero chile

In 1971 the Housing and Urbanism Ministry of Chile established the National Urbanism Award; since 1996 the Colegio de Arquitectos (the professional board of Chilean architects) is also part of the organisation. The Award must recognize architects and other professionals that have shown excellence, creativity and substantial contributions to improve the quality of life in the cities of the country.

Up until now it has not followed a regular schedule, with six awards since 1971. The winner in 2014 has been Sergio Baeriswyl Rada, an architect who has worked in the Bio Bio region. A public servant at the city of Conception (224.000 residents) since 1994, he has directed its Plan Regulador, which was innovative in using a public participation strategy and a corridor structure. He has been recently involved in the regeneration of the Bio Bio seashore after the 2010 earthquake and tsunami.

Beyond the personal award, that I assume is justified, I will focus on the plans. I have never visited Chile, so what I say comes from an analysis of secondary sources. The Plan Regulador de Concepción defines (according to its bylaws as published in the municipal website, including amendments up to September 2009) areas which are subject to natural and anthropic risks; on these areas any project shall be preceded by a risk assessment, but there is no outright ban on building. This may seem strange to a layman, but it happens in many countries, as sometimes the safe areas are not in a convenient place; just think of Paris, when there are relevant underground quarries that are no longer exploited but create risk situations, or most of England, where floods are common on urban areas. In spite of that, in Europe there is an evolution towards a total ban on building on risk areas whenever feasible, as for instance this is impossible in most of the Netherlands.

The plans for the coastal populations, prepared after the tsunami, define areas in which homes and public facilities are forbidden, and it seems a good measure.