Maps 2015 (7) Over the horizon consumption

mapas 2015-7

Some maps can only go so far without the associated data ; this is what happens to a web map proposed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, which portrays how each country in the world interacts with others in environmental consumption terms (2005 data) ; and someone can go and check how his country is doing. Sure, Afghanistan or Cuba have a quite different pattern from the one of the European countries, but some results seem strange (Spain having a strong influence on… Liberia?). The “global” option shows how the planet influences itself.

Starters of urban change (5) Bow windows


Imagine you are a city or any other public administration with urban planning powers. How to foster the use of a given architectural shape without paying for it? Reducing the cost for those producing it. In a given moment, the city of Madrid decides that the floor area of a bow window is accounted for just about 50% of its size in the overall floor area permitted by the municipal plan on each lot. So it is a more profitable space than other square meters in the building. This explains why you so often this shape in the Madrid architecture of the last two decades.

Is this a better architectural solution? A more elegant one? You cannot say, as this depends on each project. Conversely, some cities as Barcelona are much less welcoming towards these bow windows, and this has been a tradition for more than a century. It is a matter of local sensibility… Barcelona’s position derives from the overcrowding in the old city before the Cerda extension in mid XIXth century, when cantilevering rooms sometimes covered the street. I could not trace back the reason for Madrid’s permissiveness.

Biblio (114) The formation of urban spatial structures : markets vs design

Biblio-114-the formation of urban spatial structures

This work by Alain Bertaud analyses the links between design (he is an urban planner- architect) and market, providing answers to why it is not advisable to have private streets or why some things work better as public goods. Taking examples from Hartford, CT, to China, he analyses the links between economy and urban planning. Interesting, and open to debate.

From Alps to Atlantic (6) Lacq


Some years ago, while in Paris, I had a chance to listen to a speech by Jean Paul Lacaze, a French urban planner among those that had been everywhere in all the relevant places, as he explained a curious story. He talked about the French experience with new towns, and the growing complexity of the criteria to choose a place (to erect a city, an industrial area or whatever) in consistency with the sustainable development paradigm. He spoke about the urban planning project linked to the Lacq gas field, in Pyrénées Atlantiques. The field was discovered in 1951 and is somehow the origin of the present Total oil group; there are some parallels with the current shale gas, as it was a hard to obtain resource (high proportion of hydrogen and sulphur), but a relevant input for the national economy. Lacaze said that while the presentation of the project to the press around 1957, the mayor said something like “we chose the better place, no doubt; Jean Paul and I, we drove for an entire day on my car around the municipality to find it”. That is a far cry from what could be considered good practice now, but it is how Mourenx, a city of 7.000 now (10.000 in 1968) appeared.

The gas field closed in 2013, and the economic base of the city suffered, as in many other mining areas, even if there is a set of industrial projects. The city seems clearly a “ville nouvelle” of the first model, even a hybrid with the previous “grand ensemble” model. It is an architecture of lineal multi-storey blocks on a rather regular street grid in which every chance is taken to introduce a curve (and the terrain gives some room for that).

That day, Jean Paul and the mayor chose a relatively flat area surrounded by two large sets of hills giving a certain visual protection when seen from the close industrial areas. Each neighbourhood has a tower, but individual homes have become more important (after all, that is France). The Plan Local d’Urbanisme is being revised, with moderate growth previsions.

Biblio (100)

biblio100Being at Biblio 100 means somehow that this idea of publishing each Monday references on interesting texts related to space at its different scales and implications has lasted over 2 years. Going from 100 to 1.000 seems hard (some white hair along the way, as well as the patience…), but it also seemed hard to get to 100.

How to celebrate this small feat? I would like to get your opinions on what has been more (or least…) interesting during this period. This could help to orient coming posts… and is also a chance to see again what has been produced during this time. Just remember that on top of this page the menu “biblio- selected readings” gets you to the list of biblio posts.

Biblio (98) Landscape and economics

Biblio 98 paisaje italia economia

According to the European Landscape Convention, landscape is “an area, as perceived by people, whose character is the result of the action and interaction of natural and/or human factors”. The convention mentions the links between economics and landscape, but the fact is that its implementation has often been more oriented towards environmental and perceptive issues, in part due to the difficulties to quantify and relate the multiple actions on landscapes with a concrete impact of each action overall. There are methods to compute the Gross Domestic Product, but it is complex to evaluate the worth of a landscape in a given configuration and by itself (and not just as a simple addition of the value of the present activities), which would be needed to evaluate the impact of a given project.

Sure, you can say that a sustainable development must focus on all three dimensions (social, environmental and economic), and that economic calculation by no means guarantees a better policy or a coherent portrayal of reality. You can even say that creating an algorithm is just a way to have people tamper it to their own benefit.

Despite all that, some have gone down that way. Tiziano Tempesta evaluates the Italian case: “the landscape policies in Italy are currently essentially based on landscape transformation control and on the payment of subsidies to farmers. Since the landscape policies have a cost for citizens, in both cases it is necessary to evaluate the benefits coming from public intervention”.  There are no definitive conclusions, or magic algorithms, but some interesting thoughts on the matter.

Maps 2014 (34) Vienna Digital Map

Maps34- Viena

The Vienna digital map is one among the herd of web platforms displaying cartography with a degree of detail adapting to the visualization scale. It stands out as there is an elegant selection of colors, a large scale detail based on cadastral data, and some layers that are interesting for a tourist, as the one on the city walks.



Two images from two quite different cities: Salzburg in Austria, and La Coruña, in Spain (up to you to sort which image corresponds to each city…) . Two strong landscapes and the difference is in the ability of each city to do an interesting thing on these landscapes. More on this in next posts.


Biblio (96) The Aspern Airfield


In 1912 the Vienna Airport opens at Aspern; in 1975 car races start, and in 1982 a General Motors Factory opens. As of the end of the 1980s, there are already talks to take the airplanes out, and in 2008 an architectural competition is launched, and won by Tovatt and Associates.

The project is interesting in several senses: it seems quite good in technical terms, but it is, even in a caricature sense, a material translation of the analysis made by David Mangin in “La Ville Franchisée”: a project of a certain density, with limited connections to its surrounding, creating its own ringstrase… A somehow closed world, linked to the motorway and the subway.

A good website with abundant English documents.