10 km

Maps 2014 (41) Churyumov-Gerasimenko in Paris

I usually fancy maps that tell stories in which you can feel the scale of things. And this week’s news (with the ode to joy as a background sound and the twelve star banner) is somehow related. Beyond the million km distance, what surprises is the small size of the comet (you could walk all along it in just an hour, provided walking is feasible without gravity…) when related to a big city. The image has been published by the European Space Agency and conveys the idea of the ability of mankind to transform the surface of this planet on a geological scale, even on an interplanetary one (if we can see the comet from here well enough to reach it, chances are Paris can be seen from there…)

Maps 2014 (40) As I move


Chances are that what I’m going to disclose is already known by some of the makers of the electronic contraptions I carry ; so here is a map of the routes I use often (blue numbers are distances in meters).

I live in A, work in B and once a week I eat at C. some weeks I go to cinema at D. 1 and 2 are pedestrian daily routes, which are alternative depending on the day (and the hour); the distance between A and B is so reduced that the presence of an expressway in the middle makes these two the shortest pedestrian routes. 3 is mainly a bus route, an explanation for the 90º angle (by foot it could be shorter, but it would take too long). And 4 is a weekend route, to go to the cinema through the urban core (the return trip is often by underground or bus, or, when it is late at night, by cab). The remaining points are supermarkets, cinemas, restaurants and other interest points.

The city I live in is rather good for a pedestrian; but this doesn’t mean that walking routes are necessarily shorter than by other means. On the other side, they are highly predictable when it comes to time: I usually walk at 4 km/h (compared to the average 24 km/h for cars, which is subject to strong variations during daytime). By walking you always have alternatives (but for the case of obstacles such as expressways or rail lines), and as slopes are gentle I can predict my travel times. And yes, sometimes (with not such regular patterns, once or twice a week at most) I move in my car…

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.

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.

Biblio (95) Rebuild by Design

Rebuild by Design is an initiative of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Even if sometimes from Europe such a ministry seems unlikely for the US, it has existed for decades, with influential policies, although not always on the good sense… as everywhere. HUD is looking for a way to tackle the urban resilience challenge posed by climate change, taking into account the Sandy lessons. These lessons can benefit other rebuilding efforts or risk prevention schemes. The initiative has formalized as a competition whose results were published in April, with 10 winners proposing alternatives for damaged coastal cities. There are big names from the architectural world, as OMA, but the projects are not just drawings, as they benefit from public participation; according to the available information, what is really chosen is not a team of architects, but local coalitions that have built consensus and will receive grants to develop proposals that have been formalized by specialists.

Being up to it (2) Altimetric Madrid

Overall hypsometry

Overall hypsometry

Any large city can have a complex setting, altough it is not compulsory (just think of the Randstat, Shanghai or New Orleans). Madrid has a certain terrain complexity, defined by the Manzanares (a quite tamed river), and the Abroñigal and Castellana creeks; Abroñigal is nowadays a corridor for the eastern M30 beltway and Castellana is the main north-south spine. The historical city began on the steep slopes of the eastern shore of the Manzanares, to later grow towards the east.

20 m contours, a river and two creeks

20 m contours, a river and two creeks

The central city on its setting

The central city on its setting

All the buildings (sort of...)

All the buildings (sort of…)

Biblio (94) Vacant capacities

edificabilidadremanente-biblio 94

The Municipality of Madrid publishes every year a report on the building rights defined in the current General Plan that are still to be used (edificabilidad remanente). As a result of the current economic crisis (which at least in part is due to an excess housing offer as related to demand), their numbers as of january 1, 2014, are (for a city slightly over 3 million residents):

– Housing: 19.867.607 sq m (some 195.600 homes, that could house about half a million people)

– Industrial: 11.383.048 sq m

– Tertiary (what for most of our American friends would be commercial): 7.874.561 sq m

So there is still a large amount of potential job for everyone involved in city building; but where are the people that will populate that, work in new factories or office cubicles, or buy in new retail spaces? therein lies the rub… This capacity can be seen as an asset for the future, which is unpredictable in itself. But it seems a long term future.

Maps 2014 (21) Paris 2020

paris 2020 webThis is an online version of a 40 sq m digital model of greater Paris currently being exhibited at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal, one of the main watering holes for visiting architects in Paris. Worth a look to understand the ambitious urban projects associated to a new metropolitan rail network and other things architectural and urban happening right now in the French capital.


Biblio (88) Space is the machine

biblio88-space is the machine

This electronic edition (published in2007) of Bill Hillier’s work “Space is the Machine” gives an insight on the philosophy applied by Space Syntax when analysing the urban space. How people move in space and how the links between them are influenced by architecture are themes subject to research and tentative answers in that work. Although it is not enunciated as such, I cannot prevent this book from raising in my mind a central issue for the modern movement, the possibility to organise the city in stacked levels (to which such a method would produce, I imagine, an answer such as… “it depends on…”). Interesting reading.


Biblio (87) World Urban Forum Medellin

This year the World Urban Forum, a biennial event, was held in Medellin (Colombia).
Equity has become a central issue in the debates. But the conclusions bring more content. And they have launched the Global Urban Lectures, a set of interesting content you can access through the internet.