Month: May 2009

A Statue of Liberty amount of waste, every hour

Terrefuge, Statue of Liberty, waste

Terrefuge, a New York City urban-eco design collaborative, has created this visual of the amount of waste produced by New York City every hour. To reach a goal of carbon negative cities, this collaborative explores future designs and urban planning that increase the production of energy, food and public health. It is an interesting mix of architects, ecologists and artists.

Urban National Forest

Tenderloin National Forest

In one of the densest, poorest and most dangerous San Francisco neighborhoods, a university class and an art gallery have created what they dub the Tenderloin National Forest. A San Francisco State University class and The Luggage Store Gallery have created a much needed green space, and appropriated the name and logo of the national forest service.

Tenderloin National Forest

On the other side of the Atlantic, class spectrum and new versus old developments, today I also read about Vauban, a new suburb in Germany that puts cars in collective garages on the periphery and devotes its narrow alleys to pedestrians and bicycles. It is a new development on an old military base, connected to the city of Freiburg by tram. And it is planned to reduce global warming and to improve the residents’ quality of life. 

Vauban, a new German suburb

The funny thing is that this new suburb’s street priorities are not that different than most of residential Tokyo.

Dystopian vision of Pacific Ocean in-fill

Seiwoo's Dystopian vision of Pacific Ocean in-fill

Seiwoooo’s Alban Mannisi, a landscape architect based in Tokyo, has created a future scenario dystopia in collage and narrative about the future of Saipan and the Pacific Ocean in 2048.

Mannisiimagines a world in which sustainability and massive waste create so much new reclaimed ocean land that Saipan becomes a hub of land traffic between Beijing, Tokyo and Osaka on one side, and Honolulu, Los Angeles and New York on the other.

The project’s aim is “to develop some critical views on the new trend of sustainability in urban planning and to stimulate the people involved to be more conscious of the possible outcomes that can be disastrous.”

Is this an antidote to the positive message of Tokyo’s Umi no Mori (or Sea Forest), or a worst-case dystopia?

I had the pleasure of meeting Mansini recently, and he shared these Tokyo and global urban architecture links with me:

-Funny weird Japanese architecture : Atelier bow Wow : Made in Tokyo
-Japanese landscape architecture company : Studio onsite
-An architect-Urban planner-Thinker and teacher at Waseda University  SOUHEI IMAMURA/atelier imamu
-The best Landscape Arch mind: James Corner
-Netherlands Urbanism Review : MONU

More about Mannisi and Seiwoooo here.

Beautifying major streets

Pansies on Shibuya sidewalk

As a gesture for improving a huge street in Shibuya, I admire the shop owner who contributed these small planters with pansies. It certainly makes the wide sidewalk, busy street and subway construction zone a bit more beautiful.

As a contrast for visionary ideas to improve major streets, I am showing below an image from a native plant company 5bai Midori (literally five-sided greenery) that uses a modular system for residential exteriors and interiors, small businesses and neighborhood improvements.

Gobai Midori street median

Continue reading

Sidewalk flowers celebrate ramen shop opening

Sidewalk flowers celebrate ramen shop opening

Whenever a small business opens in Tokyo, there is a floral explosion outside as the shop owners’ friends and vendors provide enormous flower displays as a show of support and celebration. It also functions to draw the public’s attention to the new business. What an exuberance of color and quantity.

Office rock landscape

Office rock landscape

Visiting a multinational in Shibuya, I was struck by this interesting rock garden in the hallway. Visible from the front reception, there are two small rock gardens cut into the carpeted floor. This seems like a cool way to bring nature in, without the upkeep of keeping plants alive under fluorescent lights and climate-controlled air. It was a little sad when the receptionists volunteered that the rocks were fake. Touching the large rocks, you quickly notice that they are hollow. Maybe they should not have told me.

One more photo after the jump

Affiliation with Tokyo University of Agriculture

Tokyo University of Agriculture

I am thrilled to receive an affiliation with Tokyo University of Agriculture for my Council on Foreign Relations Hitachi fellowship. Also known as Nodai,Tokyo University of Agriculture is one of Japan’s most respected schools, with strengths in agriculture, the environment and landscape design. I will be hosted by the Department of Landscape Architecture Science.

Volunteer seats at bus stop

Volunteer seats at bus stop

At many Tokyo bus stops, one can see old seats that have been anonymously contributed to the city scape. Sometimes you see old office chairs that swivel, or recycled dining room chairs. Some weather the rain better than others.

Certainly these volunteer seats provide more function than beauty to the street. A city-funded program would be more consistent and attractive. Still, the care that someone has taken to provide a public amenity where none existed is remarkable. 

Like public greening, volunteer seats at bus stops blur the line between public and private space, and between municipal and volunteer street creation. It shows how city residents cultivate their environment, provide for their neighbors, and make small improvements.