Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Today's UD News Roundup

Today is an eventful day for urban design news...
Westside Boulevard proposals by Hargreaves/Ten Arquitectos (left) and Work AC (right)
1) New York unveils five design proposals for the new Westside Boulevard--a heavily landscaped thoroughfare that will anchor the West Side Redevelopment (and here too). I have to say that all of them seem like a distraction from the heavy handed corporate development of Related's 'megadevelopment' (curb's word, not mine), alluded to by some of the proposals as the ominous shadowy thing in the background (particularly in Gustafson/Allied Works' proposal which is reminiscent of a Hugh Ferris rendering). From the New York Post:

From fanciful images of hills, trails and plantings to a park filled with enormous evergreen trees and rock outcrops, the proposals from five teams of architects vying to design the park and boulevard will go before the public beginning today.

The project, part of the Hudson Yards redevelopment, will create four acres of park space down the middle of a boulevard stretching from 33rd to 42nd Streets, between 10th and 11th Avenues, and linking up with a massive new office and residential project planned for the West Side rail yard just to the south of the new avenue.

2) Metropolis magazine questions the relative merits of a maglev train proposed to connect Anaheim, CA, with Las Vegas NV, compared with other, more sensible solutions:
Magnetic levitation, which involves running high-speed trains on a cushion of electromagnetic attraction or repulsion (depending on the system), is one of those futuristic ideas that have never quite arrived...While we have been dreaming about floating trains, Europe has been methodically threading its cities together with a sophisticated high-speed rail network.

I don't really understand the big deal--what's wrong with connecting America's biggest playground for children (Walt Disney Land) with America's biggest playground for adults (Vegas) with a train that floats? What's not sensible about that? What, you want to connect "people" and "places" that actually "matter" by so-called "sensible" high speed train systems? sheesh!

3) And, finally, we have an emerging example of OrwellURBanism:

images via World Architecture News
World Architecture News features an interesting short editorial on a new capital city being built in Burma, despite its recent natural disaster, which killed tens of thousands of people, and the ensuing food riots. Here are some excerpts from the original article:

New ‘Orwellian’ capital built on foundations of famine and poverty

Burma is building a new capital. While millions of its inhabitants are still reeling from the after effects of Cyclone Nargis and the ensuing massive rise in food prices, the military government, led by dictator Than Shwe, is building a vast new city. But all is not as it seems.

A new ‘Soviet Style’ city hall will dominate the centre of the new capital which is closed to westerners. The opulent city, founded only in late 2005, will be home mainly to government officials. There are no international flights and foreigners are banned. For good reason: The estimated build cost of £2.7 billion has been funded by trade in ruby, teak and opium and offers its residents untold luxuries (relative) including 24 hour power (unheard of in Burma), exclusive villas, three golf courses and a zoo.

As you approach Naypyidaw, loosely translated as ‘abode of kings’, dusty trails turn into vast, 12 lane highways, all deserted bar the odd horse drawn trailer or a speeding convoy of blacked-out limos heading for the rumoured network of luxury houses built for Than Shwe and his junta of top generals. Reportedly locked in a closely guarded secret quarter, the exclusive villas form an essential part their opulent lifestyle including golf, gambling and much more.

Some 1,500 new blocks of apartments sprawl across the city, and in true Orwellian style, these are colour-coded depending on which government department the residents work for. Blue for health, green for agriculture and irrigation etc.

Some are clearly more equal than others.

It's like Pompidou style color coding at the scale of the city, although with some pretty sinister social-engineering undertones.

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