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Miami architect plans new Port-au-Prince

When I attended the University of Miami School of Architecture from 1974-1976 (before transferring to Pratt) my studio director was Andres Duany.  He was a relative unknown and had recently graduated from Columbia.  I have very fond memories of my time in his classes.

Andres Duany

A slide presentation is available at www.PortAuPrinceRP.com.

Famed Miami architect and planner Andres Duany’s government-commissioned blueprint for the reconstruction of Port-au-Prince’s quake-decimated historic city center envisions a new, middle-class residential, commercial and governmental district literally built upon the rubble of the old.

While sparing the few remaining viable structures — including, most significantly, the partially collapsed National Palace — the plan would start virtually with a clean slate. It calls for clearing much of the badly damaged city center, encompassing some 25 city blocks, which pre-earthquake contained a dense mix of government buildings, homes, a commercial district and a cruise port.

Duany’s Miami firm, known for its advocacy of traditional, pedestrian-friendly urban planning, was commissioned by the Haitian government to develop the plan in collaboration with The Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, a charity backed by Britain’s Prince Charles that supports ecologically sound planning and building.

The planners outlined their ideas this week in Port-au-Prince after weeks of research and a weeklong public workshop. A final version of the plan, which would have to be adopted by the government, is due in mid-February. Whether Haiti can muster the will or the financing, though, remains an open question. Enacting the plan would require a blend of government funding, private investment and foreign aid.

On ground raised above flood levels by the use of demolition rubble, the plan calls for self-contained blocks mixing one- and two-story residential and commercial buildings to be constructed in small, incremental phases. While street fronts would be public, courtyard interiors would be secure and private and include parking. Small corner parks would dot most blocks.

The plan also proposes a Classically inspired, naturally ventilated prototype for new government buildings to replace those toppled by last year’s catastrophic earthquake.

Key to Duany’s overall rebuilding strategy would be luring back to central Port-au-Prince some of the Haitian middle class that had decamped for the city’s hilltop suburbs — the only financially viable way for the old city center to be rebuilt, Duany has said in interviews.

Reconstruction of the city would be impossible without the investment and income of middle- and upper-class property owners, Duany says.

The plan outlines three possible approaches to rebuilding.

To keep initial costs down, one approach would be to rebuild a single block at a time, with each urban “village” containing at its center its own power generation, water and sewer capabilities, at a cost of about $3.7 million per block. That would avoid the need for a large, upfront and improbable investment to replace destroyed utilities across the entire urban center.

But that approach would over time be far more expensive — a total of $440 million — than doing everything at once with centralized utilities, which the planners estimated would cost $175 million.

The plan would require new building codes and zoning rules to control what can be built. It proposes a range of rigor, with the loosest set of regulations allowing informal construction in the interior of each block.

A contemplated retail complex and waterfront promenade would cater to an incipient tourist trade from the cruise port to supplement government and small-business employment.

Along the waterfront, mangroves would be replanted to protect the shoreline from storms.

Duany, whose firm, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., drew up Miami’s new pedestrian-friendly Miami 21 city zoning code, also has designed prefabricated shelter housing for Haiti. He also has designed redevelopment projects for post-Katrina New Orleans, although only small parts have been implemented.

Via The Miami Herald

architecture, buildings, built environment, Design, Engineering, government architecture, new buildings, Urban Planning | , , , | 2 Comments

With Sketchbook for iPhone, Autodesk Wants to Democratize High-Tech Design

A company known for niche design programs ventures into the mass market. But why?
Autodesk does well-over $2 billion in annual revenues, but unless you’re a designer, you probably don’t know the company: They produce sophisticated programs, often costing thousands of dollars, which are necessary tools in design professions ranging from architecture to digital animation.

So it’s a bit of surprise that lately, they’ve been fooling around with iPad and web apps geared towards a mass audience. Some of their offerings include Sketchbook, an iPhone/iPad app that’s been downloaded almost 2 million times; and Homestyler, a web app that lets you create and decorate a 3-D model of your home. Yet despite those successes, those products seem piddling against yearly profits of over $200 million.

FastCompany.com recently spoke with Amar Hanspal, Autodesk’s SVP of emerging business, about what those ventures portend for the company’s future.

Full article vis FastCompany

built environment | , , , | Comments Off on With Sketchbook for iPhone, Autodesk Wants to Democratize High-Tech Design

Toronto Architect Proposes Greenwrapping Elevated Highway


In Seoul or San Francisco, they took down their expressways. In New York, they built the High Line on top of an abandoned elevated rail line. In Toronto, they don’t have the guts to tear down the Gardiner expressway, so architect Les Klein has come up with the typical compromise solution: Put a High Line on top of the expressway.  

Klein states the obvious to Paige Magarrey in Azure:

“Once you tear it down, it’s gone.”

Well yes, that might be the point. But Klein says if we keep it we might have both a better highway and a park.

Accessed via stairs and ramps at all intersections, the Green Ribbon would also have elevators and concessions at the busier junctions. From melting snow to lighting, the whole project would be self-powered by wind turbines and photovoltaic systems lining the whole seven kilometers.

Klein knows all the green arguments.

The most green thing you can do is not sending something to a landfill,” he says, adding that the amount of energy required to dispose of all the rubble would be staggering.

Meanwhile, the Green Ribbon could decrease the heat island effect in Toronto, while adding green space and giving the people living around it a completely different kind of view. But most importantly, he says, a concept like this stops the city from making a decision that it’s not ready to make yet. “Once we take down the Gardiner, it’s gone for good.”

Klein then takes a huge leap and calls the Gardiner a heritage structure.

“It’s time to think about the Gardiner in a different way,” he says. The Green Ribbon is intended to get Torontonians reflecting on what the Gardiner once was – and what it could be in the future. “Cities are often judged by how they treat their heritage,” he says. “40 years ago, the Gardiner was a symbol of progress, a symbol of success, a symbol of power. You can’t just snap your fingers and say ‘that doesn’t matter.’”

Sometimes you can. Sometimes you just have to look past the solar panels, wind turbines, bicycle paths and even invocations of minimizing waste and point out that it is a highway full of cars that are being dumped into downtown, not a heritage structure. Greenwrapping it doesn’t change that.

Via Treehugger Blog

architects, architecture, built environment, Green Built Environment | , , | Comments Off on Toronto Architect Proposes Greenwrapping Elevated Highway

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