July 7, 2010
by Jacqueline Pezzillo Assoc. AIA LEED AP

Event: Our Cities Ourselves: Visions for 2030
Location: Center for Architecture, 07.01.10
Speakers: Wang Hui — Partner; Aidi Su — Senior Architect, Urbanus Architecture & Design, Guangzhou, China; Michael Sorkin — Distinguished Professor of Architecture & Director, Graduate Program in Urban Design, City College of New York & Principal, Michael Sorkin Studio; Johan Fourie — Osmond Lange Architects, Johannesburg, South Africa
Respondent: Enrique Peñalosa — President, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy
Moderator: Luc Nadal — Technical Director, Institute for Transportation & Development Policy
Organizers: Institute for Transportation and Development Policy in collaboration with AIANY

SustainableTransport_Sorkin

2030 vision for NYC by Michael Sorkin Studio.

Michael Sorkin Studio, courtesy AIANY

The architects behind plans for three of the 10 featured cities in the “Our Cities Ourselves” exhibition — Guangzhou, Johannesburg, and New York — outlined their ideas to address traffic congestion and create improved urban development for walking, cycling, and public transportation. Experts in sustainability and urban design, with intimate knowledge of their individual cities, each design team studied how people move through urban areas to deal with the burgeoning population growth over the next 20 years.

In Guangzhou, China, Wang Hui and Aidi Su of Urbanus Architecture and Design identified the urban realities — growing development, infrastructure, and vehicular traffic — of the historic Liwan district. The noise and congestion, along with physical infrastructure barriers and underutilized space, provide a formidable challenge. Seeking to re-energize the city and create urban linkage, Urbanus proposed a skywalk, an elevated bicycle and pedestrian promenade, and a bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor. While they retained the historic integrity of existing structures along the street, they added a residential program above to respond to the growing population.

As South Africa’s largest and densest city, Johannesburg has begun to integrate BRT lines as well. However, the area has been separated into three horizontal bands that lack civic identity and scale due to main thoroughfares, detached residential zones, an under-developed river zone, and a disjointed mass transit system. Osmond Lange Architects and Ikemeleng Architects’ proposal integrates these bands into a cohesive environment by creating landmarks as focal points, establishing vertical integration, visual thoroughfares, courtyard blocks with medium- to high-density housing, and parkland below the 100-year flood line.

While many of the cities included in the exhibition are in developing countries, NYC has a tabula that is a little less rasa. To address this, Michael Sorkin Studio, studied ways to reprogram the waterfront and repurpose Lower Manhattan as an eco-friendly zone. As Sorkin said, “Movement has a basis in negotiation,” meaning that in a multi-modal transit system where pedestrians, bicycles, cars, and sometimes animals inhabit the same space, it can only work when we all cooperate. The proposal for NYC hinges on repurposing the FDR Drive south of the Brooklyn Bridge to develop a district of parks and shops. Cyclists would inhabit the lower level of the bridge while pedestrians would populate the elevated walkway.

Jacqueline Pezzillo, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP, is the communications manager at Davis Brody Bond Aedas and a regular contributor to e-Oculus.

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