Mar 15 2008
25 Examples of Good Urban Design
International Herald Tribune
Published: June 20, 2007
It’s not necessarily the billion-euro development, star-architect-designed gallery or shiny new ferris wheel that makes locals feel good about their town. Monocle believes that the measure of a city is more about everyday wonders — pavements, well-designed schools, punctual transport — rather than one-off, grand projets. Here’s our list of the top 25 urban elements that make the city.
1) Airport road Singapore
It’s remarkable how many cities pay so little attention to the key arteries leading to and from their major transport hubs.
As first impressions count for everything, getting this right goes a long way towards making residents feel happy they’re home and potential investors pull out their checkbooks. Singapore understands the business of first impressions better than any other city. Its ultra-lush landscaping from Changi is testimony to this.
2) Street clocks Prague, Czech Republic
Sometimes you don’t have a piece of Swiss watchmaking strapped to your wrist. On these occasions, time-keeping is made so much easier if there are well-maintained street clocks.
In Prague there is no excuse for running late. The streets are filled with elegant clocks fixed on top of tall, slender poles. Some clock faces are back-lit, allowing them to double as street lamps, while others have route-finding features attached.
3) Bike lockers, Chicago, USA
For many Chicago commuters the landmark of the $500 milliom (euro 371 million) Millennium Park is the bicycle station quietly tucked away in a corner. The two-level McDonald’s Cycle Center provides indoor storage for 300 bicycles, lockers and private showers with towel service. Built with federal funds, the park sold the naming rights to McDonald’s last year, which will cover the station’s operating costs for the next 50 years.
4) Outdoor cinemas Athens, Greece
The Athenians know how to do cinema, but eschew velvet seats, popcorn and surround sound for the simple sophistication of gravel under foot, the scent of honeysuckle and jasmine, cold Mythos, sunflower seeds and moonlight. On sweltering summer nights, book your canvas director’s chairs in one of Athens’s 60 or so Therini Kinematografi and join the cicadas experiencing the stars beneath the stars.
5) Trams Various cities, Europe
There’s something quite magical about watching trams in Barcelona, Strasbourg or Frankfurt glide silently along beds of grass as they do their city circuit. Where possible, this attractive combination of efficient public transport and inspired landscaping should be standard as part of the urban fabric.
6) Well-designed apartments Steinhausen, Switzerland
The high-rise gets the Swiss treatment. In Steinhausen, Switzerland, architectural firm Scheitlin-Syfrig + Partner has designed minimalist apartment blocks constructed from red cedar wood. While other cities continue to build Identikit 1970s-inspired blocks, these point to an alternative and more satisfying direction for apartment living.
7) Urban landscaping Melbourne, Australia
Whether it’s for skating, cycling, jogging or simply taking a stroll at dusk we always hunt out a bustling riverfront. Melbourne brings the focus back towards its waters with the new Birrarung Marr park located on the north bank of the Yarra river, adjacent to Federation Square. With landscaping by Taylor Cullity Lethlean and Paul Thompson, heritage-listed elms and native flora are brought right back into the city — something Monocle thinks can only be a good thing.
8) Child’s play Tokyo, Japan
Japanese convenience-store Lawson is diversifying with new brands Natural Lawson, Lawson 100 and Lawson Plus. The latest is Happy Lawson in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi district, which is aimed at parents of small children. This child-friendly conbini sells food, toys and books and offers up to two hours of childcare.
9) Summer houses Copenhagen, Denmark
The rise of all-inclusive package tours in the 1970s almost killed off the garden allotments that are a fixture in cities across Europe. With three weeks in the Canaries affordable to the masses, a patch of vegetables surrounded by a few apple trees and a tiny house no longer looked so attractive. Today, the concept of grow-your-own and holidaying closer to home has made garden allotments the height of modernity and Copenhagen’s sturdy little colony houses a benchmark for sustainable community planning.
10) Green space projects New York, US
Until recently, few people thought of the High Line, an abandoned subway track snaking through the West Side of Manhattan 9 meters above the ground, as anything other than ruins. Now the 2.4km of track is set to become an elevated park, spanning Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. Developers are already starting to move into the area – expect more apartments, restaurants and offices to appear shortly.
Source: International Herald Tribune
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