Climate change, overcrowding, and economic straits have all combined to make our cities, as they're currently thought of and designed, untenable. Which means that architects and policy members have to rethink our strategy of how to shape the city—both buildings and urban space alike.
A big part of this entails that we refrain from the tabula rasa strategies of the past and make do with the standing infrastructure that we already have. Preserving and rehabilitating the aging steel relics of our global cities has proved an ingenious way of saving energy while enabling newer methods of architectural planning. Projects such as the High Line have kickstarted a new age of urban regeneration—for good or bad—with initiatives from Tel Aviv to Philadelphia attempting to replicate it success on their own turf.
When it comes to urban transformation, size does not matter, per se. The subtleties of thoughtful urban projects shine through at every level, and sometime outperform their more ostentatious contemporaries.
One of the most appealing—and vital—aspects of public art is its ability to transform the mundanities of day-to-day city life into an adventure. After all, even the most majestic cities, like Paris, can start to lose their lustre once you live and work there for a while. Which is why we can't think of any better way to make the City of Light new again than by inserting an enormous inflatable bridge across the Seine—it sure will make morning commutes a hell of a lot more fun.
Weiss/Manfredi's Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle was an instant landmark the moment it opened in 2006. The park's sculptural form was carved out of a former brownfield site, navigating a difficult urban plot that traditionally acted as a buffer between city and coast. The large-scale project, which uses a hybrid retaining wall system of concrete panels and earth to hold up 200,000 cubic yards of infill, weaves a zig-zagging path around artworks by Alexander Calder and Richard Serra to the Elliot Bay shore beyond. The park is part of a city initiative to revitalize the waterfront.
From commerce to classrooms, this old Wal-Mart center was converted into the nation's largest single-story library. The warehouse space, which spans two and a half football fields, is lined with aisles upon aisles of books. The library is organized around programmatic clusters, with clusters of reading materials sprinkled throughout according to genre.
Superkilen is a new urban park that cuts through the heart of Copenhagen's diverse Nørrebro neighborhood, which is home to more than 50 nationalities. The mile-long park, which consists of three themed parts ("Red Square," "Black Market," and "Green Park"), is dotted with various pop artifacts and cultural mementos "sourced" from the home countries of the area's inhabitants. Here, you're just as likely to stumble across manhole covers from Paris and Islamic tiled fountains from Morocco as you are (ironic) neon Communist signage from Moscow and curvy benches from Brazil.
The architectural legacy of any Olympic Games is usually tinged with melancholy, entropy, and rust. (See: the 2004 Athens Olympic grounds.) City and planning officials in Beijing were set on preventing the 2008 Olympic camp from falling into such decay. True, the Bird's Nest stands in an ambiguous state—neither used nor disused—but the the WaterCube has been transformed into a large-scale water park filled with looping slides and all kinds of anemone-like knickknacks.
Part of a nationwide master-planning initiative, this promenade provides accessibility to the northeastern region of Singapore, which is being developed as a residential area with nearly 100,000 homes. The walkway improves and rehabilitates the existing coastline while enabling seamless pedestrian connectivity along the waterfront, incorporating poetic touches such as a reflective memorial to the World War II Sook Ching massacre site at Punggol Beach.
Instead of building new office towers, Gensler proposes "hacking" new ones. The firm writes: "Capable of fully delivering on the universal planning flexibility inherent in their standardized floorplates and interior design logic, the office buildings of North America will evolve culturally and physically through smaller, pioneering interventions, transforming these large monolithic office blocks and the 9-5, corporate hive mentality they were planned around into hybridized buildings that promote creativity and a willingness to respond to changing work modes of the 21st century worker and the lifestyles of the 21st century urban dweller."
Designed to provide residents more mobility—as well as promote a healthier, greener lifestyle—this bicycle storage station is the first of its kind in East Germany. Made of polycarbonate multi-wall-sheets, this structure also houses refreshments, a workshop, and offices, revitalizing the entire neighborhood.
J. Mayer H.'s Metropol Parasol looms like a wild, strangely "organic" growth in the midst of old Sevilla, spreading its floppy mushroom caps above the city's historic central market. As we've noted in the past, "Metropol Parasol is a shining success story about public space: the central market is now a thriving destination, as locals and foreigners alike are flocking to the plaza, and the contemporary agora has even become a gathering place for grassroots protest movements."