Jerusalem Construction Scandal Topples Giants, Buildings Remain Standing, April 25, 2010

A massive corruption scandal involving Jerusalem’s least popular real estate development has landed some of Israel’s most powerful people, including a former Prime Minister, in hot water. According to environmentalists, the scandal underlines the need for tighter regulation of the country’s land planning system. But that hasn’t stopped the current Prime Minister from pushing his plan to radically deregulate the planning system.

Masdar’s Zero-Carbon Master Plan (pdf) Azure Magazine, May 2009

Steeped in tradition, yet swimming in wealth and its modern trappings, the desert kingdom of Abu Dhabi is positioning itself to become the nexus of the post-oil economy. The centerpiece of the plan is Masdar City. Car-free, human-scaled and utilizing vernacular design methods like passive shading and cooling, Masdar aims to be the world’s first carbon-neutral city. And with a resolute leadership, budgets in the billions and plenty of foreign manpower, it seems it might just pull it off.

Obama Unveils Vision for High-Speed Rail, April 18, 2009: “Building a new system of high-speed rail in America will be faster, cheaper and easier than building more freeways or adding to an already overburdened aviation system –- and everybody stands to benefit.”

Raleigh Forsakes Sprawl, April 15, 2009: The experts proposed a concept thus far unknown in Raleigh: walkable urbanism. And in order to create it, planners suggested transforming strip malls and shopping centers into mixed-use apartment buildings, complete with affordable housing units, sidewalk storefronts, public plazas and (gasp) buses.

Abu Dhabi Put CO2 Underground, March 29, 2009: Abu Dhabi, one of the world’s worst polluters, is working on capturing the carbon dioxide emitted from its smokestacks and pumping it back into the ground, where it will (hopefully) be trapped forever. An interview with the man in charge of making the ambitious concept a reality.

Paris in 2030, March 13, 2009: After 9 months of work, ten architectural firms have presented their proposals for a “Grand Paris 2030″ to French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy had asked the firms to “project 20 years into the future and dream up the world’s most sustainable post-Kyoto metropolis.” Three themes were common to all of the plans: sustainable development, transportation, and connecting central Paris with its suburbs.

When McDonald’s ‘Goes Green’, March 12, 2009

The McDonald’s where I spent my early years stuffing my face with Big Macs and fries was recently demolished, and will soon be replaced by a newer, “greener” McDonald’s. While I have to take my hat off to a guy like Ric, who owns the franchise and decided to think ahead in an extremely conservative environment, I will find it hard to root for the success of his enterprise. And not only because Ric decided not to rebuild the playground.

prt-car-on-display-masdar-abu-dhabi-photoAbu Dhabi Unveils ‘Podcars’, Feb. 1, 2009: New “personal rapid transit” electric taxis will be in operation in Masdar City by the fall.

A Tour of the World’s First Post-Petroleum City, January 21, 2009: Masdar City – zero waste, no cars, carbon-neutral, and powered by renewable energy. Could this be the template for future cities?

Prince Charles: Learn from the Slums, Feb. 11, 2009: Prince Charles of Wales, a longtime advocate of traditional urbanism, suggested last week that we look to the world’s informal settlements (aka slums, shanty towns, favelas, barrios, etc.) as a model for housing the world’s poor. Places like Dharavi, the setting for the film Slumdog Millionaire, offer a better model for housing the urban poor than many of the attempts made in the West, suggested the Prince.

What Sank Dongtan?, Jan. 5, 2009: The emergence of the ecocity concept has been one of the most exciting trends in city design in recent years – intelligently designed ecological cities that would revolutionize the way we thought about the environments in which we dwell. As the idea gained traction and exposure over the past few years, a string of ambitious initiatives were announced which aimed to create new ecocities from scratch. One of the most famous, and perhaps the most ambitious, was Dongtan, China.

Cairo Designs Its Way Out of Urban Chaos, Dec. 6, 2008: Noise levels in Cairo have gotten so out of control that one study compared life in the city center to living inside an industrial factory. However, for stressed-out Cairenes, things just might be looking up. Egypt’s Ministry of Culture is sponsoring an international competition to redesign the city’s Ramses Square. Once a central public space in the ultra-frenetic city, Ramses Square is today a major transportation crossroads and a gigantic source of pollution.

Ten North American Freeways Without Futures, Sept. 28, 2008: Back in the 1950’s and 60’s, when gas was cheap and there was plenty of federal money to go around, highways were built on a massive scale in North America, often slicing through city centers or blocking off waterfronts. While they added little charm to American downtowns at the time, today many of these freeways are not only eyesores but downright dangerous. So what is to be done with all this aging infrastructure in an era of rising gasoline prices and scarce funding for repairs? Tear them down, suggests the Congress for the New Urbanism, and replaceme them with functional, attractive and sustainable urban boulevards.

Lammas Ecovillage Initiative Squashed by UK Planning Committee (Again), Sept. 14, 2008

“A Bridge to the Future” (pdf) Azure Magazine, September 2008

A soaring suspension bridge, Jerusalem’s new urban landmark, serves as an eloquent prologue to a sweeping makeover planned for the Holy City. Designed by virtuoso Spanish engineer and architect Santiago Calatrava, the Bridge of Strings floats effortlessly over a busy intersection at the entrance to the city. Faced with white steel, Jerusalem stone and glass, the bridge is a radical departure from Jerusalem’s traditional cityscape. Part of an ambitious plan to revitalize the historical city center, it is the physical embodiment of the new vision of progress and modernity. Says local activist Yael Hammerman: “Calatrava’s design may not blend in perfectly, but the moves toward good public transport and reclamation of the public space from cars can make Jerusalem a better and more sustainable city. (Photos by Daniel Cherrin.)

Israeli New Urbanists: Density Will Make Our Cities Better Places to Live, June 14, 2008: No matter how you measure it, Israel is already one of the most densely populated countries in the world, and is expected to become much more crowded in the future. So it took a fair bit of chutzpah to host a conference whose title, translated literally, was “In Praise of Density” and whose message was: high urban density is good for our cities.

The 2008 Ecocity World Summit: “Ecocity is Beautiful, Ecocity is Possible”, April 29, 2008, San Francisco

More than half of the world’s population already lives in cities, and the other half isn’t far behind. Most future urban growth will likely be in “slum” areas on the fringes of cities in the developing world, and soon enough, mega-cities will merge together to create mega-regions. The world’s future is in its cities. However, population pressures, compounded by the frenetic, globalized economy (physically based in the world’s cities) have turned cities into environmental monsters – sucking up resources and spewing waste and pollution. The urban planning profession, which is supposed to address these problems, “has been largely a failure over the past few decades” in dealing with urban problems. But “there’s been a tipping point, and things are changing.”

Can Foster + Partners’ Masdar City in UAE be Truly Sustainable?, March 4, 2008

With over a third of the world’s cranes hard at work building artificial islands, an underwater hotel, and the world’s tallest building, biggest mall and most expensive airport, the United Arab Emirates has now turned its attention to building the world’s most sustainable city. Masdar City, a $22 billion initiative to build a brand new, zero-emissions city for 50,000 from scratch in Abu Dhabi, got underway last month. The ambitious project, planned by British firm Foster + Partners, was one of the first ecocity projects to receive widespread coverage in the mainstream press, and is supported by, among others, the World Wildlife Fund. Even George W. Bush has expressed interest in the project. How accurate is the media hype about Masdar City? TreeHugger put together a panel of experts to take a closer look.

[Digg] [Facebook] [Newsvine] [Reddit] [StumbleUpon] [Technorati] [Twitter] [Yahoo!] [Email]