The New York "Low Line" Majestic Underworld

Satellite engineers turned architects, James Ramsey and Dan Barasch have developed a groundbreaking solution to an otherwise forgotten, useless, uninhabitable subterranean trolley terminal lying dormant underneath New York City streets.  Driven by the success of New York's High Line, Ramsey and Barasch have us looking down at a future "Low Line."  

Their vision is to transform the abandoned Williamsburg Bridge Trolley Terminal into a subterranean park filled with sunlight and lush vegetation, using a skylight they developed which uses fiber-optic technology that will naturally light and bring life to the tunnel. Gaining much international attention and support, the project is sure to transform the once again and to an even greater level the way we view these abandoned spaces beneath our cities.

Controlled by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, this 1.5 acre SPURA (Seward Park Urban Renewal Area) plot has been vacant since 1948.  The site runs roughly 3 blocks under Delancy Street between Essex Street and the entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge.  Delancy Underground, also referred to as "the Low Line", will be New York City's first underground park.  The project aims to become a safe and beautiful gathering space for local residents and an attraction for the Lower East Side.

To ensure the success of the project, Ramsey and Barasch plan to conduct a formal feasibility study that will assess cost, impact and strategy.  They hope to acquire enough funding for construction and maintenance costs through donations, grant money, public money and revenue.  Increased political and community support will help the project significantly.  The initial fundraising target is $450,000.


Roller Coaster or Bridge?

A gigantic swirling sculpture takes visitors, onlookers, and admires on a twisting, sloping, adrenaline pumping journey down steel pipes and stair tracks.  Shooting you to dizzying heights and bringing you back to earth with gentle slopes and turns.  It may not physically get your adrenaline going but the mere sight of it gets my blood pumping! Sculptors Ulrich Genth and Heike Mutter are responsible for this amazing addition to the German capital of culture.

The thrill-ride inspired walkway is an exciting and in other words crazy attraction recently unveiled for the city of Dulsberg. Taking 8 weeks to assemble, the massive steel sculpture measures 11 meters high and provides panoramic views out to the surrounding landscape.  Combining art, folly, and fun, the sculpture is an interactive way for visitors to explore the German countryside.  The park also respects its industrial roots, as the structure is located atop a former zinc production site and the looping construction is itself sculpted from steel and zinc.

This fantastic display of public art successfully keeps the visitor engaged at all times physically and visually, achieving a perfect balance in public engagement.

Nanjing Jianning High Rise Complex

W2Y2L has designed a high rise complex in China's Xiaguan District that encompasses a variety of uses from entertainment, sports, commercial and office.  The project is faced with the challenge of merging a massive complex into the existing circumstances and achieving seamless transitional connections with the landscape.

The distribution of architectural volumes in the design follows the idea of traditional Chinese Gardens, which transforms the elements of water, stones, hill, bridges and flowers into significant urban shapes animating and vitalizing the daily life of the entire district.

The site is on the south side of Jianning Road in an area which is traditional and historical, meanwhile modern in function and surrounded by beautifully landscaped scenery.  The natural landscape  is what drives the overall concept of the project by positioning the architectural components like precious objects into an urban Chinese garden.  The proposal lifts up the ground surface and transforms it into a flexible and lively vertical high rise with landscape integrating the service and leisure facilities to provide an attractive and continuously active support for this traditional and cultural site.

The building integrates itself into the urban setting by carefully providing unique public experiences, access, and amenities on the ground level, through entry foyers, plazas, an outdoor video stadium, and multiple green roofs that help to transition the large building masses into the landscape. The exterior of the buildings are lined with a local vegetative skin distributed alongside the surface of the lower buildings and is met by active solar panels that climb the two twisting towers.  These qualities make for a truly integrative complex that speaks well to the human experience and respects nature and the environment.


The Art in Government Architecture

This month the Ministry of Finance of Georgia completed construction on its border checkpoint at Sapri.  Designed by J.Mayer H. architects, the buildings sculpturesque form celebrates the movement of the sea and the creatures within.  Its white exterior stands bold against the brown and blues of the surrounding landscape, commanding attention to its form and function rather than its use.

The customs checkpoint is situated at the Georgian border to Turkey, at the shore of the Black Sea.  With its cantilevering terraces, the tower is used as a viewing platform, with multiple levels overlooking the water and the steep part of the coastline.  In addition to the regular customs facilities, the structure also houses a cafeteria, staff rooms and a conference room.  The building welcomes visitors to Georgia, representing the progressive upsurge of the country.

Composting 101; A Growing Industry?

When most of us think of uneaten food, we consider it garbage, but it is actually organic waste.  We throw it away along with our trash and it ends up in landfills, releasing methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon.  When organic waste is properly handled, the result is compost, growing magic for a garden, rich with vital nutrients lacking in most soils.

Grid-Magazine has brought the issue of composting to my attention and now I'm sharing it with you.  Here in Philadelphia we are beginning to expose ourselves to the possibilities composting has to offer.  Across the city Philadelphian's have started composting, in backyards and kitchens, restaurants, and hotels.  The number continues to grow as more people are educated on its benefits. Composting is great for your garden and good for the environment.

There are a few ways to compost, and they all require air, water, heat, the right size space, apple cores and dry leaves to provide nitrogen and carbon. Three ways to compost are through Vermicomposting, Aerated Static Pile, and In-Vessel.  If you are interested in more info on composting methods, visit Primex, a garden center in Glenside, PA.  They hold composting workshops in early spring, and also a great resource for finding out about composting workshops happening throughout Greater Philadelphia.  Visit Primex Here.

Down in Wilmington, DE., The Peninsula Compost Group has been in existence for over 2 years now. The $20 million facility occupies 27 acres and handles 160,000 tons of food and yard waste annually.  Being only 1,200 feet prom homes, residents were sure to protest the companies presence in their town, but Peninsula assured residents their presence would not have a negative impact on their livelihood and they actually have maintained that stance.  In the two years since the facility opened, there hasn't been one phone call to their 24-hour odor hotline.  The lack of odors is thanks to the sophisticated GORE cover composting system.  This system keeps water out, while allowing the compost to breathe.  Carbon dioxide and water vapor are released, but the GORE cover keeps in odor molecules.

The composting industry is rather new to Philadelphia, but certainly shows sign of growing, a positive contribution to the city's goal to become America's Greenest City.  Residents and Entrepreneurs are catching on, like Tim Bennett who started his own compost collection agency called Bennett Compost due to the nonexistence of one in the city.  With bold thinkers like Bennett and other conscious individuals, Philly has a bright Green future ahead for itself.

Items to compost:
Cardboard, clean paper, coffee grounds & filters, corncobs, cotton rags, dryer & vacuum cleaner lint, eggshells, fireplace ashes, flowers, fruits & vegetables, grass clippings, hair and fur, hay and straw, houseplants, Leaves, Pine needles, Newspaper, nut shells, sawdust, tea bags, wood chips, wool rags, yard trimmings.

(fats, grease, lard, or oils), coal or charcoal ash, dairy products (butter, egg yolks, sour cream, yogurt), black walnut tree leaves or twigs, diseased or insect-ridden plants, meat or fish bones and scraps, pet wastes, and yard trimmings treated with chemicals.


Urban Green Belts by Off Architecture

Off Architecture, has proposed a series of low rise apartment complexes that becomes virtual urban green belts in Anglet, France.  The design is for two developments with differing egress and layouts.  Conventional in design, standing two to four stories tall with standard floor plans and patios, the buildings are set on a tiered landscape and follow the ground, stepping down a floor at a time.

Site One stands at its tallest four stories with a passage at the ground floor in the middle of the complex, allowing access to the inner courtyards.  Parking is tucked under along the length of the project eliminating adjacent hardscapes.  Site two is a low set series of apartments placed on a slope with individual walkouts above the next unit.

The site is surrounded and embedded in extreme green space, with extensive green roofs, inextensive green patios and hardscape at the base and throughout the public connectors.  the flora is so intense that the projects have the quality of an abandoned space in which nature has reclaimed.  Deer and sheep appear in renderings on the wooded grounds, to show as though the city has dissolved onto a nature/bourg hybrid.  A sort of urban back to earth movement enshrined in the built environment.

Oshikamo House, Tokyo

Designers of Katsutoshi + Associates set out to design a residence with nonexistent spatial constraints. A space where you can grasp the entire space visually if the entire space is visible.  Where you can let your consciousness develop the space if not all is visible, like walking on a path unsure of what's ahead.

The request from the home owners for this project was for a house that encourages the family to spend time together (rather than isolate anyone), spatial, and bright with plenty of natural light.  To carry out these request, the family space is arranged at the center of the site.  The private space is arranged at the edge of the site, and they connect gradually by the one volume.  The distance between bedrooms along with curved spaces provides adequate privacy.  Each room is indistinctly connected to each other via central space.

The indistinct connection is the key concept of this house, expressing the spatial relationship without obstructing barriers among the rooms. "What interests us is how rooms connect to each other, more than how a room is made.  What interests us is the "air" that curves, and diffracts, like a cloud constantly moving without having definite shape."


Stuttgart Debuts New Inspirational Library, A Knowledge Cube for Readers

Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart is a library like none other, German to a "T" in design, this book haven rivals many museums in sheer creative design and concept.  Designed by Eun Young, this architectural masterpiece, takes on the form of a giant Rubik's cube, glowing in an evening kaleidoscope of LED hues.

Inside, the minimalist interior contrast with the busy glowing cubes of the exterior.  A spectacular great white hall with small window niches greet guest before they enter the main atrium laid out with asymmetrical alternating staircases connecting readers to volumes of literary masterpieces sorted throughout 5 floors of stacks. The space truly embodies the art of literature and its readers, a superb contemporary structure that lives up to the meaning of a bibliotech.