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GEOGRAPHY EDUCATION

Supporting geography educators everywhere with current digital resources.

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architecture

How to Build a Smart City

We are in the midst of a historic (and wholly unpredicted) rise in urbanization. But it’s hard to retrofit old cities for the 21st century. Enter Dan Doctoroff. The man who helped modernize New York City — and tried to bring the Olympics there — is now C.E.O. of a Google-funded startup that is building, from scratch, the city of the future.

Source: freakonomics.com

Urbanism isn’t just the study of urban geography as it is, but it also looks to use ideas of design, architectural, transportation, and sustainability to create better cities.  This Freakonomics podcast looks at ways that New York City has changed, with ideas of how to start a new city being experimented with in Toronto.  This 99PI podcast looks at European urbanist ideas that shaped many cities that were damaged during WWII (part II).  Successful cities bring in more residents which bring higher housing costs–so can a city be too successful for it’s own good?  San Francisco grapples with changing economic issues as it is too expensive to hire workers to fill low-skill jobs

 

Tagsurbanism, podcast, architecturetransportation, housing, place, planning.

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The Geography of AC

“The modern built environment in the United States is now totally dependent on air conditioning. A lot of our buildings would be uninhabitable in the summer without AC, and all of the electricity needed to keep it running.”

Source: 99percentinvisible.org

Like so many 99 percent invisible podcasts, this blends urban design, social geography, local history in a way that deepens our understanding of place. Air conditioning has powerfully reshaped so many geographic patterns that many of ways.  Some mentioned in this podcast include: a) the rapid expansion of the Sun Belt, b) less climatically and regionally distinctive architecture can now be found in the cultural landscape, and c) an enormous amount of energy is consumed to maintain our hyper-cooled buildings (the U.S. now uses as much electricity for air conditioning as it did for all purposes in 1955). 

 

Tagspodcast, architecturehousing, landscape, place planning.

How Instagram Is Changing the Way We Design Cultural Spaces

“As neighborhoods, restaurants and museums become more photogenic, are we experiencing an ‘Instagramization’ of the world?”

 

Penang is one of a number of cities capitalizing on the wild popularity of photo-based social media apps such as Instagram, which has 800 million users (that’s more than a tenth of the world’s population). It’s part of a wider phenomenon of public and private spaces being designed to appeal to users of such apps. This phenomenon is subtly changing our visual landscapes—on the streets, in restaurants, in stores, in museums and more. Call it the “Instagramization” of the world.

Restaurants have been at the forefront of Instagramization. Since social media mentions can make or break a restaurant’s success, owners have become attuned to what visual aspects of food and décor appeal to customers. Restaurant designers are going for photo-friendly background materials like slate and whitewashed wood, and using plain white plates. Some are deliberately incorporating Instagram-appealing visuals that feature the restaurant’s name or logo—floor tiles, neon signs—hoping they’ll wind up in a snap.

 

Tagssocial mediaplaceculture, architecture, urban.

Source: www.smithsonianmag.com

The ‘War on Sitting’ Has a New Front

Cities are removing benches in an effort to counter vagrancy and crime—at the same time that they’re adding them to make the public realm more age-friendly.

Source: www.citylab.com

Geography explores more than just what countries control a certain territory and what landforms are there.  Geography explores the spatial manifestations of power and how place is crafted to fit a particular vision.  Homeless people are essentially always ‘out of place.’  These articles from the Society Pages, Atlas Obscura, the Atlantic and this one from the Guardian share similar things: that urban planners actively design places that will discourage loitering, skate boarding, and homelessness, which are all undesirable to local businesses.  This gallery shows various defensive architectural tactics to make certain people feel ‘out of place.’  Just to show that not all urban designs are anti-homeless, this bench is one that is designed to help the homeless (and here is an ingenious plan to curb public urination).  

    

Tags: urbanplanning, architecture, landscape, place, poverty.

Braves’ New Ballpark Is An Urban Planner’s Nightmare 

“The Braves chose to relocate to Cobb County from downtown Atlanta’s Turner Field after only 19 years because of a $400 million public subsidy from Cobb taxpayers. The costs are almost certain to balloon thanks to some significant fiscal buffoonery on the part of Cobb officials, including a lack of a comprehensive transportation plan and forgetting to ask the Braves to pay for traffic cops. Attached to SunTrust Park like a Cinnabon-scented goiter is the Battery Atlanta, a $550M mixed-used development that looks an awful lot like a New Urbanist project, the widely criticized school of planning that is equal parts social engineering and neoliberalism. SunTrust isn’t solely accessible by car—the Braves run a stadium shuttle bus that serves a couple of outer MARTA stations—but, compared to the team’s former home, the non-motorized options are paltry.”

Source: deadspin.com

There are many great geography angles to look at this particular issue.  The scale of governance matters in creating the political context for any given situation.  In this article, we see City vs. County vs. Metropolitan regional politics jockey for position, putting the interest of their own county above that of the larger metropolitan region.  We also see competing visions of ideal urban planning (a more sprawling, automobile-centered model vs. public transit, multi-use planning that is enclosed vs. open) all layered upon racial and socio-economic context of this particular place.   

 

Tagsarchitecture, scale, sport, urban, planning, urbanism, economic.

Mexico City 1968

“The 1968 Olympics took place in Mexico City, Mexico. It was the first Games ever hosted in a Latin American country. And for Mexico City, the event was an opportunity to show the world that they were a metropolis as worthy as London, Berlin, Rome or Tokyo to host this huge international affair. The 1968 Olympics were decreed ‘the Games of Peace.’ So Wyman designed a little outline of a dove, which shop owners all over the city had been given to stick in their windows. A protest movement, led by students, was growing in the city around [the organizers and designers]. These protestors believed the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) catered to wealthy Mexicans rather than the poor, rural and working class. Although the country had been experiencing huge economic growth, millions of people had still been left behind. The ‘Mexican Miracle’ hadn’t reached everyone.”

Source: 99percentinvisible.org

Few years are as powerful in the minds of Mexican identity as the year 1968.  Like so many 99 percent invisible podcasts, this blends urban design, social geography, local history in a way that deepens our understanding of place. The built environment can be molded to project an image, and can be used to subvert that same message by the opposition.    

 

Tagssport, Mexico, Middle America, urban, architecture, place, landscape.

 

When Climate Change Meets Sprawl: Why Houston’s ‘Once-In-A-Lifetime’ Floods Keep Happening

But a local understanding of place is critical and this viral post–Things non-Houstonians Need to Understand–is pretty good.

“Unchecked development remains a priority in the famously un-zoned city, creating short-term economic gains for some, but long term flood risk for everyone.”

Source: projects.propublica.org

Houston’s development boom and reduction of wetlands leave region prone to more severe flooding.  Here is a great map of the change in impervious surfaces in the region from 1940 to 2017–when you combine that with record-breaking rainfall the results are catastrophic.  But a local understanding of place is critical and this viral post–Things non-Houstonians Need to Understand–is pretty good.   

Tagsphysical, fluvialwatercoastal, urban, planningtransportation, architecture.

Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy

“In [recent years], the South’s 150-year reverence for the Confederacy was shaken. Public officials responded to the national mourning and outcry by removing prominent public displays of its most recognizable symbol [the flag]. It became a moment of deep reflection for a region where the Confederate flag is viewed by many white Southerners as an emblem of their heritage and regional pride despite its association with slavery, Jim Crow and the violent resistance to the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Source: www.splcenter.org

Just a few more links that I’ve added to the article, Cultural Meaning in Moving Monuments.  Right now, many people are calling for the removal of all memorials that honor the Confederacy and the call for the removal of all Confederate monuments is in full swing.  

 

Tags: monuments, the South, architectureracecultural norms, landscape.

In the Same Ballpark

“In 1992, the Baltimore Orioles opened their baseball season at a brand new stadium called Oriole Park at Camden Yards, right along the downtown harbor. The stadium was small and intimate, built with brick and iron trusses—a throwback to the classic ballparks from the early 20th century. It was popular right from the start.

These new Populous ballparks are small and old fashioned-looking but they also feature modern amenities—comfortable seats and fancy foods. And while designed to be different, they tend to follow a similar aesthetic format, featuring a lot red brick and green-painted iron. These new parks also feature asymmetrical playing fields, which are in many cases dictated by the surrounding cityscape.”

Source: 99percentinvisible.org

This podcast is filled with important urban geographic issues: downtown revitalization, landscape aesthetics, sense of place, planning, public/private revitalization, etc.  And to boot, this podcast uses America’s pasttime to discuss these topics. I typically really enjoy the thoughtful exploration of the untold stories that make up our world found in the 99 Percent Invisible podcast.

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