Soft cities is like a city reader, a book about how cities work on our inner selves and how we live in them and Iain Sinclairs’ introduction hits all the right notes locating Rabans’ book within the London of the 70’s, and the literary traditions from which it springs.
The Ghost Map : The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
by Steven Johnson
Compare a bacteria with a human, with a city, with the planet. Weave in two personal stories and the clash of ideas and of the inherent messiness of progress, and you may get the outline of this book. The Ghost Map is at once a real map, but also a metaphor for progress, for navigation of the future using the past.
The scale at which this book is written jumps all the time and could have collapsed in on itself because it constantly pans and zooms through its subject matter, yet it always stays focused and gripping. The book’s main story are the events around an outbreak of Cholera in London in 1854 around Broad Street, Soho. Two very different people, John Snow and Henry Whitehead, became entangled in the outbreak and eventually through their efforts the battle against Cholera was won, mega cities became possible and the foundations for modern epidemiology were laid.
Engineers will construct a mile-long ice wall around the Fukushima nuclear plant in an attempt to stop the continuing leak of radioactive water, and set to cast a cool $320 million.
Anyone who in their job has to use some sort of CAD tool will know how the complexities of the interface make for a frustrating block to the flow of design thinking and conceptualizing. You have to concentrate on mastering the interface at the expense of understanding and designing the thing in question. Elon Musks video showing a little of what they are doing at SpaceX hints at the exciting, intuitive future of CAD. (via)
The above picture is of Amsterdam with the buildings coloured by date of construction. A dataset of 9,866,539 buildings to come up with this amazing map. It is a mesmerizing experience and informative, Rotterdam bombed by the Nazis in WWII is light blue compared to the red of Amsterdam which wasn’t bombed. (via)
How do you get rid of a listed building when you are redeveloping? Add a new elevation and ‘partially demolish it’ as is the case in my hometown of Edinburgh with the old Scottish Provident building on St. Andrews Square. It’s a beautiful 60’s building in its own right and in context I agree with Malcolm Fraser. Keep it.
UCL’s New Hall Housing a student apartment block in London had won this years Carbuncle Cup in the UK. An award for the worst building. Why is it so bad, well read this article on the Guardian about it. Cheap, ugly,designed to maximise paid student numbers cramming them together like battery hens. Not only this but like in the example in Edinburgh above planning regulations have been bent and floated cynically. A deserved winner.