Open Air Library – Magdeburg Germany

21 04 2010

KARO Architekten just recently won the 2010 European Prize for public space with it’s open air library project in Magdeburg, Germany. The space was established in 2005 as an open air library located in the abandoned district centre. The community began the project in that year by constructing a 1:1 scale model of the possible library out of old beer crates and filling it with donated books. Google Maps still shows the site as a vacant patch of grass with a worn path through the centre.

The area of Magdeburg where the project is located is characterized by old industrial warehouses and factories, now bereft of any industry, and vacancy of up to 80%. The city centre of this area is full of closed shops and empty storefronts. From this, the urban experiment that is now the open air library was created.

With a little bit of financial assistance from the federal government, the official library opened in June of this year along with an accopmpanying cafe all run by the local residents. Toted as a pilot project for revitalizing East Germany’s derelict post-industrial cities, the new community centre is now complete and open for use. No registration is required to take out books. you simply take one and bring back within a reasonable amount of time, or bring back another old book.

This project has not only succeeded in adding a patch of green space to the industrial city, it has also established a very community oriented institution based on the trust of one’s neighbours. Sounds good to me. Looks good too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.archdaily.com/39417/open-air-library-karo-architekten/ 

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A Concrete Overpass Can be Beautiful

2 02 2010

This Vertical Garden is located in Pont Juvenal, Aix-en-Provence.

This just shows that it is possible to green our existing infrastructure in two senses of the word. Adding vegetation like this both enhances the aesthetic of the monotonous highway commute and all those little plants can make a small dent in counteracting the greenhouse gas emissions released from thousands of passing automobiles.





Westbury Phone Booth Library

30 11 2009
Phone Booth Library from: Treehugger, 2009

Treehugger posted this little gem today on their website about a town in the UK called Westbury-sub-Mendip, which was about to lose its last remaining classic red telephone booth. So what do the citizens do to save this historic (be it very small) structure? They turn it into a book exchange. The concept is a simple as it comes. You bring a book that you’ve read and exchange it for one you haven’t yet read. The honesty system applies. This fantastic idea both reuses the old booth, but also encourages the reuse of books. Nothing wasted here.

From: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/11/phone-box-becomes-library.php





Scientology Fraud in France – Officially

27 10 2009

 

Scientology has been around for a little over half a century now and has been a commercial operation ever since. Founded by L. Ron Hubbard, a prominent Science Fiction writer, best known for his work Battlefield Earth, The Church of Scientology has expanded tremendously and operates in many countries around the world. France has officially stated that the church is a sect, not a religion. It’s sole purpose is to make as much money as possible by manipulating vulnerable people. This past week, the Organization itself was charged with fraud in France. According to the BBC,

 

In the case leading up to Tuesday’s ruling, a woman said she was sold expensive life-improvement courses, vitamins and other products after taking a personality test.

A second woman alleges she was fired by her Scientologist boss after refusing to undergo testing and sign up to courses.

The Church denied that any mental manipulation took place.

Is this an attack on Religious Freedom? Or is it justified? How is Scientology really any different from Christianity, or Hinduism, or Mormonism? I’m not saying either way. these are just some questions that come to mind. 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8327569.stm





We Could All Use a Second Look

25 08 2009
From: CTV, 2009

From: CTV, 2009

“I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way. “

– From the film Dead Poets Society




Better Place: The Electric Car Revolution

19 08 2009
From: Renault, 2009

From: Renault, 2009

As companies like General Motors, Toyota, and Honda plug away at developing new hybrid vehicles in their attempts to ‘go green’ (and I applaud them for doing so!), a group called Better Place has teamed up with Renault to offer fully electric vehicles as well as the infrastructure to go with them to cities across the world. Better Place’s initiative includes:

  • working with battery manufacturers to produce advanced lithium-ion battery technologies with improved performance, range, charge time and battery life, not to mention recyclable and environmentally friendly too.
  • creating networks of electric vehicle charging possibilities including charge stations and battery switching stations
  • assisting in the development of global standards which will hopefully accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles all over the world (http://www.betterplace.com/)

Now what part does Renault play in all this? Well, Renault has committed to providing the vehicles to go along with the infrastructure. They plan to produce tens of thousands of electric vehicles per year starting in 2011. There will be 3 models available: a saloon, a compact city car and a van. Better Places Denmark is developing the lithium batteries for these vehicles. The plan is to have each buyer sign up for a monthly subscription to have access to the batteries. The partnership will initially market the program and its cars in Israel and Denmark where a recent study initiated by Better Place indicated that these 2 locations had the highest percentage of buyers interested in purchasing an electric vehicle for their next car (57% and 40% respectively). Charging of these vehicles will be available through three methods. First, Denmark plans to construct an initial 60 charging stations in parking lots and on streets where you will be able to ‘top up’ your battery charge. You can also plug the vehicles in at home when they are not being used. The third method overcomes the obstacle of the time it takes to charge a battery. 100 swap stations will be available across Denmark for driver to quickly switch their used battery for a fresh one in only 5 minutes. Less time than it takes to fill up the gas tank in some cases. (http://www.betterplace.com/company/press-release-detail/strong-consumer-interest-in-electric-vehicles-bodes-well-for-new-era-of-sus/, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/aug/18/renault-electric-car)

Better Places is also now working with the province of Ontario in Canada. Despite the deep rooted dependence on cars in Ontario established by Henry Ford in 1903, the Ontario Government has acknowledged the need for change. They have partnered with Better Place to move from the current gas powered Car 1.0 model to the electric powered Car 2.0 model which relies on renewable energy. The partnership plans to create an Ontario wide electric vehicle network powered by Bullfrog Power, a renewable energy company in Ontario. This network includes everything from public awareness and education to government incentive/rebate programs to reviving the local auto industry with the production of electric vehicles to a system of province wide charging stations. Finally, a real solution to recover Ontario’s dying auto industry (http://www.betterplace.com/company/press-release-detail/better-place-partners-with-ontario-to-bring-car-20-electric-car-infrastruct/, http://www.betterplace.com/global-progress/canada/).  

Thanks to Sarah English for contributing.





Walking! It’s the New Driving!

11 08 2009
From: Flickr, 2009

From: Flickr, 2009

A fellow blogger put together a great post on the benefits of walking as well as the unseen costs of driving a car. Here are a few of the things he’s discovered:

  1. 40% of trips made in the United States are 2 miles or less
  2. Even given the above, fewer than 10% of all trips are made by foot or bike
  3. In 2008, Americans consumed 22.5% of the world’s oil production (884 million metric tonnes)
  4. For those of you who like to blame China for being the big polluter, they burned 375 million metric tonnes
  5. If you thought driving vehicles was bad for the environment, consider this. A car produces more waste and air pollution in it’s lifetime before it’s even driven.
  6. Medical expenses due to obesity count for 9.1% of all American medical expenditures.
  7. The risk of death from heart disease could be reduced by 34% by simply walking 2 hours per week

I put these numbers out there for obvious reasons. Do I believe cars are terrible things? Not at all, especially when they’re becoming incredibly more efficient, and we’re finally on the cusp of producing electric vehicles for the masses. I understand that cars are necessary at times, especially given the current urban form of North America – that is sprawl. You can’t really be expected to walk everywhere when there is no infrastructure in place to encourage it. However, I know for a fact that there are still plenty of trips that are incredibly brief and could easily be made on foot. Often our first instinct as 21st century human beings is to hop in the car no matter where we are going. It has been proven though, that this is unhealthy in numerous ways. So, next time you’ve got to go somewhere, consider the actual distance and the actual time required for that trip. Do you really need to drive? Could you benefit from a calming walk and a breath of fresh air?

For more on the social benefits of walking and more stats and numbers: http://svenworld.wordpress.com/2009/08/11/talking-the-walk