Grand projets – Bibliotèque François Mitterand

Current times of bottom-up planning, urban acupuncture, pocket parks and temporary uses make the Grand Projets of president Mitterand – merely a few decades ago – look like remnants of a distant past. One way or another, these projects create the context of our current interventions and will determine the face of the city for centuries. Parque de la Villette, Grand Arche (La Défense) and the Bibliotèque de France became landmarks and icons for Paris, despite heavy criticism about the high costs for the tax payers and elitist locations of the project, predominantly in the west near the river Seine.

The expansion of the national library – with its historic location at the Rue Richelieu – was to create a new hot spot at the margins of the river, stimulating the revitalization of the Rive Gauche area. It was the most costly of the Grand Projets, and suffered various operational problems, such as creating a good climate for conservation of the books inside the glass towers. The project by Dominique Perrault was the winning design of the 1989 competition. The honorary mention of the OMA project also became famous. The project was inaugurated in 1996, a year after Mitterands death.

The library occupies 60 thousand square meters, with a stunningly quitet forest patio in the middle.

The project is connected to the other side of the river by a new pedestrian bridge. The full perimeter of the library is accessible as a wooden staircase.

The rise of bike culture in São Paulo

São Paulo is becoming more bike-minded. This does not seem surprising, regarding the global trend of urban bike culture as an alternative to car use and public transport, or as a hip subculture. But those who know the city of São Paulo and its inhabitants, will affirm that a revolution is taking place.

Bike lane, painted over the traditional pavement of central São Paulo

Car dominated avenue near Ibirapuera, São Paulo

This city of car lovers and manufacturers, hills and valleys, broad avenues and potholes, is probably one of the most bike-unfriendly environments on the planet. The average driver here has been tormented for years by traffic jams and strings of ´motoboys´ that zigzag their way through traffic as mavericks. For him, two-wheelers are the enemy. Biking may have a promising future in the city, in the light of increasing congestion and air pollution, if only it were a bit safer. I tried to bike to work for a couple of weeks in central São Paulo, but downhill I almost got killed several times, and biking uphill behind a fuming bus or truck equals smoking a pack of cigarettes.

Bike network map of central São Paulo

Over the last decade, a small number of bike lanes was implemented, mainly in parks and in the center of arterial roads. The Minhocão viaduct is a well-known meeting place for bikers. More and more bike events and trips have been organized, especially at night and in the weekends. Recently, the municipality organizes temporary bike routes – called Ciclofaixa, that are slowly becoming a network for recreational biking. Hip bike stores are popping up throughout the central area, as well as bike rental points comparable to those in London or Paris. Dozens of municipal employees with red flags, guarding each crossing of the temporary bike lane, remind us that biking is still not completely safe in the city, but at least it´s possible. Big trucks are increasingly banned to the ring roads, and cars are becoming cleaner. As soon as the smaller, greener roads are incorporated into a permanent bike network, São Paulo could be a great place to ride a bicycle.

Ciclofaixa flagholders on Sunday at Avenida Paulista

Bike rental in central São Paulo, sponsored by Itaú


Recreational biking in Parque Ibirapuera

Cable car improves public transport in Rio

The hill tops of the slums in Rio de Janeiro used to be the least accessible areas in the city, plagued by violent drug traffic and lack of infrastructure. A recent project of cable cars, linking 5 hill tops around the favela Complexo do Alemão to a suburban railway station, is turning this reality upside down.

As ground access in the hilly area continues to be difficult, the hill tops are  becoming hot spots for new economic activity and gathering. At several stations, small shops appear and restaurants are being set up for the small but steady number of tourists riding on the cable car. Close to each station, a so-called ´pacification police unit´ is installed. The cable car system is run by local workers of the neighborhood itself.

The line (see bottom of transit map) was built in 2011 and is to transport 30 thousand people per day, increasing the proximity of jobs and services. This effectively turns the former favela from a no-go area into a part of the ´formal´ city. The reduction of poverty and increase of government control of these areas are key elements of Rio´s strategy to make the city a safe place to organize the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016. And without accessibility, non of this will be possible.

To reduce costs, cable car stations are being sponsored by Kibon and other private companies.

Watch the cable car on BBC

Dutch Design Week 2012

‘Space available here for a beautiful new part of Eindhoven’ – near Eindhoven Beukenlaan train station

Dutch Design Week is probably the best design event in the lowlands, and really locates Eindhoven in the center of the mental map once a year. Many interesting locations of the former Philips factories in the city participated in the DDW 2012, such as Strijp-S and De Witte Dame, as well as side locations such as Temporary Art Centre Eindhoven, Sectie C and Woensel West. A key part of the event is the exhibition of graduation projects from the Design Academy.

A few snapshots:

Cross-border soccer field – Graduation project about two quarreling municipalities that are required to merge

‘barricaded’ entrance to TAC / Zona Ventosa (the windy zone, and yes there was a lot of wind!)

The Perpetual Plastic Project – 3D printing with shredded coffee cups

Playing with Food – Educational board game of a pig farm, including corn production and acid rain



Blogging the city

Blogs on urban issues are an increasing resource and platform for urban projects and innovation. As usual, discussions through the Internet lead to meetings in the real world. October 4th 2012, Pop-up City organizes the second edition of the Blogging the City festival in Pakhuis de Zwijger, Amsterdam.

Blogging the City brings together Europe’s leading city, design and art bloggers, and will be a day full of inspiration for everyone interested in cities, urban development and new media. If you’d like attend the one-day festival, you can RSVP for the afternoon program, the night program, or both of the programs.’