The Post-Kyoto City

Piers Fawkes


From Piers Fawkes, PSFK

When we were in New Orleans recently, Robbie Vitrano took us on a tour of New Orleans. At one junction as he waited, he explained that the land under the raised freeway we were about to go under used to be a park where the citizens of the city would spend their weekends. It was a reminder that while Eisenhower’s Highways Acts created an economic spurt in the US, it also led to the destruction of neighborhoods in cities across America.

Writing in the New York Times, Nicolai Ouroussoff argues that we are at a pivotal time where we could reclaim the cities and rebuild them into the efficient work-play communities they once were. He says that inspiration could be taken from urban-planning in Europe to help America build “Post-Kyoto cities”:

The European Union spent decades building one of the most efficient networks of high-speed trains in the world, a railway that has unified the continent while leading to the cultural revival of cities like Brussels and Lille. And environmental standards for new construction were not only encouraged, they became the law — and have been for more than a decade.

This investment in traditional large-scale infrastructure projects is increasingly being coupled with serious thinking about the future of cities themselves. The Swedish government recently began a promising competition for a design that would replace a decrepit 1930s-era bridge in the heart of Stockholm with a seamless system of locks, roadways and shops. In Madrid the government is completing a plan to bury a four-mile strip of freeway underground and cover it up with parks and new housing. And only a few weeks ago the French government concluded a nine-month study on the future of metropolitan Paris. The study, which included some of Europe’s most celebrated architects, is the first phase in a plan to create a more sustainable, socially integrated model of “the post-Kyoto city.”

The article describes current pioneers of urban change around the US including Sean Cummings who is rebuilding the waterfront of New Orleans, partly with $30m government aid:

Even some private developers seemed to understand the importance of balancing social and environmental concerns. Sean Cummings, a local developer, has proposed a master plan for a six-mile-long park on a site along the city’s riverfront, currently a strip of decrepit wharfs, abandoned warehouses and parking lots.

Designed by a formidable team of architects that includes Enrique Norten, George Hargreaves, Alex Krieger and Allen Eskew, the proposal is a model of how to knit together conflicting urban realities. A matrix of public parks, outdoor markets and mid-rise residential towers is woven through the existing fabric of old warehouses. Landscaped boulevards would extend from the park into a mix of working-class and gentrified neighborhoods. What’s more, concentrating more housing on high land along the river fit nicely with the Urban Land Institute’s vision for a more sustainable city.

new orleans river front.png

Reinventing America’s Cities: The Time Is Now

Related Reading:
Design Charrettes for Sustainable Communities

Portland: Roses and So Much More

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  • Posted on April 7, 2009. Listed in:

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