UK-based technology company Pavegen built a sidewalk in London made up of kinetic pavement that turns pedestrians’ footsteps into energy. The 107-square-foot display on “Bird Street” harnesses and converts the power of footsteps into electricity that supplies energy for lights and bird sounds (h/t inhabitat). Walkers can connect via Bluetooth to an app on their phones to see how many joules of energy they’ve generated. Plus, the company partnered with local businesses that then will reward users with discounts and vouchers for their footsteps.
ideas from abroad
When college students arrive to the big city they often bring with them dreams of glamorous apartments, but they soon get hit the reality of a cramped dorm room covered by student loans or an awkward apartment shared with several strangers. Over in Denmark, where 40,000 beds are needed to accommodate an exploding student population, Kim Loudrup realized the enormity of the student housing shortage (inventory and affordability) and partnered with the country’s prodigal son Bjarke Ingels on a new, sustainable student housing design made from floating shipping containers. Called Urban Rigger, they hope this modular idea can extend to other waterfront cities and even solve other housing problems like the refugee crisis.
While New York City is patting itself on the back for pushing through a subway design that offers eight more inches of door space and an open-gangway format, over in the Netherlands, folks are celebrating the Future Bus, a self-driving bus created by Mercedes-Benz. Per The Verge, the Future Bus has just completed a 20 kilometer (roughly 12.5 miles) drive that took it from Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport to the town of Haarlem (fun side note: Harlem the nabe takes its name from this municipality) along a route that included a number of tight bends, tunnels, and traffic lights.
At the 19th annual Beijing International High-Tech Expo, China flexed some of its public transportation prowess by debuting a model of a proposed bus system that would hover over vehicular road traffic, straddling existing highways. Dubbed the “Transit Elevated Bus,” the radical idea has been kicked around for several years, but now the WSJ reports that China will be building a trial run of the system in its Hibei province later this year.
While here in the U.S., we are still scavenging for mass transit dollars and desperately trying to convince politicians that adding more lanes to highways does not actually relieve congestion, China may literally leap above and beyond U.S transport planning if these “air buses” come to fruition. The engineers claim each bus could hold more than 1,200 commuters at a time and travel up to 40 miles per hour. Additionally, construction would be one-fifth the cost of a subway line and could be completed in a single year.
When you spend your student years living in an architect-designed former car radio button factory in the ultra-hip Berlin neighborhood of Kreuzberg, face it, you’re just going to be a little spoiled for everything else. And it should come as no surprise that, thanks to a developer specializing in student living, students in de facto hipster sister city Williamsburg will be getting a similar opportunity to live in architectural bliss rather than institutional semi-squalor.
New York City-based real estate development company Macro Sea piloted the design-friendly dorm—outfitted with found furniture and slatted ladder-style stairs–in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district last year. FastCompany quotes company principal David Belt: “Most people build student housing and they want to build it as cheaply as possible and the furniture to be as rugged as possible, because they think that students will wreck it.” Diverging from this idea, Belt’s company “sought to create an environment that treats students as savvy global citizens rather than wards of an institution.”
We’ve already seen the creation of texting lanes for smartphone addicts (in Antwerp, Belgium and Chongqing, China) so pedestrians don’t have to be stuck behind someone hunting for the perfect emoji. Recently the German city of Augsburg has taken the step of actually installing traffic lights in the pavement so text-walkers could be made aware of when it’s unsafe to walk–by which we mean they’re about to walk into the path of a 50-ton train. The idea came about after a 15-year-old girl was fatally hit by an oncoming tram while wearing headphones and looking down at her smartphone.
As reported in The Telegraph, the lights look like ordinary road markers, but flat to the ground. Bavarian public-works/transportation provider Stadtwerke Augsburg has installed the experimental earthbound traffic signals in two rail stations. The LED lights blink green when it’s safe to walk and red when a train is approaching. They’re visible from a distance, so they might even give pedestrians some lead time to realize an intersection is up ahead.
An open gangway subway in Berlin, photo via Second Avenue Sagas
Despite the improved service that the MTA has been promising, most New Yorkers still find themselves crammed into subway cars like floundering sardines. But a newfangled, more spacious train could increase capacity by 8-10 percent.
Second Avenue Sagas explores part of the MTA’s 2015-2019 capital plan, released earlier this fall, that calls for the purchase of “10 open-gangway prototype cars with the $52.4 million expenditure allocated for 2016.” This type of train, basically one long subway car with no doors in between, is popular all over the world, in most cities in China and Japan, in Berlin, Paris, and London, to name a few. It’s not known yet when exactly they’ll make their debut, how they’ll be designed, or on what subway line they’ll run, but of course the new idea comes with some concerns.
We already have express buses and subways, so why not fast track NYC’s most widely used mode of transportation–walking. New Yorkers have long been known for their speedy strides, but with our population growing and texting addicts clogging up sidewalks, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get around slowpokes. Which is exactly why Liverpool just debuted Britain’s first-ever fast pedestrian lane, “following research that claims 47% of the nation finds slow walking the most annoying aspect of high-street shopping,” reports the Independent.
When you forget your umbrella on a day like today, your best option (other than trying to find a Duane Reade and getting soaked in the process) is to buy one of those $5 models on the corner, which will likely break at the first gust of wind. To make life easier for forgetful types, and for those sneak-attack downpours, a Canadian startup has set up an umbrella-share program in Vancouver called UmbraCity that allows users to borrow and return umbrellas at fully automated kiosks.
Courtesy of Metsä Wood
Back in March, an Austrian architecture firm announced plans to build the world’s tallest wooden skyscraper in Vienna, noting that by using this material instead of concrete, they’d save 3,086 tons of CO2 emissions. The news launched a lot of musings from the architecture community on the benefits of wood construction versus steel or concrete. A new story, originally published on ArchDaily by Patrick Kunkel, takes a look at whether or not the Empire State Building could have been built with timber.
Michael Green has teamed up with Finnish forestry company Metsä Wood and Equilibrium Consulting to redesign the Empire State Building with wood as the main material. The project is part of Metsä Wood’s “Plan B” program, which explores what it would be like for iconic buildings to be made of timber. Their work shows that not only can wood be used to produce enormous structures in a dense urban context, but also that timber towers can fit into an urban setting and even mimic recognizable buildings despite differences in material.