The Source

Hutong

Left: Hutong next to a modern apartment complex, tianjin, China. Middle, right: Hutong in Beijing. Photos; RM

Chinese urban planning has often been criticized for its ruthless demolishing of older areas in favor of new monotonous blocks. China is not respecting its own heritage, is often suggested. This phenomenon, however, to the contrary can be seen as the result of China’s persistence in maintaining its traditional way of thinking about planning, for too long. Continue reading

Hear no evil, see no evil…

sound barier

This week, hundreds of prominent scientists, including Stephen Hawking, published an open letter warning against the use of autonomous weapons, such as military drones that can select and attack a target without human control. It is the well-known specter of the invention turning against its inventor, of technology ultimately taking over the human race. It is clear that this is no longer fiction. In numerous fields, technological and economic, humanity is being dominated by its own inventions. Also in spatial planning. Have we become enslaved to our ever growing need for more infrastructure? Continue reading

Urban Heat Islands and the Origin of the Apartment Building.

Differences in temperature (heat islands) in The Hague on a summer day. Image: NRC

Differences in temperature (heat islands) in The Hague on a summer day. Image: NRC

Interesting reseach was done recently at the University of Wageningen, about the occurring of so-called heat islands in cities during the summer. On hot days certain places in the city can become up to 8 degrees hotter than the temperature in the countryside. This is due to the presence of much stone surfaces and little green in the city. Houses and buildings warm up during the day and capture the heat in the streets. During the night the stored heat is then radiated back. The higher the density in the city, the greater this effect becomes. Up to a certain extent at least, because the research also shows that the higher the buildings and the narrower the streets are, the smaller the heat island effect in summer.

Manhattan of the Desert

In the construction of Shibam, an ancient town in Yemen, also known as the “Manhattan of the Desert”, one apparently was already aware of this. The houses here, in fact apartment towers, are built out of clay, up to 11 storeys high. Continue reading

The escalator: a short history

Escalator_Maastunnel

Maastunnel Escalators, Rotterdam. Photo: RM

How did a fairground attraction become an important tool of urban renewal?

The first escalator was installed in 1897 at Coney Island, New York, as a fairground attraction. It’s inventor, Charles Seeberger worked at elevator manufacturer Otis, thet produced the first commercial escalator for the World Expo of 1900 in Paris. The first escalator In the Netherlands appeared in 1926, in the new building of the department store De Bijenkorf in The Hague. It was a real sensation, initially still seen more as an attraction rather than as means of transport. For months, here were long lines in the store, with people waiting to take a ride on the escalator. Continue reading

Concentric Planning vs. Blitzkrieg

Amersfoort Old and New

Street scenes inside and outside of the historical center, just 200 meters apart. Amersfoort, The Netherlands. Photos: RM

It is 75 years ago this week that the city of Rotterdam was stripped of its center by German bombs. In general, the absence of an old center is seen as a deficiency; In contrast, it can also be said that it provides certain advantages, especially in the field of urban planning.  Continue reading