Engineering is Fun!

Tianjin Eye

Tianjin Eye over the (frozen over) Hai River. Photo:RM

Whoever said that engineering is boring? In Tianjin, China the Yongle Bridge over the Hai River was equipped with a Ferris wheel, consequently combining dull infrastructure with fairground fun! It’s height of 120 meters makes Tianjin Eye the fourth tallest Ferris wheel in the world.

260px-Ferris-wheelThe word Ferris wheel, by the way, is derived from the name of it’s inventor, George Ferris. He built the first one for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The 80 meter tall construction was inspired on a bicycle wheel, in which the iron spokes maintain the tension in the wheel.

Traffic Jam Musings

crash barrier vangrail

L: Guide rail on the side of the roadside field, M: Crash barrier disappearing underground, R: Components of a standard guiderail (A-profile): S – guardrail, D – distance piece, P –post

Sometimes the traveler strays from his straight path and finds himself in need of guidance. For this reason the guiderail (or guardrail, or crash barrier) was invented. Besides its guiding function, it also has a safety aspect; it protects people and goods along the side of the road against the impact of incoming traffic. The guiderail is so common that the average motorist barely notices its presence anymore. Until he comes in contact with it, of course. Or if he finds himself stuck in traffic next to one. For a long time, without any other distractions. Then he rediscovers it and certain questions start to arise in his mind.  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

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

City versus Nature

Panorama of Innsbruck. Photo: RM

Panorama of Innsbruck. Photo: RM

Mankind can roughly be divided into two: city people and nature lovers. Granted that there exists a potential overlap between the two groups, most people still have a clear preference for either the city or the countryside. Nevertheless, it is rare for an urban area to be situated directly next to real nature. Continue reading

Patch-Up (Luchtsingel)

luchtfoto-hofplein-luchtsingel

L: Hofplein, Rotterdam before WW II, R: Luchtsingel

Before May 14, 1940 Rotterdam was considered a compact city. The street profiles were generally narrow, even for that time. Ports located in the center of the city were becoming inaccessible for road transport. The smoke of the bombings had not cleared until the city government started making reconstruction plans. Plans in which space was created for wide roads cutting through the city center. After the war they were executed rapidly. The previously lacking access to the city wwas laid out and the spaces in between were filled in a more or less ad hoc manner, during the decades that followed. Rotterdam had become infrastructure instead of a city.  Continue reading

Under the Overpass

architecture blog, overpass

A20 Overpass, Spaanse Polder, Rotterdam. Photo: Rogier Mentink

A part of the ring road of Rotterdam is raised above ground level on columns. Under the overpass, which is several kilometers long, in the absence of an official destination, a diversity of sometimes clandestine activities take place. Continue reading