Cool City #5: Curitiba, Brazil

March 14, 2009 · Posted in Architecture Around the World · 1 Comment 
photo via henribergius

photo via henribergius

In writing these articles on these cities, I have called them “Cool Cities.”  I didn’t really want to call them “Green Cities” becuase I feel somewhat skeptical about the whole “Green Rush.”  Obviously, there are incredible things that are being done, and incredible things that need to be done, to prevent our daily habits from slowly rotting our planet.  However, I fear that being green has become a trend that people get into because of guilt-trips or hip bumper-stickers on the back of Subarus.  We, humans, tend to get wrapped up in causes that are absolutely wonderful, and we look down on those that aren’t as involved or enlightened.  Our error is that we forget the very thing our important causes should point back to:  humans.

That’s where Curitiba comes in.  Instead of lengthy studies and arguments about “the environment,” when I was studying Curitiba, I found articles on people.  Studies say that 99%  of Curitibans are happy with their town.  99%!  One of the most impressive aspects of Curitiba is its ability to deal with the very poor.  One article says that “Curitiba may have broken the back of its social problems.” This statement comes from program after program helping those in need actually get what they need.  For instance, if you bring in a bag of collected garbage the city will give you a bag of food.  This makes the city, even the slums, clean- and it gives the people that live in the city a sense of pride.  Also, a section of large farmland was purchased by the city and cleared so that homeless people could own a piece of land.  The city helped with materials, but the people had to build their own homes.  The city also provided one hour with an architect so that the homes would be unique and personalized.  Thanks to a dedicated mayor and urban planner, Jaime Lerner, people seem to be at the center of what makes this city unique.

Curitiba is also, of course, green.  There are 150 square feet of green space for every inhabitant (one article I read said 580 square feet per inhabitant?), 115 kilometers of bike lanes, walking – no car- zones, and a world renowned bus system (some 85 cities are working on replicating it).  Here is a city that, to me, has got it right:  Environment- important, Humans- most important.  For a great article on Curitiba check out the article, by Bill McKibben, entitled: Curitiba: A Global Model For Development.

Cool City #4: Portland, Oregon

March 11, 2009 · Posted in Architecture Around the World · Comment 
Photo by DubbaG

photo by DubbaG

Portland, Oregon is commonly placed #1 among the U.S.’s green cities.  Why?  Categories like “transportation,” “electricity,” “green policy” and “recycling efforts” usually separate the city from the competition.  The City of Portland even has a “Green Building Program” to inspire, support and promote green buildings within the city limits. reports that “half its power comes from renewable sources, a quarter of the workforce commutes by bike, carpool or public transportation, and it has 35 buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.”  I went on to and found a 46 page document produced by the City of Portland Office of Sustainable Development on how to make your business more environmentally friendly.  I read most of it, and it has some rock-solid ideas in it.  Lastly, said that Portland, Oregon is “consistently named the number-one city for bicyclists.”  It’s always more expensive to be green, but the idea is that it’s better in the long run; and Portland gets that.  They seem to be leading The United States of America in what is beginning to be called “The Green Rush.”

Cool City #3: Reykjavik, Iceland

March 10, 2009 · Posted in Architecture Around the World · Comment 
Andreas Tille

Andreas Tille

Reykjavik, Iceland comes in as Cool City #4.  Though there’s no order to the way these cities are coming to you on The Architecture Program, Reykjavik was rated #1 by and  Some of the incredible actions that this city is taking are:

  • Zero fossil fuel by 2050 (using hydrogen instead)
  • 72% of total energy needs for the city, currently, come from renewable sources
  • Free electricity for electric vehicles
  • Free parking for environmentally friendly cars, footpaths will be broadened and the number of drinking fountains and benches increased
  • Takes part in Nordic Cities Environmental Indicators Project, which monitors specific environmental parameters
  • 500,000 trees will be planted within the city limits
  • Pledging to become the cleanest city in Europe

All of these comprise what is called the “Green Steps of Reykjavik.”  Not much of a wonder that it’s ranked as one of the greenest, if not the greenest, city in the world.

Cool City #2: Vancouver

March 9, 2009 · Posted in Architecture Around the World · Comment 
Thom Quine

Thom Quine

Vancouver, Canada has officially been named our Cool City #2.  Especially for their efforts to make their 2010 Olympics the greenest yet.  Imagine capturing methane gas from a landfill to use for heating the Olympic Village.  That doesn’t sound like a fun job, but Vancouver plans on doing it.  Also, their Community Centre is going to be LEED platinum, while the other buildings in the village are going to be LEED gold.  Besides the Olympic efforts, Vancouver already leads the world in hydroelectric power; and is investing in solar, wave, tidal and wind power sources to reduce environmental impact.  I also read that they are using solar powered trash compactors in their waste baskets to minimize the amount of times their garbage trucks have to collect the waste.  Keep up the good work Vancouver.

Worth Another Look: Cool City #1… Malmo

March 6, 2009 · Posted in Architecture Around the World · Comment 
via Dhogborgs flickr

via Dhogborg

This is a shot from the 56th floor of Calatrava’s “Turning Torso” skyscraper in Malmo.  I’m still stuck on this place.  It has inspired me to find some other great cities to talk about.  I’ll be doing some research over the weekend, and next week we’ll talk about some of the greatest cities all around the world.  If anybody has any input on some wonderful cities, please let me know.  Here’s a long clip of Malmo.  You have to put up with a little bit of drama, but there’s some good architecture in it.

Throwback to Segovia

March 5, 2009 · Posted in Architecture Around the World, Throwbacks · Comment 
Segovia, Spain

Segovia, Spain

Segovia has to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  There is an aqueduct, a cathedral, tiny streets and a castle to top it all off.  I lived in Segovia for the good part of a year, and it’s just fantastic.  Walking around the streets is an architectural thrill-a-minute.  It’s all very old and protected so don’t expect modern, but it is very charming. This aqueduct was built about 100 AD, it stands 93.5 feet tall, and runs almost 20 miles from the source of water.  I went back about 3 years ago with my wife, and I recommend it to everyone looking for old school beauty.

My Wife in a Skinny Street

My Wife in a Skinny Street

Malmo, Sweden

March 4, 2009 · Posted in Architecture Around the World · Comment 

In “all” my years as a nerd, I have never heard of Malmo, Sweden.  I don’t even know how to describe my new favorite city in Sweden.  I guess it all starts with a picture that I found of a development called Bo01.  So I google the place and find 20 others in the same development, and find out that Bo01 is an old shipyard and industrial site that is being converted into a residential area that will use 100% renewable energy.  There are lots of green spaces, water features, small streets and amazing residential architecture.  Turns out Calatrava (who I love love love) has designed a skyscraper for the development, and that is the only “high density tower block.”  The rest of the city is traveled by walking, riding bikes, and buses that run on a combo of natural gas and biogas.  Living roofs control rainwater, the size and position of buildings control wind, the ponds and water add to wildlife, solar panels create electicity, and a heat pump 300 ft. below the surface uses the temperature of water in the limestone bedrock to heat in the winter and cool in the summer.  I can’t get enough of this place.

ps. check out the song by Album Leaf entitled “Malmo.”

via BBC News

via BBC News

via BBC News

via BBC NEws

Check out the article in BBC News,

RADA 2009 Winner: Habitat 825

February 25, 2009 · Posted in Architecture Around the World · 1 Comment 


Residential Architect magazine has posted its RADA (Residential Architect Design Awards) 2009 winners, and this project here is the Project of the Year.  It’s called Habitat 825, and it’s located in West Hollywood, California.  BLDBLOG was about a year-and-a-half ahead of the game here.  They posted on this house in September 2007!  Good-on-ya BLDBLOG!  I don’t know anything about it but what’s on their post, so I’ll just redirect you there.  Residential Architect doesn’t have pictures posted yet, but you can check out all of the winner’s names and projects at  I do love brown, white and green.



Casa Lazo

February 20, 2009 · Posted in Architecture Around the World · Comment 


It’s not very hard to tell when there has been A LOT of thought put into a design.  Though it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what the process has been, our eyes and our minds know that somehow it’s different, and better.  Such is the case with the 1700 sq. ft. Casa Lazo designed by Julio Salcedo.  We begin with the fact that there is no standard “curbview” facade.  The shape has been created instead by studying the climate, views and terrain and deciding how to best interact with them.  It is intended that we “meander through the site” in a trail that follows a “lasso” (lazo in Spanish) pattern or a “figure 8.”  Where the “figure 8” crosses, and creates an “x,” Mr. Salcedo put two volumes- and that’s the “x” shape that you see in the picture above.

That is all great stuff, but it wouldn’t mean a whole lot without the amazing house to back it up.  One of the most unique things to me is that there’s not a typical “front door” that I always think of.  As we meander through the lot, we can access the house through one of several doors.  And how about the thin ribbon of block that rises and folds over to create support for the balcony trusses??  There is a disciplined balance of window vs. block, control in the height and width of the different elements, and little details that keep me looking at the pictures.  So many things make this house incredible, proving that we can have different and beautiful together.  Even if we don’t have the fantastic views I hope innovative home designs, like this one, start appearing more often.  So who wants to go to Trasierra, Spain??


Water Collection

Water Collection



Another Throwback!!

February 19, 2009 · Posted in Throwbacks · Comment 

Today’s Thursday Throwback goes to front porches.  I couldn’t love them more.  Though it’s difficult to imagine them on a beautifully modern house, I have to think that there’s a way.  The picture below gives a pretty good interpretation, but it has that screen that I’m not so much in love with.  I’ve worked on a house where the owners were outside on a porch every morning at 8:00 am, when we got there.  The porch was actually off of their bedroom, and they would watch the sunrise together and eat their breakfast.  Another couple in a neighborhood we used to live in was very similar, and they would talk to us (from their porch) about how in the “good ol’ days” streets were so much more social because of front porches.  They said that people started putting patios in the backyard for more privacy and now neighbors don’t have the same opportunity to converse.  I want a really great house someday, but I’ll tell you one thing:  ugly or not, I’ll have a front porch with a swing on it.

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