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Cooper Hart

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In the era of super cities and climate change, we can't ignore the qualities of edible and fruiting trees in our urban environments...
The plant is highly nutritious and thrives in hot, dry conditions. Could it be a solution to the food crisis brought on by climate change?
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Cooper Hart

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A perhaps unsurprising observation that large developments create sterile spaces even as the architects aspire to new forms of gathering space, while traditional fine grain architecture and streets as spaces succeed...
In Copenhagen, a city often saluted for its urban planning successes, the Dulux Study Tour team finds the city is grappling with complex challenges in the development of new urban precincts.
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Simple Transformations
Merely enabling business to trade in garages is a great way of enabling local convenience retail and home businesses in local neighbourhoods without changing the built fabric.
Social and economic benefits include greater employment choices, more active travel (walkable and cyclable journeys) and reduced car dependency.
Simple conditions can be attached to avoid unintended consequences, like excluding noxious uses, restricting the right to small business (<5 employees / 50sqm), and limited trading hours to match local noise/disturbance policy (typically not between 10pm and 6am).
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The New Estates
Something is rotten in the state of society, one might say, when the 'House Museum', a return to the patron-client role of art, is lauded as something new and good. This idea, that art not only belongs in the private sphere but should be feted for its occasional display, dates back to the Renaissance.

'On Splendour' (Pontano, 1498) champions the idea of 'Magnificence' as civic virtue. This treatise extolled how rich houses - the Medici and D'Este, for example - demonstrated their civic-mindedness by honouring their (titular) lords, the Holy Roman Emperor and so on, while dazzling their peers, with their own domestic decoration. The likes of Michelangelo were their vassals, their art an expression of a patron's power.

The idea first tarnished in the 18th century, when the Enlightenment brought the first royal collections into public view - the British Museum, the Louvre - yet survived intact among upper classes until the 20th century, in English tradition in the form of country houses and the aristocracy that 'minded' them for future generations. An idea rejected in Australia from the outset (in its nascent forms of 'Bunyip Aristocracy'), and in the UK after WW2 (with exceptions) - considered for a long time aloof and elite.

This is not to say that private institutions have not played an important role in Australia's cultural scene, with ensembles having played first in private homes, and galleries sponsoring shows. Rather, these exhibits and recitals were always seen as interim steps, preludes to public institutions like the Opera House or Museum of Contemporary Art, once subscriptions could be raised.

Only now, when live music venues are closing in droves, and art galleries devote ever more floorspace to the gift shop, do we see this reverse trend writing itself back into the modern patrician estate - the Home Theatre where once was a cinema, the Home Museum in lieu of the public art gallery.
The private art collection of an SJB founding director and his wife will be publicly displayed in a purpose-built house museum.
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The pop-up culture expands... Now to bring pop ups to the suburbs...
The project by prefab design-and-build practice Archiblox was finished in just ten weeks, and features sustainable materials.
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This is world-class Sydney, at last!

A great initiative could well boost Sydney Opera House, much in the same way that Sadlers Wells complements the Royal Opera in London, or the Old and New Vic do the West End, by providing an alternative accessible forum for the arts. Definitely worth funding. Over to you, NSW Government...
The building boom sweeping Sydney's cultural institutions is set to continue with Carriageworks unveiling $50 million expansion plans.
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Cooper Hart

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Another victory for sensible land use planning...
The City of Darebin has voted to support the the second Nightingale apartment development designed by Six Degrees Architects.
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Australia should be giving serious consideration (+funding) to Hyperloop - not just as a better alternative to high speed rail, but because the faster acceleration means it can stop at many more locations than high speed, creating genuine conurbations along the east coast and/or supporting towns inland.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-36307781
Two visions for how Hyperloop could become a reality have been shown off, but a lot stands in the way of the potentially revolutionary idea.
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Cooper Hart

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Planning for the Future
When planning to make scheme work, spare a thought for the long term governance and maintenance regimes you put in place. Slot drains and permeable paving need regular high pressure hosing, plants need pruning, benches need their timber regularly inspected, high quality paving needs to be reinstated when pulled up, and have a good solid base if it is to be trafficked. All these help ensure a scheme will look as good in 3 years as it does on day one.
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Beauty in Mass Production
Paris has its Wallace Fountains, New York its Central Park lampposts, London its K6 telephone boxes and Heatherwick (New Routemaster) Buses, Osaka it's manhole covers. All crafted objects, mass produced, whose details make them artworks and objects of delight. The repetition of these forms only enhances their iconicity, and like the repeating joy of an Easter Egg hunt, spotting them becomes part of the magic of the city.

This idea is often reversed in current thinking, creating the bland homogenisation of modern city precincts. Today's urban design too often calls for custom treatment of every 'special' area, which in turn for budget and time constrains is built from off-the-shelf products dreamed up in lighting showrooms or furniture providers (or, these days, advertisers) and only slightly customised. Worse, these products belong not to the city but their commercial producers - and are as temporal as any consumer trend.

Instead, as city planners we should devote time and money to building our own elegant prototypes, to owning and licensing these designs, and ensuring that they are easily reproducable by multiple foundries. With care and consideration these objects may come to stand for the whole city, a synedoche.
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The number one thing you can do for your health is to take public transport. Why? Because unlike door-to-door services, you have to walk a little, every trip...

Commuters who shun car travel keep slimmer, study concludes - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35812984
People who cycle, walk or catch the train or bus to work keep more weight off than commuters who travel by car, a large UK study has found.
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Cooper Hart

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Spatial Intensity in London

Often it is thought that densification - spatial intensification of cities - can only occur by going up. Extreme examples of constrained cities and city districts - Hong Kong, Manhattan - lead to a fallacy that all major cities require height to expand.

This logical fallacy plays even in successful major cities - Paris for example is attempting to kick-start growth by lifting heights within its core urban area, despite having a wealth of brownfield sites yet to densify (and a larger challenge of a moribund economy due to its labour laws). London too has progressively expanded its high rise areas to the current 'smear' of growth stretching from Bishopsgate and Canary Wharf in the East through to Lambeth in the south-west, with a new north-east smear to shortly emerge stretching from Paddington to Old Oak Common.

Yet density and height operate in parallel, and one does not lead to the other. Witness Sydney, which through strict FSR (FAR) controls has limited development to 2:1, and at most 4:1 plot ratios (half of Manhattan's average) while achieving comparable height-to-floorplate ratios. This because smaller blocks with large setbacks predominate.

In fact, the most successful areas of cities - those startups naturally congregate in, and which are spontaneously regenerating- tend to achieve densification not through large building projects (though these often follow), but through infill - the smart use of leftover space which increases the FSR/FAR of useable space,with work uses (retail or B class small office) which are street-oriented, small and intensively designed / decorated. This not only increases street activity and the network effects of business colocation, but creates a dynamic urban environment which is visually interesting at slower (walk/cycle) pace - a key pull factor in regeneration hubs.

Equally the 'village' feel of these neighbourhoods is often created by a low parapet level (of 2-4 storeys) and reasonably clear sky view - which for all the architectural "vertical villages" there has not yet been a truly high-rise proxy. Harrison Fraker's eco-blocks may yet provide a method- towers in one zone, to allow smaller mixed-use streets in another - but this is perhaps just a patchwork of good and bad. Nevertheless, even in Paris, it is the older, lower Marais and Canal St Martin districts (6 stories) and not the traditional core of the 7th & 8th (9 stories) that draws co-working crowds.

London is currently booming, and all types of development - good and bad - are being built. Some may yet become slums of the future, or fade back into the middling spaces between dynamic neighbourhoods. Yet at the moment, and despite a lack of serious investment from government and major banks - it is the small infill sites that are most tangibly transforming inner London for the better.
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Urban design and urbanism consultancy
Introduction
Public Realm thinking from the urban design consultancy formerly known as Cooper Hart - now known as Urbanism Consultancy Limited (UK)
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