Amsterdam Dutch Elm City

On the subject of trees, here’s another reason to love Amsterdam. A green city, it is. This interactive map is in development, along with others like this one showing green roofs. The inspiring collection is here.

Tree Maps now Open

This open source software is designed to help cities catalog their trees through crowdsourcing. The San Diego version has more than 331,000 trees shown on the map with details about their species, size, and economic impact. The Grand Rapids treemap has over 17,000 trees pinpointed. Clearly these were cities with extensive tree databases in the first place who have brought this data into the opentreemap system so that it can be updated and maintained, and most importantly shared with the citizens. Very interesting concept! The Opentreemap software is available from an innovative GIS application and software design company Azavea.

Sandy Missed My House

It was amazing to sit on the sofa on October 30th, watching the weather reports on TV and following the storm on the internet with Wundermaps, as it astonishingly went right around my house in Beacon NY. Tragic consequences in the New York boroughs, and especially New Jersey. An article in the Architectural Record interviews participants in the precient MOMA exhibition two years ago, Rising Currents, about ideas which might be revisited in the wake of the storm. The weight of the evidence, however, seems to be in favor of barriers. Expect to see some experienced Dutch engineers migrating to NYC.

Biking in L.A.

Want to save time in L.A.? Ride from Griffith Point Observatory to Venice Beach in about an hour and a half. Or take the bus and get there in two hours, according to Google Maps bike directions. Seems to be considerable progress in Los Angeles, with the 2010 Bike Plan being rolled out and more routes added monthly. The LA DOT Bike Blog tells the story, at least the DOT version.

Choices – On the Grid or Off?

Just finished this excellent book by Scott Huler, “On the Grid“.  This is Everyman’s guide to infrastructure in America.  The author points out both the miracles and the mind-boggling failings of the US systems from storm water management in Raleigh NC, to the bridges across the Hudson in New York.  He writes”No matter how often someone reminds us that these systems are important and need our attention, we don’t change.  China spends 9 percent of its gross domestic product on infrastructure; Europe spends 5 percent, the United States spends about 2.4 percent, and that’s down from 3 percent 50 years ago.”  His advice: “Get out your wallet.”  (And buy his book, for starters.)

Meanwhile, “Off the Grid“, written by Nick Rosen, champions an alternative lifestyle chosen by a handful of Americans who attempt to live their lives on their own steam, as it were.  As he says in a great NPR interview with both authors, “living off-grid doesn’t mean doing without electricity and water–it means providing your own electricity and water.”

Update 3/9/2018: .

Made in Detroit

It seems that about 1/3 of Detroit has gone to seed.  In the past fifty years, since they heyday of Motown, the population has dropped from 2 million, to less than a million.  An article in the blog City Farmer  discusses current serious interest in converting vacant land to urban farms.  Another blog, Politics in the Zeros, also posted an article on this subject recently.

Here in Amsterdam, an astonishing film was shown at Arcam  last week. Made In Detroit by Dutch documentary filmmakers Masha & Manfred Poppenk is about Ferguson Academy for for Young Women in Detroit, an alternative high school which teaches young teen mothers to farm on the schools own grounds, less than three kilometers from the city center.  The farm includes an orchard, dairy, and bee hives, as well as organically grown crops which they sell at Detroit’s Eastern Market.  It is a beautiful and thoughtfully made film.  (Update 2009:  since posting a few hours ago, the film has been blocked pending right, permissions, etc…. hopefully it will be made available again soon.)

Update 30/6/2018: Film title changed at some point to Grown in Detroit.  Ferguson Academy (CFA) closed in 2014.  Another school for teen mothers, Pathways, replaced it, but at a different location and apparently without the farming component. 



AMFORA is the Dutch acronym for Alternative Multifunctional Underground Space Amsterdam.  At a meeting of the Enlightened Underground international conference on Jan 29, the engineering firm, Strukton, revealed a plan for building a new Amsterdam, under the canals.   Together with the architectural firm, Zwarts & Jansma, they released a concept book (not available any more – june 2018) illustrating this underground future.  The plan would reduce traffic in the city, providing underground parking, park-and-ride facilities, shops, entertainment, and sports facilities.

There would be a positive impact on the environment, health, and quality of life with the crowded canal-side roads transformed into broad foot (and bike) paths. Somehow, a by-product of the process would be cleaner canals, clean enough to swim in.   This is truly an ”adaptation” scenario for global warming, as the land of Hans Brinker, turns into the costa del sol of the future.  The project images are wonderful, the idea is fantasmagoric.

Update 17/6/2018: AMFORA in het Stadslab van het Amsterdam Museum