May 30, 2010

Empty L.A.

David Engwicht:The Art of Placemaking

On Friday, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with David Engwicht, and hear not one but two fantastic presentations delivered by the Australian Urban Philosopher. The earlier presentation encouraged everybody attending to use the power of story to deliver the future you want. The latter presentation entitled ‘Placemaking’ and arranged by Dublin City Council, attracted a huge crowd to its new wood quay venue despite its Friday night scheduling.

In his lecture, David outlined the lessons he has learned throughout his career of successful placemaking from around the world. In what was a highly interactive lecture, he began the night by asking the crowd ‘What makes you feel at home?’. Noticing that there were architects in the crowd (they’re easy to spot, just look for anyone dressed in black) he proclaimed “the sense of home is the inverse proportion of the amount of money you can spend on it”. He asks, what invokes a sense of home? Does a swish contemporary pad with clean lines and polished floors, or does a ramshackle house with some odd bits and bobs strewn about the place? His point was that poor people furnish their house with a sense of generosity that gives a spirit to the place.

May 26, 2010


As part of the Convergence Sustainable Festival currently running in Dublin, one of the world's most innovate Urban Thinkers, David Engwicht will share his ideas on developing a creative city. Artist, author and street philosopher, David will present what it takes he believes for a city to become a creative city and why every resident has the power to make their city a place that nurtures the creativity of its residents.

RAIL[WAYS] Series: Chicago's Bloomingdale Line

Over the next few weeks here at ecocity we will be documenting urban projects from around the world that transform redundant railway lines into leisure amenities. Often physical and social barriers in cities, redundant railway viaducts have the potential to bind communities together and create social cohesion in often very difficult neighbourhoods. Also being examined is how exactly the projects develop from conception through to completion; many of which are realized due to the hard work of volunteer community organisations with the courage and conviction to pursue what they passionately believe in.

Retrofitting existing cities infrastructure is a strategy widely accepted as one that can deliver low carbon cities quickly and at a low cost. In fact, Retrofitting cities is one of the key components of 'The Future We Want' project that I was introduced to by Bill Becker back in Copenhagen in December '09 at the Culture|Futures conference. Bill is an hugely enthusiastic and inspiring guy with great resolve from the University of Colorado, Denver and is the executive director of Obama's Presidential Climate Action Project.

May 25, 2010

First the Bug, now the Bik.e

After Peugeot's recent foray into the concept bike market, Volkswagen now has thrown its hat into the ring recently unveiling a concept electric folding bike. At the recent Auto China show, VW research and development chief Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg introduced the world to the VW bik.e in a move that extends the company's "focus on mobility" beyond just automobiles.

May 24, 2010

Reclaiming the Banks of the Seine

Port de Solferino - left bank © Apur / JC Chobelet

Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoƫ - who introduced Paris-Plages, when the banks of the Seine become a temporary beach every summer - said that removing cars all year round from sections of the riverbank would help cut pollution and boost the capital's international standing.
Up to 70,000 cars travel daily along the Seine's left bank and what is known as the Pompidou expressway – a dual carriageway along the right bank built in 1967 by Mr Pompidou , an avid motorist who declared: "The French love their cars". The banks have been UNESCO world heritage sites since 1992.

May 21, 2010

Building a Cycling Culture: Dave Horton

Yesterday evening I attended the annual Dublin Cycling Campaign lecture. Dr. Horton is a sociologist working with the Lancaster Environment Center at Lancaster University. Ronnie Delvin from the Department of Transport opened proceedings with an encouraging message that it is the aim of the National Cycle Policy Framework to achieve a vibrant cycle culture in Ireland by 2020. He also iterated the role of cycling campaigners to get out there and spread the message to the public, a message not only that cycling is reliable, healthy and vigorously pursued as government policy, but most importantly, that cycling is fun and for everyone.

Dr. Horton carried out his phD in exploring cycling role in creating subcultures. From feminism at the end of the 19th century, through to socialism at the turn of the 20th century, and on to anarchism and environmentalism, cycling has played a crucial role in the defining of these identities. However Dr. Horton was not in Dublin to talk about his phD but rather to propose the argument that in order to promote cycling to the levels desired, there needs to be a democratization of cycling, a shift to cycling as a dominant culture. The message of the lecture was that in order to acheive this goal, policy makers and society need to move from provision for cycling, via the promotion of cycling, to the production of cycling.

May 18, 2010

Zimride is Carpooling 2.0

Self-touted as reliable, affordable and more sustainable travel, Zimride is redefining the way we think of carpooling. The service that utilises social networking has expanded rapidly in universities in the U.S. and has started to capture the attention on Corporate America, attracting the likes of Wal-mart and Cigna to using the service.

May 17, 2010

dublinbikes, probably the best bike sharing system in the world?

In existence for just under a year, Dublin City Council have recently announced that 'dublinbikes', the city's public bikes scheme is 'the most successful in the world by any measure'. With over 20,000 Dubliners signed up already to the annual membership, on average there are 47 long term members per bike, with each bike used on average 9.9 times a day.

May 12, 2010

Reinventing the Wheel

Photo courtesy of Max Tomasinelli
As reported here at ecocity back in December at the COP15, MIT's 'SENSEABLE City Lab' launched the revolutionary 'Copenhagen Wheel', a simple, low-cost bicycle wheel that can convert any bicycle into an e-bike. Our friends over at's Urban Mobility channel have recently created a great litle video about this ground breaking innovation, interviewing some of the designers involved.