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Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Time Lapse: Paris 2013

Here’s yet another Paris timelapse, this one by Kirill Neiezhmakov. This one should definitely be watched in full screen high definition. You’ll have to click over to Vimeo for the high def version or if the video doesn’t display for you. To do that, click here.

h/t Oli Mould

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Topics: Architecture and Design
Cities: Paris
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Sunday, April 28th, 2013

Global Cities Don’t Just Take, They Give

Creativity for the world or for your city gives something back – Charles Landry

I had an interesting conversation about Washington, DC with Richard Layman a few months back. One of his observations, rooted in Charles Landry’s, was that great global cities don’t just take, they give. To the extent that Washington wants to be a truly great city, it needs to contribute things to the world, not just rake in prosperity from it.

Affecting the world, often for good but unfortunately sometimes for bad, is a unique capability that global cities have because they are the culture shaping hubs of nations and world. When an ordinary city does something, it can have an effect to be sure. But things that happen in the global city are much more likely to launch movements.

For example, Chicago did not invent the idea of doing a public art exhibit out of painted cow statues. I believe they copied it from a town in Switzerland. But when Chicago did it, it inspired other cities in a way that Swiss town did not. In effect, ordinary cities influence the world usually by influencing a global city, which then influences the world. Often it is the global city that gets the credit although the actual idea originated elsewhere. Thus the role of the global city is critical. But we shouldn’t assume that all ideas originate there or that other cities can’t profoundly influence the world.

We might also think of bicycle sharing, which was around in various forms for quite a while. But it was the launch of the massive Paris Vélib’ system in 2007 (which according to Wikipedia was inspired by a system in Lyon) that made bicycle sharing a must have urban item the world over.

Similarly it was the High Line in New York that has every city wanting to convert elevated rail lines into showcase trails. New York is really the city that made protected bike lanes the new standard in the United States as well.

Beyond simple urban amenity type items, global cities can also launch profound cultural and social transformations. A few examples.

The first is from Seattle, a sort of semi-global city. It was in such a depressed state in the 1970s that someone put up a billboard that’s still pretty famous: “Will the last one leaving Seattle please turn out the lights?” Yet in Seattle there was a coffeehouse culture that spawned a movement out of which came Starbucks which literally revolutionized coffee drinking in America and event pioneered the entirely new concept of the “third place.”

A lot of people like to attribute the emergence of Seattle as a player to Microsoft moving there from Albuquerque in the late 1970s. However, I think the coffee example shows that there were interesting things already happening in Seattle long before that. It was a proto-global city waiting for a catalyst.

Another example would be the emergence of rap music out of New York City. Or house music from Chicago.

Or consider the 1963 demolition of Penn Station in New York in 1963. The wanton destruction of this signature structure horrified the city and led to the adoption of its historic preservation ordinance. This was not the birthplace of historic preservation in the United States, but this demolition played a key role in bringing historic preservation to the fore, not just locally but nationally.

Lastly, the Stonewall Riots in 1969 clearly played a signature role in the gay rights movement in America. Many pride parades today are scheduled to fall on the anniversary of the event.

Who knows what might have happened with coffee in America without Seattle. But I think it’s clear that both the historic preservation and gay rights movements would have emerged at some point anyway regardless of what happened in New York. However, the events in New York clearly provided a sort of ignition and acceleration.

How many historic buildings in America were saved because Penn Station was lost? (Think about how many might have been destroyed had the historic preservation movement emerged later).

Think about a state like Iowa where gay marriage is legal. How many people in Iowa 40+ years ago had any idea that an obscure incident in New York City would ultimately transform the social conventions of the rural heartland?

I think this shows the power of the global city. I’m sure that there are things happening underground in New York and elsewhere that right now that we don’t know anything about yet that will ultimately transform our world 10, 20, or 30 years down the road. It’s crazy to think about.

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

Paris and the Shifting Geography of Creativity

You may recall me previously posting a couple documentaries from Resident Advisor about the electronic music scenes in Detroit and Berlin. I thought these, especially the Berlin one, brought interesting insights about the way the creative scene (and economy) got developed in those places.

There are a couple more of these out now, and one of them, the video on Paris, is another gem. I’m embedding below. As you watch, notice a couple things related to the new geography of creativity. First, the scene in Paris has basically been dead. One would think that Paris would be a music hotbed perhaps, but it would appear to be a fairly boring city. In this way perhaps we see that the large traditionally elite culture centers have become victims of their own success. Secondly, the real action in Paris is now in the suburbs (other than a few Sunday afternoon outdoor events). The city of Paris is now simply too expensive for creativity to flourish. Thus the creative class of the city has been forced into the unfashionable suburbs to do their thing. Again, this is somewhat against the grain of the notion that you need to be in the center of the action or you can’t possibly succeed because of agglomeration effects, etc. The dynamics here are worth pondering, especially in conjunction with what we learn from Berlin.

Here’s the video. If it doesn’t display for you, click here.

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

The City of Light

For some reason, Paris seems to inspire the most cool time lapses out there. (Click my Paris link in the left sidebar under Cities, and I think it’s mostly videos of various types). Here’s another one by Benjamin Trancart called “City of Light.” Definitely full screen, high def for this one. If the video doesn’t display, click here.

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Cities: Paris
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Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Paris: Allo, Allo

This video is a little different from the type of slick time lapse I normally post, but is very fun. It’s a film a couple of American tourists made of their trip to Paris that gives an interesting window into that city. I hope you enjoy. If the video doesn’t display for you, click here.

h/t Likecool

Here’s another short fun one called Paris vs. New York that playfully shows the contrasts between the two cities. If the video doesn’t display, click here.

More Paris videos:

Le Flâneur
Paris in Motion (Part One)
Paris in Motion (Part Two)

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Paris in Motion, Part Two

Back in August I posted a time lapse called “Paris in Motion.” The film maker just came out with part two, and I think it’s even better than the first installment. Full screen high definition recommended. Enjoy! If the video doesn’t display, click here.

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Paris in Motion

Here’s nice short time lapse of the City of Light called “Paris in Motion (Part I).” Recommended full screen in high def. If the video doesn’t display, click here.

h/t Hypebeast

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

The Coolest and Best City Videos

I have posted quite a few “city videos” in the course of blogging. These are usually unofficial short pieces, often art projects, and frequently featuring time lapse, tilt shift, or other techniques to produce a very cool “music video” about a particular place. I thought I’d share a compilation of some of the coolest and very best of these today. If you have other suggestions, please post a link as a comment.

A lot of these are high quality uploads that more than justify watching them in full screen mode. Enjoy!

You’ve Got to Love London

This one was an instant classic (if the video doesn’t display, click here).

Le Flâneur (Paris)

Here’s a variant on the time lapse approach (if the video doesn’t display, click here). The creator of this video discussed his techniques over at National Geographic, but alas the post seems to have expired (or I can’t find it).

Little Big Berlin

This is such an incredible video. It doesn’t necessarily beat you over the head with the coolness of the place like the London and Paris videos, but instead gives you slices of everyday life in way that reveals the city to you. Even the classical soundtrack (Franz Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody #2″) is awesome. (If the video doesn’t display click here).

Le Tour de France Grand Départ 2010 (Rotterdam)

This one actually is a promotional video, shot for the Grand Départ of the 2010 Tour de France. But it’s a great video about cycling and Rotterdam generally. This one I particularly love since the music is a delightful original composition by Erwin Steijlen, featuring vocals by Alma Nieto and Steve Balsamo. (If the video doesn’t display, click here).

Inter // States (Tokyo)

This video by Samuel Cockedey isn’t as good as the rest of them on the whole, but if you’re a transport geek like me, you’ll definitely like it (if the video doesn’t display, click here).

New York City

The best of the city videos all seem to be from overseas cities (though interestingly the London and Paris ones were made by Americans). Here are a couple of great New York timelapses, however. First, one from James Ogle (if the video doesn’t display, click here).

And one by Mindrelic called “Manhattan in Motion” (if the video doesn’t display, click here).

A Summer Sped Up (Chicago)

Here’s a reader suggestion that I can’t believe I’ve never seen before since I live in Chicago at present. (If the video doesn’t display for you, click here).

Hope you enjoyed these.

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Le Flâneur

Here’s another super-cool city video. This one is a series of photos combined into a time lapse video with nice music. It’s about Paris and is only two minutes so definitely worth a watch. (If the video doesn’t display, click here).

Of course, it is very much like the similarly awesome You’ve Got to Love London.

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Topics: Civic Branding
Cities: Paris

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

It’s Time for America to Get On the Bus

New York magazine recently had a fantastic story on NYC’s plan to focus on improving the quality of its bus system:

Buses are what most people think of when they think of not getting anywhere: senior citizens waiting in lines, guys counting out change, double-parked cars. They are less sexy than subways and tend to be ignored until the MTA announces another round of service cuts. The last time buses were new was in the forties, when they were installed around the city as a cheaper, more flexible alternative to streetcars….But over the last decade, in a few transit-enlightened cities around the world, the bus has received a dramatic makeover. It has been reengineered to load passengers more quickly. It has become much more energy-efficient. And, most important, the bus system—the network of bus lines and its relationship to the city street—has been rethought.

If New York City, the ultimate American city for rail transit, can see the wisdom of reinvigorating its bus system, then every other city in America should as well. No, New York is not cancelling its subway expansions. But it realizes that in a world of financial constraint, New Yorkers can’t wait decades for the relatively small number of projects that it has in the pipe to come online, much less develop new ones.

Too many American transit enthusiasts, especially outside our largest cities, harbor a deep hostility to buses for some reasons. There’s been an interesting alliance for light rail between transit advocates who pooh-pooh buses and the traditional rent seeking interests that brought us things like many local stadium boondoggles. Especially for smaller cities, light rail is, like pro sports teams, just another accoutrement of the “big league city” that they need to have in order prove they are one.

I’ll be the first to admit that some who advocate buses actually don’t like transit much at all. Promoting a bus alternative to a light rail line is simply a convenient way to try to sink the whole thing. Also, the bus in many cities isn’t that great, and isn’t well patronized.

But with the financial realities we face in America, and the need to create an actual network of service, not just a couple of showpiece light rail lines, we ought to be giving bus a hard look. This is doubly the case because rail construction costs are simply out of line in the US versus the rest of the world. No one cares to solve this problem – not the FTA and certainly not the consulting engineers, construction companies and rolling stock vendors who are doing just fine indeed off the current system – so we should really be thinking twice about rail anyway until we can rein in the costs.

A friend of mine once said, “People claim folks won’t ride buses. I agree. So why don’t we work on fixing that problem instead of jumping straight to the conclusion that we need to spend a billion dollars on light rail?”

Actually, people will ride the bus. In London, twice as many people ride buses as the famed tube system. In Chicago, despite its well known and extensive L system, more riders take the bus than all CTA and Metra trains put together. And there is nothing even particularly fancy about Chicago’s bus system. It’s what I call “Plain Old Bus Service”.

Still, with poorly designed systems and poor service levels, buses in many cities aren’t well patronized, particularly by discretionary riders. So how do we fix that? Jarrett Walker over at Human Transit has been on fire lately. He always has some of the finest transit writing anywhere, and if you aren’t reading, you’re missing something.

Lately he’s been writing about Paris, and Europe generally, and how their approach to bus design differs from the US. In Converging Vehicles, he writes:

European systems present buses and trams as part of a unified system, with amenity choices that minimize the difference between the bus experience and the tram experience. This is a striking contrast to US “streetcar cities” such as Portland and Seattle, where the streetcar is as differentiated as possible from the bus system, as though it’s expected to serve a different clientele.

In a lot of cities they do seem to be designed for different clienteles. And I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to imagine who those might be.

Jarrett supplies a photo of a bus interior to demonstrate.

And here’s the inside of a tram:

He then describes the similarities:

Look again at the [bus] interior above. Note details like the ticket readers next to the first set of doors. Note, just visible in the upper left of the photo, a strip map showing every stop that this bus makes along its route. Note the whole look and feel…. [On the tram] the continuous open space is wonderful. But there’s nothing else about this design, in terms of overall level of amenity, that differs from the bus. This vehicle isn’t trying to serve different people than the bus serves, or to provide a higher quality experience. This vehicle is on rails for one good reason: The corridor it serves needs huge capacity…In Paris, light rail is just what you do when you need a really, really long bus.

In part two, Jarrett goes on to talk about how you can board that Paris bus through any door, with proof of payment just like light rail. The New York magazine piece picks up this theme, talking about the Bx12 Select Bus Service in the Bronx:

All of the sudden, though, here it comes: the Bx12. Right away, you see it’s different. A different paint job—new branding, as the transit people like to say—and bright-blue lights flashing on the header. Buying a ticket is different, too: You pay before you board, from a little box like a MetroCard vending machine that offers you a receipt. In the world of transit planning, boarding time is everything, and the receipt streamlines the process. “You just hold on to it,” a woman offers, shouting from under her earbuds. She smiles. “It’s much faster.” Waiting on the curb, you notice that the bus has its own lane, painted terra-cotta, with signs to deflect non-bus traffic.

The relatively new head of the MTA used to work in London, where he was part of a change that saw a big upswing in bus popularity.

About a year into his tenure at Transport for London, Walder achieved the satisfaction of watching his neighbor, a London business executive, decide to make his primary mode of daily transportation the bus. It was simply the easiest, fastest way to get to work. “He would say to me, ‘Hey, the bus goes where I want to go, and it gets me there, and I’m taking the bus!’ ”

And that’s what a heck of a lot more US cities ought to be doing too. Of course, if there’s a legitimate case for rail, then go for it. I support rail projects ranging from the Second Ave. Subway to the Cincinnati streetcar. But clearly there is enormous opportunity in the US to start transforming the transportation infrastructure of our cities with high quality bus service in a way that is faster, cheaper, and much more pervasive than we’d ever be able to achieve with rail.

As NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, principal architect of that city’s remarkable public space transformation put it, “The bottom line is buses are back.” They need to be back in a whole lot more cities than just Paris, London, and New York.

PS: Again, if you care about transit, you should definitely have Human Transit in your reader. Here’s a link to another piece on Paris, about bus lanes to help convince you.

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