Good design keeps a city on the go. From bridge-builders to nifty mopeds, here are some of the most dynamic transport ideas.
Surprised that Norway’s dark winters had not inspired more innovative street lighting, Kristin Bredal, an award-winning theatre light designer, set up Zenisk, specialising in urban lighting design. The firm’s work covers the transport realm too: it has created the lighting system for Løren Station in Oslo, which highlights the building’s architecture and maintains effective lighting for pedestrians along with a safe but aesthetically pleasing atmosphere.
Zenisk’s magic touch, says Bredal, is designing with subtlety. “Too much light is never good and most spaces could reduce what is there by 30 per cent.”
Urban planners face congestion challenges due to Melbourne’s surging population. One of the city’s top firms, John Wardle Architects, has offered a solution. It recently met a brief to design new infrastructure improving pedestrian mobility, a challenge that it has risen to with artistic flair to spare.
The Tanderrum Bridge connects the cbd to a nearby sports precinct and is framed by an exoskeleton of sculpted steel rods, supported by a series of angular concrete columns. Across town the team created a bus interchange at Monash University’s Clayton campus, made of striking steel canopies with perforations in the metal to aid visibility. Balancing unusual structures with safety and planning regulations was not easy “but it’s often through pushing against resistance that architects do their best work”, says Wardle.
Launched in March, Choimobi Yokohama is an electric-car-sharing programme with Nissan Motor, using its ultra-mini two-seat New Mobility Concept. It comprises 25 cars parked in 14 locations but officials hope that adding more vehicles and locations will attract repeat users – and encourage businesses to sign up.
“People are using big cars for short distances,” says Kenichi Yagishita, senior engineer at Nissan. “With this EV-sharing programme we can get petrol-powered cars off the road and ease traffic jams.”
This year German industrial giant ThyssenKrupp will unveil its game-changing rope-free elevator system Multi at a test tower in Rottweil. We asked one of its top mobility researchers how the company envisions our future cities.
What does your research reveal about city mobility?
Young people have a completely different understanding of traffic; they don’t need their own cars and they are used to getting around the city on public transport and by foot. We look into movement around transportation hubs in urban centres, from metro lines to long-distance trains, and think how we can enhance them.
With its ability to span greater heights than conventional lifts, Multi will impact tall-building design. But will it enhance transport hubs?
The Multi has the capacity to navigate complicated infrastructure. Think about London’s Underground system: track levels are at different heights and entrances are at various points along those levels. The Multi system can pick up and drop off passengers at various horizontal and vertical levels.
The Swiss city of Winterthur, a bustling technology hub near Zürich, is home to one of the nation’s busiest train stations. Architecture practice Müller & Truniger and landscape architecture firm Rotzler Krebs Partner have revamped its surroundings to improve accessibility and create a new town square. Key to the project is the spacious railway underpass that connects both ends of the square. The well-lit tunnel was designed to be easily accessible from the main road and has lanes for pedestrians and cyclists. Its entrances are marked with sculptural concrete-and-glass roofs that protect the passageway from the elements and create a unifying structure on both sides of the tracks.
The adjoining asphalt plazas are furnished with minimalistic limestone benches and fountains, creating a pleasant urban park seamlessly incorporating the railway tracks. “The focus of this project was on non-motorised traffic,” says Daniel Truniger of Müller & Truniger. “In Winterthur’s highly frequented train station a good transport network and well-established public square play a vital role in improving the city’s quality of life.”
Known for its stripped-back mobile phones that only handle calls and texts, Punkt is taking a similar unconventional approach to urban mobility. It recently worked with teams from Europe’s top design schools to reinterpret the electric bike.
What connects Punkt with the bicycle?
The future of the car is about super connectivity – designers are striving to create an office on wheels as tech companies race into the car industry. The bike remains an item for someone with more time. Today’s car is the smartphone and today’s bike is more like the telephone; both can be innovated though.
Design specific to cities defined this project. What’s the importance of this?
We wanted to consider how the bicycle can add to the identity of a city. Think of the way red buses remain iconic to London with a design that still fills a specific demand.
So what is the future of the bike in the city?
The implementation of cycling solutions in cities can be costly but I think there is a huge opportunity for those cities that get it right, letting cycle schemes add an extra dynamic to their urban environment.
When the municipality of Tel Aviv commissioned Mayslits Kassif Architects with the refurbishment of Tel Aviv’s iconic promenade, they had a clear vision in mind: improving the connectivity of the beach with the city and forming an urban “living room”. The overhaul has reinvigorated the setting with the transformation of a retaining wall, once dividing the promenade from the sandy section of the beach, into a set of wooden and concrete terraces, stairs and seats that invite the public to engage with the surroundings.
“We had a vision of a new type of urban space in which the beach crowd and pedestrians interweave, forming a unique waterfront urban culture,” says Ganit Mayslits, co-founder of the firm. It’s proved to be an instant success, with the promenade’s outdoor gyms and running trails now packed with sun-kissed citizens.
Cyclists in Aoyama are choosing to refuel at Ratio & C, a café and shop by bicycle company Bridgestone Cycle. A wide glass façade lets in natural light and connects the space with the neighbourhood; customers can park in clever slits in the floor and have their tyres pumped as they sip coffee.
“Our client wanted the bicycle element in the design but not in an in-your-face way,” says Yuki Shibata of Tank, who co-designed the space with architect Ben Nagaoka from Point. Design plays a key role here so Artek pendant lamps hang from the ceiling rather than frames and tyres.
The commute between central Utrecht and the suburb of Leidsche Rijn just got shorter. Thanks to a new cyclist-pedestrian bridge over the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal, it now takes 15 minutes and avoids car traffic. The Dafne Schippers bridge was developed by a team of Amsterdam-based architects, including Next. “It is a landmark, a public space and a roof; a natural part of the broader urban fabric,” says Marijn Schenk, co-founder of the Dutch firm.
Zippy and fuel-efficient, the scooter is becoming an increasingly wise choice for avoiding surging public transport prices and expensive parking. One option is the cool (1) Cezeta Type 506, with its distinctive torpedo shape. The Cezeta was a symbol of freedom and adventure in Czechoslovakia between 1957 and 1964, and 60 years on this iconic ride is being revived in an all-electric version.
Taiwan’s (2) Gogoro is an internet-connected electric-powered two-wheeler that’s perfect for city-dwellers. It’s now part of a Smartscooter-sharing service in Berlin that includes 1,000 vehicles. Finally with its name translating to “Spring”, Vespa’s cheerful (3) Primavera is a joy to ride in the sun. Updated for 2017, its new speed-detecting abs system means that being carefree doesn’t come at the expense of safety.
cezeta.co.uk; gogoro.com; vespa.com
Executed with function and elegance, Zürich firm Designalltag’s signage designs grace the world’s top airports.
When designing signage, what are your considerations and does any typeface beat Helvetica for clarity?
We consider legibility, contrast, the shininess of the materials we’re working with, the lighting and, importantly, the sign’s placement: if the backdrop is too busy people simply miss the directions. When it comes to legible typefaces, Helvetica is used in most of the world’s airports for a reason – but we work with many font families. For me, Swiss designer Adrian Frutiger’s Frutiger san serif font is the most legible.
What are you working on at the moment?
Signage systems for new areas of Zürich, such as Glattpark. We’ve developed a black-on-yellow system. Yellow is a good signal colour but a subtle lemon contrasts best with black.
The EC250 Giruno is Stadler’s latest high-speed train for Swiss Federal Railways (sbb), designed to connect Basel, Zürich and Milan on a new route. “From the start we had a goal: the train had to be accessible for cyclists, wheelchair users and the visually impaired,” says Christian Harbeke, co-founder of Zürich’s Nose Design Experience. The team’s updates included seats with wooden backs, engineered bike racks, gender-separate toilets and a two-door design that enables wheelchair users step-free access on multiple platforms.
In Erfurt, Germany, architecture firm Osterwold + Schmidt created a pointed solution to the age-old problem of bicycle storage outside train stations. Utilising an unused patch of land between a road and traffic island, the triangular structure offers space for about 200 bicycles stored in a double-decker configuration, with rentable spaces for long-term parkers as well as places to charge e-bikes. The attractive silver-textured steel was a response to durability demands but its “striking geometry came from the site”, says the firm’s co-founder Matthias Schmidt.
In 2011, two-storey-high flood waters ravaged Brisbane, causing at least au$440bn (€300bn) of damage. A third of the city’s public ferry terminals were lost, crippling a zippy service used by commuters and tourists alike. An international design competition held to determine the architecture of the new terminals was won by Australia’s Cox Architecture and Aurecon, an engineering company.
Sleek black-and-orange piers offer good visibility on rainy days, while the terminals’ streamlined, boat-hull shapes lessen the potential for dangerous debris to lodge. The smartest aspect of the eight new structures is a detachable system that allows the gangway and main pontoon to unlatch and float away during extremely high torrents, reducing potential damage.
The piers’ design blends into the leafy landscape and the terminals are becoming icons for both the city’s river transport and its design scene. “The floods brought home the fact that natural disasters still happen and we need to turn our minds to how we design for them,” says Cox Architecture’s Brisbane director Brendan Gaffney.
When a city is built on different levels, just walking around can be daunting. Stuttgart’s central districts sit at the bottom of a valley basin so pedestrians get about using more than 400 stairways that add up to a total of about 20km.
These stäffele date from the early 19th century but in recent years Stuttgart has been rediscovering their significance for its transport infrastructure, with a healthy sum made available in the 2016 and 2017 budgets for maintenance and repairs. “The intermodality of traffic is often underestimated,” says Wolfgang Vorderer from the city’s mobility department.
The stäffele also play a role in Stuttgart’s social efforts: a group of refugees refurbishes them as part of an integration project. Occasionally the stairs serve as open-air stages for cultural events and also make a handy public gym for those intent on stepping up their workout.