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  • Aspiring for the Car-Free City » CSBE
    restaurants and schools can be interspersed within the town and consequently are more easily accessible by foot Energy efficiency is emphasized not only through banning the car but also in the design of the town s houses Free standing homes are not allowed Instead four and five storey row houses are used to maximize energy efficiency and minimize heat loss It may seem surprising that a pioneering project of this type is carried out in Germany the land of the autobahn which has no speed limits and the country that manufactures luxury car brands coveted by people all over the world It is not unusual however to see the most critical assessments of technological developments take place where such technologies are developed In contrast the countries importing those technologies often accept them uncritically This is why in the developing world the overwhelming spread of the automobile generally has been accepted and often left uncontrolled As a result very few restrictions usually are implemented to address issues such as emission standards speed limits and devoting more of the city s street network to pedestrians or to public transportation vehicles In cities throughout the developing world the result of this lack of effective regulation has been devastating levels of air pollution traffic congestion and traffic accidents People everywhere have had an intense love relationship with the car ever since it appeared on the scene One manifestation of this is car advertisements in the media which present the car as a symbol of freedom elegance splendor and also status It seems that just about everyone who is able to drive a car and can afford to own a car will buy one Many of us are guilty of this car obsession to one degree or another I still remember the excitement I felt when I obtained my driving license and later on when I purchased my first car As the years pass however I am finding myself less and less excited about the car I still own one and I cannot deny its usefulness and convenience but I am finding myself using it as little as I can and only when I absolutely need to Whenever I am in a situation where good quality alternatives to the car are available whether a pedestrian friendly street or decent public transportation I opt for them In fact it is very hard to argue against the fact that the less we use cars the better off we all are We will walk more which is better for our health There will be less air pollution resulting from gas emissions transportation accounts for about 30 of air pollution There also will be less traffic accidents Conflicting and often unclear trends however are taking place around the world in terms of car ownership and usage In mature economies there is a slow but increasing acceptance of the need to move away from car dominated lifestyles and to develop solutions that are based on other forms of movement through

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/aspiring-for-the-car-free-city/ (2016-02-13)
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  • Actions: What You Can Do With the City » CSBE
    identifies to include among others architects engineers university professors students children artists skateboarders cyclists pedestrians and municipal employees all making contributions to improving the experience of urban living in unusual creative and in some cases rather subversive ways As the organizers of the exhibition mention twentieth century Modern planning concepts divided the city into three separate spheres each of which concentrated on one human activity dwelling work and leisure with the automobile being the primary means of connecting those spheres of urban living The exhibition does not accept these conventional categories It puts forward different ones thus dividing the 99 featured actions into four categories walking gardening playing and recycling all defined in the wider sense of those terms rather than a literal one Although these four categories do not even attempt to cover the whole spectrum of human activities that take place in the city they do approach the range of activities that the city embraces from a different and novel point of view The exhibition also is characterized by its interactivity Its organizers have invited viewers of the exhibition s web site to submit their own urban interventions referred to as Challenger Actions which they could upload to the web site in the form of text images and video clips thus making the interventions available for all to see Accordingly anybody anywhere in the world not only is able to view the exhibition but also is able to participate in it The exhibition organizers state that a good number of the actions featured in it are of a playful nature Some of them in fact are frivolous if not downright silly others come across as obscure incomprehensible unclear and irrelevant in a manner unique to works originating from parts of the art world and of academia This however does not reduce the value of the exhibition A good number of the actions it features are inspirational humorous eye opening and show considerable sensitivity to and understanding of how we interact with the city and also encourage us to rethink such interaction Let me provide a representative sample of those actions Beginning with the category of walking one action deals with an expressway built in 1971 that cut through the Brazilian city of Sao Paolo A municipal ordinance enacted in 1990 turned 2 7 kilometers of that highway over to pedestrians and cyclists in the evenings and on Sundays thus banishing vehicular traffic from the expressway and allowing people to stroll and to sit along it and to interact with each other as well as with vendors selling various items Another walking action involves an Austrian engineer who developed what he identifies as the walkmobile It is a lightweight frame made of wood rope and safety tape that takes up the approximate area of a car about 8 square meters and may be carried by a single person through ropes attached to one s shoulders The designer of the walkmobile has walked with it strapped to his shoulders amongst

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/actions-what-you-can-do-with-the-city/ (2016-02-13)
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  • Good and Bad Urban Density » CSBE
    whether places of work shopping areas schools or centers of leisure and recreation and ideally within walking distance to them It also provides for a more efficient use of various infrastructure services Accordingly public transportation water and sewage lines garbage collection electricity grids to name a few all would need to cover smaller urban areas Although intensification will increase the load on existing infrastructure networks it remains far more efficient and cost effective to serve a large number of people in a relatively small area than to serve a relatively small number of people in a large area As city residents are more easily able to reach their daily destinations by walking or using public transportation instead of depending on the private automobile there will be fewer motor vehicles on the road thus less traffic congestion and less air pollution Such environmental benefits of intensification don t end with reduced vehicle emissions but also include overall urban energy consumption Infrastructure services that cover smaller areas of the city need less energy to operate Even energy efficiency on the level of the individual dwelling will be positively affected Intensification among other things translates into a predominance of apartment buildings and attached houses over detached single family homes The contiguity of these dwellings means they will help heat each other during the winter and cool each other during the summer While a free standing house is fully exposed to the elements the units of an apartment building or a row housing development help shield each other from the hot summer sun and the cold winter temperatures and much of the heat coming out of one dwelling will not be lost but will heat the one next to it or above it Intensification in many ways provides a return to pre modern concepts of urbanism Human settlements then were far more compact Sprawling cities were not practical as distances were crossed on foot or using pack animals Preserving agricultural land surrounding the city also was extremely important as this provided city residents with a level of food security In hot arid climates closely located buildings shade each other as well as adjacent streets thus taking on a very important climatic role In this context the historical cities of the Middle East provide very good models of high urban density A striking example is Shibam in Yemen known for its densely arranged multistory buildings These tall buildings not only create dramatic visual compositions but also provide much needed shade and since they take up a much smaller footprint than shorter buildings covering the same built up area they help preserve valuable surrounding agricultural land The compactness of the pre modern city was compromised by the widespread use of the automobile The automobile allowed people to cross long distances easily and quickly thus providing city residents with the freedom to live well outside existing city boundaries Many of those who could afford owning an automobile welcomed the opportunity to relocate away from city centers in

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/good-and-bad-urban-density/ (2016-02-13)
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  • Istanbul Today » CSBE
    nineteenth century Classical revival Dolmabahce Palace which supplanted the Topkapi as the official residence of the Ottoman Sultans during the Ottoman state s last few decades Moreover Istanbul s unique location along water bodies and passageways including the Bosphorus Halic and Sea of Marmara provides many parts of the city with spectacular settings and views The city has had its ups and downs over the course of its long history primarily following the fortunes of the empires of which it was the capital Today it is Turkey s largest city as well as its economic and cultural center but not its political capital a position occupied by Ankara The major challenges that contemporary Istanbul faces are no longer connected to the fortunes of empire building but more to accommodating the dramatic increase in population and physical size it has undergone over the past half a century While it only had about one million inhabitants at the middle of the twentieth century its population today has surpassed the twelve million mark Its overwhelming size is evident to anyone navigating the city s roads many of which are overwhelmed by traffic and often come to a complete standstill None of these challenges however have managed to compromise Istanbul s greatness and its march forward and the city in fact is undergoing a major cultural and economic resurgence I visited Istanbul earlier this year after an absence of a decade and a half Although traffic along its streets remains highly congested and what was once a highly affordable city for tourists has become too expensive Istanbul struck me as a vibrant metropolis that is confidently facing the future and a truly cosmopolitan center with high quality modern architecture a rich cultural life and impressive economic vibrancy During this visit I did not get the chance to visit any of the city s great historical monuments but instead experienced a few of its contemporary works of architecture I participated in a conference that took place in Santral Istanbul a stunning arts and culture complex located along the upper edge of the Golden Horn in the city s Eyup district The complex is located on the site of Istanbul s first electricity generation station which dates to the early twentieth century Through a combination of conserving existing structures and adding new ones the complex has been adapted to feature a modern art gallery an energy museum a theater concert halls restaurants and a public library All are part of the Silahtaraga campus of Istanbul Bilgi University one of Turkey s numerous relatively recent private non profit endowment universities A good number of these universities have been established by prominent members of Turkey s business community But let us return to the subject of moving through Istanbul No city can offer a decent quality of urban living for its residents unless they are able to move through it with relative ease and to achieve this a good quality public transportation system is essential Although Istanbul s

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/istanbul-today/ (2016-02-13)
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  • The Sustainable Human Settlement » CSBE
    Concrete Signs of the City Empty Plots Everywhere Amman s Most Beautiful District Amman Street Maps A New Frontier Soundscapes of Amman Airport Road Parking in Amman Privilege or Right Time Zoning To Commute or Telecommute The Shopping Mall Apartment Living Sidewalks of Amman Riyadh Property Rental Laws Beirut Public Transportation Cities of the Arab East Zoning Urban Sprawl The Domination of Amman Introduction An Anatomy of the City Using Public Transportation in Amman Publications Resources Urban Crossroads The Sustainable Human Settlement The Sustainable Human Settlement Urban Crossroads 89 One of the more fashionable terms to have emerged over the past few years is sustainability The term is being applied to all sorts of contexts that initially concentrated on the ecological and environmental but have come to also include the social economic and even that of overall development It also applies to human settlements whether cities towns villages or neighborhoods A suitable point of departure for discussing sustainability is defining it A major challenge of dealing with trendy terms is that they assume highly elastic meanings and can stand for different things to different people This makes the attempt at identifying a single correct meaning for the term counterproductive Instead it would be more useful for each of those using it to provide their own understanding of it This article presents the term sustainable to refer to that which is capable of remaining in existence and doing so without depleting resources Within the context of human settlements sustainability accordingly refers to those settlements that are capable of remaining in existence using resources whether natural financial or human as efficiently as possible I would add that such settlements need to achieve this in a manner that makes them places that people would want to rather than have to live in In many ways the concept of the sustainable human settlement has emerged as today s equivalent to the ideal or utopian city of the past Some of the qualities of the sustainable human settlement are not directly related to architecture planning or physical urban management This applies to measures such the quality and quantity of available job opportunities or educational and health services the vibrancy of cultural life and the overall levels of human security Other measures however are closely connected to the architecture planning and physical management of the human settlement The following are some thoughts regarding those qualities The sustainable human settlement is a compact one where one does not need to cross large distances to go to work or school buy one s daily needs or visit family and friends Ideally one should even be able to accomplish much of this on foot through ten to fifteen minute walks each way When distances are too large to cover on foot a clean efficient public transportation system consisting of buses subway lines or light rail and even bicycle paths would be available What is important is that one may easily and comfortably move around without the need for the

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/the-sustainable-human-settlement/ (2016-02-13)
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  • Linking the Cities of Jordan » CSBE
    Jordan other than Amman with populations of over 100 000 residents According to the most recent numbers published by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs these are Irbid about 450 000 residents Zarqa 440 000 residents Ruseifa 230 000 residents Salt 110 000 residents and Madaba 110 000 residents Aqaba recently surpassed the 100 000 population mark as its population was about 98 500 in 2007 but has been growing at a very rapid rate Some interesting remarks may be made about those cities excluding Aqaba to which I will return later in the article Between them and Amman which has around 2 5 million inhabitants they house somewhere between two thirds to three quarters of the country s population the ratio increases when including the numerous smaller towns located near them These cities surround Amman from all directions and are relatively close to it Ruseifa is less than twenty kilometers away from Amman Zarqa and Salt are less than thirty kilometers Madaba is less than forty kilometers and Irbid the farthest of the group from Amman is separated from it by eighty five kilometers or about an hour s drive Because of this geographic clustering and proximity in relation to Amman creating an integrated transportation system that effectively connects all these cities is a highly realistic and worthwhile goal In fact it may be argued that a most important first step towards achieving a level of equality between those cities and Amman is guaranteeing ease of accessibility Anyone living in Jordan is in need of easy access to Amman and would rightly feel marginalized when such access is not available This access is needed as so many of Jordan s institutions are located in the capital whether it is centralized government departments retail entertainment cultural and health facilities headquarters of local companies and country branches of foreign companies a well connected international airport or embassies An effective well functioning transportation system that connects these urban centers is not difficult to imagine In numerous European countries highly efficient easy to use rail systems that link similar groupings of cities are commonplace If a comprehensive transportation strategy is developed and implemented to connect these cities with Amman a major disadvantage and liability of not living in Amman would be neutralized In fact some people then may even prefer to live in those cities rather than in Amman for various reasons whether it is lower housing costs proximity to relatives or to avoid Amman s more hectic pace of daily life Cities such as Salt Irbid and Madaba also have the advantages of being surrounded by pleasant natural landscapes and including or being located in proximity to sites of great historical importance True Jordan has a decent road system covering much of the country but even the best road systems are not sufficient to serve the transportation needs of any populated geographic area and need to be combined with rail transportation as well as air transportation in cases of low population densities and

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/linking-the-cities-of-jordan/ (2016-02-13)
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  • Amman: How Big Is Too Big? » CSBE
    natural population increase of about 2 3 accordingly would account for less than half that growth while most of it would result from migration either from other parts of Jordan or from outside it I would take a more optimistic view that goes against this inductive form of reasoning Fertility rates in Jordan are going down and one maintains hope that the region will achieve a level of political stability that would end or at least greatly limit coerced mass population movements across borders However since such optimistic aspirations regarding the region have consistently failed to materialize planning on the assumption that there will be more of the same makes sense The Amman municipality accordingly is developing its current masterplan to accommodate considerable anticipated growth Such a proactive approach is welcome as it strives to address projected future scenarios at an early stage rather than engaging in crisis management after the fact Still even if the assumption that Amman will undergo high levels of population growth is correct and although forward thinking strategies are preferable to crisis management and firefighting efforts this approach may be criticized as being too deterministic It accepts that the city s growth is inevitable that it is beyond the control of municipal authorities and that nothing can be done to prevent it To a certain degree all this is true Natural population increases migration to the city national policies of administrative centralization and regional political developments all fall outside the sphere of municipal influence The best that municipalities can do is to proactively plan for accommodating these developments rather than struggling to deal with them after they take place The problem facing Amman however is that an already large city may too quickly become too large to effectively manage This brings me to the issue of ideal city size There is considerable debate as to whether there is such an ideal size and what that size would be On the one hand a city needs to be large enough to achieve a critical mass in terms of population and spending capacity to support a reasonable variety of urban activities and services These include adequate employment opportunities infrastructure services educational institutions healthcare services cultural facilities shopping and entertainment outlets as well as physical connections primarily via airports and train stations to other cities and countries On the other hand once a city becomes too large the unpleasant face of urban life becomes more apparent Crime rates and pollution levels go up Feelings of alienation amongst the population increase Of great importance is that movement through the city becomes extremely burdensome Distances become too far and traffic congestion becomes endemic Traffic problems in particular increase exponentially rather than incrementally as a city grows It therefore is much easier to address the urban traffic challenges resulting from doubling a city s population from half a million to a million than from three million to six million In this context it is worth noting the view expressed by economists

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/amman-how-big-is-too-big/ (2016-02-13)
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  • Preserving Amman's Heart and Soul » CSBE
    two The result is a trilogy of Amman s Heart and Soul articles of which this is the third My last article which dealt with developments affecting the Jabal Amman First Circle area gave particular attention to two of its streets Khirfan and Rainbow and ended by raising concerns regarding some of the trends currently taking place there This article will address these trends and their possible impacts I had mentioned in my last article that the rate of change in the area varies from one part of it to the other Khirfan Street for example in spite of its unique architectural and urban wealth remains neglected and little affected by the changes taking place in the area with only a handful of its buildings being renovated and re adapted to house new uses In contrast the more upscale Rainbow Street and some of the neighborhoods adjacent to it are being completely transformed Some of these transformations have been positive but others are a source of concern and may end up irreversibly damaging whatever positive change may have been achieved there Late this summer I took a long walk through the area beginning with its gateway the First Circle roundabout The roundabout defines Rainbow Street s western end and is the main point of entry for the Rainbow Street Urban Regeneration Project that the Amman municipality completed a few months ago with the local architectural office Turath as designers An empty plot of land along the roundabout has been converted into a public garden forming one of a set of public spaces featured in the project In addition to creating these public spaces the project has included refurbishing the street s sidewalks replacing its asphalt pavement with cobblestone and unifying the street s commercial signs all aimed at upgrading the street s visual character The public spaces are its most successful component One of them located along the middle of Rainbow Street particularly stands out It includes a series of terraces providing a panoramic view of Amman that includes the city s historical Citadel across the Downtown area below Visiting this space on a summer evening is a very pleasant experience and people from all walks of life congregate there to enjoy the view In contrast the changes that have taken place along the eastern parts of the street which primarily form its residential segment are truly disturbing As I walked towards that part of the street I was surprised that the traditionally quiet street was overwhelmed by a never ending stream of vehicular traffic My initial thought was that a special event may be taking place there but it soon became apparent that this is what the street unfortunately has come to be like on a typical summer evening It turned out that overwhelming stream of traffic simply resulted from people coming by car to one of a handful of cafés located along Rainbow Street as well as along Mango Street which branches out of it and officially is

    Original URL path: http://www.csbe.org/publications-and-resources/urban-crossroads/preserving-amman-s-heart-and-soul/ (2016-02-13)
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