Monthly Archives: December 2010

Mixed Use Residential

By | Neighborhood, Urban | One Comment

Last year, I wrote a post about building towers in the middle of residential neighborhoods. Maybe that was a little dreamy but the point was to create a more mixed-use residential neighborhood. I look around where I live and it makes no sense to me that there are big, single family homes facing a very busy street. There is a missed opportunity here.

I think it would be a lot better for everyone if we had mixed-use development along the main roads inside residential areas. You would have shops on the ground floor, with wide, well shaded sidewalks with trees and benches and parking hidden behind or underneath. A wide variety of apartments would be on the two floors above. This would avoid having families being forced to build a second or third floor in their existing houses to accommodate an expanding family, yet still allow people to live close to their old house.

The young people living in those apartments would be within walking distance to their ‘family house’ and also to a walkable, dense neighborhood that is underneath them. There is a demand for places to live (and also for places to work), but they don’t all have to be big houses.

Measuring Success

By | Social, Urban | 8 Comments

Malls, skyscrapers and suburban living are western ideas that have been introduced into Kuwait. They haven’t evolved as a response to our climatic, social or urban concerns. They are foreign ideas, in every sense of the word.

Yet when asked, many people feel a strong sense of pride looking at our towering skyline and they point to malls being commercially and maybe even culturally successful. Why is that? Is it because they are a form of liberation from our nomadic/arab/islamic/’uneducated’ past? What does it mean for a city to be successful?

Have malls, skyscrapers and suburbia really improved our quality of life? Shouldn’t that be the ultimate measure of success? Happiness?

Kuwait City by hassan-q8

Average Speed Camera Network

By | Other, Urban | 7 Comments

It seems that the pilot project in First Ring Road (seen in the image below) was successful. I’m sure you’ve all seen the cameras that apparently don’t do anything. They are average speed cameras. Don’t worry, they haven’t been issuing fines yet (though they will starting Feb 2011). We’ve mentioned this before in our Traffic page. The idea is fairly simple; Two cameras photograph license plates and since the distance between the cameras is known, they can calculate the average speed of the cars.

Photo by Mark, 248am.com

What this means is that drivers no longer have an incentive to slow down before a camera, which is a major source of accidents. Even if you do slow down and speed up after passing one of them, it will still fine you if you average above the speed limit. You can’t avoid it.

It works by scanning the license plate of every car that passes through it. That’s why they changed the license plates recently to allow for better recognition. It uses an infra-red camera to photograph the car, so it works at night without a flash. The yellow thing is the infra-red light emitter. They have a state of the art data center built for this and they’re going to be using it for national security purposes and traffic monitoring as well.

Once the system is implemented it is possible to use the information to map real time traffic patterns. An interactive traffic map can be automatically generated and updated in real time. This would be published online so people can plan their routes. It’s possible that it could be integrated into car navigation systems so your route would be automatically adjusted based on traffic patterns. Software could be developed to create web and iPhone apps that take advantage of open source traffic information.

Photo by Mark, 248am.com

The only way we can reduce fatal car crashes is by making it impossible to get away with speeding. The current system is pathetically easy to fool. No system is foolproof, and neither is this one (you can install a reflective film over your license plate that messes with the recognition system), but it is far better than what we have now. I’m all for this, on all major roads in Kuwait.

Solar Serpents

By | Energy | 7 Comments

Stuck in traffic during the hot summer months, nothing feels better than the cold air rushing through the air conditioner. We allow the sun to heat our cars and then use a lot of fuel to cool the inside. This seems rather silly when you consider this alternative, which is a project by the Swedish architect and urban strategist Mans Tham, called Solar Serpents.

all images courtesy of mans tham

The idea is really simple; cover the highways with an electricity generating shading device. This way, we do two things at the same time:

  1. Shade the road, meaning you wouldn’t need to cool down the car so much. This would save energy.
  2. We would generate immense quantities of electricity from the solar panels.

It would make sense to think of it as a linear solar power plant that has the additional value of shading the highway underneath it.