Skyline Stories: New Penn Station?, Housing and Foreclosure Maps, Drexel University Expansion, Augmented Reality

Big national news that some Republicans attempting to remove all non-highway/road funding, and Obama’s recently passed but potentially unsuccessful foreclosure and underwater mortgage bailout (Reuters)…but we’re not tackling those because nothing’s certain yet.

Moynihan Station would move Amtrak into the Post Office, but it will hardly affect 95 percent of Penn Station's commuters. Move Madison Square Garden to Javits and create a new light-filled Penn Station. / Image via NYT.

The Times has an incredibly in-depth map of the nation’s housing (NYT), and related maps show that home foreclosures are damaging cities and metropolitan areas, not just exurban zombie subdivisions (Atlantic Cities and WSJ).

Lots of new redevelopment plans — retrofitting many of the country’s 110,000 suburban malls into walkable downtowns (NYT), the Times ponders if the city move Madison Square Garden to Hudson Yards Site in exchange for a new grand Penn Station (NYT) and London opened its new Olympic Park (Guardian).

Artist's rendering of planned Drexel University project, housing 869 students and 11 retail businesses. / Image via

In Philly, Drexel University continues to expand in West Philly (, the Reading Terminal celebrates its 120th anniversary (Philadelphia Business Journal) and the city now has its second historic industrial district with the new Wayne Junction National Historic District (Newsworks).

Volunteer planners are helping community groups in creating plans to improve the oversized and dangerous Queens Boulevard in New York (Urban Omnibus), and the same could happen in Philly with the Planning Commission graduating another class of citizen planners (Plan Philly).

Unfortunately, the state can’t come up with $100 million for SEPTA to renovate the City Hall station ( and Florida’s high speed rail line would’ve been profitable within 10 years (Tampa Bay Online). But it’s good to see the Hiway Theater recreating its original marquee (

The Industrial Trust gondola, circa 1983. / Image via Providence Journal.

One of my favorite Philly buildings: Jacob Reed’s Sons Building from 1904 in Arts and Crafts Movement (Plan Philly), and the awesome Art Deco Industrial Trust Building in Providence, Rhode Island — with an airship docking station! (Providence Journal)

In tech news, the downside of technology and the city is the loss of surprise — Design Observer highlights the creeping marketing angle of augmented reality (Part 1 and Part 2), while the Times speaks of it in the death of the cyberflâneur…they’re intertwined but on opposite sides.

Two sides of trash — Hong Kong considers a “pay as you throw” system for garbage, but how can it calculate for apartments? (Atlantic Cities) and the gripping new book “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” on Mumbai’s Annawadi slum and the wider world of the perils of globalization (NYT).


Abu Dhabi: Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Park?, Urban Street Design Manual, Beit Beirut Videos

IN DUBAI…the city’s reinvention in the wake of the recession is a running theme on Urban Fabric, and Brownbook profiles the potential greening of Dubai’s massive 14-lane Sheikh Zayed Road. Design firm Portland producing ambitious plans to bury it (like Boston’s Big Dig) then elevate the streets and use parks to knit together the east and west sides (Brownbook Magazine).

English design firm Portland's ideas for "greening" Dubai's Sheikh Zayed Road -- by turning it into a park! / Image via Brownbook Magazine.

Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Commission released the first-ever? Urban Street Design Manual. Lots of good points — giving streets a 12 percent “road diet,” eliminating illegal parking, widening sidewalks and including tree shading. Their first prototype is the Corniche (not clear where, exactly). Have you noticed differences? (Gulf News Article and Video)

The Masdar Institute has a new video on the evolution of Abu Dhabi over the past 25 years, using aerial maps (UAE Interact).

Speaking of mapping, the city (curiously not the UPC) is using GIS technology to give developers and homeowners in-depth details on plots of land (Khaleej Times). But the UPC does have new sign regulations, plus more on gas ventilation and air conditioning units, to improve the safety and beautification of the city (AME Info).

ZonesCorp is working on a new Auto City in Mussafah, planned for completion in 2020 (Gulf News). Design firm Parsons won an award for its cross-cultural business relations in Abu Dhabi, they’ve done a lot of transit work like the Dubai Metro and Khalifa Bridge (Business Intelligence Middle East).

Abu Dhabi and Japan are forging an economic partnership (Emirates News Agency). NYU AD received a record-setting nearly 2,500 applicants for only 150 spots at the downtown Abu Dhabi campus (NYU AD: Salaam).

Elsewhere in the region…
Brownbook also has stories on Turkish firm Supercool using GIS mapping to improve Istanbul; Morocco’s Ecological Architecture and Systems of Tomorrow firm using sustainable architecture; Abu Dhabi’s organic farmers market; the gradual disappearance of Tehran, Iran’s historic neighborhood of Tajrish; and the growing Arab community of western Sydney, Australia.

At the Egyptian Coffee Shop, many of the customers are Egyptian; others are from Yemen, Algeria, Syria, and Morocco. And some are New Yorkers seeking an authentic hookah experience. / Image via NYT.

Lebanese newspaper Orient Le Jour has a great four-part video series from on the slow reconstruction of Beit Beirut, the beautiful and beleaguered Art Deco mansion that’s slated to become the city museum. (In English, subtitled in French.)
Part 1: A Unique Architecture
Part 2: The Happy Life
Part 3: In the Time of Snipers
Part 4: The Future of the “Yellow House”

Indian photojournalist Pablo Bartholomew revisits Mumbai of the 1970s-80s with his father’s archive mixed with his own photos in “Chronicles of a Past Life” (NYT India Ink). More detailed plans for Baku’s kilometer-high Azerbaijan Tower and related artificial islands (Atlantic Cities). Finally, take a trip to what may be the U.S.’ oldest hookah shop, the Egyptian Coffee Shop in Astoria, Queens in New York City (NYT).