• Devastated by news of the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001, Ben Kacyra directed the laser-scanning technology he’d developed toward the creation and sharing of an archive of minutely detailed 3-D digital renderings of world historical sites. The TED talk below provides a fascinating overview of Kacyra’s ambitious project.
• The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811-2011 opens December 6 at the Museum of the City of New York. This cool slideshow by Atlantic Cities previews some of the evocative maps and streetscapes that will be on view.
• Our recent link to an article about the ever-relevant city theorist Jane Jacobs drew favorable response, so we thought we’d follow up with this recently posted short documentary. It was first aired by Channel 13 in 2006, following Jacobs’s death at the age of 89. Her classic book The Death and Life of Great American Cities was published 50 years ago this month.
• New York City has more than 1,700 parks, but none of them is like this one. The Delancey Underground project seeks to convert a cavernous subterranean trolley terminal on the Lower East Side into public green space with sunlight piped in via fiber-optic technology. “It’s a little perverse, a little like science fiction, but we realized that we have the technology to grow grass and trees underground,” an architect behind the project told the New York Times.
• The Atlantic hosted a forum on sustainable cities in Washington, D.C., last week. The World Resources Institute has takeaways, including a new focus on individual behavior (Gallup is now measuring the “emotional capital” of cities), the twilight of the suburban model, and pressing questions about affluence vs. equality, governments vs. markets.
• The Berlin Lab will focus in large part on giving people the means to build their own solutions. The Open Source Ecology network is up to something similar with its Global Village Construction Set—open-source blueprints for “a life-size Lego set” of modular components that can be assembled into dozens of fundamental machines for building the average small civilization.
• When it comes to the next big thing in building, This Big City says consider the chemistry: newly developed “smart materials” that respond in useful new ways to the environment. Examples include painted surfaces that purify surrounding air, self-repairing concrete and aircraft, and roofs and windows that change color depending on the temperature, the better to retain or deflect heat.
• And speaking of aircraft, here is a remarkable new function that can be found at the Wolfram|Alpha dynamic-computation site. Type in “planes overhead” and you’ll get a list and sky map showing the flights currently crossing your airspace by airline, flight number, type of aircraft, altitude, and lots more info. The constellations are helpfully included at night. I learned about this on Gapers Block, the great web publication out of Chicago (“gapers block” being the Chicago terminology for traffic delays caused by drivers looking at accidents).
* “Whether it knows it or not, the Occupy movement is actually calling for an entirely new kind of public space”: Nate Berg, writing in Atlantic Cities, asks what happens when the public takes an innovative approach to conventionally sanctioned uses of public space. Meanwhile, Xeni Jardin at boingboing.net tells the can-do story of how Occupy Wall Street managed to employ the Verizon Building as a projection screen during a November 17 march across the Brooklyn Bridge.