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Housing & urban design - Feb 25

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Garbage Warrior

When you dig through your recycling bin, you probably don’t see what Michael Reynolds sees. Reynolds is a rebel New Mexico architect, and he sees bricks and mortar in that bin. His dream homes are literally built with beer cans, tires and bottles. In a race against global warming, he has been experimenting passionately with radically sustainable architecture for over 35 years and believes that a house is a self-sustaining natural machine that can be one with the earth.

Reynolds and his devotees are dedicated to the evolution and propagation of what they call “earthships,” dwellings which employ by-products of modern consumption, like tires, as part of the home’s thermal mass-producing foundation. These homes are completely sustainable and provide the right environment to grow everything necessary to live independently. Having first built homes out of beer cans alone, he believes that progress evolves through mistakes-if the government could allow atomic bomb testing in his state, he claims, accommodations should be made for experimental housing. However, the state government did not share his vision until he donned a tie and learned to function within the system.

Oliver Hodge’s GARBAGE WARRIOR takes us along with Reynolds as he sets out to alter the planet’s future one home at a time. An unstoppable force, Reynolds is an innovator with undying passion and tenacity. The driving force behind his mission is the urgency to save the planet and save us from ourselves by literally altering our foundations and the walls that surround us.
(10 October 2008)

Radiant City: Canadian documentary on sprawl

Chris Neilson, DVD Talk
Filmmaker Gary Burns and journalist Jim Brown provide a fresh and darkly-funny critique of suburban sprawl in the Canadian documentary Radiant City. Burns and Brown spice up the standard mix of interviews with experts by adding candid documentary footage of one nuclear family struggling with the trade-offs of suburban living.

The experts enlisted for this documentary include urban planners Marc Boutin, Andrés Duany, Ken Greenberg, and Bev Sandalack, philosophers Joseph Heath and Mark Kingwell, and iconoclast James Howard Kunstler, the author of The Geography of Nowwhere. These experts and a series of animated graphics paint a dreary portrait of suburbia. Kunstler notes "eighty percent of every ever built in North America has been built in the last fifty years. Most of it is brutal, depressing, ugly, unhealthy, and spiritually degrading." The experts also provide frightening prognostications regarding the unsustainability of the suburban landscape after peak oil, a reckoning which appears to be fast approaching.

The assembled experts provide interesting analysis of the problems associated with suburban sprawl, but as philosopher Joseph Heath notes, everybody already knows the critique of suburbia. What makes Radiant City freshly unique and darkly funny is its focus on one suburban household.
(21 February 2008)

Government seeks UK's first 'cycling city'

Dan Milmo, Guardian
The government today launched a £47m quest to establish a British "cycling city" that would get more people on to two wheels, and cut congestion and pollution.

The winning metropolis will join London, which has already announced a £400m cycling and walking programme, in launching a series of initiatives including new cycle routes and training schemes.

Six new "cycling towns" will also be selected to share the £47m fund with the chosen city. Local authorities interested
(21 February 2008)

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