How will automation free up or re-apportion the footprint of mobility in cities? How will streets, markets, and parks be squeezed or expanded? Will Euclidean zoning be extended to separate human and automated uses, or will they be comingled?

Asphalt to Architecture

Reclaiming the right-of-way to stitch cites back together

By Tristan Snyder

The act of driving was one of the defining features of the American experience through the 20th and early 21st centuries. An automobile, guided by the lone individual was, at its best, a liberating thrill of possibility as one exercised pure freedom going 90 miles an hour down the interstate, and, at its worst, a loud, “f*** you”, screamed at the moron causing a traffic jam. The year 2050 is defined by a much different experience…

Instead of worrying about the traffic on the way to work, you enjoy an espresso while reading the morning news about the last glacier melting. The vehicle that was once a metaphor for your life, in which you spent a disturbing portion of your time yelling at complete strangers (sometimes the accidental family friend), is now your publicly owned chauffeur. Today the six seater City Car glides through the streets picking up your commuting neighbors for their daily office job. Stops are fewer, the ride is smoother, and it’s a whole lot easier on the pocketbook.

In this scenario for 2050 many things have changed. The ownership of private vehicles has slowly shifted to a model of publicly shared autonomous transit. This has enabled cities to cut the vehicle right-of-way by nearly 70%, resulting in swathes of new publicly owned land whose use may transform cities. The once dangerous, hot, uncrossable asphalt can now be used to ease urban crises across the world. How we decide to program this regained public space is now the largest question facing architects, developers, and urban planners. Using Chicago as a case study, Asphalt to Architecture is an exploration of this possible future.

Sitting Pretty

Combining parks and AV charging, cleaning, and maintenance

By Da Eun Lee

As automotive fleets in cities shift to autonomously operated, electrically powered vehicles over the coming decades, new mobility services are likely to expand the examples already created by present ride sharing services, which have grown enormously in the last few years. The user experience will change, as shared rides become the norm, and this is likely to reduce the number of vehicles on the road. This shifting trend of transportation, enabled by technology development, will also pose significant questions for cities: though fewer in number, where will these new fleets be  parked, charged, and maintained? Will these “black box” parking and maintenance facilities be pushed to the edge of the city, creating urban dead spots in the neighborhoods of the least successful NIMBY, or will cities find a way to integrate this infrastructure more sensitively throughout the urban realm?

The importance of mobility means that in an AVs future a significant amount of area will be conceded to service/maintenance of some kind. The question is, how future-proof will these new types of spaces be? Throughout history new building types—public baths, woodcut printing studios, telephone central offices—have emerged, played a critical role, and then disappeared when no longer necessary. Can the infrastructure needed for AVs be accommodated in cities in a way that does not leave blight when they too eventually become obsolete?

Might it be possible for AV infrastructure and human needs in cities, like access to green space, to be provided for in an integrated manner? Urban parks already contain water, electricity, and open space. What if parks also contained parking? Parking Opportunities explores this idea by reimagining an existing park in Seattle. While interacting with surrounding conditions of the neighborhood, this project accommodates human use and AV maintenance in one space, demonstrating the possibility of bringing AVs into the city in a way that’s positive for mobility and urban needs alike.

Food Moves

Using automated street vendors kiosks to strike a harmonious balance in Hangzhou

By Beiyi Ma

In the UK, people greet each other by talking about the weather while in China the greeting is more likely to be ‘Have you eaten?’ The food market is central to everyday life in China and people go there every day, if not more frequently.

Markets are constantly adapting to the social and political reality of their time. In 1956, when markets were owned by the government, people went to designated spaces to shop. Then economic policy opened management rights to the public. At the same time, urbanization sped up with an influx of workers migrating from China’s rural areas to its cities. They sold food and groceries as street vendors to quickly make a living and gradually formed the most popular food markets at that time because of their locations near residential buildings and the convenience they brought to citizens. But this period of rapid urbanization also resulted in chaotic situations in Chinese cities. The subsequent Civilized City Campaign set detailed urban regulations for a clean and healthy living environment. New cities follow these regulations easily, but older markets have a hard time adapting and some cities simply  prohibit street vendors altogether or gather them in designated spaces. This solves problems on the surface but at the cost of inconvenience to residents and impaired business opportunities for the rural migrants who rely on food markets as a critical source of employment and opportunity.

FOOD MOVES explores the way that autonomous mobility can transform a food market in Hangzhou as a way of studying the potential for new forms of mobility to improve life in Chinese cities. The project imagines a new facility created by the local government.  Business owners are provided with standardized market stalls that are realized as autonomously mobile units, allowing for centralized management. So those market stalls are able to serve people in the market and then relocate for parts of the day into the neighborhood. Crowded with people and still experiencing an increasing number of migrants each year, Hangzhou is in need of new ideas that maintain the vitality of the market, while improving the urban experience throughout the neighborhood. Housing is also a concern, which invites the possibility of a new market that can add density to the neighborhood by accommodating additional programs above.

FOOD MOVES takes the Civilized City Campaign as a given and reimagines it through the lens of new technological assumptions, proposing a hybrid market space that contributes to  a harmonious neighborhood environment.