Perimeter City 238

Project: Perimeter City 238
Location: Lincoln, NE
Designer: Andrew Ferentinos
Year: 2012
Program:  Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Faculty Advisors: Alan Berger, Alexander D’Hooghe

Project Description: Even though the U.S. metropolitan area population is an expanding suburbia, most research on cities is focused on high density, compact urban areas. Metropolitan horizontal scale has largely been neglected even though it is likely to remain the model for many years to come. Lincoln, Nebraska is taken as a model to research innovative models of suburbanization that can be applied to other U.S. cities.

The issues Lincoln face are common to many cities. Majority of inhabitants share the suburban desire to have both city and country at their fingertips. Unfortunately, under the status quo of concentric-ringed expansion, the peri-urban edge—the interface where countryside and city meet—is constantly unstable and fleeting. It is only a matter of time until the edge is consumed by expansion, turning it into a massively thick, low value middle ground, neither city nor country. Agricultural land is constantly consumed, pushing food sources further from their demand.

PERIMETER CITY 238 provides an alternative. It accommodates a doubling population—an increase of 250,000 people by 2050—into a plan that achieves three main goals. It stabilizes, protects, and maximizes the highly sought after peri-urban edge. It distributes a network of relatively higher density urban nodes easily accessible to the low/mid density peri-urban edge. It minimizes and eliminates low value, unwanted middle ground.    

This plan is achieved by using infrastructure to focus growth into eleven new linear cities, or Fingers, that link Lincoln’s satellite towns to the existing city. The result is a new asterisk shaped city that maximizes perimeter and radically increases contact between city and agricultural land from 107 to 228 linear miles. This plan maintains Lincoln’s scale and character as a mid/low-density city, and ensures the continued presence of the agriculture, industry, and prairie landscapes that define its origins and productive future.

Finger-Structure:  The particulars of local topography serve as an organizing principle for the plan. Each of the Fingers, roughly 7 miles long by 1.5 miles wide, contain a population of roughly 25,000. These linear footprints are aligned roughly along ridgelines, leaving lowlands and floodplains to the areas in-between serving as agricultural and prairie habitat.

Transportation: A new continuous parkway, the Cornbelt, traces the outer edges of all eleven Fingers, clearly defining the boundary between city and countryside. An Interior Belt marks the threshold between Lincoln’s existing urban fabric and the new finger extensions. Another highway, the Ring Road, runs perpendicularly across the center of each finger and provides a cross connection between each Finger.

Nodes: Three types of architectural and landscape interventions organize the structure of the Fingers. First, within each Finger, a centrally located Civic Node acts as a growth magnet and center of economics, commerce, entertainment, culture, and civic space.  Second, Water reservoirs and constructed wetlands are located at the junctions between each Finger. This helps block suburban expansion into farmland. It will comprise a significant element of the future city’s water infrastructure, improving regional water quality as well as providing wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities. Third, land that is excavated in the process is used as fill to raise the elevations of the terminal ends of each Finger. Upon these terminal mounds, ethanol plants and Waste-to-energy facilities are located.

Open Space:  Each linear city will have a network of linked open spaces and natural areas that preserve features such as floodplains and forest while connecting existing parklands. A Constructed Central Park culminates at each finger’s Civic Node. Ringed with higher-density housing, this park accommodates a variety of public activities. The large areas of land lying beyond each finger will be preserved as a mix of productive farmland and prairie, maintained as a publicly accessible landscape preserve.

PatchWork, Living City Design Competition

Project: PatchWork, Living City Design Competition
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Firm: OLIN
Year: 2011
Firm Website:

Project Description: OLIN’s award-winning submission to the Living City Design Competition responded to ambitious standards of sustainable development within the historically rich, yet socially and ecologically underserved neighborhoods of Brewerytown and North Central in Philadelphia. Working closely with the architects and urban planners Digsau and Interface Studio, the OLIN team explored how sustainable design can be implemented within an existing urban framework by utilizing local resources, community engagement, and respect for vernacular culture and architecture.

Using an “evolving block” strategy, the team phased incremental and achievable improvements over a span of twenty-five years. To meet 100% on-site renewable energy for thousands of households, homes are retrofitted with façades of photovoltaic panels, and the commercial spine along Ridge Avenue is shaded with canopies that collect solar power. Vacant parcels punctuating blocks of row homes transform into a pedestrian-friendly network of green spaces populated by play areas, community gardens, and urban farms. Existing row homes are either retrofitted, renovated, or replaced. Structural materials deemed necessary for demolition are salvaged for reuse elsewhere in the neighborhoods, thereby supplying over thirty million bricks and three million square feet of wood for building new homes.

Rain gardens and roof cisterns combine with district-level “living machine” water treatment centers located along the green space network. This integrated system reduces the neighborhoods’ per capita potable water consumption from 69.3 gallons per day (the amount used by an average American) to 9.2 gallons, and eases demand on the city’s aging and over-burdened combined stormwater and sewer system. The long-abandoned Red Bell Brewery is refurbished, creating local jobs and opportunities for locavore farming. This measure contributes to the goal of meeting 80% of the district’s food needs within a 500-mile radius.

Image Credits: The Olin Studio.

Project Team Members: DIGSAU, Interface Studio


Tokyo Bay: Motion Registration

Project: Motion Registration
Location: Tokyo Bay, Japan
Designer: Amy Magida
Year: 2009
Program: University of Pennsylvania School of Design
Faculty Advisors: Nanako Umemoto, Neil Cook

Project description: The region surrounding Tokyo Bay is in the midst of a major transition. Its industrial power plants, factories, and manufacturing facilities are transforming into residential housing and places of leisure and recreation. Reflecting these changes, while some populations in the area are shrinking, others are growing and creating an unprecedented demand for power. Tokyo Bay’s currents hold the potential to generate the energy needed to sustain this new population growth. This proposal seeks to harness the bay’s tidal energy through a flexible structure that can expand or contract to meet future energy demands. Located in the most dynamic portion of the bay where navy ports, housing, and national parks mark the bay’s southern threshold, the system is engineered to support itself, as well as new development on top of it. As it registers motion and growth, the structure reflects the kinetic qualities of the bay and sustains each new community with clean, renewable energy.

The Culture Now Project: Empower The Periphery

Project: The Culture Now Project: Empower the Periphery
Location: Tucson, AZ
Designer: Grady Gillies
Year: 2011
Program: University of California, Los Angeles
Faculty Advisors: Thom Mayne, Karen Lohrmann

Project Description: Through an integrated system of power generation, Tucson’s vacant lots harness solar power for technical and cultural transformation.

TUCSON IS GROWING. A city of expansive growth since its inception in 1853, Tucson’s landscape has been a coveted since the annexation of Mexican territory to more recent population surges seeking the increasingly elusive American Dream. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Tucson and its regional population surpasses one million residents as Americans flock to the Sun Belt.

POSITIVE GROWTH CAN HAVE NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES. Restricted only by geography and the reach of its infrastructure, Tucson is expanding at a pace quicker than strategies can be planned or implemented. The city’s constant expansion challenges not only the control of sprawl, but the regulation of its natural resources.

THE CITY HAS REACHED ITS BREAKING POINT. The suburban expectation of the American Dream has been replaced by the homogenous urban sprawl. Plentiful land, inexpensive energy, and the “pursuit of happiness” have promoted an unsustainable lifestyle and a city. Power, linked both to environmental exploitation and human development, remains a consumed commodity instead of a produced asset.

THE DELIVERY METHOD MUST CHANGE. The next American Dream will require power and energy. If a city’s power supply is reformulated as an integrated and performative component of its fabric, this transformation is possible. In a territory that receives 350 days of sun per year, solar harvesting provides this potential.

EMPOWER THE PERIPHERY. As a new productive surface within the urban landscape, Tucson can generate a reimagined American Dream where community health transcends individual wealth. The installation of solar canopies within existing city voids can create secondary social spaces and a new cultural identity. Tucson will become not only energy neutral, but a catalyst for innovation and transformation.

Project Background: This project is one of eight proposals presented under the 2010-2011 UCLA MArch II Suprastudio. From August 2010 to June 2011, Thom Mayne, Design Director of Morphosis, Karen Lohrmann, and a group of advisors have been leading fourteen post graduate architecture and urban design graduate students in an inquiry about the dynamics of culture now. The project is going forward next year to include thirteen other universities with the hope of creating an extensive discussion about contemporary culture and the nature of American cities. Additional work and information is available for download on the suprastudio website.

Image Captions:
Image 1: City Analysis: Observing the Geography, city image, cultural climate, and local leadership a strange network of possibilities is formed.
Image 2: City Timeline: Population growth is not sustained with water and energy resources.
Image 3: Explosive growth: Many people relocating to Tucson in search of cheaper lifestyle, work, land, or weather.
Image 4: Map of Tucson 2010:
Image 5: Solar Potential: The southwest could power the rest of the United States with solar energy.
Image 6: Secondary Programs: A varied use of program could occur at the base of each heliostat reflector
Image 7: Commerce corridor: Heliostat reflectors provide shade in a region that needs it.
Image 8: City Image: Helios