Saturday, September 15, 2012

rush hour in Malmo

rush hour in Malmo is like rush hour anywhere else; many people have completed a hard days work and are excited to get home to see their families, loved ones, eat a nice meal, maybe even sit like a vegetable in front of the television watching the evening news or another in the endless stream of reality tv shows.

Malmo, like most other cities, has a city center, other popular destinations for business and social life, and shops, restaurants, and bars downtown.  there are tourist attractions (although the town itself is not specifically touristy) such as city squares, churches, a cathedral, old buildings, a giant park, a beautiful library, and much more.  the city bustles with activity in these downtown areas throughout the day, and in certain areas, throughout the evening.

like most cities, these central and downtown areas are higher rent and typically geared toward wealthier people or visitors.  a vast majority of the people who work or spend time in the heart of the city live somewhere else, somewhere further afield in the city or even in the suburbs.  Boston, with approximately 600,000 people in the city proper, receives about 300,000 commuters each day.  Malmo is much the same.  about 60,000 people commute into the city of 300,000 people and another 30,000 commute out (most commonly to Copenhagen over the Oresund Bridge via train).  as one would expect, the commuters take typical means to get into and out of the city, including buses, cars, and trains.

there is no metro in Malmo as there is in a larger city such as Boston or Copenhagen, but what Malmo does have moreso than either of those much larger cities is bike lanes.  the dedicated bike lanes are everywhere throughout the city center and into the suburbs.  I have never (even in Copenhagen) seen so many well constructed, thoughtful, easily navigable, dedicated bikes lanes.  so the other night around 17.30 I stopped at an intersection to the south of the city center and filmed a couple of minutes of rush hour.
the traffic signals seemed to be on about a 1:15 cycle alternating between perpendicular (the minor street) and parallel (the major street).  I stood on a corner in front of a subway (restaurant) and filmed for one light cycle at a time.  these videos represent what I would call a typical, fair weather, rush hour, light cycle at a populated/ popular intersection.

Friday, September 14, 2012

there's no such thing as a utopia, even here in Sweden

so there aren't any pictures to go along with this post, it is simply an observation that I think means something for all of us, regardless of whether we are designing or building or investing or creating.  this is about the fundamentals of being human, of sharing a space on this earth together, and about breathing the same air.  I have, and always will, abide by the "we're all in this together" philosophy about pretty much everything from sports to work to politics.  I think everyone on this planet should live with a little or a lot of that philosophy...

I was performing my evening "ride around and look for pickup soccer games" routine the other night when I arrived to a neighborhood park (the neighborhood is not important here, but I can say that I had been there before and the people were hospitable and that the area is generally perceived, according to local residents, as a less desirable and certainly less affluent location in the city).

I was on the edge of the park, mostly out of the mainstream sight from the kids on the soccer field.  there was a ball sitting about 15 meters off of the field in the sand and there were about 8 kids, ages 6-12 or so sitting in the middle of the field talking.  the kids looked to be persian in descent and seemed to be speaking swedish.  two young black kids, probably about 6-10 years old slowly approached the field from my left as I watched.

the oldest and tallest of the group of kids in the middle of the field jumped up and started yelling loudly at the two boys, who slowly continued approaching the field.  immediately the rest of the kids stood up and began yelling as well.  there were hand motions and more yelling and the group in the middle of the field started to advance toward the boys who were approaching from the side.  the two boys approaching the field slowed drastically, to the point where it was clear as an outside observer that they were no longer going to enter the field itself.  they turned onto an altered course and paralleled the field, aiming to go around it or at least not onto the soccer pitch.

wheels were turning in my head as I started to pedal off.  I got about 50 meters before I slowed, turned a 180, and went back to the field.
"hey kid, can I ask you a question" I said to the tallest boy, who was still near the edge of the field.  "yeah"
what were you all yelling to those two boys?"
"it didn't sound like nothing"
"it was nothing"
"what did you say to them?"
"I told them that my cousin was getting the ball and they didn't need to get it"

I could tell by the look on his face that his story was adjusted to suit my needs and he was hoping I would go away.  I asked again for a third time in a slightly different tack to see if he would tell me what was really going on.  his story evolved a final time, but he never admitted to what I think was happening.  if it weren't for the "hand in the cookie jar" look on his face and the exuberance of he and his friends' yelling, I might have believed him, but I didn't.

at that point I felt that there was little progress to be made, so I simply said to the kid, "I think everyone should be allowed to play in the park and on the soccer field, no matter where they come from"

I pedaled off toward home, feeling slightly better but mostly worse.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

better look at our courtyard in Vastra Hamnen

here's a quick better look at the courtyard in Vastra Hamnen on Riggaregatan.  basically you can see three of the four sides of the courtyard.
courtyard and pergola
east side of the courtyard looking down onto the pergola and public benches.  note the grills under the pergola and the diverse vegetation as well as the simplicity of materials
the bike parking is under the green roof.  the metal cylinder in the courtyard is connected to the food waste to biogas conversion process.  I don't have a definitive answer yet on whether it is where the waste is settling before it is pumped or if it is connected to some kind of fan to keep pressure from building up.  I will keep exploring and get back to you on that.

bike parking in courtyard
a better shot of the green roof bike parking.  it's just a little corrugated metal tray with thin sedum laid down almost like sod.  nothing complicated.  keeping the bikes mostly dry. 
the balconies in this area are all different, but most apartments have balconies and the ones that do not are seen as less desirable.  in fact, supposedly one of the biggest weaknesses of getting a place at the turning torso is that there is no outside to access.  you can only open the windows a tiny bit and you cannot directly access the outside without going down to the base and walking out the front door.

balconies in the courtyard
balconies are all treated somewhat similarly but with plenty of variation in terms of specifics.  most people have a place to sit and a little table, some have indoor and others outdoor funrniture, such as the comfy couches.  some people bring up their bikes and lots of people have plants (one place even has astroturf).

southern side of courtyard
south/ southeast side of the courtyard looking out toward newest construction happening in Vastra Hamnen.  mostly standing seam and green roofs in this direction although you can also see some serious solar thermal on a roof in the distance about two courtyards past this one.
I must say that I do not see as many people spending lots of time in the courtyard as I thought I would.  there are personal grills under the pergola and lots of people walk through to their apartments or to get their bikes, but in general not many people actually set up a picnic or play lawn games.  maybe you don't want to spend lots of time in a place where lots of people are looking down on you?  a little rear window ish?  maybe more people are out in the summer?  there are definitely people out on their balconies all throughout the days and evenings though.
planted vine just starting to grow in courtyard
vine just starting to grow up tension cable, planted below balconies on the western side of courtyard

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

the washer and dryer... I figured it out!

the bathroom in this apartment has baffled me since day one and I am still trying to figure some parts of it out, but each day it makes a little more sense.  the building is "passive" which basically means that there is no heating or cooling in the apartment.  there is a thermostat that you can turn up and it will simply supply you with clean air that has been pre (or re) heated by the heat produced by building inhabitants.  there are no air conditioners, no radiators, no nothing.  just these little things on the wall that spit out clean air and other ones that suck away the dirty air.  more on that as I figure it out.

front load washer and dryer
front load washer (right) and dryer (left) in the apartment
meanwhile, I figured out the washer dryer situation.  the washer is a pretty normal eco front loader, but the dryer had been baffling me for a couple of days.  I had been talking with Tamara about how to use the dryer and she explained that after every use you need to open up a little compartment on the bottom to wring out a filter and empty a little water compartment.

dryer bottom
bottom of dryer
we both agreed that the system adds a little extra work each time you run the dryer and that it was a little annoying.  I could not explain why you'd need to empty water out of the dryer because clearly the washer has a drain so the dryer could too.

fan, filter and water compartment visible after opening front panel at bottom of dryer
after opening the front panel at the bottom of the dryer you can see where the fan operates (on the right) and where the filter can be removed (on the left) as well as the water compartment (bottom)
then it hit me.  its so simple I don't know why I didn't figure it out immediately.  you need to wring out the filter and empty the water compartment because there is no vent for the dryer.  whatever water is taken from the air inside the dryer has to go somewhere, so they suck it through a filter and deposit it into a compartment at the bottom.  because the apartment is passive and the heat created by the inhabitants is reused, they don't want to waste all of that heat venting outside so they vent inside.  in fact, the bathroom actually heats up during the dryer cycle because it is venting into the room!
filter for dryer in apartment in Vastra Hamnen
filter (top left, grey) slides out after the cover (bottom right, grey) that holds it in place is removed
so simple.  or so complicated?
dryer internal vent components
water compartment (white, left), filter (grey, middle), and cover plate (grey, right) are the removable pieces of the bottom of the dryer that allow for the dryer to vent directly into the bathroom

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

tub not sealed to the wall...?

dear people (who have stumbled across this blog and mistakenly started reading it, only to find out that I don't use capital letters at the beginning of sentences and I talk mostly about food and beer instead of sustainable design and architecture),

can anyone explain this one to me?  the tub, which stands on four legs but has sides so it looks like a tub set onto (or into) the tiling, is not, in any way, sealed to the wall on either of the two sides that touch up against the tile.  the hot and cold pipes come up between the tub and the tile on the short side, in plain sight, touchable (and conceivably hotter than you'd want to accidentally touch).  when one is taking a shower, water bounces off the body, off the walls, and off the curtain and falls behind the tub on two sides onto the tile floor.

this defies all seventeen years of BAC education.  water is the enemy.  water is violent and dangerous and should be locked up, caged, or otherwise incarcerated.  water is the ruination of all architecture (even Falling Water).  right?

because water is clearly the enemy, we should always seal, finish, control, and ultimately ship water the hell out of anything we build, right?  doesn't water create mold and promote wildlife and destroy the ozone layer?  was I sleeping all through school?  somebody, please explain these pictures.

shower and tub
the tub does not touch the wall on either of the two sides where it could and there is a huge gap where the pipes come up on the short side
corner of tub where tile should (maybe) meet the tub
here's the corner.  you can see a large gap and a small gap and water droplets just relaxing there (because I am taking their picture).  as soon as I leave the room and turn off the light they drift down to the floor...
water collecting under the tub
see, here is the water under the tub on the floor.  that white things is one of the four feet for the tub.
drain for the tub
yes, this is the drain for the tub.  a hole in the tile floor with a pvc pipe going through it.  yes, since you asked, there is water building up all around the hole and I am pretty sure some falls down there to... somewhere.  no I did not test for mold.  I am just assuming that there is mold forming in there somewhere...

Monday, September 10, 2012

skate park!

skate park in Vastra Hamnen
skate park in Vastra Hamnen.  notice the (old) steel shipbuilding cranes in the background
so the government of Malmo asked the people what they wanted as they began further developments in the Western Harbor and all around the city.  a bunch of folks, mostly younger student types, said a skate park.  ask and ye shall receive.  the skate park was built very early on in the development of Vastra Hamnen, long before the building I am staying in was started, maybe 7 years ago or more.
swedish skate park culture
kids on top of the skate park lining up for radness

skate park in Vastra Hamnen
teaching each other new tricks on top of the skate park in Vastra Hamnen

in the background are former submarine construction buildings
cool dude rolling through the skate park.  buildings behind the park (to the east) are now a university and some other businesses and used to be the site where they built submarines.

skate parks are cool
more skate park and skateboarding.  be glad I am only posting these few pics.  I took way too many.  skate parks and skateboarding are cool. 
kids are there at the skate park all the time.  they skate at night.  they skate during the day.  they skate when it's hot and when it's cold.  they even (according to a local source) skate in the winter.  supposedly kids are there plowing snow and breaking ice off the concrete so they can skate.  wow.
skate park in Vastra Hamnen
if somebody drops into the pool, you have to take a picture
besides the skate ramps and swimming pool and all of that, there is an area behind the park that seems to be where the local roller derby girls train.  I didn't stay for too long, but I did notice that the coach (tall blond in the red shorts) was speaking english to the team.
skate park roller derby practice
roller derby practice at the skate park in Vastra Hamnen.  awesome.
oh, yeah, and there's a rock climbing area too.  in my youth I would have shown that guy hanging upside down a thing or two about... probably nothing.  I would have likely fallen on my head.  luckily I couldn't get out there because I wanted to keep my camera safe from... the roller derby girls.

rock climbing in Malmo
rock climbing at the skate park
anyways, this doesn't directly relate except that it is cultural and cool.  and in the background of some of these pictures you can see the old shipbuilding rigging and site.  guess what they build in that big old abandoned warehouse where they used to build giant ships...

yep.  wind turbines.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

energy company builds (8) showcase apartments

imagine this: NSTAR (or NGRID or whichever energy provider) decides to build (8) showcase experimental apartments as one block, each unit utilizing a different source of energy and systems.  the goal: an experiment to see which systems perform better, how each unit interacts with the grid, and to learn valuable lessons about energy use.  it seems unimaginable, implausible, downright crazy.  crazy like a fox.
E.ON, a German based energy provider, builds apartments
E.ON's energy provider experimental apartment complex with 8 units, each utilizing different methods of creating and collecting energy.
E.ON, a German energy company with a strong foothold here in Sweden, has not only proposed the idea, but bought the land and has begun construction on the apartment complex.  on my tour of Vastra Hamnen, Roland points to the building and explains the idea behind it.  "genius" I say.  "yes" he says.  this will provide key data for the energy company as it moves forward with providing energy to many people in Malmo.  this showcase will help support the company's choices as it decides how to provide energy to its consumers and what strategies the consumers can use to be most efficient.  genius.
across from the skate park
E.ON builds 8 showcase experimental apartments in Vastra Hamnen in the Bo04 area across from the skate park