In most countries, the design of manhole covers is scarcely given a second thought other than the basics of material and a generic pattern resulting in drab metal circles with a purely utilitarian function. But after World War II, city planners in Japan proposed the idea of allowing each local municipality to design their own manhole cover as part of an effort to raise awareness for costly sewage projects. Designs would reflect local industry, culture, and history. The result was a huge success, and now over 19,000 manhole cover designs can be found embedded across 95% of all municipalities in Japan.
John Daub from ONLY in Japan recently visited the Nagashima Imono Casting Factory to see how the manhole covers are designed and built. He also stopped by an annual gathering of enthusiasts called the Manhole Summit that began in 2014, and learned about a new deck of Japanese Manhole Trading Cards.
In the Northeast suburbs of central Osaka stands a curious train station unlike any other. Kayashima Station features a rectangular hole cut into the roof of the elevated platform and, from inside, a giant tree pokes its head out like a stalk of broccoli. It’s almost like a railway version of Laputa.
The large camphor tree is older than most records but officials believe it to be around 700 years old. The story of how this tree and station became, quite literally, intertwined, varies depending on who you ask. It certainly has to do with a great reverence for nature, but also a fair amount of superstition.
Kayashima Station first opened in 1910 and, at the time, the camphor tree stood right next to the station. For the next 60 years the station remained largely unchanged. But an increase in population and overcrowding began to put pressure on the station and plans for an expansion where approved in 1972, which called for the tree to be cut down.
But the camphor tree had long been associated with a local shrine and deity. And when locals found out that station officials planned to remove the tree there was a large uproar. Tales began to emerge about the tree being angry, and unfortunate events befalling anyone who attempted to cut it down. Someone who cut a branch off later in the day developed a high fever. A white snake was spotted, wrapped around the tree. Some even saw smoke arise from the tree (it was probably just a swarm of bugs).
And so, the station officials eventually agreed to keep the tree and incorporate it into the new elevated platform’s design. In 1973 construction began and the new station was completed in 1980. The station even surrounded the base of the tree with a small shrine. To this day, the tree still stands thanks to a strong, local community and a little bit of superstition. (syndicated from Spoon & Tamago)
Seeking to make bike paths safer and more accessible in the evening and night hours, urban planners in Lidzbark Warminski, Poland just unveiled a new glow-in-the-dark bike lane. The path is made from small crystal-like particles of phosphor called ‘luminophores’ that charge during sunlight hours and can glow for up to 10 hours. The lane was built by TPA Instytut Badań Technicznych Sp. z o.o who were partially inspired by Studio Roosegaarde’s stunning solar-powered bike path in the Netherlands mentioned here in 2014. Unlike the Netherland’s concept which uses solar-powered LEDs, this new path in Poland requires no external power source. The design is currently being tested to see how it withstands regular wear and tear. You can read more over on Inhabitat.
Recently constructed by Benthem Crouwel, this expansive new pedestrian and cycling tunnel in Amsterdam features a fantastic tile mural depicting a fleet of ships in rough seas. The 361-foot path called the Cuyperspassage connects the city center to the IJ waterfront and sees some 15,000 commuters daily.
The darker cycling lane incorporates sound-absorbing asphalt and steel grates, while the pedestrian side is almost completely wrapped in a mural of 80,000 delft blue tiles. The artwork was designed by artist Irma Boom, heavily inspired by the work of Dutch tile artist Cornelis Boumeester. The two lanes are further delineated by LEDs to create a safe multi-function corridor with minimal barriers. From Benthem Crouwel:
Along the footpath wall is a tile tableau designed by Irma Boom Office. The design steps off from a restored work by the Rotterdam tile painter Cornelis Boumeester (1652-1733). His tile panel depicting the Warship Rotterdam and the Herring Fleet is in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Irma Boom replaced the original crest on the stern with the Amsterdam coat of arms. The cyclist or pedestrian leaves the old historic part of Amsterdam through Cuyperspassage and heads towards ‘new Amsterdam’ in the north, or vice versa. The tableau fades away towards the IJ-river, the lines of the original work gradually dissolving. Then it builds up again in an abstract form from light to dark blue, as if encouraging cyclists to slow down as the ferry comes into view.
AllesWirdGut Architektur have converted an abandoned steel mill into a sleek public park, leaving many of the old structural remnants in place. The bi-level tunnel bench is especially brilliant. See much more here. (via subtilitas)