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The dream of turning Brazil's empty World Cup stadiums into housing

The dream of turning Brazil's empty World Cup stadiums into housing

Posted by Laura Zúñiga on July 28, 2014

Our best city stories this week imagine Brazil's World Cup stadiums transformed into housing complexes, explore Chinese urbanism in Africa and take a look at innovative street furniture in Vancouver.

We'd love to hear your responses to these stories and any others you've read recently, both at Guardian Cities and elsewhere: share your thoughts in the comments below.

Home field

The 2014 World Cup is over. But what future do all those shiny new Brazilian stadiums have? Of the 12 that were built or renovated for the World Cup, CityLab reports that four will likely struggle to attract the crowds needed to support their massive upkeep costs.

Casa Futebol, an architectural proposal from 1 Week 1 Project, suggests converting the stadiums into housing complexes, while leaving the fields empty for occasional football games. Affordability, fire safety and outright feasibility are all restrictive issues, however. Sometimes dismissed as “whimsical”, creative solutions like this are necessary to address Brazil's severe housing shortage, especially for the low-income communities who were displaced by the stadiums in the first place.

Chinese urbanism ... in Africa

China is well-known for its rapid urban development projects, but these efforts are not simply focused inside its borders – Chinese urbanism is being exported to Africa. Metropolis explains that while Chinese developments may offer vital housing and infrastructure quickly in growing African cities, they present both social and economic problems. Many developments do not relate to the local context, the article argues, including the Great Wall Apartments in Nairobi that "look exactly like housing units found across China". Furthermore, Chinese companies are often able to undercut African competitors, resulting in a loss of local jobs and businesses.

Furniture for the homeless

A new project in Vancouver is providing multi-functional street furniture that serves as sleeping places for the homeless, including benches that transform into temporary rain shelters. There has been much discussion lately about tactics such as “anti-homeless” spikes and other defensive urban architecture that deters perceived undesirable behaviour in cities. “The campaign shows that a city can be more open and hospitable to the homeless,” Pop-Up City reports – though the project is currently running only for one month.

Street or road: what's the difference?

Drive, boulevard, avenue, close, crescent ... ever thought about why exactly we have so many names for what are essentially all city streets, and whether they actually mean anything? has, and has gone to the trouble of building an interactive map that reveals how Toronto is organised by road type (broadly speaking, streets and roads are arteries and avenues are veins, though there is plenty of discrepancy). The resulting pattern is a reflection of Toronto's urban planning history, and there's a similar one for Vancouver here.

Blowing away Mexico's pollution

Mexico City is another city that underwent exponential growth in the second half of the 20th century; it is now home to approximately 20 million people. With this growth came one of the city's most defining issues: pollution. In uncube magazine, Tatiana Bilbao describes the range of ideas that have emerged over the years to solve the city's pollution problem, from a programme curbing car use and relocation of industry to the installation of giant ventilators to blow the polluted air away from the valley. “It will take a very big wind to blow all its problems away,” Bilbao writes of her city, “and maybe wind is simply not enough.”

The piece is illustrated with a gallery of aerial photographs showing the huge scale of the city, and the rest of the magazine beautifully explores the architecture and urban life of Mexico's capital.

Tokyo's "water stress"

Tokyo is the largest “water-stressed” city in the word, according to the Nature Conservancy. The findings, reported by Fast Co Exist, show that one out of every four cities in the world has a stressed water supply, often exacerbated by rapid urbanisation. “Tokyo is a wealthy city with a well-run water system, but there's not a lot of room to deal with drought,” the article explains. “The next step for Tokyo, if water stress becomes too large of a problem, would likely be to build costly desalination plants that can turn sea water into drinking water.”

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