From bus stops to phone booths to canals to old viaducts, creative companies and individuals have been proposing and piloting brand new ways to breathe life into our existing urban infrastructure.
Swedish energy company Umea Energi installed phototherapy lamps at 30 bus stops throughout the city of Umea, as part of a pilot program designed to give people “a little energy kick” while waiting for the bus.
With the days short and the nights long in this northern European city, the lamps aim to give residents the warm glow of summer. The type of light used has been proven as a medical treatment for seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and is also being explored as a treatment for other types of depression.
In New York, meanwhile, as in most major cities around the world, payphones are a dying breed. Cisco Systems and City 24/7 are therefore transforming these endangered species into 32-inch touch-screen information kiosks, called Smart Screens.
The screens are wired with Internet access and provide information on events and activities in the city. They are free to access and generate revenue via local advertising. People can use the tablets to get information on local restaurants, nearby stores, tourist attractions, and traffic updates.
"This information is displayed on durable yet easy-to-use Smart Screens that replace unused and often outdated public furniture such as pay phones located at bus stops, train stations, major entryways, shopping malls, and sports facilities," Cisco wrote in a statement.
This is hardly New York City's only innovative use of obsolete telecommunications infrastructure. City officials have also tested a pilot program to transform payphones into free unlimited Wi-Fi kiosks.
Phone booths are getting a makeover in Vienna as well. The Telekom Austria Group has been trialling a prototype of a telephone booth with an integrated electric vehicle charging station.
Fledgling design practice Y/N Studio, on the other hand, has proposed an idea to transform a stretch of London’s canal system into a swimmable commuting route.
The LidoLine would take the form of a clean "basin" inserted into the canal, allowing commuters to swim in safety alongside boats, separated by a three-layer membrane that would filter the water.
The system is currently being pioneered by the Plus Pool with a proposal to create a public swimming pool in New York's Hudson River.
In the winter months, a thin gauze is inserted into the water, reducing its depth and allowing it to freeze, thus forming a high-speed ice-skating link.
The LidoLine was runner-up in an ideas competition organised by the Landscape Institute. The final winner was Pop Down by Fletcher Priest architects, which proposes turning the disused Mail Rail tunnel under Oxford Street into an urban mushroom garden.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin's Marsupial Bridge, a pedestrian walkway that weaves through the existing viaduct structure that was originally engineered to support trolley cars, is being transformed to respond to the changing transportation needs of the city by increasing pedestrian and bicycle connections.
The undulating concrete deck is a "green highway" that activates the unused space beneath the viaduct, encourages alternative forms of transportation, and provides enhanced urban connections.