Tuesday, 19 June 2012

More interesting things from Japan

Automatic chain barriers to parking lots
Ok, I admit they aren't a necessity, but these chain barriers are pretty neat. When a car comes out of the parking lot, it triggers the automatic dropping of the chain down to the ground so the car can exit; then the chain is raised again in this cool gate-post structure. Good thinking!

Challenges to obesity
Again, England could take a clue from Japan. There, waist measurement rather than BMI is paramount. Unfortunately, the single measures they apply to men and women (separately) take no account of body height and bone structure. You can lose your job if your waist doesn't meet the required measurement. To help out people losing weight, not only are commuters encouraged to take the stairs instead of the escalators/ lifts, but how many calories you will burn by doing so are stated in some stations (here -2.0kcal on the "subway diet"). At least these signs make you think and remember so you can make a choice to walk instead of stand like an automaton.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Paris CDG Terminal 2E architecture

It seems to be a obsession. I am documenting the new airports of the world...

Here is the 2E K-gates terminal building at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Another beautiful use of wood in the interior, like Madrid. Moreover, the terminal floor is encapsulated in the oval tunnel, which wraps itself around the floor as it extends to the lower jetway. Really beautiful, innovative architecture – though now a few years old. The wooden ceiling of the boxy security area is frayed and not so attractive.

It is unclear which part of terminal 2E collapsed in 2004, but if the K-gates departure area is new, it dates to 2008, otherwise 2003. There is a nice YouTube offering of the 2E E-gates which look substantially like the K-gates area (I have never experienced such a confusing nomenclature of terminals and gates as at CDG).

To the left is the roof over the jetty, and below you can see how it curves around down under the jetty to meet the ramp to the jetway.

Despite the collapse, the building maintains its curved structure without any internal supports. Apparently it wasn't the architectural design that was at fault but material defects, which I hope have been corrected. A shame if it is rebuilt in a boxy style, like the Kansai International Airport (KIX). Soaring spaces, yes, but all rectangles, steel and glass. No soft woods, soft lines that really sooth when travelling.

Friday, 15 June 2012

FOUR things England should borrow from Japan

1. Lowered passenger-side windows on trucks/lorries
In Japan as well as England, bicyclists risk getting squashed by trucks turning left. Back in the 1970s there was such an uproar about housewives getting killed while going shopping on their bikes that the government mandated that the windows on the passenger side of trucks had to be lowered so drivers could see the bicyclists alongside them. Here, 35 years later, Brits are catching on that lorry-caused bicyclist deaths are unacceptable; there are thus a few lowered windows around but they are not mandated...

2. Fully descriptive station signs
Note this subway sign has the name of the station as well as the previous and next stations, with an arrow pointing in the direction the train is going. Below in orange is the name of the major commercial area in front of the station. Note also the green circles; these are colour coded to the train line, the colour appearing on the train itself as well as on train-line maps, and here the stations are numbered, so even if you cannot read the station name, you know where your stop is if you can count.
    I pity the poor tourists coming in for the Olympics (or any time) dealing with the London tube network. Not only are most of the trains unidentified on the sides of the trains as to which line it is, the lines are not identified in the digital signs showing arrivals. I don't know how many times I have been asked to differentiate the Circle, Hammersmith&City, and Metropolitan from the digital signs showing destinations. Why should anyone know or care where the train is going (unless one is interested in that stop) – what is vital is the name of the line and what the next stop is.

3. Men's toilets with baby-changing facilities
Back in the 1980s, at the height of the bubble, young Japanese men began deserting the Salaryman route to a career in droves. They valued family time more than 12-14 hour days in the office. These 'new men' have infiltrated Japanese society now to the extent that men's public toilets are beginning to appear with baby-changing facilities. Now, when do you think these will ever become popular in England??

4. Subway track shields
Japan has a high rate of suicide, with many choosing to throw themselves in front of a train. The subways are now being equipped with barriers on the platforms, so that people do not have access to the tracks very easily. London could use some of these, to keep people from falling, being pushed or jumping in front of tube trains. Note that the barrier doors open exactly in the same spots as the train doors, and arrows in front of them mark where people should queue to get on. Standing directly in front of the opening doors is therefore discouraged. London could use some of these, too.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

More Hanging Gardens, this time in Madrid!

In Madrid near the Prado Museum we saw this enormous hanging wall garden. Given how much biomass one often removes seasonally from one's own horizontal garden, this stuff must weigh a ton. It seemed to be growing in a wall of fiberglass with little pockets for the plants. Irrigating it all must also have been a challenge.
Hanging wall garden on 6-story building, Paseo del Prado, Madrid

Compare with my previous photos of wall gardens in London at:

Edwardian experience in Edgware Road station

Sunday brunch at St Ali

And as for the latter, I had to make a special trip to St Ali just for coffee (great coffee!) a few days after my return from Spain, I missed strong Spanish coffee so much...

Saturday, 2 June 2012

LHR Terminal 5 & Madrid

Last time I travelled, I commented on the new tray delivery system at Heathrow's Terminal 5 security (in gleeb goes to Toronto). This time I got a picture of them; follow the arrows to get your trays from underneath the conveyor belt. We wondered last time how they turn the corner at the other end of security and travel back without turning upside down; we also wondered whether they might begin their return journey before you got all your things out of them. Mysteries solved: an operator manually pushes a lever which depresses the end shelf each tray going through security ends up on, and as the shelf dips down, the tray is delivered to the lower conveyor belt which takes it back to the starting point, underneath where you begin to load them.
New tray delivery system at Heathrow Terminal 5, London

New Madrid terminal, Spain
Flying from Heathrow Terminal 5, we entered an equally stunning new terminal in Madrid. While T5 is all white, the Madrid terminal is orange and natural wood. Very nice indeed. Except we spent far too much time there as our flight was delayed, meaning we missed our connecting flight to Seville, spent several hours in the terminal trying to arrange alternatives, and then had to stay overnight in Madrid, of course at Iberia's expense. Don't expect very friendly service from Iberia staff if you have to travel with them...