Speck Duany New Urbanism

Reviewed: The Smart Growth Manual

The Smart Growth Manual By: Andres Duany & Jeff Speck with Mike Lydon In One Line: The experience of three planning veterans boiled into a valid list of smart growth concepts that can serve as a primer for new development efforts.  While there has been notable traction in the design community for efforts to retool the […]

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architect sketch street

Calibrating Yards for Building Community

Too often, we find ourselves in new suburban developments that are little more than a watered down model of a historic precedent. With large swaths of sub-divided into saleable parcels, the go-to combination of a windy road, ample lawns and a smattering of colonial reminiscing can get the property off the hands of a developer […]

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demolition stoop urban ruin

Simple Policy Can Discourage Building Reuse

Density plays a key role in the creation of a walkable, pedestrian-oriented, sustainable community. Though there are examples of denser development patterns that are not walkable, it is hard to create walkability without hitting a certain threshold of units per acre, so bolstering the streetscape with new buildings can be important for the sustainable aspirations […]

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Reviewed: Dark Age Ahead

dark-age-aheadDark Age Ahead

By Jane Jacobs

In One Line: Well known for her voice of calm critique, Jacobs examines the necessity several pillars of cultural vibrancy as well as why our failing to maintain them could levy an age of cultural deficiency for modern day North America that compromises defining aspects of who we are.

For those that have read the works of Jane Jacobs, she is not prone to writing about all of the things we are doing extremely well.  Her final literary installment is no different. Jacobs references historic Dark Ages–eras of where large amounts of resilience and cultural capital are lost–and relates them to the present course of Western civilization. The author offers stern words of caution for societies that have grown to think of themselves (ourselves) as beyond the risks of failure or degradation. The book goes on to highlight areas that have already begun to wane in intensity or clarity that have allowed us to migrate away from the path we believe to still be on.   Continue reading

Vacation Doesn’t Need to be From Sustainability

maroma resort beachWhen most of us manage to carve out the time, money and effort required to clock out of the daily grind for a while, the top priority is stepping away from the nagging mundane worries that are waiting for us every morning. Vacation spots excel at helping to push thoughts of the job, the commute, the chores and the bills to the side in deference to an image of luxury, if only to be enjoyed for a short time. Given Gallup’s recent numbers on where the environment sits in the list of priorities for Americans, chances are that sustainability doesn’t rank high on most of our vacation itineraries. Continue reading

Are Communities Born or Made?

trees, sidewalk, people, streetThis was one of the underlying questions within the discourse on a recent webinar that targeted how designers can engage in progressive community development. I had the pleasure of being joined by fellow panelists, Christine Modor and Fleur Timmer with moderation by author David Thorpe. Titled: Urban Architecture and Building Better Communities, the discussion fielded questions on the role of architects and landscape architects in helping to craft useful and coveted community spaces. Continue reading

Solving the Recycling Cost Gap is About Value

recycled bottlesWithin the realm of broad sustainability efforts in this country, recycling could be considered one of the veterans. Recycling programs have existed in America since the 1990’s, but despite their longevity, they still have not yet reached their maturity, falling short of refined systems streamlined for maximum impact at minimum cost. In most places, recycling programs are still a net cost for municipalities that host them. Though it is not to say that environmental programs like recycling are not worth costs to accomplish their goals or that any should be expected to “turn a profit”, it’s possible that some programs are operating far below their potential and broadcast a bloated image of expense that is ripe for improvement. Continue reading

Reviewed: Walkable City

Jeff Speck WalkabilityWalkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time

By Jeff Speck

In One Line: From broad strokes to streetscape specifics, the author covers the deficiencies of modern street planning that hinder the pedestrian experience as well a coordinated attack to solve them. 

In the age of millennials, walkability is all the rage. If you’re talking to people born after 1975 then chances are giving planning preference to bikers and walkers will get you some head-bobs or thumbs up. The data continually points to younger populations being less interested in automotive access and more keen on what can be accomplished within the radius of walking or riding. There’s plenty of great reasons for that, but it also means that conversations can get propagated with reoccurring lessons that eventually ascend to border on truism. Continue reading

Density is Great, But Walkability Needs More

Manhattan Beach Pedestrian StreetAchieving density and creating public circulation space that is centered around pedestrians are both key components to fostering a walkable environment. Both are things that the typical American, suburban model lack. With homes spread so far apart–from both each other and any non-residential destination–walking becomes senseless in communities that are beholden to the car down to the very fabric of their planning. Raising the number of residential units per acre and designing space for pedestrian travel that would  otherwise be devoted to roads can be important strides in making options other than driving more attractive and plausible. However, walkability hinges on more than only these variables alone and their inclusion does not guarantee success. Continue reading

Reviewed: Sustainable Urbanism

Douglas Farr Book DesignSustainable Urbanism: Urban Design With Nature

By Douglas Farr

In One Line: A well-crafted overview of sustainable planning strategies with a broad lens that is valuable for a range of readers as a foundation to a library of stewardship. 

The complexity of sustainability is one of its worse enemies. Our modern attempts to condense information can run counter to helping others understand the intricacies of our biosphere. With only portions of information the solutions can see deceivingly easy, mistakenly small in number or both. Some of the stronger voices end up being the ones that can package complex issues with clarity and brevity for retention in a broader audience. Continue reading


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