Archives For Urban Planning

Google ExteriorOne of sustainability’s greatest shortfalls can also operate as one of its greatest strengths. As a term, sustainability has been criticized for lacking concrete definition and encompassing too many different topics and perspectives. Part of that is by design. The core components of sustainability revolve around balance and dynamic equilibrium, basic tenets of natural ecosystems–which are far from simple. The result is that the effectiveness of any efforts under the banner of sustainability can be weighed by a number of sources through a series of different lenses. While good for the environment, this can be cumbersome for parties wanting to make a “positive” impact without a series of more demanding benchmarks.

The flip side is that its encompassing nature can be used to reinforce vague or ambiguous efforts that are propped up buzz words and cosmopolitan trends while the environmental benefit is relatively small. The line between big ideas that carry many positive effects for the planet and big plans that provide little ecological effect due to lack of concrete goals is an important one for us to stay on the right side of.  Continue Reading…

grocery store aisleIn skimming through the recent articles on the Sustainable Cities Collective, I came across one that featured a story about an Austrian “Smart Buildings Program” at the University of Applied Sciences in Salzburg. One of the projects for students was probing the design for the most efficient supermarket, effectively built to Passivhaus standards–which any American architect will tell you is ambitious for a retail entity that relies so heavily on cooling. Given that our country’s food system is highly carbon-intensive, a study for how its sale and distribution can be more ecological responsive is certainly worthwhile. Continue Reading…

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 into the eager grasp of new tenants. But when it comes to actually fostering a sense of community, more often than not we see houses thrown up in reasonable proximity with hopes for the best. This method leaves a lot of clubs in the bag for crafting variables entirely within our collective control to produce better results. Among them is the relationship between our homes and the streetscape, with plenty of ways to promote connection rather than just proximity. Continue Reading…

demolition stoop urban ruinDensity 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 of a young municipality. However, for cities like New York, density is not a recent phenomenon. The city has been building since its inception, which has lead to density not only being achieved from new construction, but in large part due to the wealth of existing buildings that have been around for a while. Given the vast amount of resources frozen in our existing building stock, our older urban landscapes need to look through more lenses of sustainability than only the merits of new development. Continue Reading…

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…

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…

self storage roadAs January comes to a close most of the presents of the holiday season have probably found a place in our homes. Shelves are a bit heavier. Closets are a bit fuller. Unclaimed space is a bit rarer. The success of the retail industry shows itself in our collective burgeoning homes and as the spring approaches there will be Americans looking to find new homes for possessions they can’t fit, but don’t want to part with. Similar to the growth of digital space in the cloud, the displacement of our excess stuff to an out-of-sight location can be perceived as utilizing an endless amount of space with little repercussion, but this strengthening trend has fueled an industry in the business of taking up space while giving little back. Continue Reading…

Cities of 2030, Today

Cities can grow to defy our current perceptions of plausibility. In the future, each spire in a collection of gleaming, vertical towers could harness density through a mixture of use types from working to living to growing food. Not only could each building produce its own renewable energy, but the excess could be pumped back into the city around it to help power the seamless public transit system ranging from lighted bike paths to high speed trains that allowed people to sail from one urban core to the next. Air quality would rise, water use would fall and the cultural affordability would compliment density with diversity. In a word, Oz. Continue Reading…

Center for Architecture ResiliencyContrary to the statements of some and the hopes of many, there are no silver bullets for solving challenges surrounding sustainability. Part of this is due to the complexity of the problems, some is due to the fact that there are so many points of view for problem solving and a piece of the responsibility falls on the fact that there are so many different situations around the world with unique contextual conditions, making their problems in turn unique. As a result, collaboration makes a world of sense as we approach sustainable goals and the best solutions can come from components that span cities, countries and even continents. Continue Reading…

Mid Rise Hive FarmWhile the interest in the prospects of Vertical Farming have picked up over the last few years with the topic finding its way into more articles and design competitions, we have yet to see a corresponding surge in prototypes going into construction. We have not suddenly come to an ulterior solution for how to supply more locally grown produce to our cities with a reduced carbon footprint behind it by any means, but financing hasn’t yet found a model for vertical farming that seems to be worth bringing past the brainstorming stage. However, a new proposal by OVA Studio that pushes a modular version of vertical farms is in the process of trying to secure funding for prototype design and construction, hoping to be the model that bucks the trend.  Continue Reading…