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Archive for the ‘Humanitarian Design’ Category

* Architecture & Design: Ten Ways to Transform Cities through Placemaking & Public Spaces

Posted by the editors on Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Ten Ways to Transform Cities through Placemaking & Public Spaces

Architecture & Design: Ten Ways to Transform Cities through Placemaking & Public Spaces:  “..In 2011, UN-HABITAT and Project for Public Spaces (PPS) signed a 5-year cooperative agreement to aspire to raise international awareness of the importance of public space in cities, to foster a lively exchange of ideas among partners and to educate a new generation of planners, designers, community activists and other civic leaders about the benefits of what they call the “Placemaking methodology.” Their partnership is helping to advance the development of cities where people of all income groups, social classes and ages can live safely, happily and in economic security and in order to reach these ambitious goals, the duo recently released 10 informative steps that cities and communities can take to improve the quality of their public spaces.

UN-HABITAT Executive Director Joan Clos i Matheu believes that “what defines a character of a city is its public space, not its private space. What defines the value of the private assets of the space are not the assets by themselves but the common assets. The value of the public good affects the value of the private good. We need to show every day that public spaces are an asset to a city.”

Building inclusive, healthy, functional, and productive cities is perhaps the greatest challenge facing humanity today, but when done right, they can jumpstart economic development, help build a sense of community, civic identity and culture, facilitate social capital and community revitalization. Investing even a little bit into the quality of a public space delivers a significant return to a city that has the foresight to see its value.

Because urbanization is the definitive reality of the 21st century and because it is occurring most rapidly in places with the greatest lack of urban planning, UN-HABITAT and PPS came up with the Placemaking method in order to create places where the community feels ownership and engagement, and where design serves function, meeting basic human needs. The process will identify and catalyze local leadership, funding and other resources, drawing on the assets and skills of a community rather than on relying solely on professional “experts.”

Their 10 Steps to Success are:

1. Improve Streets as Public Spaces

Streets are the fundamental public space in every city, but many are choked by traffic, so Placemaking encourages the planning of cities for people and places, not just cars. The ideal street will be able to sustain different modes of transportation, whether it be car, rail, tram, bicycle or pedestrian, and all will work parallel with each other. Planning out a hierarchy of corridors ranging from major boulevards to quiet neighborhood streets will also affect what develops on that street and create more appropriate street-building interactions. Creating more pedestrian-friendly streets in general will provide spaces for interpersonal interaction and foster a sense of community that is impossible in a primarily vehicular road.

2. Create Squares and Parks as Multi-Use Destinations

if public squares and parks are planned around major public destinations, they build local economies, civic pride, social connection and human happiness. These spaces serve as “safety valves” for a city, where people can find either breathing room and relaxation in a well-planned park space or fear and danger in a badly-planned one. The most successful public spaces are “multi-use destinations” with many attractions and activities, where citizens can find common ground and where ethnicity and economic tensions can go unnoticed.

3. Build Local Economies Through Markets

Historically, the essential function of any urban center has been a crossroads where people have come together to exchange goods and ideas and public markets have been at the heart of most cities since ancient times. Markets are traditionally the most productive and dynamic places in our cities and towns, where the exchange of news, politics and gossip takes place and where people solidify the social ties that are essential to a healthy society. Markets do many things for cities, including but not limited to encouraging entrepreneurship, sustaining farmland around cities, strengthening ties between urban and rural areas and improving access to fresh food. Replacing the traditional market with a supermarket – a staple in the US – has proven to have no social value and has only deteriorated existing community ties.

4. Design Buildings to Support Places

Buildings with interesting interiors may be architecturally successful to some but it is the architecture that permeates outwards beyond the facade and towards the street level where it engages the city fabric that is the most successful because it is built with the human scale in mind. It is especially important to invest in public institutions like museums, government buildings and libraries so that they engage their surrounding urban environment and foster more opportunities for interpersonal interaction.

5. Link a Public Health Agenda to a Public Space Agenda

It’s nothing new that a healthy city offers citizens basic infrastructure like clean water, ablution facilities, sewage treatment, access to healthy food and safety in public areas. Healthcare facilities should serve as community centers, libraries should provide health education and services, public markets should be a source of fresh, affordable and nutritious food and transportation systems should encourage walking and reduce car traffic and air pollution. Where people feel a sense of ownership in their cities, they are more likely to take better care of the common environment and of themselves, resulting in a reduction in daily stress and less neighborhood crime thanks to an active public realm.

6. Reinvent Community Planning

When planning projects within an established community, it is very important to identify talents and resources in that community – people who can provide historical perspective, insights into how the area functions and an understanding of what is truly meaningful to local people. Planners should always partner with local institutions and involve them from start to finish because communities have a more holistic vision for their public space than the more limited outside professional and can act as valuable facilitators and resources. Good public spaces are flexible and respond to evolution of the urban environment, so keeping the community in long-term control ensures that the space will adapt to their changing needs.

7. Power of 10

The principle of the Power of 10 is the importance of offering a variety of things to do in one location – making a place more than the sum of its parts. For example, a park should not only be a park, but a park with a fountain, playground, food vendor, nearby library, etc. If a neighborhood has 10 places that each have 10 different things to do, then that neighborhood is on the right track; but if that city then has 10 neighborhoods of this nature, all citizens will be guaranteed excellent public spaces within walking distance of their homes.

8. Create a Comprehensive Public Space Agenda

Both top-down and bottom-up strategies are needed to develop, enhance and manage public space – leadership at the top is essential but grassroots organizing strategies are also integral to its success. A city must honestly assess public spaces and their performance and make bold decisions based off of this analysis. For example, New York City decided to carve a public plaza out of all of its 59 community board districts, Chicago decided to implement a small tax on new development to fund improvements of surrounding public areas and, internationally, Brazil launched an ambitious initiative to build 800 “public squares” in socioeconomically disadvantaged communities across the country over the next 3 years.

9. Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper: Start Small, Experiment

On the other hand, big is not always better – or the only strategy. Small moves like creating places to sit, a sidewalk, a cafe, planning a community event, organizing a container garden or painting crosswalks all have positive effects on a community and its public space. Informal settlements in particular are already accustomed to lightweight, innovative strategies that can rethink their environment, so implementing small changes here and there can really add up.

10. Restructure Government to Support Public Spaces

There’s no getting around it: you need local leaders, funding and other resources in order to create successful public space. There is hardly ever an official power structure in a community that focuses on creating successful public realms – the existing public structure sometimes even impedes successful public space. Each governmental department usually has a specific, narrow approach – transportation deals with traffic, parks with green space, etc – but if the ultimate goal of governance, urban institutions and development is to make places, communities and regions more prosperous, civilized and attractive for all people, then government processes need to change to reflect that goal. Cities need consensus-building, city consultation processes and institutional reform that enhance citizenship and inclusion and work for the public good, removing bureaucratic obstacles to quickly add value to a place and demonstrate future potential.

With these strategies in mind, it is the hope of UN-HABITAT and PPS that more communities around the globe will take on the responsibility of creating better public spaces for their people and will make it into a real priority that will fuel smarter urban development. (Reference: PPS Publication)..”  Very interesting ideas of prime importance..

image: Courtesy of Flickr user Chrissy Olson; article: Porada , Barbara. “Ten Ways to Transform Cities through Placemaking & Public Spaces” 21 Apr 2013.ArchDaily.

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* Design: Milan Design Week 2013 Map

Posted by the editors on Sunday, 7 April 2013

Milan Design Week 2013 Map

Design: Milan Design Week 2013 Map: “..Milan 2013: the design world descends on Milan next week. To help you navigate the hundreds of events around the city we’ve compiled a map with our pick of the best exhibitions, parties and talks..”  Once again the excellent Dezeen helps guide us through the events of, perhaps, the most important design event of the year..

image: Dezeen, Google; article: Dezeen

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* Architecture: ‘The Artistic and the Beautiful’: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Wide-Ranging Views (audio interview)

Posted by the editors on Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Architecture: ‘The Artistic and the Beautiful’: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Wide-Ranging Views (audio interview): “..In 1957, two years before his death, Frank Lloyd Wright sat down with WNYC (ndlr: radio) to discuss his design philosophy, exhibiting his trademark eloquence and blistering opinions. The year of this interview marks an explosion of commissions for Wright, who by then had been practicing architecture for 70 years..

Wright mainly designed homes until 1957-58, when he took on 90 new projects, many for public buildings. Over all, Wright’s last decade was his most prolific, accounting for nearly one-third of his oeuvre. This interview was recorded in his Plaza Hotel apartment where he’d moved two years earlier in order to oversee construction of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, on which he had been working for 14 years. Here, Wright neatly dismisses the project’s many critics, promising “…a new point of view…it’s going to be so enlivening and refreshing that it will make some of these painters quite ashamed of the protest that they issued against it.”

In this interview, Wright also expresses distaste for the nascent designs of Sydney Opera House, as well as the U.S. Air Force Academy structure, whose designers he lambasts as “Poetry Crushers with a capital P.” The Academy’s use of an advisory committee of architects prompts Wright to remark that “an architect is either an inspiration or…he’s merely a committee-mind…a liability.”

Asked whether he’s acquainted with New York’s planned Lincoln Center complex, Wright remarks, “I think it wouldn’t do me any good to become acquainted with it. I suggest the other way around: they become…acquainted with the ones that I’m doing.”

Two notable influences on the young Wright were his itinerant childhood (his father was a traveling minister), and years spent on his uncle’s Wisconsin farm where he “learned…the region in every line and feature…the modeling of the hills, the weaving and fabric that clings to them, the look of it all in tender green or covered with snow or in full glow of summer.” His mother, a school teacher, enhanced his understanding of structure by giving him a set of newly invented blocks developed by revolutionary German educator Friedrich Fröbel whose theories laid the foundations for modern education.

Beyond architecture, Wright is also noted as a singularly influential and innovative urban planner, interior designer, architectural writer, and educator. He is noted for his often prescient, sometimes embattled philosophical and social views, a range well displayed in this broadcast, when in the middle of describing his new designs for homes with children’s playrooms, he can’t help but point out that “the American family should be three, not four…and above that, heavily taxed, more and more as they increase in number.” (Wright fathered seven children.)..

Recognized by the American Institute of Architects as “the greatest American architect of all time,” Frank Lloyd Wright was born in Richland Center, Wis., and went on to design 1,141 structures — including houses, offices, churches, clinics, schools, libraries, bridges, and museums — 532 of which were built. Today, 409 are still standing, nearly one-third of them listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Wright died in 1959, six months before the Guggenheim opened.

Asked what architects could do to help build “a better society and civilization,” Wright slips into an uncharacteristically heartfelt tone, suggesting they “study nature, seriously, intelligently, and with feeling, and appreciation.” He also warns that if New York City doesn’t acquire more green space immediately, it will be “uninhabitable.”

At least four of Wright’s descendants became architects, one of whom, his son John Lloyd Wright, invented Lincoln Logs. Other descendants include an architecture professor, two interior designers, a master woodworker, and the actress Anne Baxter, who is Wright’s granddaughter..”  Fascinating…

image: © 2009 The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA; article: Charis Conn, WNYC, NEH

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* Architecture + Design: Dignifying Design

Posted by the editors on Sunday, 7 October 2012

Architecture + Design: Dignifying Design: “..(A) new breed of public-interest designers proceeds from a belief that everybody deserves good design, whether in a prescription bottle label that people can more easily read and understand, a beautiful pocket park to help a city breathe or a less stressful intake experience at the emergency room. Dignity may be to the burgeoning field of public-interest design as justice is to the more established public-interest law..” Excellent, inspirational, motivational article on public-interest design and architecture in The New York Times..

The article includes a 9-image slideshow, here.

See some of other posts with photos by the excellent architectural photographer Iwan Baan:

image: Iwan Baan; article: John Cary and Courtney E. Martin, The New York Times

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Posted in Architects, Architecture, Architecture + Design, Articles, Contemporary Architecture, contemporary design, Cultural Architecture, Design, Designalog, Educational Architecture, Humanitarian Design, Infrastructure Architecture, Institutional Architecture, Photography, Product Design, Public Architecture, Public Facilities, Social Architecture | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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