Monday, November 24, 2014

Six degrees could change the world

Retrofitting suburbia
“Updated with a new Introduction by the authors and a foreword by Richard Florida, this book is a comprehensive guide book for urban designers, planners, architects, developers, environmentalists, and community leaders that illustrates how existing suburban developments can be redesigned into more urban and more sustainable places. While there has been considerable attention by practitioners and academics to development in urban cores and new neighborhoods on the periphery of cities, there has been little attention to the redesign and redevelopment of existing suburbs. The authors, both architects and noted experts on the subject, show how development in existing suburbs can absorb new growth and evolve in relation to changed demographic, technological, and economic conditions.

Retrofitting Suburbia was named winner in the Architecture & Urban Planning category of the 2009 American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (The PROSE Awards) awarded by The Professional and Scholarly Publishing (PSP) Division of the Association of American Publishers”

(19 minutes)

The nature of urban design
“The best cities become an ingrained part of their residents’ identities.  Urban design is the key to this process, but all too often, citizens abandon it to professionals, unable to see a way to express what they love and value in their own neighborhoods. In this visually rich book, Alexandros Washburn, Chief Urban Designer of the New York Department of City Planning, redefines urban design. His book empowers urbanites and lays the foundations for a new approach to design that will help cities to prosper in an uncertain future. He asks his readers to consider how cities shape communities, for it is the strength of our communities, he argues, that will determine how we respond to crises like Hurricane Sandy, whose floodwaters he watched from his home in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Washburn draws heavily on his experience within the New York City planning system while highlighting forward-thinking developments in cities around the world. He grounds his book in the realities of political and financial challenges that hasten or hinder even the most beautiful designs. By discussing projects like the High Line and the Harlem Children’s Zone as well as examples from Seoul to Singapore, he explores the nuances of the urban design process while emphasizing the importance of individuals with the drive to make a difference in their city.

Throughout the book, Washburn shows how a well-designed city can be the most efficient, equitable, safe, and enriching place on earth. The Nature of Urban Design provides a framework for participating in the process of change and will inspire and inform anyone who cares about cities.”

(56 minutes)

Sprawl repair manual
“There is a wealth of research and literature explaining suburban sprawl and the urgent need to retrofit suburbia. However, until now there has been no single guide that directly explains howto repair typical sprawl elements. TheSprawl Repair Manual demonstrates a step-by-step design process for the re-balancing and re-urbanization of suburbia into more sustainable, economical, energy- and resource-efficient patterns, from the region and the community to the block and the individual building. As Galina Tachieva asserts in this exceptionally useful book, sprawl repair will require a proactive and aggressive approach, focused ondesign, regulation and incentives.TheSprawl Repair Manual is a much-needed, single-volume reference for fixing sprawl, incorporating changes into the regulatory system, and implementing repairs through incentives and permitting strategies. This manual specifies the expertise that’s needed and details the techniques and algorithms of sprawl repair within the context of reducing the financial and ecological footprint of urban growth.
TheSprawl Repair Manual draws on more than two decades of practical experience in the field of repairing and building communities to analyze the current pattern of sprawl development, disassemble it into its elemental components, and present a process for transforming them into human-scale, sustainable elements. The techniques are illustrated both two- and three-dimensionally, providing users with clear methodologies for the sprawl repair interventions, some of which are radical, but all of which will produce positive results. “

(83 minutes; lecture starts at minute 13)


The smart growth manual
“Everyone is calling for smart growth…but what exactly is it?

In The Smart Growth Manual, two leading city planners provide a thorough answer. From the expanse of the metropolis to the detail of the window box, they address the pressing challenges of urban development with easy-to-follow advice and broad array of best practices.

With their landmark book Suburban Nation, Andres Duany and Jeff Speck “set forth more clearly than anyone has done in our time the elements of good town planning” (The New Yorker). With this long-awaited companion volume, the authors have organized the latest contributions of new urbanism, green design, and healthy communities into a comprehensive handbook, fully illustrated with the built work of the nation’s leading practitioners.”

(28 minutes)

Step 5  (Assigned Nov 24) – Prepare final presentation.

Present Monday, December 1, 2014

Present Wednesday, December 3, 2014

11 thoughts on “Monday, November 24, 2014

  1. I have always loved the idea of old buildings finding new uses. I love old architecture and the way it is a living artifact of the past. My favorite concert was in Amsterdam in a retrofitted church that had become a club and concert venue. The bands would perform in front of the glorious stained glass from above the pulpit. It was such a surreal experience to watch the Decemberists perform there… I thought Ellen Dunham-Jones’ talk was amazing! It also reminded me of the work of Katherine Westerhout, an San Francisco photographer who travels the country looking for dilapidated buildings and documents their decay in a surreal ephemeral and quiet way.

    I also found it interesting that the changing demographics want suburbia to become urban. Does this mean that no one wants the yard and picket fence? I am definitely a city person but that’s because I love that looking up always shows me a new detail of some building I pass by daily and that I can get delivery at 11pm or see both the ballet and some random street performers. I also love the intersection of cultures that happens at the nexus of neighborhoods. But is all of that really what suburbanites want? Or do they just not want the blight of a dilapidated building in their back yard?

    I also liked the notion of the third place. But I would argue that such a place is also important within bustling metropolises. Just because we’re closer together does not mean we are any better at being a community. Like our suburban counterparts, we are also childless and not family centric and need a place to foster a sense of community. This sense of community will be important if we are going to succeed in overthrowing the nation state in favor of a more localized form of government, the way Gavin Newsom, Vishaan Chakrabarti, and Benjamin Barber are advocating.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ellen Jones a sense of humor and is definitely on the right track in describing the underperforming asphalt. Our streets are taken by the number of parking lots located on each of the streets. Land is pretty valuable and when we say we just park our cars on the land, we’re saying we have an opportunity and aren’t really taken the chance to change the improved our society.

    Jones points out another great strategy of redevelopment to take the sites and rebuild the whole site for a greater density. I’m from the city so i love seeing crowds of people. The idea of new and improved cities of the compact residential neighborhoods with more pockets of walkability. The systemic transformation of the future can then sustain a new and behold transformed attractive address with the desire of want to inhabit.

    She’s right that if we don’t demand it, we don’t want it. The change in our communities begins with us.
    The infrastructure improvements and the retrofits aren’t going to happen unless with speak of our expectations the cities need to give us citizens.


  3. Thoughts about Washburn while I’m thinking about it:
    – public life is public space. Interesting thought – I feel like I don’t spend much time in public space. But every time I’m on a road I am, I guess. It’s the place where people meet each other as equals. Hmm. Neat. Gets me thinking about projects like Bayardstown, a semi-public space in Lawrenceville. It’s a place where everyone meets as equals, after they’ve paid the $20 entrance fee.
    – plan for the 1-in-100-years disasters, but make it something useful/pleasant the rest of the time too. I guess to generalize, do the dirty work, but make it pleasant too. Sounds like it’d make for quite a pleasant city. One problem though: what if there’s not enough money to do that?


  4. I was really interested in the “6 degrees could change the world” documentary, particularly in the context of my A4 project which involves flooding and a hurricane evacuation in south Florida in 2054. While at a global rise of 4 degrees Celsius and above the documentary was not as clear as what would happen at a rise of 1, 2, and 3 degrees, this documentary showed the mechanisms by which such mass floods and strong storms occur (such as their suggestion of a potential category 6 hurricane one day!), and it even discussed some emerging solutions such as developing sea gates for coastal cities like New York City and the current construction of a large reactor that would provide energy for the earth.

    I was also interested in the documentary discussion of how climate change progression is not linear as the global temperature rises with each degree; for example, the documentary discusses “bad feedback loops” that can happen starting at around a rise of 3 degrees, and at around a 5 degree rise, they state that “perhaps most frightening is how much we can’t know” except that the world would be dramatically different from now. Given the information I saw in the “6 degrees could change the world” documentary, I think I will assume in my A4 project that the global temperature has not risen more than 1 or 2 degrees Celsius.


  5. Retrofitting Suburbia: hmm. But then you have all these pockets of walkable livability, like little islands, and then you have to drive between them still. Unless you can actually spend your whole life on one of these – but that sounds real impossible.
    Another thing, all these examples that she gave were all built (or at least masterminded) by some big developer. They didn’t grow over time (like most modern livable walkable cities). I feel like the walkability comes from the multi-agent slow growth of a city (though I don’t really have any facts to back that up, just a vague hunch).

    Six Degrees: I wish I had this film in list form, that just listed all the bad things that could happen at each degree level. That’s what I got out of it: a refresher about all the possibilities.
    A thing they did poorly: list numbers w/o context. “If we use all these wind turbines, we can save 100 billion tons of CO2” or whatever – okay, how much is that? Is that like 1% of what we use, or 10%, or 0.001%? Particularly when they start talking about unplugging your “vampire appliances” – yeah, you can save a hundred bajillion tons, but that’s still 0.00001% of our electricity use. We’re not going to get to sustainability by tiny little actions like that.
    Furthermore, we’re not going to get to sustainability by any individual action, I think. We need laws or taxes, something to spur some collective action.


  6. Retrofitting suburbia is a valid proposal made by Ellen Jones. It forces us to consider how we can start to convert less sustainable landscapes by boosting the infrastructure and bringing back the green space to make it sustainable . Climate Change is a big factor and we can see that urban dwellers are contributing 1/3 less carbon footprint then the suburban dwellers. This is because of a the obscene amounts we need to spend for convenience at the sake of our environment. In the suburbia there is less of a motivation to go out making us sedentary and obese individuals. We use our savings to commute to different placing giving in an arm and a leg for gas prices. We are also noticing changes in how people view the suburbia. 70-80% of individuals are not family oriented and do not plan to have children. There will be a lot more underused parking lots and wasted space. Like Chakrabarti, she believes that we should retrofit to allow for mass railroad transit to connect individuals together. She also argues for the improvement of architectural design in the retrofitting (making the architecture ultimately more sustainable). We need to understand the zoning conditions and agree on the need for more sustainable places. Ultimately we need mutual agreement on what needs to be changed and we need to work together for this cause. This is a plausible solution and I support it.


  7. Washburn’s talk helped me understand urban design and planning better; I especially liked the examples he provided of what making a city livable means, and answered a question I had in the previous readings. He also had interesting ideas about what values designers and architects ought to take upon for the next century, ie sustainability being the new form of civic virtue. Unfortunately he didn’t really talk about how to get citizens to engage in bettering their community, which I would have liked to hear about. The things he said about designing public spaces around the community that lives there seemed a little bit obvious to me… I understand that that wasn’t always the way cities were planned, but it sounds like a human factors issue on a larger scale.

    I also really like the smart growth manual talk, and the way he connects statistics/facts to people’s behaviors (re: the distance people are willing to walk when there’s a transit stop or not). I’m still kind of confused about his new urbanist metaphor, but I think it’s good that he brings up some pitfalls of the environmental/green attitude, and goes back to the idea of what constitutes a livable city. I also like what he said about how the car destroyed the concept of the neighborhood. It reminds me of something in Washburn’s talk where he mentions how cars aren’t going away, so you have to design with them in mind as well. It seems like cars and neighborhood are sort of at odds with each other, but it is interesting to consider how to design neighborhoods while accommodating for the existence of cars.

    The retrofitting suburbia talk was also really interesting, I like the idea, although I don’t think it’s necessarily the solution to suburbia. I feel like it’s a little bit halfway there – it’s still suburbia, just more density? it’s like a miniature city? The regreening concept makes more sense to me in terms of a sustainable “solution.” I can also definitely see the increased density happening in certain places, especially like Silicon Valley, which is attracting tons of new people who live outside the city because it’s too expensive there – you have specific neighborhoods with lots of different attractions, but you sometimes still have to drive there, and you definitely have to drive between them.


  8. The video titled “Six degrees could change the world” brought Hurricane Sandy to mind. I remember the panic and fear that was prevalent amongst my family members and friends. I remember my friends schools shutting down and my parents losing power in their home. New York was not ready for Hurricane Sandy and this video made me realize that the world is simply not ready for the devastating impacts of global warming. But yet, we continue to consume and produce waste that has been proven to cause Global Warming. It just simply does not makes sense. We punish companies that sacrifice their bottom lines for green initiatives and reward companies who make a profit no matter their impact on the environment. We have been saying that we need to change for a while but honestly this video made me realize that we as individuals have to plan for the effects of global warming and ensure that our families are safe first. That is how I plan to deal with global warming.


  9. I really liked the idea of retrofitting suburbs. I think it is an interesting way to look at space and current infrastructure. I think it may be an essential step in redeveloping suburbs, especially in historical areas that want to keep their facade. What I am very curious about is how we deal with the gas and driving problem. The thing about the suburbs and any non urban place is that they really are far apart and people like the ability to drive. How do you train people to do otherwise? And how to do you deal with the long distances, especially if the user has to walk ?


  10. After watching the compelling argument that Chakrabarti made I was interested in knowing what can be done to change the face of suburbia. I found the examples she showed of the different towns and how their urban areas have been transformed very interesting. Unfortunately, the one thing that is still present in all of these plenty of cars, and single dweller homes all around the urban center. It would be interesting to know how many people are still living in their homes and are still driving to work. While this is a step in the right direction, it certainly isn’t a solution.


  11. Ellena Dunham’s TED talk was interesting because she really spoke about something that I had the complete opposite view of. I always assumed that the suburban areas were greener and people lived better quality lives there – but according to her urbanites seem to be living greener and healthier and more active lifestyles. This is very promising because it provides greater incentive to continue to believe in and be confident about our urban development plans.


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