York Urbanist

Archive for March, 2012

International Waterfronts

March 21st, 2012
Urban Design, Waterfront

Harbin, China

Water’s Edge: Hongsung River

History: transportation; Harbin grew from a small town to a northern metropolis since WWII.  It has remnant Russian influences, but the waterfront is all Chinese.

Current Use: recreation and tourism; transportation; winter ice surface

Current planning: magnificent pedestrian way; maintenance is an employment opportunity

Comment: In recent experience, this waterfront is the best used and best articulated for the residents of any in the world.  Harbin is small and new by Chinese population standards. We observed and became engaged in the waterfront like none other we have visited.  The width of the shore between water and city parallels Chicago’s.  But its exhuberance and activity is much more.  We were there in winter and activity was rampant in minus 20 degree temperatures – ping-pong; badminton; volleyball; gymnastics; art; skating; snowmobiling; all this is adjunct to a fabulous broad promenade

Conclusion: We do not have to focus so much on Chicago when innovative examples can be found elsewhere.

Architecture – Happiness

March 20th, 2012

Interesting article in the Globe and Mail today by Sarah Hampson. “The influence a space can have on our happiness explains the popularity of shelter magazines and designer porn. In the right house and in the perfect kitchen, we imagine better marriages, better behaved children, a better social life. Meghan Daum’s 2010 book, Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House, captured the obsession with real estate as the stage setting for ultimate fulfillment.” Read the rest at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/relationships/news-and-views/sarah-hampson/how-space-and-architecture-influence-happiness/article2372128/

Transits Dark Side?

March 2nd, 2012
Transportation issues

Rob Ford is right! I never thought that would be uttered here. If Toronto is ever to enter world class, a looped underground system of transit is necessary. London, New York, Tokyo all manage their transit efficiently underground. Toronto’s difficulty is that they wait until the costs escalate in the urbanized areas to plan the system.

There is an opportunity right now in York Region to avoid the same mess by contemplating underground along what 30 years ago was called the Greenbelt – Highway 7. Has that even been considered? Hopefully consideration is being given to at least retaining a corridor for such, even if it is a generation away.