York Urbanist

Archive for January, 2013

William H. Whyte Revisited

January 15th, 2013
Landscape Architecture, Urban Design

http://vimeo.com/6821934 I was reminded of the excellence of the basics of urban design that William H. Whyte contributed so many years ago. They still apply today.

Humber Valley East Trail and Hiking Rules

January 10th, 2013

York Region has many developed hiking trails for the urban hiker.  The best is still one that ranges from Kleinburg to Woodbridge following the Humber River East Branch. It appeals to all our senses.

The valley is so incised and wide as to allow the hiker to escape the harsh reality of urban light and noise.  The smells can either take you back to your childhood or send you into a sneezing fit.  The paved surface of the trail allows the not-so-avid recreationist the opportunity to experience the outdoors, but the adventurer is allowed to wander off trail to the edges of the valley where the sense of touch comes into play.  We trudge through snow or brush against brush.  Through four seasons, the experienced naturalist can even taste the outdoors. Yes, even winter has its hang-over seeds and fruits.  Get out and breathe the filtered air and take an active lifestyle that will relieve the stressors of the daily routine. See what previous hikes encouraged on the Humber River valley at http://yorkurbanist.com/trails/humber-valley-heritage-trail/

But respect the trails. Take stewardship of them for your next use and for the generation that follows.  Keep litter to your person, avoid taking pets that upset the natural inclinations of wildlife, and greet those other trail users in the most friendly manner as they share your ideals of a walk with nature.

Although urban trails are in a dissimilar context, I am repeating these Hiking Rules from http://www.canadianliving.com/health/fitness/how_to_start_hiking_4.php and Michael Haynes, with whom I have worked on a trails project.  Michael is well known in the hiking world having had his own CBC radio program and having authored a  hiking book.

“Rules to live by….
Safety first
Inconsiderate, ill-informed hikers are the scourge of the trails. For one thing, flicked cigarette butts or flying embers from campfires have started many forest fires. If you must build a fire, the Canada Safety Council recommends clearing an area with a three-metre diameter, making a circle of rocks around the fire and keeping a bucket of water, sand and a shovel nearby.

“I would always discourage people from lighting fires in the backcountry,” says Southam. “It can be damaging to what are often very fragile environments. That said, I think you should carry some waterproof matches in the event that you need to light a fire for safety purposes.”

If you absolutely must indulge in hot soup or tea on the trail, buy a lightweight stove. Some butane stoves are small enough to fit in your pocket.

Leave no footprints nor …
• Scoop when you poop. If fire is the No. 1 problem on trails, No. 2 could be, well, number two. With no outhouses on many long trails, poorly placed poops can be a disgusting problem. Leave No Trace Canada, a national nonprofit organization, advises hikers to dig a hole 15 to 20 centimetres deep and at least 60 metres from water and trails. Cover the hole when you are finished, and don’t leave your used toilet paper on the trail. Ideally you should seal it in a plastic bag and take it off the trail, but at the very least, bury it.
• Pack out what you pack in. Litter is another scourge of the hiking trail. Glass, cans and plastic are not just visually offensive, they can harm animals and people.

• Leave Fido at home.
While dogs are a fixture on many trails, some die-hard hikers believe dogs should stay home. Some trails actually have no-dog policies. “It’s from dog feces more than anything else that water sources get contaminated,” says Haynes. Haynes adds if dogs do need to accompany you, you should always keep them on a leash.

Additional rules
• Don’t hike alone.
• Check the weather forecast before you head out.
• Carry a map and compass with you, even if you have a GPS.
• If you don’t know the area, study a map before you hike.
• Obey all posted signs.
• Tell someone where you’re going and when you will be returning.
• Keep the noise down.
• Leave the alcohol at home.

Choosing your trail
Just as a new swimmer isn’t going to breaststroke across the English Channel, a novice hiker has to pace herself. Some longer trails, especially ones with steep hills, demand a fairly high level of fitness. Haynes recommends beginners should start at five kilometres or less (one to two hours) for their first few walks. Flat trails of up to 10 kilometres may be fine as well, but new hikers shouldn’t attempt longer routes. Trails beyond 15 kilometres – or 10 kilometres with a significant climb – are best left to the more experienced hikers. Most formal trails will tell you the distance, and some will rate the level of difficulty. And if you have a topographic map, you can quickly see if there are any steep hills.

Whether you want to take a sweet afternoon stroll or spend four nights sleeping in the wilderness, there’s a trail out there for you. For getting fit, clearing your head, escaping the concrete and getting to see some of Canada’s most stunning scenery, it’s hard to find anything better than taking a hike. “

Man versus Machine – The Creative Sector

January 1st, 2013
Aging, The Future

In http://boingboing.net/2013/01/01/robots-are-taking-your-job-and.html, the Cory Doctorow referenced author Kevin Kelly in Wired, refers to the evolution of machines taking over laborious tasks and he even states – “Robots create jobs that we did not even know we wanted done.” To put this into perspective, the robots are not ‘creating’, it is humans that are creative. And it is this Creative Sector of humanity that will move us through the next millennium. In sector D of the chart to the left the only jobs for humans will be those that are creative as all other sectors of the chart will be filled by machines.
Creative jobs are the jobs of the future intelligent society. Education spreads to developing nations. There is an importance put on the best schools (McLean’s Canadian University list) and the highest results (EQAO in Ontario, Canada). This foundation will be the premise for growth of technical understanding. But the stand-outs will be those who can use technology in a creative way. Referring to the article above, the people of the 1800’s never imagined the need to “remove a tumor in our gut through our navel, or make a talking-picture video of our wedding”. What is in our future that we could never contemplate today? The Creative Sector will cause needs to evolve.
Back to education… While our children learn their ABC’s and numerals, so too should we infuse the arts and sports. It is through the arts and sports that we can let our minds wander from the government approved structure of the basics. Currently in Ontario, a long hanging labour strike precludes after-school and extracurricular activities. The arts and sports that are being sidelined are as much the fundamentals of learning as those curricula prescribed by the government. Indeed, abilities in the arts and athletics will provide future job-seekers with an advantage for future employment. So that strike is precluding the evolution of learning and delaying future opportunities.
Specialty arts and sports schools are overwhelmed with applications for entry. I recently wrote references for two potential students to the Bruce Carruthers High School, Markham, Ontario specializing in sports. Only 20% of the applicants will be accepted. But why should sports, and the complementary arts schools, be isolated and made into elite institutions? At sports schools, by rote, we learn about our bodies and the needs for them. We learn our human physical limitations. By so knowing, we will discover how those needs can be enhanced. Perhaps the enhancement will be biological or technological, but discovery comes from pushing our limits.
Similarly, the arts schools push the metaphorical limits of acting or music or art or dance. These artistic media are the languages of creativity, explaining how our intellectual self has no limitations and how our minds require exercise to improve to more full potential than we have been allowed in the past. The arts schools liberate students from the norms of the past and allow them to test new ways of thinking.
Combine arts with science and our future will become something we never today imagined.
Leave out sports and arts and our future will dullen creativity, leaving humanity with more of today’s sameness.