York Urbanist

Posts Tagged ‘urban design’

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.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2013

December 31st, 2012
Uncategorized

TOP EIGHT URBAN WISHES AND ANTICIPATIONS FOR YORK IN 2013
1. EMPHASIS ON RECREATION FOR ALL AGES
2. BUILDINGS THAT NOT ONLY MEET LEED STANDARDS BUT THAT DRAMATICALLY INSPIRE
3. PARKS CREATIVELY DESIGNED, APPROPRIATELY LOCATED, FOR ALL DEMOGRAPHICS
4. VILLAGES THAT THRIVE IN A SEA OF BIG BOXES
5. INTENSITY AND FLEXIBILITY IN URBAN DESIGN
6. JUNIOR STAFF WHO ARE ENCOURAGED TO LOOK AT THE WHOLE PICTURE
7. SMART INTERSECTIONS WHOSE LIGHTS ARE RESPONDENT TO APPROACHING VEHICLES
8. TRAILS FOR NON-MOTORIZED TRANSPORTATION CONNECTING NORTH, SOUTH, EAST AND WEST YORK REGION

Toronto Architecture is Growing up

September 25th, 2012
Urban Design

I have been long stating that the architecture of the City of Toronto will leave the 2010′s as the era of glass reflective boxes. The Huffington Post Article lends new hope. But note that it is the Marilyn Monroe building of Mississauga that takes the number one position. On another note, Vaughan is not mentioned. http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/09/24/coolest-condos-toronto-condo-bubble_n_1910559.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000008#slide=1561732

Pittsburgh – the Last Post

July 7th, 2012
Urban Design

From the Pittsburgh Zoo, we chose to avoid the limited access highways. Our trip took us through Lawrenceville to the Strip District before careening through the downtown.  Pittsburgh on a weekday at lunchtime is not much harder to travel than the holiday traffic, more evidence to support motor vehicle emphasis and dependence.  Making occasional stops, we discovered more about the people.  Sales and service staff are frequently over the top in friendly assistance. But when we (frequently) asked for directions, we returned to our limited mapping. The mountainous geography sends road alignments on non-parallel courses south of the gridded city centre, but one can intuitively relate to the river valley, never getting lost as downhill leads to one of the rivers.

But we could not avoid the limited access highway when we made a wrong turn.  It shot us back to the city centre from which we were trying to escape for our trip north.

What we take away from Pittsburgh:

Highways and Bridges, Engineers have done well in the past, but it is beyond time to think about the liveable city;

Friendly, yet less geographically knowledgeable, service staff for the traveler. Is this an indication that the city’s own people do not venture far from their neighbourhoods?;

Emphasis on the physical attractions and less concern about the experience of the in-between spaces which link the attractions;

Respect for heritage and history, but not if it gets in the way of limited access highways;

Art inspires in small ways while architecture triumphs over the street with classic or date-stamped facades that start at the street level and shout “we are here” to the belittled pedestrian or driver. The Cultural District is giving impetus and optimism that this City could become not just sports but a cultural center. ; and,

So much waterfront, yet so little access to it.  The token Point State Park itself is slashed by a limited access highway and framed by two bridge structures. The unpeopled ‘river walk’ pales in comparison to its namesake in San Antonio. It needs to relate to the city street grid but has not because of the impeding highways. Station Square worked with the rails, why can’t the city work with its throughways?

With no fewer than 10 colleges and universities, Pittsburgh could design itself around the knowledge industry. But then the demographics are different than a steeltown.  Yet the city could make the leap.  The youth need an affordable means of transportation and more intuitive recreation, desperately devoid in this city. The campuses are less integral and still give way to the automobile. Steeped in tradition, the universities should build more on that dynamic as they create heritage.  Neighbourhoods need intensification to survive.  Naming the Districts is a first step and encouragement of design and mixed use would assist urban integrity.

 

This “Last Post” follows http://yorkurbanist.com/2012/07/pittsburg-day-3/ and a series of four.  Watch in Waterfronts for Pittsburgh’s comparison to other international waterfronts.

Pittsburgh – Day 2, cont'd

July 6th, 2012
Parks, Urban Design

PNC Green Wall - How much does PNC own?

My hopes were dashed to experience once again the fantasy of good ol’ USA Fourth of July Fireworks, this time in Pittsburgh.  We were only 2 miles from downtown, normally a walkable distance for us.  We were cautioned not to drive because of road (bridge) closures, lack of taxis and the hotel courtesy van would take us anywhere but downtown.

Walking – no satisfactorily safe routes

Driving – too congested

Taxis – not available; afraid to go

Bike – What Bike?!? What bike lanes, anyway?

With residual heat from the cars and asphalt pavement and concrete walls, the parking lot of the Hampton became our venue. The bottle of wine partly made up for the lack of light show revelry. I am told that the fireworks were a spectacle and with effort it could have been experienced more closely. But such is the City of Pittsburgh – a city in fear of its own infrastructure. Those highways and bridges are like the blood vessels in a body after a life that has matured from running,  overheating, and now entering retirement years.

There is hope however with some of the makeup on the edges of the downtown covering the sores that are left from the dwindling steel industry.  Station Square, I already blogged on http://yorkurbanist.com/2012/07/pittsburgh-day-1/, is pleasant and maturing into a landmark gathering place near the core, but across the river.  The South Side results from daddy’s money being pumped into the former industrial plant lands by a young entrepreneur – again, across the river.  And the magnificent Phipps Conservatory is a gem around which to develop a tourism strategy – in the hills.

Then there is sports architecture. But will the single event spaces for football, baseball, and hockey cause an enduring effect? Nice structures, especially PNC Park, Field of Dreams for the Pirates, that seems to present itself to the city’s downtown with every ball game (from across the river).

Pittsburgh is a sports mad town which has a Cultural District. But it is the cultural district that has the potential to initiate real cosmopolitanism.  We were enthused by the first landing (from our car). From the 7th floor of the carpark we could first hear, then see, a jazz concert directly below in a pocket park. And beyond was the splendid Benedum Theatre.  On the street it appeared there were more theatres. Bits and pieces of architecture catch our attention. For the city appears to celebrate its history.

The daytime Fourth of July celebrations had the makings of real culture but they melted in the heat, a city not ready, or its people not convinced it was worthy to endure the heat to go to a cultural festival. Day two fizzled for us, with no relief in the hard core centre of the city, and 93 degree weather.

 

Pittsburgh – Independence Day

July 5th, 2012
Urban Design

The heat and humidity reinforced the problems with walkability of this city.  This series of highways and bridges with a city in them escalates the temperatures that limited our usually limitless desire to explore.  One’s first inclination is to find the water, but the rivers’ edges are hard with no relief from the searing sun. 

The July Fourth concert in the park was nearly devoid of people. Only the treed edges had human occupation.  The Waterfront regatta attracted the mightiest of heat lovers, but then mostly in the few shady patches.  One could only wish to have been one of the water skiers who fell into the river, protected from the tainted waters by wetsuits. One thing can be said for the planning is that a walkway seems continuous along the river’s edge. Grafitti belies its positive use.

What the city lacks in walkability and lack of trees is made up for by the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Garden.  There is no comparable Canadian horticultural display. Art, activity, sustainability demonstration and horticulture blend to make a complete experience, which we rushed through in three hours.

Wavy Edge Towers – today's trend

May 1st, 2012
Urban Design


Okay, the new Massey Tower –  it’s another wavy edge tower. What will be the next trend in highrise facades?

 

I was in Beijing in 2010. Their ring road had many tall buildings, but the creativity was phenomenal. Toronto appears to be building only glass boxes, and the only notoriety the glass boxes get are the falling glass.

How tall?

April 30th, 2012
Urban Design

Are the buildings now for benefit of ego or intensification? http://www.ctbuh.org/TallBuildings/HeightStatistics/AnnualBuildingReview/Trendsof2011/tabid/3040/language/en-US/Default.aspx

An interesting concept that tries to validate the height is a garden in Shenzhen’s Kingkey 100

International Waterfronts – Port of Spain, Trinidad

April 23rd, 2012
Urban Design, Waterfront

Port of Spain, Trinidad

Water’s Edge: Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Paria; Caroni Swamp; St. Ann`s River and mangroves filled and reclaimed

History: Spanish, British then US navy; fishing

Current Use: harbour; tourist

Current planning: Trinidad is allowing waterfront development to proceed relatively unfettered.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=748enrTsGf8
this Youtube profile shows that architecture is allowed to be distinguished while the people places remain poorly designed and fear inspiring. The space between buildings and water is confined and the city misses the opportunity to revegetate. Few places in the city are friendly but the less than generous spaces of the water’s edge are not inspiring to change a tourist’s feelings of safety. Carnival is played out on the streets in January-February. But there is a lost opportunity to develop the waterfront for the event.  What the city does well is provision for ocean going ships. The port has generous docking, providing employment to the local economy.  Unless you are cargo on a ship, there is little reason to visit the Port of Spain.

The water's edge is behind buildings.

“Stress That Doesn’t Pay: The Commuting Paradox,”

April 11th, 2012
Uncategorized

Here is a quote from http://www.wheels.ca/columns/article/806172 Wheels of The Star: “Drive-commuting (as opposed to bus- or train- commuting) does take a real toll. Navigating stop-and-go traffic, sitting in uncomfortable positions, absorbing the toxic output of cars physically and their angry, aggressive drivers emotionally — all of this has a cost.”

Glad to have left my commuting behind as it was elongating. The urban fabric must recognize the commuting paradox – intensify and create mixed use communities. We will not be able to afford the cost in dollars and environment.