Search results for "jane jacobs"

Placeholder Alt Text

Here’s the final stage design of Thomas Heatherwick’s controversial London Garden Bridge
The final touches have been put on London’s now-infamous Garden Bridge, designed by Heatherwick Studio with Arup and landscape designer Dan Pearson. The most recent renderings, released early this week, show exactly what the spaces on the bridge will look like by offering an up-close look at the garden-like landscaping. The Garden Bridge Trust (GBT) describes it as an “oasis of escapism.” Like New York’s High Line, the bridge is a collaboration between the architects and landscape designers, but Pearson said that “Thomas [Heatherwick] always described the garden as being the reason the bridge is there and we have a very generous space with which to make a garden.” This includes 27,000 square feet of planted green space, with ferns, grasses, 270 trees, 2,000 shrubs, hedging plants and climbers, more than 22,000 perennials, and 64,000 bulbs, according to GBT estimates. The new details of the plan include a conceptual framework laid out by Pearson and his team that includes five separate zones that make reference to the green spaces of London. They are: a marsh, a “cliff top landscape,” two woodlands, and a traditional, planted garden area. The design is the last step in unveiling the bridge to the public, which includes several skeptical parties. The approval process has been called into question, including the quick approval of former MP at the Department for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles. Others have questioned the design itself as unnecessary given the extreme need for bridges across the river in other, lower-income East London neighborhoods. Heatherwick has also been tapped to design a similar park that will hover above the Hudson River in New York. It remains to be seen if the Manhattan version will meet the same opposition as the London bridge. Part of the difference is that the Garden Bridge is being sold as a piece of public infrastructure that will connect two important parts of town, but is being heavily regulated including no bicycles, no protests, and no night walking, as Olly Wainwright has mentioned in the Guardian. Sam Jacob pointed out that the bridge raises many questions about public space in a city rapidly consumed as a territory of global capital and speculation. He probably would have preferred the city just build his version, which included the lyrics to Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 98” etched into the stone balustrades. It's hard to fault Heatherwick for the political turmoil, however. He has delivered a beautiful piece of parkland, and we would have to believe that he is doing his best to mitigate the undercurrents of neoliberalism and inequality that are highlighted by the project. In a recent interview with AN, Heatherwick said, "I’m very influenced by the Jane Jacobs book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. It almost made me fall in love with public-ness. With the bit we share together, and the subtle chemistry existing in the social interactions in public space." Sometimes the architect is hard to blame. [via gizmag]
Placeholder Alt Text

Q+A> Thomas Heatherwick talks about architecture, being an outsider, and his new exhibition at the Hammer Museum
The new exhibition Provocations: The Architecture and Design of Heatherwick Studio opened Friday at Los Angeles' Hammer Museum. The show, curated by Brooke Hodge, explores the firm's creative process and the remarkable scope of its work, with a particular focus on public scale projects. AN West Editor Sam Lubell talked with Thomas Heatherwick about the exhibition, his outsider approach, and where he's heading now. Sam Lubell: There doesn't seem to be a category for your work. You're a designer and you're an inventor. Thomas Heatherwick: It surprised me, when I was growing up the word inventor was always connected to the word mad—mad inventor. And you couldn't study it. But the paintings we valued had an inventive move, the pieces of writing would have an inventive something in them. Sculpture, science, transportation. We're all curious about what the future will be, and the future is made from ideas. But you couldn't study that. The world of developing, evolving ideas was chopped up into these different things with titles. So I was quite surprised. I've always been motivated by where can you make a difference. In a way I'm a problem solver, that's what interests me. The thing is trying to find which problem, and your analysis of what a problem is and where it is. It's all problem solving. It's trying to work out the order to solve those in. You've called your firm "experts in not being experts." To me that's so fascinating. To not be stuck in the expected ideas of what you should be doing. It seems very challenging to maintain that. Especially when you get to be more of an expert in something.  Luckily the world is big. Life is relatively short. Projects take so long to actually do that I don't feel worried about it. My studio's been going for twenty years, but you're seeing photographs of our first completed building project in Singapore. (The UK Pavilion is technically a big bungalow.) I think within everything, why waste your time copying yourself or others? There's an attempt to try to hunt down what the solution is. To me with each project, I feel like not that we're generating a solution, but that we're trying to find it. Which means it helps it to be broader than just myself. It really is we're together trying to solve a crime somehow. Often we'll do development work knowing it's not right. But you're needing to eliminate from your enquiries a strand of your ideas to see if they'll teach you something that might work. You've moved from smaller work to buildings and bridges. What's the next frontier?  I feel I've barely scraped any frontier. This is going to sound very dull, but my grandmother at the end of her life was in a nursing home. We found the best nursing home we could for her, but it was a really poor environment. But the most alarming part of it was for the staff. We are all going to be that person one day who's there. I want to know society thanks them. I know I'll be old and rotting. It felt to me there's something really wrong in that. You feel you could make a real difference with relatively little resource. Another example is the prison system. Do you really want to hurt someone more and then they come out and sit next to you on the bus? Most people in British prisons have not had the benefits in their life that you and I have had. The notion of a prison as a learning place and not a hurting people more place is exciting. If there's a way to politically enable that to happen when the public wants to condemn. If you hurt them more it's not going to help you. You seem to have this spirit that anything's possible. People are resigned to these areas that you've mentioned. For you it's like no, it doesn't have to be that way. People are cynical, and you guys have this idealism that is really refreshing.  I think I've been lucky that for some of the early projects, there were people who supported them and allowed them to happen. That gives you more encouragement to keep going and to believe the best in people. I've trained around some really hard-bitten architectural characters, and you understand why. Because it's very hard to make a building at all, let alone one with any value or quality. And it's really easy to get downtrodden and bitter. I suppose I've very consciously put that in my brain and tried to protect that, and not fall into that trap. Because it's like an itch that's easy to scratch. And as soon as you start scratching, if you don't believe the best of the people around you, then they will conform to being the worst. I see there's a lot of that idea of protecting and not allowing in the forces of cynicism. We're in an interesting time. Particularly in America there's a culture of entrepreneurial optimism and societal improvement in entrepreneurship. So I don't feel alone, I feel particularly inspired by the extraordinary examples of people pursuing an idea and believing something can happen, and there's no reason something shouldn't. Not blaming the world for ideas not happening. Since you're willing to rethink these processes, sometimes people get rubbed the wrong way. There's been some backlash about your attempt to move up in scale. People saying "he's not an architect." How do you respond to that?  The studio has 120 architects, and it's a brilliant training. I'm very lucky to work with people who've trained in that way. There's always some friction in change. It would be very weird if there wasn't. The public area between all the private zones is the bit we all share. As we all know, some people are good at adapting to change and others are very fearful of it. You can't predict and control how people feel about things. But I'm very lucky to have this team, and I'm very lucky to have the support that I do. Any innovation I see happening is when people step outside their bubbles. And it seems like that's what you're willing to do.  I've never been in a bubble. Maybe I've deliberately protected that. But I've also tried to bring in people who have that expertise to work with us. These designs are very provocative and complex, but they're very human. They're always grounded and approachable and understandable somehow.  It's a very real interest. I'm very influenced by the Jane Jacobs book The Death and Life of Great American Cities. It almost made me fall in love with public-ness. With the bit we share together, and the subtle chemistry existing in the social interactions in public space. And William White, who analyzed public space so well in the 70s. Lessons that haven't been learned since. It's just re-tuning in to thinking that's already there, but trying to synthesize and bring that to bear on projects now. Do you think you have more interest now in the public realm than in doing projects for individuals?  I've always had that. In a sense you can make more difference. We already know peoples' private homes can be sensational and gorgeous and impressive and that things in art galleries can be stunning and wonderful and in fact you're positively disappointed if they're not. Whereas we have very low expectations of public space. People really don't expect much at all. Having scaled up, are there any major lessons you've learned from working with architects? I built my first building when I was 21 at university, so this isn't new territory. But it takes years to be trusted by cities and property developers and cultural institutions. To be an architect is an impossibly big job. A really good architect is a collaborator, and harnesses the brainpower and brilliance of others. And I feel a strong sense that my role is to try to harness the brilliance of others, and to synthesize and bring that together into projects that have some meaning. I don't see myself so much as an author, I see myself as a "bringer-togetherer" of things. It's deep in me, the passion for both the space and the materiality. And I'm lucky to work with such good people.
Placeholder Alt Text

Michael Sorkin
Peter Cook

1.    The feel of cool marble under bare feet.
2.    How to live in a small room with five strangers for six months.
3.    With the same strangers in a lifeboat for one week.
4.    The modulus of rupture.
5.    The distance a shout carries in the city.
6.    The distance of a whisper.
7.    Everything possible about Hatshepsut’s temple (try not to see it as ‘modernist’ avant la lettre).
8.    The number of people with rent subsidies in New York City.
9.    In your town (include the rich).
10.    The flowering season for azaleas.
11.    The insulating properties of glass.
12.    The history of its production and use.
13.    And of its meaning.
14.    How to lay bricks.
15.    What Victor Hugo really meant by ‘this will kill that.’
16.    The rate at which the seas are rising.
17.    Building information modeling (BIM).
18.    How to unclog a rapidograph.
19.    The Gini coefficient.
20.    A comfortable tread-to-riser ratio for a six-year-old.
21.    In a wheelchair.
22.    The energy embodied in aluminum.
23.    How to turn a corner.
24.    How to design a corner.
25.    How to sit in a corner.
26.    How Antoni Gaudí modeled the Sagrada Família and calculated its structure.
27.    The proportioning system for the Villa Rotonda.
28.    The rate at which that carpet you specified off-gasses.
29.    The relevant sections of the Code of Hammurabi.
30.    The migratory patterns of warblers and other seasonal travellers.
31.    The basics of mud construction.
32.    The direction of prevailing winds.
33.    Hydrology is destiny.
34.    Jane Jacobs in and out.
35.    Something about feng shui.
36.    Something about Vastu Shilpa.
37.    Elementary ergonomics.
38.    The color wheel.
39.    What the client wants.
40.    What the client thinks it wants.
41.    What the client needs.
42.    What the client can afford.
43.    What the planet can afford.
44.    The theoretical bases for modernity and a great deal about its factions and inflections.
45.    What post-Fordism means for the mode of production of building.
46.    Another language.
47.    What the brick really wants.
48.    The difference between Winchester Cathedral and a bicycle shed.
49.    What went wrong in Fatehpur Sikri.
50.    What went wrong in Pruitt-Igoe.
51.    What went wrong with the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
52.    Where the CCTV cameras are.
53.    Why Mies really left Germany.
54.    How people lived in Çatal Hüyük.
55.    The structural properties of tufa.
56.    How to calculate the dimensions of brise-soleil.
57.    The kilowatt costs of photovoltaic cells.
58.    Vitruvius.
59.    Walter Benjamin.
60.    Marshall Berman.
61.    The secrets of the success of Robert Moses.  
62.    How the dome on the Duomo in Florence was built.
63.    The reciprocal influences of Chinese and Japanese building.
64.    The cycle of the Ise Shrine.
65.    Entasis.
66.    The history of Soweto.
67.    What it’s like to walk down the Ramblas.
68.    Back-up.
69.    The proper proportions of a gin martini.
70.    Shear and moment.
71.    Shakespeare, etc.
72.    How the crow flies.
73.    The difference between a ghetto and a neighborhood.
74.    How the pyramids were built.
75.    Why.
76.    The pleasures of the suburbs.
77.    The horrors.
78.    The quality of light passing through ice.
79.    The meaninglessness of borders.
80.    The reasons for their tenacity.
81.    The creativity of the ecotone.
82.    The need for freaks.
83.    Accidents must happen.
84.    It is possible to begin designing anywhere.
85.    The smell of concrete after rain.
86.    The angle of the sun at the equinox.
87.    How to ride a bicycle.
88.    The depth of the aquifer beneath you.
89.    The slope of a handicapped ramp.
90.    The wages of construction workers.
91.    Perspective by hand.
92.    Sentence structure.
93.    The pleasure of a spritz at sunset at a table by the Grand Canal.
94.    The thrill of the ride.
95.    Where materials come from.
96.    How to get lost.
97.    The pattern of artificial light at night, seen from space.
98.    What human differences are defensible in practice.
99.    Creation is a patient search.
100.    The debate between Otto Wagner and Camillo Sitte.
101.    The reasons for the split between architecture and engineering.
102.    Many ideas about what constitutes utopia.
103.    The social and formal organization of the villages of the Dogon.
104.    Brutalism, Bowellism, and the Baroque.
105.    How to derive.
106.    Woodshop safety.
107.    A great deal about the Gothic.
108.    The architectural impact of colonialism on the cities of North Africa.
109.    A distaste for imperialism.
110.    The history of Beijing.
111.    Dutch domestic architecture in the 17th century.
112.    Aristotle’s Politics.
113.    His Poetics.
114.    The basics of wattle and daub.
115.    The origins of the balloon frame.
116.    The rate at which copper acquires its patina.
117.    The levels of particulates in the air of Tianjin.
118.    The capacity of white pine trees to sequester carbon.
119.    Where else to sink it.
120.    The fire code.
121.    The seismic code.
122.    The health code.
123.    The Romantics, throughout the arts and philosophy.
124.    How to listen closely.
125.    That there is a big danger in working in a single medium. The logjam you don’t even know you’re stuck in will be broken by a shift in representation.
126.    The exquisite corpse.
127.    Scissors, stone, paper.
128.    Good Bordeaux.
129.    Good beer.
130.    How to escape a maze.
131.    QWERTY.
132.    Fear.
133.    Finding your way around Prague, Fez, Shanghai, Johannesburg, Kyoto, Rio, Mexico, Solo, Benares, Bangkok, Leningrad, Isfahan.
134.    The proper way to behave with interns.
135.    Maya, Revit, Catia, whatever.
136.    The history of big machines, including those that can fly.
137.    How to calculate ecological footprints.
138.    Three good lunch spots within walking distance.
139.    The value of human life.
140.    Who pays.
141.    Who profits.
142.    The Venturi effect.
143.    How people pee.
144.    What to refuse to do, even for the money.
145.    The fine print in the contract.
146.    A smattering of naval architecture.
147.    The idea of too far.
148.    The idea of too close.
149.    Burial practices in a wide range of cultures.
150.    The density needed to support a pharmacy.
151.    The density needed to support a subway.
152.    The effect of the design of your city on food miles for fresh produce.
153.    Lewis Mumford and Patrick Geddes.
154.    Capability Brown, André Le Nôtre, Frederick Law Olmsted, Muso Soseki, Ji Cheng, and Roberto Burle Marx.
155.    Constructivism, in and out.
156.    Sinan.
157.    Squatter settlements via visits and conversations with residents.
158.    The history and techniques of architectural representation across cultures.
159.    Several other artistic media.
160.    A bit of chemistry and physics.
161.    Geodesics.
162.    Geodetics.
163.    Geomorphology.
164.    Geography.
165.    The Law of the Andes.
166.    Cappadocia first-hand.
167.    The importance of the Amazon.
168.    How to patch leaks.
169.    What makes you happy.
170.    The components of a comfortable environment for sleep.
171.    The view from the Acropolis.
172.    The way to Santa Fe.
173.    The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
174.    Where to eat in Brooklyn.
175.    Half as much as a London cabbie.
176.    The Nolli Plan.
177.    The Cerdà Plan.
178.    The Haussmann Plan.
179.    Slope analysis.
180.    Darkroom procedures and Photoshop.
181.    Dawn breaking after a bender.
182.    Styles of genealogy and taxonomy.
183.    Betty Friedan.
184.    Guy Debord.
185.    Ant Farm.
186.    Archigram.
187.    Club Med.
188.    Crepuscule in Dharamshala.
189.    Solid geometry.
190.    Strengths of materials (if only intuitively).
191.    Ha Long Bay.
192.    What’s been accomplished in Medellín.
193.    In Rio.
194.    In Calcutta.
195.    In Curitiba.
196.    In Mumbai.
197.    Who practices? (It is your duty to secure this space for all who want to.)
198.    Why you think architecture does any good.
199.    The depreciation cycle.
200.    What rusts.
201.    Good model-making techniques in wood and cardboard.
202.    How to play a musical instrument.
203.    Which way the wind blows.
204.    The acoustical properties of trees and shrubs.
205.    How to guard a house from floods.
206.    The connection between the Suprematists and Zaha.
207.    The connection between Oscar Niemeyer and Zaha.
208.    Where north (or south) is.
209.    How to give directions, efficiently and courteously.
210.    Stadtluft macht frei.
211.    Underneath the pavement the beach.
212.    Underneath the beach the pavement.
213.    The germ theory of disease.
214.    The importance of vitamin D.
215.    How close is too close.
216.    The capacity of a bioswale to recharge the aquifer.
217.    The draught of ferries.
218.    Bicycle safety and etiquette.
219.    The difference between gabions and riprap.
220.    The acoustic performance of Boston Symphony Hall.
221.    How to open the window.
222.    The diameter of the earth.
223.    The number of gallons of water used in a shower.
224.    The distance at which you can recognize faces.
225.    How and when to bribe public officials (for the greater good).
226.    Concrete finishes.
227.    Brick bonds.
228.    The Housing Question by Friedrich Engels.
229.    The prismatic charms of Greek island towns.
230.    The energy potential of the wind.
231.    The cooling potential of the wind, including the use of chimneys and the stack effect.
232.    Paestum.
233.    Straw-bale building technology.
234.    Rachel Carson.
235.    Freud.
236.    The excellence of Michel de Klerk.
237.    Of Alvar Aalto.
238.    Of Lina Bo Bardi.
239.    The non-pharmacological components of a good club.
240.    Mesa Verde National Park.
241.    Chichen Itza.
242.    Your neighbors.
243.    The dimensions and proper orientation of sports fields.
244.    The remediation capacity of wetlands.
245.    The capacity of wetlands to attenuate storm surges.
246.    How to cut a truly elegant section.
247.    The depths of desire.
248.    The heights of folly.
249.    Low tide.
250.    The Golden and other ratios.

Placeholder Alt Text

Broadcasting Design
Charlie Rose.
Courtesy National Building Museum

The veteran broadcaster Charlie Rose has been awarded the 2014 Vincent Scully Prize from the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. Known for his interviews of leading figures in politics, business, and culture, Rose has featured numerous architects on his eponymous talk show.

Created in 1999 in the name the Yale architectural historian Vincent Scully, the prize was established to honor “exemplary practice, scholarship, or criticism in architecture, historic preservation, and urban design,” according to the mission statement from the museum. Previous winners have included Jane Jacobs, Robert Venturi, the Prince of Wales, and Robert A.M. Stern.

The jury for the prize includes architects Deborah Berke, Gary Haney, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, David Schwarz, and Ned Cramer, editor-in-chief of Architect. Some might argue Rose’s contribution to architecture is less substantial than those of previous winners, but the jury would disagree. “Charlie Rose is to television what Vince Scully is to the written word,” Cramer said in a statement.

“One of the great joys of spending twenty-five years at the table is meeting a cross-section of the best in culture and science and technology,” said Rose in a statement. “I have a special place for the men and women who inspire us with the buildings they create. Architecture is a passion of mine and I’ve been proud to know not only architects but also those who teach, assess, and love great buildings. Architecture is one of the reflections of the permanence of a civilization.”

Rose’s longtime romantic companion, former New York City Planning Chair Amanda Burden, will present him with the award. Frank Gehry will also pay tribute to Rose during the gala ceremony on November 18.

Placeholder Alt Text

The Next Wave
BIG's plan.
Courtesy BIG

Seventeen months after Hurricane Sandy roared into New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut, leading architects from around the globe showed how affected communities can fight back against the next Sandy. They presented their plans as part of Rebuild By Design, a competition created by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to solicit ideas for a more resilient region. After months of consultation with engineers, architects and planners, the final ten teams presented their proposals twenty-nine floors above the eerily calm waters of the New York Harbor and the Hudson River.

For the South Shore of Staten Island, SCAPE proposed “living breakwaters” made of oysters to protect against a stronger sea. WXY drew up plans for “blue dunes,” or barrier islands miles out from shore. And OMA suggested both hard infrastructure and soft landscapes to “resist, delay, store, and discharge” stormwater from Hoboken.

Left to right: Rendering of Sasaki's plan; Section through SCAPE's plan.
Courtesy Respective Firms

It was BIG’s proposal that would wrap Manhattan’s skin with new cultural and green space that doubles as infrastructure. Bjarke Ingels told AN that his team’s plan was “the lovechild of Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs.” To that effect, new parkland serves as a berm, an art gallery under the FDR expressway becomes a storm wall, and pavilions transform into floodgates. “If we’re going to spend all this money on necessity or utility, let’s make sure it also provides social amenity and public amenity,” said Ingels.

This point is key: Planning for climate change should be about more than preparing for bigger and more frequent storms. Because even if the “100-year storm” becomes the “50-year storm” or the “10-year storm,” the vast majority of the time, these spaces will not be flooded with water; ideally, they will be flooded with people. Brooklyn Bridge Park is the perfect example of this: on most days it is a treasured public space, but when Sandy struck, it became a crucial buffer between the borough and the breaking waves.

Left to right: Proposal by Interboro; Rendering of plan by PennDesign & OLIN; HR&A's plan for a section of the Gowanus Canal.
Courtesy Respective Firms

Rebuild By Design is about building more spaces like that; it’s focused on using design as infrastructure and infrastructure as design. “This is about moving from a culture where we only think about protecting our communities after the storm has happened, to thinking about how we protect our communities in every decision that we make as we build them,” HUD Secretary Donovan told AN. “Every time we build a sidewalk, a park, a piece of infrastructure, how do we make sure that every one of those steps better prepares our communities for the effects of climate change.”

Rebuild By Design fits squarely within that vision. The competition is not just an opportunity for famous architects to show off some nice renderings. When a winner— or winners—from the group is selected later this month, they are slated to receive federal funds to help make their plans a reality. Hopefully, the funds come in before the next storm does.

Placeholder Alt Text

Jan Gehl Calls On Cities to Design For People, Not For Cars
The Oculus book talk on the new book, How to Study Public Life, at the Center for Architecture with Jan Gehl and his co-author Birgitte Svarre was like seeing the documentary The Human Scale come to life—only with a sense of humor. Gehl’s urban theories have gained a lot of traction, not least in New York City. Jeanette Sadik-Khan went to Gehl's native Copenhagen two weeks into her job as commissioner of NYC's Department of Transportation (along with fellow commissioner of City Planning, Amanda Burden) and experienced the city's pedestrian-over-cars public plazas, rode bicycles on protected bike lanes, and absorbed the lessons of the city that is repeatedly named the most livable in the world. The 77-year-old Gehl traces his crusade back to a New York antecedent, Jane Jacobs' 1961 Death and Life of Great American Cities, published one year after he graduated from architecture school. He was trained to make free-standing buildings that “look nice from an airplane,” but married a psychologist who challenged him: why aren’t you interested in people? Gehl began to observe the behavior of people in cities (people like to cluster near the edges, not stand in the open, for example) and came up with measurable statistics in a series of studies that began to influence policy. In 1962, Copenhagen pedestrianized its first street, Stroeget Street, which began its transformation from a car to a biking and walking city. Today, Copenhagen has seven times more people space than in the 1960s, and all taxis and public transportation are legislated to have bike racks to widen the reach of this preferred mode of transport. I was reminded of the new film, Copenhagen, winner at the Slamdance Film Festival, where the human-scaled city traversed by bike is a main character. Gehl noted that the “Brasilia Syndrome” of cities that look good from the air but not from the ground, is still rampant in China, Dubai, and even in Brooklyn. He calls this birds-eye-view building “birdshit architecture.” His twin devils are the two M’s: modernism and motorists, and he’d prefer to have a Department of Pedestrians to a Department of Transportation (no city yet has taken on the challenge). Perhaps the proof that Gehl’s theories work is that in 2012, New York City was awarded the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize recognizing the transformation of the city during the Bloomberg administration. Books by Jan Gehl available from Island Press: How to Study Public Life, 2013 Cities for People, 2010 Life Between Buildings, 2008
Placeholder Alt Text

Emergent Master Planning
SOM and Sasaki are transforming a 600-acre former U.S. Steel mill on Chicago's South Side into a mixed-use district with parks, a marina, and small block sizes.
Courtesy SOM

For as much as the rejuvenation of American cities during the past two decades has been accomplished by grassroots, D.I.Y. movements, the 21st Century is seeing a return of the urban master plan. John Gendall goes on a coast-to-coast tour of some of the country’s biggest inner-city development projects to find out how today’s master planners are finding ways to reconcile Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs.

If you’re a reader of design magazines, you may be forgiven for thinking that 21st century urbanism is a product of popsicle stands and micro-gardens. In part, fueled by a distaste for anything that had a hand in the 2008 economic collapse (main characters: bankers, big government, and needlessly risky developers), urban theory took a turn to the grass-roots, self-starting stories that sprang up in the fault lines of the Clinton/Bush-era real estate bonanza. The American city, though, is facing a critical turning point, having to reckon with changing economic engines, the public health realities of environmental abuse, and a cultural reevaluation of the suburbs. While I like artisanal popsicles as much as the next person (truth be told, I like them more), with a glut of these so-called D.I.Y. Urbanism projects pinballing through blogs and magazines, it seems right to ask ‘where has the master plan gone?’

Rendering of SOM and Sasaki's plan for Chicago.

One answer would be Chicago, where what is expected to be a $4 billion development is reconfiguring an entire swath of the South Side. Back in 1901, when U.S. Steel set up shop—a shop in the form of a 600-acre landfill on Lake Michigan—it chose its site directly on the lake, where its long horizontal mills could make use of the water for incoming supplies and outgoing waste. Though the industrial site drove a wedge between the city’s South Side and the waterfront, economic benefits in the form of thousands of jobs justified the location. When it was shuttered in 1992, not only did those jobs vanish, but the environmentally compromised site was left as a blight to the neighborhood. Less than ten years ago, Lakeside Development (a joint venture between U.S. Steel and McCaffery Interests) hired SOM and Sasaki to design a master plan for the future development of the old mill.

“One of our first priorities is to deliver infrastructure to the site,” said Douglas Voigt, SOM’s director of urban design. “And we don’t want those technologies to come from 40 to 50 years ago, but rather 100 years in the future.” The way the designers see that future is in the form of a possible micro-grid (not unlike a university campus), where energy from wind and/or solar technologies could be generated by the district and sold to the city in times of excess. The plan also overhauls the site’s relationship to the water. Taking advantage of the landfill’s porous slag, the designers plan to allow rainwater to filter through the remediated terrain, where it will then return to the lake and recharge its water table. For the design team, the project is not about mitigating the environmental detriments of building, but about casting development as an environmental possibility. “We want the project to create a positive contribution to the site’s ecology,” said Voigt. But this is no experiment in environmental technologies. The designers are quick to foreground the human experience of what will become a new district. Parks and open space, a recreational marina, and smaller block sizes will enhance the quality of life for residents.

Grimshaw and Gruen Associates’ vision for a multi-modal, transit-oriented LA (left). Four alternatives for integrating those plans with LA’s existing Union Station (right).
Courtesy Grimshaw and Gruen; Courtesy METRO

Mention large-scale master plans and transportation policy is never far behind. “Transportation is still one of the larger challenges,” conceded Voigt. “It’s as much cultural as it is an issue of technology.”

Nowhere is this truer than in Los Angeles. The city that mythologized the age of the automobile is now expanding its subway system, seeing surging volumes on its regional rail lines, and is anticipating the arrival of high-speed rail. In the midst of this diversifying transportation network sits Union Station, a 1939 architectural gem ringed by parking. Metro, which bought the 47-acre property in 2011, hired Gruen Associates and Grimshaw Architects to turn the building into an urban workhorse. Built in the Golden Age of Hollywood, it was designed for 7,000 daily passengers. It now moves 70,000. In the midst of a bourgeoning downtown, and next door to the vibrant Little Tokyo and Chinatown neighborhoods, Union Station was never fully integrated into the urban landscape. “Our first goal is to address the transit needs,” explained Cal Hollis, Metro’s executive officer of countywide planning. “It was built as a transit building, but it’s now a multi-modal transportation hub.” The master plan will also include two office buildings and approximately 250 residential units as a way to link the building with the surrounding area. “It’s now perceived as not a part of downtown, so we want to tie it in better with the area by making better pedestrian connections,” said Hollis.

SOM, Hargreaves Associates, and Kiewit are turning Denver’s Union Station into a centerpiece for the city, as well as a multi-modal tansit hub.
Courtesy SOM

L.A. can find a useful model in Denver, which, next spring, will cut the ribbon on its own historic Union Station as the center of a multi-modal transportation network. “We had several disconnected elements feeding into downtown,” explained Bill Mosher, senior managing director of developer Trammell Crow and the owner’s representative for the Denver Union Station Project Authority. “The issue was where to put the hub.” That hub, they determined, would be the 19th century train station that the design/build joint venture between SOM, Hargreaves Associates, and Kiewit is now reconfiguring into not only a centerpiece for a revamped city and regional transportation strategy, but also as an important connective public space between downtown and the Central Platte Valley. Owing to the real estate development that the project has instigated, Mosher said the project will account for more than $1 billion of development, dramatically transforming the physical and economic landscape of that area.

Plan for transforming Denver's Union Station.

The Denver project highlights the critical role of what has become an Obama-era lightning rod: government spending. “There has to be an understanding of the role of government,” said Mosher. Citing voter-approved financing for a 2004 transportation initiative, he added, “there has to be public investment, which is then followed by the private sector.”

Detail of the rail shed and platforms at Denver's Union Station.

This is a formula that New Yorkers will recognize from the much-anticipated Hudson Yards redevelopment, the genesis of which can be found in the extension of the MTA’s No. 7 subway. A master plan conceived by KPF will harness the $2 billion of transportation investment into a 26-acre mixed-use area, zoned for more than 13 million square feet of development, both commercial and residential. Whereas urban development on this scale has been maligned in the past for carrying out heavy-handed top-down approaches, KPF is determined to avoid the mistakes of earlier planners. “The key is to create an exciting urban experience,” said KPF founding design partner Bill Pedersen. “You can’t just build a bunch of office buildings.” Up high, the tilting forms of the two main towers are meant to integrate into the Manhattan skyline, gesturing, on one hand, toward the Hudson River and, on the other, toward the towers of Midtown. But much of the master plan’s emphasis is on the street level. “We considered the position of the human body and its relationship to the environment so that it’s always changing as you walk around,” said Pedersen. Pointing out the way the towers scale down to meet Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Culture Shed, and the way the Highline will cut straight through the building volume, he stressed that “the connection to the city is the crucial element.”

These immense urban developments point to a changing cultural and demographic reality. The most recent U.S. census data shows that urban populations are growing faster than populations in non-urban areas, meaning that America’s cities are swelling (and are projected to continue that trajectory with increasing volume). Absent an outward expansion of the suburbs, basic arithmetic points to the need for cogently planned densification.

The Blairs, designed by Bing Thom Architects, transforms a 1960s suburban development in Silver Spring, Maryland, into a dense, pedestrian-oriented district.
Courtesy Bing Thom Architects

A current master plan for The Blairs, in Silver Spring, Maryland, doubles as a diagram of this data. Built by a private developer in the 1960s as a suburban foil to Washington, the 27-acre community had 1,300 residential units in slab buildings surrounded by parking lots. The Tower Companies, the development’s original owner, hired Bing Thom Architects and Sasaki to design a plan for a denser development. With a comprehensive approach, the team was able to increase density even while adding open green space by relocating most of the 3,200 parking spaces underground. “The key was to create a series of public spaces that not only allow for recreation, but also to complement the commercial spaces around it,” said Ling Meng, a director at Bing Thom Architects. The plan doubles the residential units to 2,800. As Sasaki principal Alan Ward put it, “The challenge in developing this many units would be that it could have resulted in a mega-tower, but by keeping the geometries varied and developing residential blocks wrapped by townhouses, the entire community will have a very human scale.”

The Blairs in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The present debate between D.I.Y. and master planned urbanism still runs on the fumes of what has become an immensely reductive clash between Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs. While there is much to be learned from their legacies, to keep them in the kick-boxing ring of urban theory glosses over much of the nuance in counter-productive ways. The Cross-Bronx Expressway, put in place by Moses, is an urban disgrace. And the fact that there still exists a Greenwich Village, saved by Jacobs, is a delightful highlight in the history of community activism. But there is more to the story than the technocratic power broker setting out to squelch the crazy dame.

While the examples above involve decades of contentious public debate, byzantine political processes, and expansive budgets, they also borrow principles from each of the archrivals. To begin with, each of these master plans includes the chorus of many different community voices. “It takes time and money, yes, but it also takes a remarkable amount of civic will and a real commitment to the area,” said Mosher. Sasaki principal Dennis Pieprz put it differently: “We work on projects around the globe, and one of the things that is present in the U.S. that you don’t see elsewhere is the very active process of community engagement.”

The KPF-designed Hudson Yards, on Manhattan’s West Side, includes more than 13 million-square-feet of development that links into The High Line.
Courtesy KPF

“To see Jane Jacobs as only a community activist is problematic,” said Vishaan Chakrabarti, partner at SHoP Architects and associate professor of real estate development at the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation. “She is also an advocate for the economic expansion of cities. She wanted to see development in the form of mixed-use environments.”

She did write The Death and Life of Great American Cities, yes, but she followed that up with The Economy of Cities and Cities and the Wealth of Nations. To turn that popsicle stand into a popsicle store, and then to parlay that into a popsicle distribution company demands a dense local market complete with efficient transportation networks, diverse housing stock, and infrastructure.

View of the first tower under construction at Hudson Yards from the High Line (left). Rendering of the first group of towers that will rise at Hudson Yards (right).

The knee-jerk vilification of Moses is similarly unproductive. “Urban renewal is such a loaded term because it is so associated with Robert Moses and with community displacement, but it did some important things, like transit-oriented affordable housing,” said Chakrabarti. “That whole era has been made a caricature of itself.”

Detail of Hudson Yards' retail mall and tower bases.

Dense urban areas make an environmental and economic case for themselves, but there is also a more intangible argument to be made for this type of urban regeneration: the cultural reconsideration of the suburbs as the desired life endpoint. “The suburbs are not just a consequence of the market,” said Chakrabarti, paraphrasing a theme of his forthcoming book, A Country of Cities (Metropolis Books, 2013). “There is a $100-billion-per-year federal subsidy to support the suburbs. If you were to level the playing field, we’d see even more movement into cities.”

As that movement happens, master plans—having learned from mistakes in the past and responding to active, thoughtful community engagement—have the capacity to render these cities more equitable, environmentally sustainable, and perfectly suitable for all kinds of D.I.Y interventions.

“These types of projects are opportunities to do more than just design a few buildings,” said Pieprz. “It’s an opportunity to develop a new vision for the city and how this area can evolve. Everything goes back to the human occupation of space, how people experience a place.”

Placeholder Alt Text

Grady Clay, 1916-2013
Grady Clay looks out over the Ohio Riverfront in downtown Louisville.
Courtesy Estate of Grady Clay

Behind the wheel of an old dark green Porsche, in lace-up boots and tweed jackets, with a gentle drawl and impish smile, he hardly seemed radical, but neither did his look-alike, William Faulkner. Actually, like his friend Jane Jacobs, he was both radical and wise—and well stocked with ideas, because he always had a little reporter’s notebook or tape recorder in his pocket to jot down observations.

These later turned up in his articles for the Louisville Courier-Journal or in the numerous books and magazine articles he wrote, even while editing Landscape Architecture Magazine from his home base in Louisville, Kentucky, for 25 years (1959-85).

Under his leadership, the magazine published the work of Ian McHarg, A. E. Bye, Lawrence Halprin, Darrel Morrison, Martha Schwartz, and James van Sweden. It emphasized ecology and covered new earthwork sculpture by Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer, native plantings, and adventure playgrounds. It ran articles by J. B. Jackson, Ada Louise Huxtable, Robert Moses, and William “Holly” Whyte. Unsurprisingly, its readership and influence increased exponentially during his tenure.

Grady Clay was the author of the influential books Closeup: How to Read the American City (1974), Water in the Landscape (1979), Right Before Your Eyes: Penetrating the Urban Environment and Landscapes for Living (both 1987). Between 1991 and 2005, he was also a weekly commentator on Louisville’s NPR affiliate.

He was also the chairman of the jury for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial design competition in 1980 that selected Maya Lin’s radically abstract scheme. (Other jurors were Harry Weese, Richard Hunt, Garrett Eckbo, Constantino Nivola, James Rosati, Hideo Sasaki, and Pietro Belluschi.) Paul Spreiregen, who organized the competition, remembered that, “during the jurors’ deliberations, Grady noted any cogent comment. When the jury had come to a decision, after three-and-a-half days intensely reviewing some 1,432 designs, Grady and I sat down to write a brief report describing the jury’s recommendation to the sponsor, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. He had extracted the most cogent juror’s remarks. The next day, speaking for the jury, he presented the report along with the winning design. It took 25 minutes, and was followed by a short silence. But very soon the members of the sponsor group, about 30 in all, jumped to their feet, cheering and applauding in acceptance. They’d gotten it! Since the winning design was very simply presented graphically, its many subtle implications were unlikely to have been readily grasped. There is no doubt in my mind that Grady’s old note-taking habit, with his skill in extracting the essence of an idea, was the basis for earning the approval of the memorial sponsor.”

Grady Clay was born in Atlanta, the son of an eye surgeon on the Emory University faculty, and grew up at Walnut Grove, the family’s farm in Ashland. He graduated from Emory in 1938, earned a Master’s in Journalism at Columbia in 1939, and became a police beat reporter at the Louisville Times the next year.

During World War II, as a member of the Armed Forces, he served as assistant officer in charge of the European edition of YANK, the Army weekly in Italy and France. During this time, he developed an interest in geography.

After the War, he joined the staff of the well-regarded Louisville Courier-Journal where he covered national trends in urban renewal, suburban development, land use, and the growth of the interstate highway system.

In 1948, he received a Neiman Fellowship at Harvard, where he studied urban geography and met Ian McHarg, David Wallace, and Jackie Tyrwhitt. In 1973, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship. Over the years, he served on various presidential task forces, taught at the University of Kentucky and Northwestern University, and received an honorary doctorate from Emory.

He was also a prescient proponent of what came to be called “the New Urbanism.” In 2009, the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) acknowledged as much, awarding him the Athena Medal and citing an article he had written for Horizon magazine in 1959, “Metropolis Regained.” The CNU explained, “In words described as ‘eerily similar’ to the Charter of the New Urbanism, which followed more than 35 years later, Clay defined the principles of a group he identified as New Urbanists.” Clay wrote: “We believe in the city, they would say, not in tearing it down. We like open space, but hold that too much of it is just as bad as too little. We want that multiplicity of choice that the city has always offered, but is now in danger of losing.” He added, “I can only say that all great movements start in murmurs and that I can hear murmurs.”

Placeholder Alt Text

Nominations Sought for Jane Jacobs Medal
jane_jacobs_medal_01 After announcing the winners of the 2012 Jane Jacobs Medal last month at Frank Gehry's IAC Building in west Manhattan, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Municipal Art Society are in search of nominees for this year's prize (the awards ceremony was pushed back due to Hurricane Sandy). The groups are accepting online nominations on the Rockefeller Foundation's website through April 30. Among the qualities of a Jacobs Medal winner are that they "Open our eyes to new ways of seeing and understanding our city" and "Challenge traditional assumptions and conventional thinking." Winners will be announced this September.
Placeholder Alt Text

Shiffman, Haggerty, Young Technologists Win Jacobs Medals
Last night, at the Frank Gehry-designed AIC building in far west Chelsea, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Municipal Arts Society honored an esteemed group of urban activists, designers, and community developers with Jane Jacobs Medals, a prestigious prize named for the ground breaking urban writer and activist. Ron Shiffman, founder of the Pratt Center for Community and Environmental Development, was awarded the medal for lifetime leadership. Roseanne Haggerty of Common Ground and Community Solutions, received the award to new ideas and activism. A new award for technology and innovation was given to Carl Skelton, the founder of Betaville, and Cassie Flynn, Erin Barnes, and Brandon Whitney, the creators of ioby (In Our Backyards), a crowdsourced sustainability platform (the trio also donned Jacobs-like glasses after accepting their award). The event was originally scheduled for last November, but had to be rescheduled due to Hurricane Sandy, which damaged the IAC building as well as many of the galleries, businesses, and residences in the surrounding neighborhood. Social and environmental resilience were strong themes of the night, and Ron Shiffman closed the ceremony with a rallying cry for greater civic activism--a fitting message for an evening dedicated to Jacobs.
Placeholder Alt Text

Obit> Jane Holtz Kay, 1938-2012
Noted author and critic Jane Holtz Kay passed away November 5 at the age of 74 from complications of Alzheimer's disease. Her book Asphalt Nation: How the Automobile Took Over America and How We Can Take It Back propelled her into the national spotlight as she chronicled the affects of cars on the American landscape. Jane Jacobs remarked about the book, “Jane Holtz Kay’s book has given us a profound way of seeing the automobile’s ruinous impact on American life." She had been working on a sequel to Asphalt Nation, documenting climate change and global warming, called Last Chance Landscape. Holtz Kay was also architecture critic for The Nation and formerly for the Boston Globe. She is survived by her sister, Ellen Goodman, daughters, Julie Kay and Jacqueline Cessou, and four grandchildren. The staff at The Architect’s Newspaper sends our condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues.
Placeholder Alt Text

A Call to Critical Arms
Paul Goldberger.
Courtesy National Building Museum

It’s been a dizzying year for readers who follow architecture critic Paul Goldberger. Recently deposed as architecture critic at The New Yorker, he quickly rebounded as a Vanity Fair contributing editor, giving the glossy additional gravitas. Now the National Building Museum has added Goldberger to its illustrious roster of Vincent Scully Prize winners. The award carries a purse of $40,000. “I don’t know that I’ll ever be on another list that includes Prince Charles and Jane Jacobs,” Goldberger told AN.

The first Scully award went to its namesake, Vincent Scully, professor emeritus of art history at Yale. In a statement, Goldberger recalled the influence Scully had on him at Yale: “In a very real way I owe my career to the lessons I learned from him, which is why, for me, there could be no higher honor than to receive the prize that carries his name.”

The Scully jury seems to have taken a shining to many a Yalie. Though awarded fourteen times—on occasion to multiple partner firms like Venturi Scott Brown Associates—sixteen individuals have taken home the prize. Eleven have some had some affiliation with the university. They’ve either gone there, taught there, or, in the case of the Aga Khan, given part of his award money to the institution. It’s a clubby little group with Goldberger himself having served on the Scully jury from 1999–2005.

The speech Goldberger plans to deliver at the museum on November 15 will no doubt stir the kind of applause that famously followed his mentor’s lectures at Yale. The address will hit on themes that many in the profession have been mulling over for the course of this tumultuous year in the architectural press: the state of architecture criticism, the changing role of mainstream media in a digital world, and the rise of citizen journalists.

“It’s a paradox about the great degree of interest in architecture and yet a diminishing amount of outlets,” Goldberger said, wondering out loud whether the buzz in social media is the equivalent of what is being lost in the general media. He added that it’s a complex issue when a mass of voices drown out the opinion of the specialist. “There is a profound value to expert guidance,” he said.

The very heart of his career is based on sharing architecture with a mass audience in an unpretentious manner, and Goldberger, an avid Tweeter, said he wouldn’t consider reversing course. “My whole life has been trying to communicate to a broader general audience—that’s the most important thing of all to me,” he said. “But I feel that things have gone too far—crowdsourcing doesn’t always bring you where you want to be.”

He paraphrased literary critic Daniel Mendelsohn’s belief that the critic’s first allegiance is to his subject and not his readers. “Democracy is a great thing but it doesn’t always lead to the best architectural decisions,” he said. “Committees can make things happen, but they can’t create works of art.”