Search results for " bike lanes"

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Want to Motor-Bike With Brad Cloepfil? Van Alen Has You Covered
10-van-alen-auction This Wednesday, the Van Alen Institute is throwing their very first Spring Party in New York City. Tickets to the benefit, taking place at the High Line Hotel, are still on sale, with a variety of price points from a standard party ticket to the high roller "Beaux-Arts Benefactor" costing $25,000. Happening alongside the party, Van Alen has partnered with Paddle8 for an auction of architectural experiences, and some of the world's biggest names—from Iwan Baan to Richard Meier to Brad Cloepfil—have volunteered to potentially spend a little bit of their time with you. Swooning at the opportunities abounding in the auction, AN has rounded up ten of our favorite experiences up for auction we'd love to try. Some of the more quirky lots up for bid include rummaging around Rem Koolhaas' basement, Michael Sorkin's whirlwind 20-minute tour of Manhattan, waking up for a 3:00a.m. breakfast with Hans Ulrich Obrist, and a Skype chat with Aaron Betsky. Each of these experiences carries an estimated value of priceless, so get over to Paddle8 (or download the app), and bid away to support the also-priceless Van Alen Institute. Bid early and often, as the auction ends on Friday, May 23. 01-van-alen-auction Philip Johnson Glass House tour with Henry Urbach According to Van Alen:
Channel the puckish spirit of Philip Johnson, for an afternoon at least: Director Henry Urbach invites you and three guests on a private tour of the Philip Johnson Glass House and its 49-acres of beautiful grounds. This National Trust Historic Site was created to be a catalyst for the preservation and interpretation of modern architecture, landscape, and art, and as you explore the house and grounds, Urbach will explain the place's history and evolution.
Bid on the experience here. 08-van-alen-auction Private helicopter ride with Iwan Baan According to Van Alen:
Get a bird's eye-view of an important new building with architectural photographer Iwan Baan, who will take you on a private helicopter ride during one of his upcoming shoots, currently planned for Los Angeles, Paris, New York, or Chicago. Afterwards, join Baan for a private walk-through of the project being photographed; you're likely to be one of the very first visitors.
Bid on the experience here. 09-van-alen-auction Hudson Valley hike with Rafael de Cárdenas According to Van Alen:
Sometimes you need to leave New York City for a little while to remember why you love it so much. Escape city life for a day with architect Rafael de Cárdenas as he takes you to breakfast and then on a hike in New York's Hudson Valley. Discuss architecture and design with de Cárdenas as you explore this beautiful landscape; he may even take you to his favorite secret waterfall.
Bid on the experience here. 07-van-alen-auction Oregon motorbike tour with Brad Cloepfil According to Van Alen:
What could be better than a motorcycle tour of Oregon Wine Country? Going on that tour with architect Brad Cloepfil, whose firm Allied Works is deeply influenced by the landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. Together you'll sample the area’s finest Pinot Noirs at four distinct wineries, and go on a private tour and tasting at Sokol Blosser Winery's new tasting room, an elegant Allied Works building tucked away in the hills.
Bid on the experience here. 06-van-alen-auction Discover architecture in Rwanda with Sharon Davis According to Van Alen:
What does the future look like for 300 Rwandan women? Full of potential, thanks to the Women's Opportunity Center, designed by architect Sharon Davis. Join her on a private tour of this extraordinary complex that is allowing women to grow their own food, raise their own animals, and use traditional African crafts to earn financial independence and rebuild their lives after war. The series of clustered pavilions is organized in the same way as a traditional Rwandan village, and uses bricks made on site, retained earth walls, and cooling green roofs.
Bid on the experience here.   11-van-alen-auction Milanese dinner at home with Paola Antonelli According to Van Alen:
Ever wonder how a design visionary chooses the objects and furniture that surround her? Find out when MoMA curator Paola Antonelli, who has developed some of the most compelling and trenchant exhibitions of design and its role in every aspect of our culture, invites you and three guests to her apartment for a home-cooked Milanese meal. Discuss everything from culinary traditions and the tools that have grown up around them to the issues and ideas on her radar right now.
Bid on the experience here. 03-van-alen-auction Cocktails and Model Museum tour with Richard Meier According to Van Alen:
How does one of the defining minds of contemporary architecture like his cocktail? You'll find out after Richard Meier himself leads you and two friends on a private tour of the newly-opened Richard Meier Model Museum, where he displays a career-spanning collection of architectural models and an exhibition of his sketches, renderings, photographs, and sculptures. After the tour, the four of you will head to Meier's favorite bar for cocktails and conversation.
Bid on the experience here. 04-van-alen-auction Tour of Eero Saarinen's Bell Labs with Alexander Gorlin According to Van Alen:
The Bell Labs complex in Holmdel, New Jersey, is revered by architects and research scientists alike: The Eero Saarinen-designed complex is famed for its mirrored curtain wall, innovative plan, and role as the site of Nobel Prize-winning research in laser cooling technology. Architect Alexander Gorlin takes you on a private tour of this mid-century hub of technological ingenuity that he is restoring and transforming into a mixed-use town center with housing, retail, and a wellness center for the surrounding community.
Bid on the experience here. 05-van-alen-auction Architecture, art, and food in Seoul with the Kukje Gallery According to Van Alen:
Are you curious about the dynamic and burgeoning Korean art scene? Seoul's Kukje Gallery is at its very heart, and since its founding in 1982 has been one of Asia's leading exhibition centers. The newest gallery space there is K3, a pavilion designed by architects Florian Idenburg and Jing Liu of SO-IL. A Kukje director will give you and three guests a private tour of this striking new space, and afterward, enjoy dinner for four at the renowned Café at Kukje Gallery.
Bid on the experience here. 10-van-alen-auction Preliminary furniture sketch from Freecell Architecture According to Van Alen:
Do you have an idea for amazing piece of furniture, or have a room that needs a custom piece? Take a trip to Freecell Architecture, a Brooklyn-based 3-D installation, design, and furniture studio, where they will work with you to take your rough idea and transform it into a buildable design. Whether that is a desk that folds into seating, a table with glowing electroluminescent surface, pneumatic seating with built-in-technology, or something as-yet undreamt, these skilled designers will create drawings for you that are elegant, precise, and entirely your own.
Bid on the experience here.
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Work to begin on Cincinnati's Central Parkway bike path
Cyclists in Cincinnati will soon have a separated bike lane along Central Parkway—a major connector between neighborhoods including Downtown, the West End, and Over-the-Rhine—following a narrow City Council vote last week. On April 30th, City Council members voted 5-4 to approve the city plan with a modification, adding $110,000 to the $625,000 project. Chris Wetterich of the Cincinnati Business Courier reported the city now will pave a tree-lined right-of-way near a building in the 2100 block of Central Parkway, responding to concerns from building owner Tim Haines and his tenants. As Wetterich reported, the bike path will still be built, but it’s unclear what implications the move could have for the project’s future:
Councilwoman Yvette Simpson reluctantly supported the measure but said she fears that council set a precedent by which other businesses will expect the city to provide free on-street parking in front of their buildings.
Portions of the pathway—which will run through Downtown, the West End, Over-the-Rhine, University Heights, Clifton, and Northside—have been fine-tuned before. Community feedback led to some tweaks in the design between Elm Street and Ludlow Avenue, scaling back plans to widen the street in favor of a re-striped bikeway. Construction on the protected bike lane is supposed to begin soon. The city's website says, "Spring of 2014."
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New York City's Bike Infrastructure Growing and Improving
New York City’s bike infrastructure is expanding into new territory with new greenways connecting the city in a web of safer transportation options. And as it does, the Department of Transportation is working to significantly improve the bike lanes that already exist. In recent weeks, significant progress has been made on the Brooklyn Greenway—a planned 14-mile stretch of protected bike lanes along the borough's waterfront. Volunteers have been busy prepping an empty lot in the Columbia Waterfront District to become one of the Greenway’s many landscaped parks. This two-acre lot is designed by Rogers Marvel Architects.   A little farther north in Williamsburg, the blog Greenpointers spotted new markings along Kent Avenue to connect one of the Greenway’s missing links. An existing on-street bike lane will be moved to create a two-lane, buffered bike path with more insulation from moving trucks and cars. And over in North Manhattan, the NYCDOT recently proposed two-miles of bike lanes for Washington Heights and Inwood. Farther south on the island, existing bike lanes in Tribeca and the East Village are being converted into protected lanes. So what will all these bike lanes mean for New York? Are drivers doomed to sit in increased traffic? Simple answer, no. As Fivethirtyeight recently explained, "bike lanes, if they’re planned for the right streets, can be created without greatly increasing vehicular congestion."
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Pittsburgh's Transformation: The 11 Projects Moving The Steel City Forward
From its streets to its rivers to its skyline, Pittsburgh is a city in transformation. The Steel City is diversifying its economy, improving its streetscape and becoming a new hub for the creative class. Business Insider has even declared Pittsburgh to be “The Next Hipster Haven." But the transformation has meant more than coffee shops, bike-share, and startups—even though that’s certainly playing a part. As the city changes, though, it’s too easy to ask if Pittsburgh is the “Next [Enter City Here].” Because the “Next Pittsburgh” will not be the “Next Austin,” or even the “Next Portland.” It's shaping up to be something entirely it’s own. Simply put, "The Next Pittsburgh" will be just that. 1.  The Tower at PNC Plaza  Pittsburgh’s skyline will change dramatically next year as the new 32-story Tower at PNC Plaza marks its place. The financial services company is calling their new Gensler-designed headquarters “the world’s greenest skyrise.” While that’s a bold claim, the glass tower will have a lot more than the typical green fixings.  It is expected to surpass LEED Platinum status with its massive solar collector on the roof and a double-skin facade that opens and closes according to the temperature. Also, there will be green roofs, because, obviously. 2. Market Square Installation Following a major renovation in 2010, the city’s Market Square recently unveiled a temporary, public art installation called Congregation. The work is described as “an interactive kinetic video and sound installation designed and choreographed for pedestrian performers.” Essentially, the installation turned the public space into a dynamic public stage. And best of all, it was completely free and open to all ages. While Congregation recently closed, it is part of a new three-year initiative to bring art to the city during those cold, winter months. 3. Produce Terminal Significant changes could be in store for Pittsburgh’s old produce terminal in the city’s vibrant Strip District. What those changes will look like, though, isn’t clear just yet. A local developer had planned to renovate two-thirds of the 1,500-foot-long structure and demolish the rest to make way for residential and office space, but the city has put that plan on hold. Mayor Bill Peduto is intent on preserving and reusing the entire building with possible uses including shopping, retail, and arts space. 4. The Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard The Produce Terminal is adjacent to the much larger Riverfront Landing residential and office project, which is part of the much, much larger Allegheny Riverfront Green Boulevard plan. The latter aims to transform six miles of industrial land into new riverfront parks and mixed-use development. The ambitious proposal was conceived five years ago by the city, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Riverlife—a public-private partnership that advocates for riverfront parks. While it is still in the planning process, it was envisioned by Sasaki Associates for a study last year. Their proposed master plan includes new development, green space, bike paths, and converting an old railway into a commuter train. 5. Point State Park After a multi-year, multi-million dollar overhaul, Point State Park is once again entirely worthy of its iconic location. Situated right where the Monongahela River meets the Allegheny to form the Ohio River, the refurbished 36-acre park boasts new lawns, landscaping, seating, a café, and improved access to the water. Capping off the renovation, which was led by Marion Pressley Associates, is the park’s revamped fountain—which has been described as its “crown jewel.” The fountain now has a “disappearing edge waterfall feature, new lighting including colors for special events, all new surfaces, pumping equipment, and controls.” Of course, Point State Park is an impressive public space in its own right, but it’s only a portion of the city’s 13-miles of riverfront parks and trails. 6.  Eastside III The city recently broke ground on Eastside III, a transit-oriented, mixed-use development in the city’s East Liberty neighborhood. The phased project will consist of three buildings, the first of which is expected to open next spring. The mixed-use project—designed by Design Collective—is being built alongside a revamped multi-modal transit hub by CDM Smith. The hub will be able to accommodate 1,000 daily bus arrivals and departures, and is expected to increase connections between neighborhoods. The new transit plaza includes "a repurposed bus ramp and a new cap over the railroad and busway." 7. Bike Share Later this year, Pittsburgh will join the ranks of cities like New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. when it launches its own bike-share program. While details on the program are limited, the program is slated to roll-out this summer with about 500 bikes at 50 stations. The goal is to ultimately expand the program to 1,000 to 1,500 bikes at 100 to 150 stations. The big question, of course, is what will the system be called. The name is still under wraps, but it will have a corporate sponsor. So, place your bets now people.  8. TalkPGH While Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers are the biggest names in late-night these days, the most unique talk-show in the country was recently driving through the streets of Pittsburgh. Last Spring, Talk PGH—a talk-show that took place inside of a truck, yes inside of a truck—appeared in all of Pittsburgh’s 90 neighborhoods. As part of PLANPGH, the city’s 25-year agenda for growth, the show was a way for the city to interview residents and hear their hopes for Pittsburgh's urban design. 9. Carnegie Mellon's Sherman and Joyce Bowie Scott Hall Carnegie Mellon’s already impressive campus will become even more so when the Sherman and Joyce Bowie Scott Hall—or "Scott Hall" as it's known locally—opens next year. The 100,000-square-foot building, designed by Office 52 and Stantec, will contain laboratories, libraries, office space, and a café. It will also house a cleanroom facility, “which will become the new home for Nano Fabrication, the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.” 10. The Car-Free Road Pittsburgh just one-upped every city priding themselves on their modest, new bike infrastructure. When faced with a dangerous road that put cyclists at risk, the city didn’t just add new protected bike lanes, they shut down part of a roadway from cars entirely. Now, the section of Pocusset Street, which winds through a city park is reserved exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists. According to Bike Pittsburgh, the Department of Public Works “repainted it with bi-directional bike-lanes, designated pedestrian walkways, included LED street lighting, and installed reflective bollards to block traffic from entering at either end.” 11. Ace Hotel And rounding out the list is, of course, a new Ace Hotel. While the Steel City will likely not become “The Next Portland”—an idea raised by both Pacific Standard and The Washington Postthe city will certainly move in Stumptown's direction when the exhaustingly trendy hotel opens in Pittsburgh next year. The 36-room Ace will be housed in a former YMCA building in the city’s East Liberty neighborhood. There are currently no renderings of the project, but one can expect plenty of Edison bulbs, murals, and some inexplicable, giant, vintage letters.
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Bill Teams Up
Mayor De Blasio delivers his first state of the city address.
Courtesy NYC Mayor's Office

The difference between Michael Bloomberg’s final State of the City address and Bill de Blasio’s first was so vast it seems impossible the two were speaking about the same city. In the newly opened Barclays Center, then-mayor Bloomberg touted the booming development across New York—from the Atlantic Yards to the Hudson Yards. He referenced job opportunities, sustainability, and, of course, the bike-share program.

One year later, at the LaGuardia Community College in Queens, Bill de Blasio spoke of “The Tale of Two Cities”—a town racked by inequality. He didn’t talk about any big, splashy developments, but pledged to help “New Yorkers crushed by skyrocketing rents.” There was no mention of transportation, climate change, or infrastructure—all considered bright spots in Bloomberg’s complicated legacy.

But while Mayor de Blasio makes national headlines for his laser-like focus on tackling inequality, he has been appointing highly competent individuals to lead the city’s housing, transportation, environmental, and planning teams. All of these appointments, explained de Blasio, are not separate from the fight against inequality. They are central in waging it.

In early February, de Blasio appointed Carl Weisbrod—a real estate industry veteran with experience in the private and public sector—to chair the city’s planning commission. Weisbrod is perhaps best known for his integral role in cleaning up Times Square in the 1980s and later helping to transform Downtown Manhattan into a mixed-use neighborhood.

Rick Bell, the executive director of New York’s AIA chapter, said Weisbrod is “an excellent choice” for planning commissioner because he “brings to the table the skillset, the mindset, and the attitude of someone who is going to take the promises made, the expectations of the de Blasio campaign, and realize them.”

As planning commissioner, Weisbrod will be instrumental in accomplishing one of de Blasio’s key legislative goals: to “preserve or construct” 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next 10 years. He will be joined in that fight by the mayor’s new housing team.

The mayor recently appointed Shola Olatoye—a former executive at an affordable housing non-profit—as chair of the New York City Housing Authority. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s new commissioner is Vicki Been, who was the former director of NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. And Gary D. Rodney, from the affordable housing developer Omni New York, is the new president to the Housing Development Corporation.

Alicia Glen—the former head of the Goldman Sachs’ Urban Investment Group—is the city’s new deputy mayor of housing and economic development.

Even with a strong team beside him, de Blasio’s affordable housing goal will be exceptionally difficult to achieve. One tool de Blasio will likely use to hit his 200,000 figure will be “mandatory inclusionary zoning,” or requiring developers to include affordable housing units in new buildings. Under Bloomberg, developers were only incentivized to do so.

And since it will not be enough to just “preserve” existing affordable units, the de Blasio years might see significant zoning changes to offer new development opportunities. The benefit of this could be twofold: more development would boost the number of new affordable housing units, and the housing stock overall.

In terms of transportation and the city’s streetscape, the de Blasio administration is poised to build on Janette Sadik-Khan’s impressive legacy of transforming New York City streets. The mayor’s selection of Polly Trottenberg—the former under secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation—to lead the city’s DOT has been lauded by those championing safer streets and improved transportation. “The personnel positions, and particularly hiring Polly Trottenberg, look really good from street safety and livable streets perspective,” said Ben Fried, the editor-in-chief of Streetsblog.

Trottenberg will be responsible for more than bike lanes and pedestrian plazas; she will work alongside the new police commissioner, Bill Bratton, to implement the mayor’s “Vision Zero Action Plan” to reduce pedestrian fatalities.

It has become clear with these appointments that the mayor plans to use every department, and every new official, to address the city’s inequality. Combatting inequality is a daunting, if not impossible, fight to wage from City Hall, but the mayor and his team seem ready to at least throw some punches.

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Brooklyn Bridge Crossroads
Improvements will make access safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
Courtesy NYCDOT

Every day, thousands of cyclists and pedestrians jockey for space on a narrow strip along the center of the Brooklyn Bridge. A ballet plays out as cyclists commuting to and from work dodge eager tourists looking for the perfect photo op, as the soft chime of bike bells blending with the din of car traffic below. At the Brooklyn terminus of the bridge, however, the already-chaotic scene devolves into a dangerous confluence of cars, bikes, and pedestrians as the path abruptly ends in the center of a busy intersection at Adams and Tillary streets.

After five years of study, meetings, and schematic designs, however, accessing the Brooklyn Bridge will soon be improved under a plan to revamp the Brooklyn Bridge Gateway Area streetscape, encompassing Tillary Street between Cadman Plaza West and Prince Street and several blocks of Adams Street, with widened sidewalks, improved bike lanes, and increased landscaping.

 
Plan of the Brooklyn Bridge Gateway redesign (left). Existing conditions at the Brooklyn terminus of the bridge (right). [Click to enlarge.]
 

A joint effort of the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) and the Department of Design and Construction, the campaign to improve the bridge entrance began in 2009 with community workshops that identified project goals including improved safety and better aesthetics. At the intersection of Tillary and Adams streets, for example, the crash rate is nearly nine times the New York state average, with 117 crashes between 2008 and 2010. The dialogue resulted in a set of schematic plans presented in 2009 and 2011, but the proposal languished without federal funding until last December, when another update was presented to and unanimously approved by Brooklyn’s Community Board 2 Transportation Committee.

Existing and proposed changes to the bridge terminus at the intersection of Adams and Tillary streets.
 

Last month, the full community board approved NYCDOT’s polished traffic safety and landscape plans showing the revamped Brooklyn Bridge Gateway Area. The first phase of the project reconstructs the entrance to the bridge at Adams and Tillary streets, softening the busy intersection with widened sidewalks, dedicated bike lanes, and more landscaping. Pedestrian and cyclist access has been streamlined by converting Adams Street into a tree-lined boulevard with a 30-foot-wide median containing widened and separated paths for pedestrians and cyclists. The design includes place-making amenities such as new benches, wayfinding signage, bollards, and even a water bottle filling station.

Widened sidewalks, improved bike lanes, and new landscaping will transform the public space along Tillary Street.
 

An access road along Adams Street will be reconfigured to accommodate the wider median, including removing a row of parallel parking and adding a bike lane. A group of neighborhood residents have expressed concern about these changes, citing construction noise and pollution from passing cars. The group has asked the city to conduct an environmental review, but NYCDOT has said such a study is not required by law.

Future phases along Tillary Street aim to increase safety and curb problems of motorists parking in bike lanes by replacing concrete jersey barriers along bike paths with extended sidewalks and new landscaping. The plan also streamlines bike access to Downtown Brooklyn. Throughout the target area, curb extensions at intersections—called neckdowns—and widened sidewalks will help slow car traffic, improve visibility, and reduce the length of street crossings. NYCDOT did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

The city plans to begin construction on the first phase of the project along Adams Street by the end of the year. Construction is expected to last 18 months. Future phases are contingent on additional funding.

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Chicago breaks ground on Navy Pier flyover for Lakefront Trail
Bicyclists and pedestrians cruising down Chicago’s 18-mile Lakefront Trail generally enjoy an exceptionally open, continuous and scenic path along Lake Michigan. But near Navy Pier they’re shunted inland, underneath a highway, onto sidewalks and through road crossings that interrupt their journey in the middle of one of the popular pathway's most congested corridors. The Navy Pier Flyover, announced in 2011, was designed to remedy that situation, and today Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the project has officially broken ground. Though it won’t be fully open until 2018, work began on schedule for the portion of the pathway between Jane Adams Park and the Ogden Slip. The first phase of construction has a budget of $22.5 million. The total cost will be $60 million, split over three phases. The Lakefront Trail and Lake Shore Drive will remain open throughout construction. To track progress and occasional detours during the work, the city has set up navypierflyover.com. Sporting bike lanes and space for pedestrians, the trail will be 16 feet wide and approximately as elevated as Lake Shore Drive.  LED lighting will supplement the “ambient light of Lake Shore Drive,” according to the city's website. The city called in architect Muller+Muller after studying the problem for years. That design, from 2011, remains intact. When complete the trail will allow for uninterrupted travel over the Chicago River, through DuSable Park, the Ogden Slip, across Illinois Street, Grand Avenue, Jane Addams Park and into the Ohio Street Tunnel. (The news comes among other improvements to the lakefront trail announced recently.) More design details are available here, in a presentation by the city made available online.
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PeopleForBikes Issues Green Light For Six Cities Seeking Improved Bike Infrastructure
A list of over 100 cities has been whittled down to six. PeopleForBikes has announced the latest cities that will be the focus of the 2014 iteration of the Green Lane Project, an initiative that promotes urban bike infrastructure. The decision means that beginning in April, Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Seattle will all be on the receiving end of expert assistance, training and support in efforts to become increasingly bike-friendly. The project's director Martha Roskowski said that all the selected cities demonstrated "ambitious goals and a vision for bicycling supported by their elected officials and communities." Pittsburgh and Seattle's inclusion comes as each takes steps towards establishing bike share programs within their borders. Boston is already in possession of such a system. A major focus of the Green Lane initiative is to increase the number of protected bike lanes, and Seattle, Indianapolis, and Atlanta are already in possession of lanes included in PeopleForBikes' Best Of List for 2013. Since the program was launched in 2012, the number of such lanes within the US has nearly doubled, rising from 80 to 142. Half of this growth can be found in the Green Lane Project's six original focus cities: Austin, Chicago, Memphis, Portland, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. [Via Streetsblog USA.]
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Blow Your Horn For Urbanism
Rios Clementi Hale's Sunset Triangle Plaza.
Jim Simmons

A couple of weeks ago, Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne sat down with LA mayor Eric Garcetti at Occidental College’s Keck Theater to discuss the changing face of LA. The city, as Hawthorne mentioned (and as I have pointed out on numerous occasions), is undergoing a tectonic shift from a car-oriented, sprawling, and private city to a transit-oriented, dense, public-oriented one. So it seems fitting that LA has a mayor who, at least in his words, supports these changes and takes architecture and urban design seriously.

In many ways the discussion was a chance for Garcetti to tout his accomplishments in the urban realm as both mayor and councilman, from the establishment of the Great Streets Initiative, meant to improve the pedestrian and bike experience on the city’s thoroughfares, to the installation of hundreds of new bicycle lanes, to the installation of numerous pocket parks. He also promised to start construction on a subway connection to LAX (and the extension of several other lines) before the end of his tenure, help re-fund the city’s affordable housing trust fund, complete the effort to recode our outdated zoning system, and he mentioned that he was tripling the size of the city’s Urban Design Office (albeit from one person to three). He spoke about his lobbying trip to the White House to fight for the transformation of the LA River, and mentioned that the Federal Government was now choosing between alternatives, not just weighing whether or not to do something.

And you know what? A little bragging is ok. Granted many of these initiatives were started before Garcetti started office, and any of these accomplishments come from a large pool of people, not simply from his desk. But if somebody has a record in the urban realm to brag about, I want to hear about it. I want more people (particularly people outside of our fields) to understand that urban change can be a positive thing, not something to fear. Sure, not all change is good. But change in LA is inevitable, and if we know what we’re getting, and are willing to fight for the best result, then we can shape it to fit our needs.

As much as we lament that LA’s fractured political system leaves our mayor without much power, having an ally in the urban realm is a gift that we can’t take for granted. The mayor can appoint the right people in relevant departments (planning, building, transportation, etc.); he can issue executive orders; and he can rally people behind major initiatives. Just look what Mayor Bloomberg was able to achieve in New York City.     Garcetti also wasn’t shy to attack the unsuccessful schemes that the city has undertaken in the past. He attacked the LAUSD’s recent wave of schools as “fortresses” that “don’t talk to the architecture of the city.” And he joked that widening the 405 Freeway was “analogous to finding a slightly bigger sponge to throw in the ocean.

That being said he did not turn a critical eye on what he hasn’t accomplished, or what problems he could still address. Why, for instance, is our planning department reactive, not proactive? Why, despite all the talk, are our entitlement and permitting processes still so dreadfully inefficient? Why does our procurement process still favor the well-connected and well-financed? Why are we still allowing freeways to be widened, despite the mayor’s outrage about it? And why aren’t more architects part of (or leading) city commissions? Of course these are just a few, but the only part of the discussion that was missing was a critical look at where the mayor hasn’t been successful to this point.

Still, the fact that the Mayor is talking about these things at all—particularly
in such a public forum—is a victory for architects, planners, and any advocates for the urban environment. The more we can keep these topics on the radar the more this city, and others, will successfully adapt to fit a world that has changed dramatically and live up to its staggering potential.  

 

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TxDOT Approves Barton Creek Bicycle Bridge for Austin
url Since the construction of the twin freeway bridges that carry the MoPac expressway over Barton Creek in 1987, the Austin community has been clamoring for a bike and pedestrian bridge to accompany it. That outcry has now been answered. On February 11, The Texas Department of Transportation approved just such a crossing. The project will cost the state around $7.7 million and will take approximately thirty months to complete. According to the Austin Public works department the construction will be handled in three phases: Phase I includes adding a bicycle/pedestrian bridge over Barton Creek at MoPac. The south bound lanes of MoPac will also be re-striped to lessen traffic congestion and to improve bicycle and pedestrian connections to the Southwest Parkway, Loop 360, and other trails in the area, including the Violet Crown Trail and the Oak Hills Neighborhood Trail System. Mopac_Bicycle_and_Pedestrian_Bridge_Project_Map Phase II will add a bicycle/pedestrian bridge over Loop 360 at MoPac. Phase III entails the creation of a multi-use trail to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians on the west side of MoPac from Loop 360 to Tamarron Boulevard. After the plan is completed there will be approximately two miles of paved bicycle and pedestrian trails running along MoPac. While Austin is no stranger to trails throughout its many greenbelts, there are almost no such trails in the city where it is comfortable to ride a road bike. Construction these trails will improve the travel prospects for those wishing to commute via bicycle. Phases I and II have been funded since late June of 2012. On the February 11, financing was finally put in place for the last section of the plan. Some of the funding comes from the not-for-profit Friends of Barton Creek Bike Bridge, which was started by Solar Winds, Brandywine Realty Trust, and Commercial Texas in an effort to raise funds and awareness for the creation of the new bike path.
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In State of the City, New York City Mayor de Blasio Promises Affordable Housing
In his first State of the City address, Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to tackle the “inequality gap that fundamentally threatens [New York City’s] future.” At the LaGuardia Community College in Queens, the new mayor spoke of the “Tale of Two Cities” that has taken root in America’s largest city, and he promised to address it head-on. One of the main weapons in fighting inequality, explained de Blasio, will be creating more affordable housing. He spoke of “New Yorkers crushed by skyrocketing rents” and repeated his campaign pledge to “preserve or construct 200,000 units of affordable housing.” In a break with his mayoral predecessor, de Blasio said he won’t just incentivize developers to include affordable housing units, he’ll require it. “We want to work with the real estate industry to build. We must build more to achieve our vision,” said de Blasio. “But the people’s interests will be accounted for in every real estate deal made with the City.” While de Blasio offered no new details about how he plans to achieve this ambitious goal, he said his newly-appointed housing team will present a plan by May 1st. And following a string of pedestrian deaths, de Blasio pledged to “end the tragic and unacceptable rash of pedestrian deaths on our city streets,” through Vision Zero. The mayor, though, made no further mention of a transportation agenda—bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, or otherwise.
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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