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2011 Archive

Adapting to Changing Times: The legacy of old dairy barns

by Catherine Calvert, Director of Community Sustainability, VIA Architecture Photo: Petersen Barn (credit)

Western Washington has an architectural legacy from its former dairy agricultural past which is both valuable and perplexing at the same time. This area was once considered ideal for dairy farming due to its gentle climate and lush landscapes, producing brands such as Carnation, which became synonymous with “contented cows” and healthy milk products in the early 20th century (1). As with so many forms of small-scale agriculture, the family dairy farm began its decline as industrial-scale enterprises began to dominate production in the post-WWII years. The agricultural landscape gave way to suburban development throughout the Puget Sound area, but in many places there remain visible reminders of this architectural and cultural past. The challenge now is how to preserve and adapt these structures, particularly barns and silos, to present-day uses. In recent months we have visited three former dairy farms that are each rising to this challenge in distinctly different ways.

Petersen Farm, Silverdale

The Petersen Farm in Silverdale is a 167-acre parcel that was farmed for 51 years as a dairy and subsequently a beef cattle farm by Gerald Petersen, who passed away in 2009. His estate has been working with the Great Peninsula Conservancy, a Kitsap-based non-profit land trust, to purchase the development rights to the property in order to maintain the property as active farmland in perpetuity. Last month, with local business and community support, the farm’s fundraising campaign met its goal to raise …

For over 25 years, VIA has sent out holiday cards to clients, colleagues, and friends. This year however, in the spirit of the season, we’ve decided to devote resources to a new holiday tradition that will give back to our communities.

Staff in both our Vancouver BC and Seattle WA offices donated cans, scratched their heads, and worked collaboratively on a “canstruction” project. After building their design, cans were donated to the local food bank.Play the videos below to see what each office canstructed.

Wishing you the very best for this holiday season!


The VIA Team

Monday News Roundup

Dec 19, 2011

Happy Monday! Let’s start the week off right by catching up on the top headlines in sustainability and urban design:

Living in Vancouver comes at a price (The Globe and Mail) With a fresh mandate and another majority on council, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is laying out new priorities for affordable housing.

How Planning is Like Growing Tomatoes (Planetizen) An organic system is rarely the sum of its parts. Nothing demonstrates this as clearly as sinking your teeth into a store-bought tomato, writes Ben Brown…

In Copenhagen, gas stations are equipped for bicycle care (Springwise) Norwegian gas company Statoil has equipped five of its Copenhagen stations with Cykelpleje centers dedicated to bicycle maintenance and repair. The Benefits of Urban Forests (Planetizen) This video explains how urban forests provide environmental benefits to densely populated cities that have felt a surge in health problems due to poor air quality.

A day in the life of a pop-up café (Sustainable Cities Collective) For two years now NYC’s DOT has been partnering with local restaurants to install pop-up cafés in parking spaces – creating vibrant public spaces the whole community can enjoy.

HopStop Infographic: Top Urban Travel Trends (Sustainable Cities) Check out HopStop’s infographic for insights into how commuters in more than 68 major metropolitan areas travel.

Addressing Climate Change Via Cities (Sustainable Cities) This post takes a look back over the collaborative series COP17, discussing the best ideas explored and whether the agreement reached last Friday is enough. Vibrant & Energy Efficient Social Housing Community in Scotland (Inhabitat) Grödians, a vibrant social …

Monday News Roundup

Dec 12, 2011

Here’s what you missed last week from our Twitter Feed!

Transburbia: Tools for transforming suburbia (Transburbia) An Evolving Repository of New Concepts, Processes & Tools That Can Help Transform Suburbia

Video: A Bird’s Eye View of China’s Rapid Urbanization (Sustainable Cities) China’s urbanization is happening at a pace never seen before. The following video shows a decade of transformation of 11 Chinese cities traced via Google Earth.

The Architecture of Banana Control (Sustainable Cities) This article gives an introduction to the involvement of design for dissimulation or artificially inducing the fruit-ripening process. It is architecture pretending toward a condition of ideal nature.

Thoughts About Density (Seattle Transit Blog) A response to both the oft-repeated notion that tall buildings and density are essentially the same thing, and the idea that what’s good for developers is perforce good for density and/or urbanism.

Bicycles and Chickens: A hidden side of Phoenix (Sustainable Cities) A report of the third annual Tour de Coops, an event put on by the Valley Permaculture Alliance showcasing cool chicken coops throughout Phoenix. This year, an ingenious bicycle component was added to the tour.

Thumbs up for green architecture (Inhabitat) While we’ve been talking about how cost-saving green architecture can be for some time now, a new nationwide government report has actually documented some impressive statistics that make it official.

Twin skyscraper design in Korea (Dezeen) A design for twin skyscrapers in Korea attaches the two with a cloud-like pixelated cluster, dubbed “The Cloud” by Dutch architects MVRVD.

Raising Awareness of Renewable Energy – Not a bad …

Monday News Roundup

Dec 05, 2011

Warm up this cold winter Monday with the hottest news and headlines from last week!

Sometimes all it takes is a little extra paint for placemaking (Planetizen) Alyse Nelson describes the carefully placed and collaborative intersection painting of City Paint in Portland, OR as “community empowerment” at its core.

The promise of bike sharing to reduce emissions(Sustainable Cities Collective) With the launch of NYC’s first system next spring, it appears that bikes and bike stations may become as widespread and popular as they are in Canada and throughout Europe.

2011 Holiday Gift Books in Architecture and Design (Daily Dose) Just as the title implies, a gift list for design-minded just in time for the holidays.

Do we (still) need Vancouver? (New Urban Network) Vancouver is known to have become one of the world’s most livable cities. This article discusses the many lessons we have learned (good and bad) from this great city as a model of urbanization.

Why Montreal needs to tap into the “Development Charge” (Planetizen) McGill University planners have released a report highlighting untapped sources of revenue in municipal funding. The most glaring of them: fees levied on developers to pay for city services.

Dear America, we need more public transportation! (Switchboard) APTA reports those who switch from driving to public transportation can save almost $10,000/year. But, in the real world, more Americans will take public transportation only if it becomes more plentiful and convenient.

The Intersection of Health and Urban Planning (Planetizen) Although urban planning used to be more connected with health, …

Since we last posted a Friday Feature, VIA has welcomed a wave of new talent to the firm. We start our series again by introducing one of our gifted urban planners, Alex Sandoval. Check back soon for more first-hand perspectives on what it takes to become an architect!   

Who are you and what do you do? 

I’m Alex and I’m an Urban Designer and Planner at VIA in Seattle. I went to architecture school back in Mexico City where I grew up. After working as an architecture designer for some time, I realized that I was most excited and interested about those large regional projects that influence the way cities are experienced. That interest brought me to Seattle where I did grad school in Urban Planning. It’s been 6 years already and I still have a lot to do in this amazing region.

What made you decide to go into your field? I was born and raised in one of the largest cities in the world: the great Mexico City with a population reaching over 20 million people. I suppose growing up in such a dense and chaotic urban environment made me quite conscious of the issues and benefits of living in a city. This is why I decided that I was not going to have a career designing sprawling single-family communities but rather to be a proponent of dense and compact living. Just like we recently heard all over the news, the World’s population has reached the 7 billion mark and it …

Please join us for an upcoming VIAVOX:

Book Reading + Signing: Patrick Condon’s Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities Design Strategies for the Post Carbon World

When: 5:30pm  Monday, November 28th 2011 Where: Seattle Coffee Works – 107 Pike Street, Seattle, WA 98101 Free; Open to the public. Light refreshments will be provided.

Patrick Condon, Professor at the University of British Columbia, will read samples from his latest book Seven Rules for Sustainable Communities:

Questions of how to green the North American economy, create a green energy and transportation infrastructure, and halt the deadly increase in greenhouse gas buildup dominate our daily news. Related questions of how the design of cities can impact these challenges dominate the thoughts of urban planners and designers across the U.S. and Canada. With admirable clarity, Patrick Condon discusses transportation, housing equity, job distribution, economic development, and ecological systems issues and synthesizes his knowledge and research into a simple-to-understand set of urban design rules that can, if followed, help save the planet.

No other book so clearly connects the form of our cities to their ecological, economic, and social consequences. No other book takes on this breadth of complex and contentious issues and distills them down to such convincing and practical solutions. And no other book so vividly compares and contrasts the differing experiences of U.S. and Canadian cities.

VIAVOX: giving a voice to current issues in architecture, planning, and design

Monday News Roundup

Nov 21, 2011

A roundup of the top headlines from art, design, sustainability and architecture:

Finnish supermarket develops slow check-our lane for disabled and elderly (Springwise) The slow-track checkout lane at Finnish K-citymarket is aimed at the elderly, the disabled, and anyone else who wants a more relaxed shopping experience.

Hatert Housing by 24H Architects (Contemporist) This sturdy tower designed by 24H Architects acts as a recognizable sculpture from all sides. It will serve as a housing program, new public space for citizens and a community health center.

Paris-based Designer Suzy Lelièvre (Colossal) These assorted projects showcase her uncanny ability to portray ordinary objects in extraordinary ways

Dan Bertolet of VIA Architecture discusses Issaquah’s zHome (Green Building) VIA’s own takes a closer look at the success and cost efficiency of Issaquah’s net-zero energy townhouse development.

Great cities invest in great architecture (Planetizen) ArtPlace America has issued a landmark series of grants dedicated to supporting the ‘creative class’ and enhance communities through the arts.

Ever seen a paperclip bike rack? (Colossal) As seen on campus at the Minneapolis Art Institute

A fascinating bit of creative land use (Sustainable Cities Collective)

NYC’s conceptual, subterranean public park attempts to pipe natural light underground

Co-Housing Offers A Fresh Approach To Sustainable Development (Planetizen) A return to community focused development is changing the design of neighborhoods across the country.

Monday News Roundup

Nov 07, 2011

Catch up on what you missed last week!

Architecture and design help the brain to recover (University of Gothenburg) New research reveals that well-planned architecture, design and sensory stimulation increase patients ability to recover both physically and mentally.

Gorgeous oil paintings by Andrew Salgado (Colossal)

White and yellow themed health center debuts in Mallorca, Spain (Contemporist)

The Haunting Disappearance of Pine Point, Pop. 1200 (Switchboard) A relatively normal small town for 25 years, Pine Point simply disappeared in the late 1980s after the local mining operation shut down. It exists today only as vacant streets, a cemetery, and the memories of its former inhabitants.

Corrugated Art by Mark Langan (Design Milk) Hailing from a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, artist Mark Langan creates three-dimensional sculptures using reclaimed corrugated cardboard.

Dune House, Thorpennes, England (Design Milk) The design of ‘Dune House’ is a creative one – fashioned after the concept of a floating roof

Suitcases from the Willard Asylum for the Insane (Colossal) A photography series showcasing the entire attic-full of suitcases left behind by patients admitted to the asylum who supposedly never left.

The amazing resurgence of the South Bronx (Switchboard) New York City’s South Bronx is making an astounding comeback. Not that long ago, the neighborhood was perhaps the country’s most villified, a setting for all that had gone wrong in urban America…

TransLink awarded gold sustainability status by APTA

Photo: “Marine Drive Station on the Canada Line” Photo Credit: Ed White

We have previously written about sustainable transit guidelines, including work being done by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) to set up “best practices” for sustainability in transit.

Just a few weeks ago, APTA recognized TransLink for its sustainability efforts, awarding it Gold Sustainability status – the highest level of recognition ever awarded to any North American transportation authority.

The following are just a few of the ways that TransLink achieved their gold status:

  • Having drivers turn off their buses when stopped for more than three minutes
    • Cutting diesel fuel use by 1.28 million liters (338,140 gallons)
  • Energy retrofits and energy efficiency improvements
    • Cutting energy use by 16%
  • Increasing ridership, adding 180 hybrid buses, and choosing less carbon-dependent transit options (such as the Canada Line)
    • Reducing carbon dioxide emissions per passenger kilometer by 18%

Click here to read more about APTA’s 2010 annual conference, and ways to include more sustainability in transit.