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2011 Archive

New Hire: Dan Bertolet

Nov 02, 2011

VIA Architecture has recently hired Dan Bertolet as an urban planner.

Dan is a planner and urban designer with a deep commitment to sustainable urban development. He holds a Masters Degree in Urban Design and Planning, as well as a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. With over seven years of experience, Dan has worked on a wide variety projects including station area planning, town center redevelopment, Hope VI master planning, and market-rate mixed-use urban infill.

He will continue to head up Citytank, a blog that believes that cities are a solution, and strives to provide ideas that “help fulfill the promise of cities to both expand the human spirit, and sustain a thriving planet.”

Monday News Roundup

Oct 31, 2011

Happy Halloween! Please enjoy these tasty news treats and tweets from last week!

World’s Largest Pumpkin Carved into an Awesome Creepy Sculpture! (Inhabitat)

Prefab, 10’x10′, Affordable Homes(Planetizen)

Stación-ARquitectura Arquitectos has designed a modular home to house poor families in Monterrey, Mexico made from recycled materials.

How to suspend 2,000 dandelions from the cieling w/ out making a wish! (Colossal) An unusual art installation by Regine Ramseier.

Jan Gehl on the Past 40 Years of Urbanism(Planetizen)

Famed urbanist Jan Gehl looks back at the writing and thought on how people use the urban environment — including his own — over the past 40 years.

Living Sustainably on a College Campus (Sustainable Cities Collective) Tips for getting sustainable on campus.

Does Affordable Housing Have to Look Bad? (Planetizen) lison Arieff explodes the unspoken myth that public housing must look cheap and unattractive, citing some stellar examples of affordable design.

On the Corner by Eastern Design Office (Contemporist) This Japanese house designed atop a thin triangular lot ending up looking really sharp.

What do we really know about planning? (Sustainable Cities Collective) Few would disagree with the need to simplify a planning system widely seen as expensive and unwieldy by both applicants and planning authorities. This article discusses the Localism Bill and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Wanted: Food Lawyers! (Switchboard) …Right now, my advice to law students and new lawyers is to consider how you can apply your skills to the fast growing local, sustainable food movement that seeks to fix our broken …

by Graham McGarva, Founding Principal, VIA Architecture

The 12th annual Walk 21 International Conference was held this year in Vancouver, BC from Oct 2nd to October 5th . These conferences work to “create a world where people are able to walk as a way to travel, to be healthy, and to relax.”

As the bi-pedal of poetry and mathematics were brought together, the Doctors (as in medical doctors who presented at the conference), emerged in the lead as advocates for active transportation.

Many of their presentations pointed out that they could do little, just help people with their pain when it is already too late. It is, in fact, planners who save lives.

Dr. William Bird, leader of the Natural England and Intelligent Health NGO’s in the UK, gave us the math “3-4-50”; the blunt fact that in our western world, three behaviors — poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, and tobacco use — contribute to four diseases: heart disease/stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and respiratory conditions, such as asthma. These diseases result in over 50 percent of all deaths.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) September 2011 Conference on Non-Communicable diseases resoundingly concluded that despite global media concern over the transmission of communicable diseases (AIDS, SARS, Ebola virus etc.), in terms of impact and threat it is non-communicable disease that is the new global epidemic.

If this appears to be a circular reference of rhetoric that leaves you feeling at all cynical, then Dr. Penny Ballem, the City Manager for Vancouver, spelled it out in simple arithmetic. …

Monday News Roundup

Oct 24, 2011

Facebook App to Track Household Energy Consumption (Planetizen)

In early 2012, Facebook will launch a yet-to-be-named app that will allow 800 million users to access home energy usage information provided by their utility company. This ‘Social Energy Application’ will help users manage their energy.

For ultra-green dev’t, how much flexibility is too much? (The Seattle Times) Seattle planners already can bend some development rules for projects that promise to be extra-green. But how much flexibility is too much?

Norway Showroom Built from Re-Used Doors and Windows (Inhabitat) Working around the theme of “Re-Use,” a group of architecture students constructed this inspiring artistic pavilion made entirely from old windows and doors in Trondheim, Norway.

La Concha House (Contemporist) La Concha is a home that has been remodeled from a 15th Century barn on the Island of Guernsey. The house was developed as a fluid, three-dimensional plan, inspired by ‘The Nolli plan of Rome’ 1748.

Transportation Designers Uninvent the Wheel (Inhabitat)

The wheel has revolutionized life on planet Earth. However, as scientists try to wean us off our fossil fuel dependency, engineers are developing new concepts for transportation that eschew wheels in favor of next-generation technologies.

DomestiCity: A Photo Essay (Sustainable Cities Collective) This photo essay explores the ways in which people negotiate the use of their limited living quarters. The available space in or around one’s sleeping quarters is fair game for all domestics…

Roca London Gallery (Contemporist) Cutting edge, technologically advanced, and futuristic are some adjectives that come to mind…

An Interview …

Bill… Meet Jane

Oct 21, 2011

By Catherine Calvert, Director of Community Sustainability, VIA Architecture

Being a lifelong glutton for continuing education, I find myself at the moment studying both Permaculture Design and brushing up on the seminal Jane Jacobs text “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”.  This has been an interesting juxtaposition, and one that holds more similarities than I might have expected.

Permaculture Design is based on the teachings of the Australian Bill Mollison, known for his pioneering work in the 1960’s and 70’s on natural systems design and the means of using these to create ecologically sound, productive landscapes and increase the resilience of human settlements.  Best known for its advocacy of  food production using horticultural means (“permanent + agriculture”), permaculture is a set of principles and practices that invite the discovery of patterns in the landscape, seeking efficiencies of complementary systems, and closing loops of inputs and outputs of materials and energy.

Developed and popularized further by Mollison’s students such as David Holmgren, Toby Hemenway and others, the system has subsequently been expanded and applied to the “design of buildings, energy and wastewater systems, villages, and even less tangible structures such as school curricula, businesses, community groups, and decision-making processes” (1).  Permaculture is currently enjoying a growing wave of popularity, and is seen to be in strong harmony with ideas that support sustainability, relocalization, and the “creative descent” associated with peak oil and the transition town movement.

photo credit –

Jane Jacobs on the other hand was a strident New York-based …

Monday News Roundup

Oct 17, 2011

Happy Monday! Let’s start out with the top links from last week:

From Sprawl to Complete Communities(Planetizen) Galina Tachieva’s new Sprawl Repair Manual creates a narrative and visual process for making suburbs more sustainable.

Presentation skills and techniques – For architects! (Life of an Architect)

The spectacular ‘green’ way to build affordable housing (Switchboard) Via Verde (“Green Way” in Spanish) is a new mixed-income, mixed-use development nearing completion in a once-severely disinvested area of the South Bronx – but it is like no other affordable housing development you have seen.  It is much, much better.

Well-structured handbags fortified with concrete! (Design Milk)

Green Infrastructure: Making cities sustainable + hospitable (Switchboard) Case studies demonstrate the successful application of “green infrastructure” techniques that collect and process rainwater naturally before it flows into receiving waterways as polluted runoff.

Eleven of the Best Urban Design Ideas in the World (Planetizen) From a penthouse dwelling above an air-raid bunker to an “inside-out” building where plants grow on the walls through rainwater irrigation…

Frii Bike (Wannekes) Beautiful and eco-friendly, the Bike Frii is composed of recycled plastic elements.

Monday News Roundup

Oct 10, 2011

Top headlines from last week for architecture, planning and design:

The First Government-Sponsored Bike Sharing System (Planetizen) The first North American community to offer a government-sponsored bike sharing system dubbed “Capital Bike Share” celebrates at one of D.C.’s newest parks, Yards Park.

Transitions Lenses for Buildings(Fast Company) Windows that automatically change color to reduce heating and cooling bills are the next step of smart buildings. South Korean scientists just got a lot closer to automating them.

Bright Entryways (Apartment Therapy) The foyer is your home’s first impression. Why not make it a wow? Here are some inspiring bright entryways from across the spectrum.

“Re_Home” created for Natural Disaster Recovery(Inhabitat) The central premise behind U of Illinois students’ “Re_Home” is a fast response time in order to get families in more permanent housing. As such, Re Home is sustainable, flexible and easily set up!

Preservationists vs. Urbanists (Planetizen)

Preservationists are all about preserving our past while Urbanists harvest lessons from the past to create better places in the future. Seems like these two groups would get along quite well. But no.

Breathtaking Images of Spiral Staircases (1 Design Per Day) Photos credited to Nils Eisfeld

Would you use plants to power your home electronics? (Design Milk) Moss Table, from the 2011 London Design Festival, is an experimental table that uses plants to generate energy on a micro level.

How Temporary and Simple Places can Define City Life (Sustainable Cities) In building urban community, it remains imperative to reassess—with simplicity in mind—and to always remember first principles, …

Monday News Roundup

Oct 03, 2011

The top news from last week’s Twitter Feed:

Sustainable Communities Must Embrace the Familiar (Switchboard) The path to a more environmentally benign future lies not in convincing consumers that they must change, but in giving them the things they seek in a more sustainable form.

Smaller Can Be Better When It Comes to Traffic Solutions (Planetizen) Megaprojects like the Outer Beltway are promoted as the solution to D.C.’s traffic woes, but Schwartz says “…smaller, localized projects taken as a whole can be better than the larger, flashier projects.”

Bike Shares Struggle to Work With Helmet Laws (Sustainable Cities) Australian cities are still struggling to implement similar schemes due in part to the compulsory helmet laws.

The World’s 12 Most Beautiful Train Rides (Infrastructurist)

Transportation Choices Can Keep Money Local (Sustainable Cities) According to this infographic from Denver bikes, four of five dollars you spend on your car leave your local economy.

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (Kottke) This witty and original film is about the open spaces of cities and why some of them work for people while others don’t.

Urbanization Increases the Need for Sustainability (Sustainable Cities) With the inexorable rise of urbanization come a variety of compelling reasons for making cities sustainable.

Is your city on the Top 10 List for Mass Transit Commuting? (Inhabitat)

By Graham McGarva, Founding Principal, VIA Architecture

The Vancouver Transportation Plan outlines an overall transportation strategy for the city

After Vancouver was knocked from its perch as the world’s most livable city by traffic tie ups on a Vancouver Island Highway, I began to think back to the fundamentals of the City of Vancouver Transportation Plan that was launched on May 12th this year. Especially since these traffic tie ups were 100km from the City, and involved an hour and a half ferry ride (plus waiting time) just to get to them.  For all anyone in Vancouver knew, these tie ups could well have been caused by agricultural tractors getting our 100 mile diet to market.

The good news story is that Vancouver is the only City in North America with increasing population, jobs and trips, coupled with a decrease in car trips – because urban development is focusing around the City’s growing non-vehicular transportation networks.

The future for Vancouver is not about taking the drivers of today and getting them out of their cars; there is no problem with them continuing as they are.  Vancouver’s success has been that thousands of new residents and workers are not choosing to use cars to get around town.

In response to the pretty pictures and video proposed for high level public consultation with a million people walking, wheeling, biking, busing and motoring in the sunshine, the stakeholder questions moved on from drinking our own kool-aid to emphasising the issues of our “rainy days in February” and “getting the …

Monday News Roundup

Sep 19, 2011

Happy Monday everyone! Catch up on what you missed below with the top links from last week:

What 9/11 Taught Us About Designing Skyscrapers (Fast Company) The first building to be erected adjacent to ground zero has become a test case for addressing the design failings of the ill-fated towers and forging a model for how skyscrapers should be built in the future.

3D Drawing Machine(Colossal) Vision is a rather unique 3D drawing device allowing almost anyone to draw images in perfect perspective using nothing but your eyes and a pen.

Is ‘Urbanism Without Effort’ the Best Urbanism of All? (Sustainable Cities) Real neighborhood experiences can provide a meaningful gloss on current discussions about how to make cities better and increase shared places for all.

Sprawl vs. Farms(Planetizen) Reports from Fresno, where sprawling development has clashed with agriculture, the region’s bread and butter.

Impacts of Wider Stop Spacing (Human Transit) Moving bus stops further apart achieves a range of benefits in speed and potentially frequency.  Zef Wagner from Portland Transport studies the claim in the Portland context.

Your Name in Bikes (Inhabitat) Juri Zaech’s Typography Bike Frames Are Bent to Actually Spell Out Your Name!

Designing Cities with Children in Mind (Sustainable Cities) A non-profit is advancing the Playtime in Africa Initiative: transforming undeveloped land into a child-centric, play-friendly public centre where the entire community can re-imagine 21st century urban living.

Smart Growth Investment and Economic Vitality (Switchboard) A report confirming what we have been told about the economic imperatives facing smaller cities and towns …