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2011 Archive

Monday News Roundup

Mar 28, 2011

Interesting articles and posts you may have missed last week:

9 Urban Fails (yUrbanism) (these are hilarious)

Roundup of some great alcove beds (Remodelista) Thomas Jefferson understood the appeal of alcove beds (see his iconic alcove bed at Monticello here); here’s a roundup of some modern favorites.

Tall or sprawl, Metro Vancouver has it all (Vancouver Sun) Metro Vancouver is losing nine square feet of land per second to urban sprawl. Author David Owen, however, still puts Vancouver among a short list of “green” places to live, due to their high density and lack of carbon footprint per capita. Here are six places Owen considers green – and six that, by his definition, are “brown,” or not representing sustainable living.

Great studio retrofit of an aging printing press in downtown Barcelona (Inhabitat) The allure of the old infused with the new could not be more pronounced in this studio retrofit of an aging printing press in downtown Barcelona.

Check out this kitchen island that disappears into the floor (Design Milk) Tim Thaler wanted to maximize the floor space in his kitchen, but also needed a solution for an island. How could he have both? By hiding the island in the floor. Tim’s island comes up and down with the touch of a button on his iPhone — there’s an app for that.

Taking a green roof to the extreme (Sustainable Cities Collective) Art Vandelay of Golden Colorado has taken the concept a little too far for the local building …

by Brian O’Reilly, Super Designer for VIA Architecture

In this series of tutorials I’ll be going through a few techniques you can use to enhance both hand and digital drawings. In this case, I was given hand drawn site plans for a local farm from our Director of Community Sustainability, and asked to take them from a sketch to a full color plan:

(click image to view larger)

To begin, I used trace paper to redraw certain portions of the original drawing to simplify the overlays that will be used in the Photoshop portion of the exercise. It seemed to make sense to draw the trees and vegetation (Figure 3), the rock walls (Figure 4), the paths and buildings (Figure 5), and the shadows (Figure 6) each separately. This is a pretty flexible part of the process – you need to consider what elements you want to have individual control over in terms of brightness, contrast, color, etc. Also, one of the most important considerations is selection, that is, what portions of your drawing you’ll want to be able to easily select in Photoshop with, for instance, the magic wand tool (more on that later…

Another important thing to remember when combining a number of drawings into one is to establish reference points. You’ll notice that in each of the separate layers I drew, I’ve included four crosshairs (see Figure 7) – one at each corner of the property line. This will make it much easier to align the drawings when …

(Tuesday) News Roundup

Mar 22, 2011

Belltown Apartments Planned (DJC) Our latest project, Joseph Arnold Lofts, featured in the DJC today.

Commuters rely on bicycles in aftermath of Japan’s earthquake (Sustainable Cities Collective) In the outcome of Japan’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake and consequent tsunami, commuters relied on bicycles for quick and reliable transportation.

Check out this kitchen island that disappears into the floor (Design Milk) Tim Thaler wanted to maximize the floor space in his kitchen, but also needed a solution for an island. How could he have both? By hiding the island in the floor. Tim’s island comes up and down with the touch of a button on his iPhone — there’s an app for that.

Abandonded Skyscraper in Venezuela is the World’s Tallest Shanty Town (Inhabitat) In the middle of downtown Caracas in Venezuela is an abandoned 45 story tower that has been reclaimed by squatters who have turned it into a thriving vertical shanty town.

‘Citysumers” define powerful new urban trend (Sustainable Cities Collective) Citysumers – The hundreds of millions (and growing!) of experienced and sophisticated urbanites (with disposable income), from San Francisco to Shanghai to São Paulo, who are ever more demanding and more open-minded, but also more proud, more connected, more spontaneous and more try-out-prone, eagerly snapping up a whole host of new urban goods, services, experiences, campaigns and conversations.”

How Seattle transformed itself (NYTimes) As the 2010 Census rolls out, much of the attention of news organizations is focused on the continuing …

by Jihad Bitar, PhD and urban planner for VIA Architecture

Click here for Part 1 of Integrating Transport Planning and Land-Use Strategy as a Solution: Case Study – Syria Click here for Part 2

Parking Policy

Parking Policy is a very important planning tool in balancing the supply and demand for parking spaces. With the objective of minimizing additional traffic by controlling and restricting parking we can decrease congestion and car usage while simultaneously ensuring the economic viability of the city centre and its popular spots.

(Photo Credit: Emad Al Sagheer)

A recent article5 by Ethan Baron in The Province led me to a very important study6 that was published by the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy, the study emphasises the fact that “Parking policy can be a powerful tool to encourage people to take public transportation or to bike,” The study also blames the chaos of parking in the downtown areas of many cities world-wide on the absence of parking policies, which, evidently, is quite correct. It then concludes that “Parking regulation is the best way to regulate car use.”

Therefore, parking is a very critical part to any integrated transport system because it has a significant influence on car use. When parking is not available at our final destination, car usage will be questioned and consequently minimised.

(Photo Credit: Samer Kallas)

Here are a few parking policy strategies that can be used in city centres to help decrease car dependency and return public spaces to citizens:

  • Limit or remove …

by Jihad Bitar, PhD and urban planner for VIA Architecture

Click here for Part 1 of Integrating Transport Planning and Land-Use Strategy as a Solution: Case Study – Syria

The main Transport Planning elements we need to integrate in the land Use strategy — Part 1 will cover Public Transportation, and Walking and Cycling, and Part 2 will cover Parking Policy and Traffic Management.

Public Transportation

It is necessary to develop a comprehensive public transportation policy that is embedded within the city’s vision, and integrating an accessible, safe, comfortable and clean transportation system. Introducing a workable public transportation system is seriously needed if we want any Syrian city to have healthy growth and the ability to sustain that growth. This is the first step of many toward a sustainable urbanism in Syria.

The majority of our people already depend on public transportation, which means large volumes of transportation vehicles are needed in the streets to do the job. Yet, without any reduction of private car dependency, the outcome will end with even more pressure on an already maximized street capacity. A solution for this problem might be reducing car use while building high density, separated guideways for high speed and frequent service. This can be achieved by introducing several types of rapid transit including: the Subway system (Metro), Elevated system (Monorail/Skytrain) and Grade level system (Bus Rapid Transit BRT, Light Rail Transit LRT).

(Photo Credit: Samer Kallas)

Thinking from a financial point of view, the BRT system might be the more affordable and more …

by Jihad Bitar, PhD and urban planner for VIA Architecture

“What we build – where and how – has a tremendous impact on how we sustain our communities, protect the environment and bolster prosperity.” 1

My trip to Syria first started with the snow storm mess in Europe where I, like many other travellers, had to connect through different airports to reach my destination – Damascus.

Photo Credit: Samer Kallas

When I arrived in Damascus in the morning, I had to get through the city’s usual rush hour – it was a stressful 30 minute journey. The chaos, danger and pollution that those thousands of vehicles bring to the city’s streets is unacceptable, especially in a city struggling to show its beauty.

The absence of any rules that organize and manage the numbers of vehicles on the streets is stunning. One day, in the very near future, street movement of Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Lattakia and many other major Syrian cities will come to a standstill. Unfortunately, this dark reality will only become much worse if we don’t take responsibility and deal with this problem today. Even now, we are already too late.

Photo Credit: Emad Al Sagheer

Undoubtedly, we have no other choice but to try and stop the increase in daily use of private motor vehicles just so our city’s streets can breathe again. It will be extremely difficult, however, if it’s done, we can return our public spaces to places of movement, experience and public activity.

In my humble opinion, what Damascus is missing …

Monday News Roundup

Mar 07, 2011

Wooden floors that follow the wood’s natural curves (Inhabitat) “It wasn’t nature that created straight floorboards; it was the limitations of technology.” Such is the philosophy behind Bolefloor, a new Dutch company that manufactures wood flooring by cutting boards according to the natural curves found in trees. The method saves wood by optimizing the number of boards that can be produced from one tree. Seattle’s farms and gardens:  Are you on the map? (Urban Farm Hub) A mapping project, to make sure we can show what a force urban ag is here in Seattle.

Apps for urbanists  (Yurbanism)”Recently I came across a post by Matthew Latkiewicz on Smart Blogs that showcases a few more location aware mobile apps.” Honesty in transit marketing (Sustainable Cities Collective)

An agency’s brand and message can be very easily co-opted by engaged customers, including, in the best case, well-meaning riders, or in the worst case, disgruntled customers holding a grudge. As a result, transit marketers must learn to lay off the spin and start laying on the truth.

Architect Barbie – will it inspire young women? (Good) There has been much discussion in the design community over the last week about Barbie’s sudden ascension into the ranks. Mostly, about how Mattel got it all wrong. Self-affirmation manual for urbanites (Sustainable Cities Collective)

Just in time, a Harvard economics professor has arrived to reassure us of the rightness of our way of life. Edward Glaeser’s recent book Triumph …

Friday Feature: Mark

Mar 04, 2011

Mark’s Friday Feature wraps up the series as we have covered almost everyone working in our firm. See the post by MTV’s Get Schooled that started this series.

Who are you and what do you do? I’m Mark. In my tenure with VIA Architecture I’ve lived near and worked in both the Seattle and Vancouver offices. I do a lot of different things – but so does everybody at this firm. In the simplest form of a description, my primary role with VIA is to solve puzzles. The method for that which keeps me running is producing and managing Building Information Model (BIM) files for interesting projects. I’m also good at fixing things for some odd reason. I get to work on cool projects like transit stations and mixed-use residential buildings as well. This requires an involvement of software knowledge with construction & design awareness.

What made you decide to go into your field? Also, what did your family think of your chosen field? My father is an Electrical Engineer (retired), and had started two consulting firms during his career. Because of that, I was exposed to not only the A&E industry, but what it’s like to be a business owner and manager in that field. Looking back, I pretty much knew at an early age that I would end up in this field. However, where it became clear that it would be Architecture instead of Engineering was probably around high school. The right lobe holds more of my cognitive and perspective …

by Catherine Calvert, Director of Community Sustainability for VIA Architecture

Earlier this week I attended a meeting of the Kitsap Community and Agricultural Alliance, an advocacy group that is doing good work in promoting farming in the county. Its activities include raising the profile of farmers and local food within the community, advocating for farm protection, and hosting an annual local harvest dinner.

The speaker for the event was Tim Trohimovich, the Planning and Law Co-Director of Futurewise, a Seattle non-profit whose mission is “to promote healthy communities and cities while protecting working farms, working forests, and shorelines for this and future generations”. The focus of the group’s discussion with Tim was on Kitsap’s struggle for farm zoning protection, but he also presented a very interesting series of statistics on trends in land use in the county:

2007 2002 Percent change Kitsap Land in Farms (acres) 15,294 16,094 -5.0% Washington Land in Farms (acres) 14,972,789 15,318,008 -2.3% Kitsap Average Size of Farm (acres) 23 27 -14.8% Washington Average Size of Farm (acres) 381 426 -10.6% Kitsap Number of Farms 664 587 13.1% Washington Number of Farms 39,284 35,939 9.3% Kitsap Percent of Land in Farms used for Organic Production 2.22% Washington Percent of Land in Farms used for Organic Production 0.43% Kitsap Market Value of Agricultural Products Sold $6,985,000 $30,713,000 -77.3% WA Market Value of Agricultural Products Sold $6,792,856,000 $5,330,740,000 27.4% Kitsap Market Value of Direct Sales $850,000 $369,000 130.4% Kitsap Direct Marketing share of total sales 1.2% 12.2% Central Puget Sound Value of Direct Sales $5,719,000 $8,240,000 44.0% Central Puget Sound Direct Marketing share of total sales 1.5% 2.4% WA Market Value of Direct Sales $43,537,000 $34,753,000 25.3% WA Direct Marketing share of total sales 0.7% 0.6% Kitsap Total Per Farm Income from Farm-Related Sources (including non-food sources and services) $33,122 $17,716 87.0% WA Total Per Farm Income from Farm-Related Sources (including non-food …

Monday News Roundup

Feb 21, 2011

The Importance of Cities to the World (Planetizen) Neal Peirce expounds on the increasing power and importance of cities, a dominant message in the new book “Triumph of the City” by economist Edward Glaeser.

Our High Speed Rail Plan Should Look More Like China’s (TreeHugger) I don’t want to perpetuate the US vs. China who-will-be-the-economic-superpower narrative that’s already rampant in our press enough these days, so let’s frame this one from another, even simpler angle — China is doing a bunch of really great stuff in clean tech that we should be doing too.

New Solar Panel Array Doubles the Energy and Halves the Cost of Traditional Solar (inhabitat) NREL just announced a huge breakthrough in making solar electricity competitive with fossil fuels as they unveiled the Amonix 7700 Concentrated Photovoltaic or CPV Generator.

Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary named among world’s most liveable cities (The Vancouver Sun) Vancouver topped the list of the world’s most livable cities for the fifth straight year, while Melbourne claimed second place from Vienna and Australian and Canadian cities dominated the list’s top 10 spots.

To gain housing, Pioneer Square needs a boost (Crosscut) Seattle’s first neighborhood, Pioneer Square, has essentially missed out on every major economic boom to hit the Northwest since the Gold Rush.

Annals of Cycling – 8 (Price Tags) An occasional update on items from the Velo-city, this is part 8.

Ford Assembly Building Adaptive Reuse Wins AIA Honor Award (Treehugger) Marci Wong of MarciWongDonnLogan Architects writes that their adaptive reuse …