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Dreaming of a bike and family friendly city

by Jen Kelly, Lead Business Dev’t Coordinator

On my drive to work this morning, an unusual scene caught my eye:

Right in the middle of downtown Seattle, a father was riding in perfect sync on a triple tandem bike with his two daughters. I caught up with them at the Spruce Street School, the only K-5 in downtown Seattle.

He told me that they live in Queen Anne, and try to bike to school at least 3 times a week. As we chatted, his oldest daughter stood a few feet away with a proud look on her face as he told me that they are also training for the Seattle to Portland bike ride coming up this July. I asked “Oh, you’re preparing for the race?”, to which he responded, “Yeah, the three of us are.” (I did mention that these girls are in a K-5 school, right?)

p.s. STP organizers: you should feature this family in your marketing materials — if they don’t shame inspire people into participating, I don’t know what will

In Europe, the following photos are not uncommon:

(kidding… this last photo was in Portland) I know, I know, we’re all getting tired of hearing about how great biking is in Holland, and Denmark, and even Portland. Although we may not have the ideal situation ( = flat) as some of these areas, there’s no reason why we can’t start adopting successful elements. Yes! Magazine wrote a great article, looking at what it would take to make …

Monday News Roundup

Feb 14, 2011

Tracking Growth in World Cities (Planetizen) Mega-cities of 10 million people or more are getting a lot of attention these days. But smaller big cities are really where interesting and potentially hazardous growth patterns are occurring, according to this piece.

Who’s got the greenest house on the planet? (Grist) It’s pretty easy to determine the biggest pie, or longest fingernails, or fattest twins. But what about the greenest house? AOL’s consumer finance site has a nice roundup of what, exactly, it means to have a green home.

In Charleston, an Affordable, Effective Alternative to Highway Expansion (DC.STREETSBLOG) More street grid, less traffic: The Coastal Conservation League’s proposal for Savannah Highway would cut congestion by reducing the number of curb cuts and establishing secondary roads for those traveling short distances.

Updating and Improving Philadelphia’s Downtown Plazas (Planetizen) Three public plazas in the center of Philadelphia are set to see much-needed makeovers, and soon.

Researchers Transform Contaminated Shipping Port Sludge into Safe Building Materials (inhabitat) Swedish researchers have developed a process that can turn contaminated sediment in shipping ports into a cement-like substance that is safe for building.

NYC to Turn Sewage Into an Asset (Planetizen) Could the 1.3 billion gallons of wastewater that New Yorkers produce daily be an asset?

How Green School Buildings Help Children Grow (The Tyee) Students and teachers are more healthy and productive in sustainably-built schools, research shows.

Global Eco Cities Panel Explores Innovations in City Building (The Planning Report) Discussion of a global eco-cities panel …

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Peter Houseknecht and I am an Architect who has worked predominately on a wide variety of private development commercial projects. Many of these were hospitality projects in which I was involved with the Interior Design either separately or in addition to the architectural design. These projects included resorts, conference centers, hotels, restaurants and all other types of food service, casinos, country clubs, wineries and combinations of these uses. I also have experience with government projects of various types and some private residences as well. Currently I am the project manager for the Evergreen Line that is a new expansion of an existing transit line in metro Vancouver, BC.

What made you decide to go into your field?

Perhaps it started at a very young age with creating elaborate electric model train and racing car platforms with people, buildings, covered bridges, farms and streetscapes forming little towns complete with landscaping, snow and lighting effects. Some elements were model kits while other parts I built from scratch with balsa wood. My grandfather was passionate about model railroading whose hobby I shared with him starting as far back as I can remember.

What did your family think of your chosen field?

They did not really care one way or another so long as I was happy

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why?

It’s hard to just pick one as there were several teachers but also employers, work experiences and clients that equally …

Monday News Roundup

Feb 07, 2011

Do the words route or line better describe transit? (Human Transit) The word for the path followed by a transit vehicle is sometimes route, and sometimes line. Whenever you have two words for the same thing, you should ask why.

Duany predicts decline of strict green building standards (Partnerships for sustainable communities) Charlotte, N.C.–Decrying the high cost of “optimization” of development in a lean time, Andres Duany called for a return to common sense development principals that harken back to the 19th Century and predicted declining use of the LEED standards for building efficiency.

An Ideal City Doesn’t Exist: An Interview with David Gouverneur (Next American City) A native of Venezuela, Gouverneur has made a career out of injecting environmental and social values into the process of placemaking. He was kind enough to take some time out of his sunshine and paper-filled morning to share his recipes for healthy cities.

The people of the texture world: adding people into renderings (The New York Times) I happened to spend a lot of time looking at renderings, and found myself drawn to a recurring feature that, strictly speaking, had nothing to do with the suggested structures: the little human figures who inhabit the rendered world.

Building permits bounce back (video) (The Globe and Mail) BNN gets analysis and insight into Canadas building permit numbers for December with Victor Fiume, general manager, Durham Custom Homes, and president, CHBA.

The Life and Death of a College Bikeshare System in Maine (The City …

Friday Feature: Brian

Feb 05, 2011

Who are you and what do you do? My name is Brian Kenny and I’m an architect in our Seattle office. I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and moved to Seattle in ‘97 after graduating from Virginia Tech. I consider myself a suburban refugee – during summer jobs I spent 2-3 hours driving each day around the D.C. Beltway. That “drove” me (ha ha) to find a livable city where I didn’t have to do that and Seattle passed with flying colors! VIA is the fifth office I’ve worked in since moving here. My wife Lori is also an architect.

What made you decide to go into your field? I was doomed from the start with a classic architect childhood: drawing all the time, unhealthy Lego obsession, treehouses, etc. Growing up in the 80’s I was always the “art kid” but also loved to take apart lawnmower engines, build models, launch rockets, and devour Popular Mechanics articles about the “World of the Future in the Year 2000!” (Are we there yet?).

What did your family think of your chosen field? My dad worked for NASA and my mom was a librarian but they always supported my interests. While I’ve never asked, I’d bet they were relieved when I switched from being an Art major to the Architecture program.

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why? Virginia Tech had many fantastic professors who pushed us to find our own path in design and in life. But I continue to …

European Transportation, a traveler’s perspective Part 2 of 2

by Naomi Buell, Marketing Coordinator for VIA Architecture

If you read part I of this post, you will recall some of my conclusions about Paris and their transportation preferences – little city, little cars, huge metro system. This week I will be talking about my observations while in Belgium – trams, trams and more trams.

I will start with the first city I visited in Belgium called Ghent. It is a beautiful town and at night when the lights ricochet off the facades of the buildings it feels like something out of a fairy tale. The city still has much of its medieval architecture including Gravensteen castle, from which this picture was taken, which just adds to its fairy tale like nature.

The main form of transportation in the city centre appeared to be walking, bicycling, bussing and the use of the 4 tram lines. Many of the streets in the city centre were closed off to cars, likely because they are very narrow and made of cobblestones. However, as the picture below depicts, some of the narrow alleys are used by cars despite their difficult maneuverability. The cars appeared to be slightly bigger than those we saw in Paris which with alley’s like this did not make much sense. However, with a little elbow grease and the proper angling in of the side mirrors, we were ready to go.

Like many places in Europe, Ghent has entire bicycle parking lots. As there appeared to be lots of areas where cars couldn’t drive, bicycles …

Monday News Roundup

Jan 31, 2011

Seeking an example of sustainable urbanisn in Seattle (Planetizen) Seattle has the political momentum behind sustainable urbanism, but it doesn’t seem to have a physical neighborhood example of how sustainable urbanism can work, according to this article.

Building the virtual city (Planetizen) Beatville is a new “open source, multi-player environment for real cities”, which purports to be a useful tool for democratizing urban planning. Does it live up to the hype? Urban Omnibus checks it out.

Giving a lift to Vancouver’s downtown eastside: build taller buildings (The Vancouver Sun) A group of academics have challenged Vancouver’s Historic Areas Height Review, which recommends city council permit buildings on several sites to exceed the existing height allowance to further the long-standing goal of densification, supported by consecutive city councils.

Green building: where to live? (Cambridge) Are cities the best place to live? Are suburbs OK? A fight grows in urban planning, with Harvard at the center.

Affordable housing, parks to receive budget boosts from city council (The Vancouver Sun) Vancouver City Council will decide Tuesday where to spend its $337-million capital budget, with priority going to creating affordable housing, community centre developments and more park space. The budget will also provide funding to support the city’s green initiatives, including improvements to cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, work on sewer separation and initiatives related to the solid waste plan.

A new tool for fighting rural sprawl (Crosscut) Developers can already buy up development rights in farmland and nearby forests, transfering the rights to …

Friday Feature: Naomi

Jan 29, 2011

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Naomi Buell and I do marketing and business development for VIA Architecture. I also try to make people laugh whenever I get a chance.

What made you decide to go into your field?

I was taking communications at school and found it to be too theoretical and not applicable enough for me and my friend told me she thought I would like business. Once in business I realized that I had always been a marketer, right from my days coming up with slogans for my Kool-Aid stands (No PST, GST or MSG).

What did your family think of your chosen field?

As an only child I think they would have been proud of me no matter what I did. Having recently helped my mom with her business cards and e-mail signature though, I think she is happy I chose marketing. My dad has always encouraged my writing skills so anything that connects me and words together seems to make him happy.

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why?

I had two marketing teachers that taught me so much in University. I later found out that they were actually husband and wife which just seems to make sense. They were both very knowledgeable helpful and encouraging and had the best marketing assignments. My one professor told me “there is no such thing as the general public” which means you can’t market to everyone so you better find out who your target …

by Matt Roewe, Director of Mixed Use and Major Projects

Last Saturday (January 22, 2011) Sound Transit and the City of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development hosted an Urban Design Framework workshop for the Capitol Hill light rail station development sites. This workshop is part of an ongoing community engagement program in collaboration with the Capitol Hill Champions, which consists of a joint committee of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce and the Capitol Hill Community Council.

For those of you who have not heard about the Capitol Hill light rail station development sites, these properties represent an incredible opportunity to strategically enhance one of the most established, vibrant and diverse places in the city. As a consequence of the underground bored tunnel and station construction effort, there will be five residual parcels on two different city blocks that will be available for redevelopment when the station is finished in 2016. The station is intentionally sited in the heart of the neighborhood and if designed well, will ultimately serve as the civic center of the community.

Earlier workshops focused on uses appropriate to this location. The neighborhood has a long list of desired uses and activities including:

  • 50% affordable housing
  • arts and performance space
  • subsidized local retailers
  • restaurants/cafes
  • community meeting facilities
  • a hotel and a cultural/resource center for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community

Also desired is an open city square that can be used for outdoor farmer and merchant markets, concerts and civic events.

The current zoning, called neighborhood commercial, allows buildings from 45′ to 65′ tall with …

Monday News Roundup

Jan 24, 2011

Heavy Traffic Means Less Social Streets (Planetizen) Streetfilms looks back at Professor Donald Appleyard’s pioneering work observing the social life of streets, which proved that streets with less traffic fostered more social interactions than those with heavy traffic.

Unimaginable marriage of high-end architecture and car storage (The New York Times) A Miami Beach Parking lot doubles as an event space. When cars aren’t in the way, the space is open for Bar Mitzvas, Wedding receptions, Charity events etc.

Portlandia parody show:Can a City This Self-Serious Take a Joke? (The New York Times) The first episode of “Portlandia,” a new television show that pokes at the Northwest confection’s urban preciousness.

UNStudio Unveils Green-Roofed Library of the Future for Belgium (inhabitat) UNStudio has unveiled designs for an Urban Library of the Future in Gent, Belgium that presents a refined sense of public space. The building’s light, transparent design creates a public gathering place that doubles as a learning environment.

The Good & Bad News Of World Energy Consumption to 2030 (Planetizen) “From 2010 to 2030, the report says, renewable energy sources (solar, wind, geothermal and biofuels) will increase their contribution to energy growth from 5% to 18%. UK’s Largest Solar Housing Project Also Tackles Fuel Poverty (Treehugger) Some folks may believe that solar feed-in tariffs are a subsidy for the wealthy, but it’s not just the rich that are getting in on the action. Just like some pioneering solar affordable housing projects in the States, one UK housing authority is pressing …