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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 idea… (Sustainable Cities)
Artist raises awareness of renewable energy with a public art installation in Durban. The sculpture is a giant interactive tree with lighting that is charged by numerous bicycles and solar panels.

Jan Gehl on Livability from the Moscow Urban Forum (Sustainable Cities)
This is a quick post to share a keynote presentation by Jan Gehl given at the Moscow Urban Forum. Gehl discusses urban livability, from reducing traffic jams to designing comfortable public spaces.

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, over the decades it has gotten more obsessed with separating uses and planning for automobiles.

A Simple Portrait of an Urban Place (Sustainable Cities Collective)
From time to time, a single image captures the look and feel of city life, and successfully depicts an urban place where people come together…

Achievement in smart growth honored by EPA(Switchboard)
One of the country’s very best, grassroots-led revitalizing neighborhoods and one of our most articulate city plans for a more sustainable future are among this year’s national honorees for achievement in smart growth.

7 Trends for Planning Post-Oil Cities (Sustainable Cities Collective)
In this post, Robert Bowen of Future Cape Town looks at the Masters Thesis of Allen Rhodes, entitled Planning the Post-Oil City, highlighting the seven trends identified and the opportunities they present for cities.

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 is projected that by 2050 we’ll reach over 10 billion! According to 7 Billion & Me, the day I was born there were 4,331,448,959 people in the world and since then 4,363,658,538 more people have been born. With all these alarming figures all I can think is that we need to make the decisions now that will accommodate such growth where it actually makes sense; re-densifying our urban centers while still making them livable. Big challenge!

What did your family think of your chosen field?
They were very supportive however I was supposed to go into a career in medicine following my father’s footsteps.

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why?
I had a lot of great professors and mentors, however, definitely the best professor I had was a close group of friends from architecture school. With these 7 guys we opened a little studio where we would get together after school to help each other out with our school projects, do some critique sessions and just overall talk and exchange ideas. We kept this little studio running for over 3 years and evolved it to a point where we were actually running a business submitting proposals and entering design competitions. At some point we were actually making money out of this so I’ll have to say that this true hands-on experience was definitely the best learning I had.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced along your educational path? (academic, financial, motivational, family or peer pressure, outside distraction, etc.)
Definitely financial; It’s hard to live on a student budget especially while pursuing a design degree. There are so many expenses, materials, software, books… not to mention all that coffee intake.

What inspires you?
I don’t believe there’s one true source of inspiration. I’d rather believe that through cumulative work we come up with the best design solutions. To me the actual wow moment comes at the end of the process when you look back and realize the amount of work you had to put on just to arrive at a particular design. That is truly inspiring.

What schooling is required for success in your career?
Urban planning is such a broad field that people from almost any career can be a part of the process; in fact, I would highly encourage anyone interested to include as many points of view as possible. It is important, however, that people that want to be an active participant have some technical skills. It took me 5 years of architecture school and 2 of planning to develop some sort of technical and design skills and I still have a lot to learn.

What kind of people are the most successful in your field? Are there any specific attributes?
Good communicators.

What is the best advice you were ever given?
No la forces (Don’t force it). Sometimes we as designers can be stubborn and get stuck in one design solution trying to figure it out right at the beginning without even exploring other solutions; however, I have learned that design is actually an iterative process and it is through this process of trial and error that we can come up with the best design solutions. It is through this back and forth process that design teams learn a lot and develop ideas that at the time may not be applicable to the project but can be recycled in the future for different projects.

Is your field growing? (ie. is there room for new entries and is there career growth?)
Big YES! I believe urban design and planning is something that is going to keep growing just as cities and municipalities are requiring more and better planning to accommodate population growth. Remember, 10 billion people by 2050, that’s a lot of planning!

What advice would you give someone considering a career like yours?
Get involved. Urban planning typically requires a public process so it is very easy to become part of it by just attending public meetings, design reviews and public charrettes. Participating in these types of meetings can give students an idea of what this planning thing is all about.

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.

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 national food system.

Creating Places for People(Planetizen)

That’s the title of a draft report from the Australian Dept. of Infrastructure and Transport presenting model processes for creating high-quality urban environments.

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. If education spending were kept at 27% of the provincial budget and health costs kept growing at 8% with a continued rate of revenue growth of 3%, then the health costs in 2018 would rise to 72% from 42% in 2005. Under the premise of a balanced budget, health costs would have vacuumed up all of the public purse.

Now that we had been grabbed by our purse strings, we were all paying attention.

The resounding conclusion of the poets and the doctors is simple: improving our health habits will lead to improved quality of life and result in significant savings to taxpayers.

1 in 6 people in North America have some form of disability. Walking, rather than obesity, is the issue. Despite the billions of dollars spent on advertising lean products, calorie counting means nothing if you don’t get off your butt. The best improvements are seen in those who go from least active to slightly active ( from there the geometric scale flattens out).

And as we collectively drag our buttprints across the sands of time Dan Leeming, Principal of Planning Partnerships in Toronto, reminded us it took 100,000 years to learn to walk upright and only 60 years to undo it.

Larry Frank, Professor at the University of British Columbia, translated this into the transportation planning perspective that the 350 calories in a pizza will get a cyclist 10 miles, a pedestrian 3.5 miles and an automobile 100ft.

Much policy has been based on “decision based evidence making.” 99% of US transport funds have been dedicated to things other than ped/bike (active transportation).

The current leading edge of research, not surprisingly, is on the hidden health costs of transportation. The engineers are not necessarily the problem as the distinction is increasingly being made that connectivity is the key versus proximity. People’s perceptions are all important.

Gordon Price’s “Motordom” has become the defining reality of our suburban environments – with every message screaming impediment to the latent pedestrian that is trapped inside every car. And for a century each generation of children has been confined within decreasing orbits of autonomous locomotion.

We have corralled ourselves in and fattened ourselves up for the slaughter. It is up to us to rethink the boundaries that we place in the path of our daily lives. Thus walkability and connectivity are what the doctors’ prescribe for our health dollars, engineers for our transportation dollars, and urban planners for our design dollars.

In short, every curb radius counts.

It was a great conference, with lots of the multi-disciplinary enthusiasm without which nothing great will ever be achieved. So I ended my conference enthusiastically walking through the future that will be Surrey City Centre – the largest (and most walkable?) urban environment in British Columbia.