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Designing for Loss: The Shrinking City

by Amanda Bryan, VIA Architecture
Photo: Philipp Oswalt; Shrinking Cities Volume 1: International Research © 2005, Germany

Philipp Oswalt and Tim Rieniets; Atlas of Shrinking Cities © 2006, Germany

Whether we’re comfortable with saying out loud or not, the American Dream is based on the idea of expansion and acquisition. First exemplified by the Louisiana Purchase, then modernized by the Interstate Highway Program, and now globalized by our corporate prosperity in countries around the world, we have gotten very good at dealing with growth. If there is one thing that Americans know how to do, it is expand, expand, expand (and yes, I know the same can be said of our waist lines). But do we know how to deal with the antithesis of expansion – shrinkage? To be specific, I’m talking about The Shrinking City, a phenomenon synonymous with the words suburbanization, deindustrialization, and decentralization.

While the issue of the Shrinking City is not unique to the United States, having found perch in old industrial belts like Eastern Germany and post-socialist regions of Russia, our Shrinking Cities are a little different because they are not the products of war, natural disaster, or governmental upheaval. The American Shrinking City is a once vibrant urban center, formerly dependent upon a highly industrialized local economy, which finds itself subject to a rapid population decline within its city boundaries and bloated with an excess of abandoned spaces and buildings.

If we look at the poster child of our nation’s car manufacturing industry, Detroit, we can see that its population has decreased more than 50% over the course of the last 60 years. According to the newest census report, this declining trend is still continuing with a population loss of 25% over just the last decade. The physical reality of this drastic population means that The City of Detroit is now facing the demolition of 10,000 empty residential buildings, 3,000 of which are slotted for demolition by the year’s end. The economic reality is an eroding tax base while the cultural implication is a culture of resignation that pervades the psyche of those left behind.

Philipp Oswalt; Shrinking Cities Volume 2: Interventions © 2006, Germany

So how can a city like Detroit move forward from its shrinking urban form? There have been many ideas proposed over the years, all of which focus on the reclamation of excess space and concentration of existing residents. One such proposal came from the Community Development Advocates of Detroit, a nonprofit trade group of local development organizations, which suggested that Detroit could be classified into 11 neighborhood zones like homestead sectors, village hubs, and traditional residential sectors.

The vision for one of these urban homesteads involves instituting rural living conditions geared toward agricultural uses in exchange for disconnecting from city services like water. Another community group, Detroit Declaration, has suggested creating urban farms in areas deemed as “weedy wastelands” and consolidating smaller parcels to promote urban infill. These ideas represent just two groups’ efforts out of the half dozen who are turning the notion of the city on its head in order to rethink the possibilities of a shrinking city.•urban-agriculture-community-gardening/

However, one thing that these groups have not done is specify which areas should be demolished and which should be preserved because there is a strong belief that this decision belongs to the city. While some skeptics are worried about placing this decision in the hands of government out of fear of a huge land grab, the general belief is that the doing nothing is only a recipe for continued shrinkage and misery. According to Richard Florida, the key to reimagining The Shrinking City is not to hand over whole sections of the city to the government or developers but instead to enable residents to spearhead the revitalization and build quality places they can identify with.

I would dare to suggest that maybe the City of Detroit ought to be the facilitators of a large-scale collaboration between the developers and residents because as Jane Jacobs put it, “The key is to engage the residents of the area, the business owners, the shopkeepers, the workers and the commuters. They’re the ones that can show the way to rebuild.”

Why not use our best asset, a culture based on growth, and harness it within a framework that can be held accountable by the people?

Canada Line featured in Canadian Architect Magazine

“Eighteen months have now passed since the inaugural run of the new Canada Line, which connects the cities of Vancouver and Richmond with the Vancouver International Airport, and has already reached the capacity ridership anticipated for five years hence.”

— Sean Ruthen, writer for Canadian Architect

The Canada Line was featured in Canadian Architect‘s March magazine, and covers five of our stations, along with stations designed by other architecture firms. To read the article, you either need an online subscription, or need to request a copy of the magazine.

Our firm provided master planning for the line, and completed prototypical work for all 17 stations, including each station’s schematic design. Here is a feature of the inspiration and ideas behind the three underground stations: Yaletown, Vancouver City Centre, and Waterfront, and the two elevated stations: Marine Drive and Bridgeport.

Underground Stations

These three downtown stations represent rail, road, and the sea, and we tried to make a reflection of each of those ideas in very subtle ways.

Yaletown — Rail

Yaletown Station pulls its inspiration from the historic Yaletown loading docks in the design of its roof canopy (as seen in the photo below):

image source

It expresses the rail by using continuous horizontal bands of colored accent tile. We knew that the architecture needed to be receptive to advertising and art, so we placed the patterning so that they would become a backdrop:

Vancouver City Centre — Road

Vancouver City Centre Station was inspired by the intersection of Georgia and Granville.  Once you get down into the station, the accent tiles on the walls were randomly spaced, like the pattern of cars on a road. And just like Yaletown, there isn’t a pattern that would be “blocked” by the ads. And like randomness, you can go any which way.

Waterfront – Sea

Waterfront Station tells the story of the water that comes into a tidal pool as seen in the arched wave feeling on the ceiling:

The tile pattern throughout the station has blocks of blue color, which represent pools of water:

Elements of Continuity:

Waterfront and VCC: both had granite frames; stone band with a window in the middle VCC and Yaletown: wood roof

Elevated Stations
The following two elevated stations addressed the industry located on either side of the Frasier River.

Marine Drive Station — Pioneer Logging Industry

Marine Drive Station took its cue from the saw mills and planing mills down at Eburne. Portrayed as a “launching pad” where the tunnel comes above ground (visualize being on a log ride at the county fair).

Actual exit to Marine Drive station

Log Ride at a County Fair 🙂

Very streamlined, dynamic, industrial-oriented form:

Bridgeport Station — Air

Inspired by the ships and the early days of airplane manufacturing, Bridgeport Station’s original design had a curved roof that was based on the mosquito warplane.

*images and renderings copyright VIA Architecture. Please do not use without permission.
*Professional photographs taken by Ed White

University of Washington Headlines Exhibit

Beginning in 2005, the UW Architecture PAC has presented Headlines each Spring: an exhibit on public view for 2 weeks at Gould Court, traveling for exhibit at other Cascadia educational and professional venues, and visible online on the UW Department of Architecture site.

By highlighting unbuilt architectural projects under development by Washington design firms and organizations, Headlines offers the public, professionals, and campus communities a glimpse of work rarely seen outside the studio.

Schedule of HEADLINES exhibition:

April 15th to April 30th – University of Washington, Gould Hall Court
TBD – Architecture Institute of British Columbia, Vancouver
TBD – Washington State University, Pullman
TBD – Washington State University, Spokane
TBD – Montana State University
TBD – Portland State University
TBD – University of Oregon

We chose to feature the following two projects:

Evergreen Line – path of possibility
The Evergreen Line is designed as a new 11km rapid transit line in Metro Vancouver. It will seamlessly connect the municipalities of Burnaby, Coquitlam and Port Moody through six stations to the region’s successful SkyTrain system, local bus service and the West Coast Express commuter rail.

SR99 Tunnel Vent Buildings – urban strata
The designers were asked to develop designs for two vent buildings, located at the north and south portals of the proposed SR99 Tunnel. While the functional criteria for the two buildings are very similar, the designers were faced with drastically different infrastructures, neighborhoods and built environments.

The designers were challenged to develop a flexible material palette, which would allow each building to express an identity unique to its context, while maintaining threads of continuity that make known the connectivity and kinship of the two structures across the city.

By utilizing ideas of geology and stratification, the designers developed a simple set of materials – glass, precast concrete panels, metal panels. By incorporating minor variations in each, the designers were able to develop a rich and vibrant facade, calling to mind the urban strata of which it is a part.

by Stephanie Doerksen, VIA Architecture

In my last post I addressed some of the common objections to the proposal of removing the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts and mentioned some examples of similar initiatives. In this post I’d like to discuss some of the urban design benefits that could result.


Traffic on the viaducts has been steadily declining over the past 15 years. Studies show that most of the traffic accessing the downtown core via the viaducts originates in East Vancouver. In other words, this route is not part of the larger freeway/commuter network.

The viaducts during morning rush hour (8:10am Tuesday)

So if there’s really not that much traffic on Prior Street, why do the residents of Strathcona care about making it into a local street? In this case it’s a matter of quality over quantity. Prior Street may not boast the traffic volume of freeway, but the traffic certainly has the quality of major artery. The viaducts were constructed as part of a never-finished freeway network, but Prior Street was essentially designed as a neighbourhood street. There are no shoulders, large street trees, and minimal front yards. The character of this street is that of a residential collector. Functionally, Prior Street is a very uncomfortable hybrid, wherein a street that is designed to be residential gets used as freeway.

Prior Street at Jackson

Despite the 50km/h speed limit drivers often use freeway speeds. They run the red lights all the time because, in the freeway mind set, they simply don’t see them. In the two years that I’ve lived in the neighbourhood I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve jumped out the way of someone tearing through a red light, or witnessed a cyclist getting hit while crossing at a green light. The road is divisive, not because of the amount of traffic, but because it acts like a freeway.

Looking North across the viaducts towards Hogan’s Alley


Even if only 20% of the viaducts were removed, it would open up the parcel of land south of Hogan’s Alley for redevelopment. The parcel is currently bisected by the viaducts. The remnants of land are nominally park space, but they feel more like left over land – empty and slightly dangerous. The block, which has seen a tremendous resurgence in the last few years, is bordered on three sides by residences. If the viaducts did not exist, no one in their right mind would think it was a good idea to put a piece of freeway infrastructure right in the middle of a low-scale residential neighbourhood.

Houses along Gore Street next to the Viaducts

Removing the portion east of Main Street would make a dramatic improvement in to the area in terms of safety, walkability and the aesthetics of the neighbourhood. It would also reconnect Chinatown to the newer residential developments to the south, to the Skytrain station, the seawall, and to Thornton Park, which holds the summer Farmer’s Market.

Looking west towards Main Street: the viaducts divide the neighbourhood north-south

North East False Creek

One look at the aerial image of North East False Creek reveals how much of an impact the viaducts have on development potential of the area. In the Terms of Reference for the city’s High Level Review of the area, one of the priorities is creating a “normalized” street network which is either at grade or has useful transitions to grade. Studying the potential to remove the viaducts is one of the tasks for the review. Creating a strong and flexible street grid and animating it through good urban design are crucial to the liveability of the neighbourhood. For a neighbourhood so close to the downtown core there’s simply no excuse not to design a strong pedestrian realm and make walkability a priority. The viaducts disrupt this potential pedestrian realm by eliminating the potential for frequent north-south connections, casting shadows, and creating dark “underneath” areas. Transitioning between an elevated and at-grade road network is always going to be problematic, as evidenced by the fact that pacific boulevard basically duplicates the viaducts route. The elevated roads create problems architecturally as well as in terms of urban design. There are privacy and noise issues created by having a freeway buzz past a second or third storey that are difficult, if not impossible to resolve.

The original Georgia viaduct was built between 1913 and 1915 to cross over what were then CPR rail yards. The current viaducts were built in 1972 to replace the existing structure which had long since become unsound. They were built as part of an ambitious plan to build a freeway system through downtown Vancouver that would have included a tunnel beneath Burrard inlet known as the “Third Crossing.” The plan was eventually scrapped due to overwhelming opposition from Vancouver residents, especially those in Strathcona and Chinatown where mass demolition was slated to make way for the proposed freeway. However, before the city allowed the public consultation to occur, a large swath of Hogan’s Alley, then a predominantly African neighbourhood was bulldozed and the current viaducts were built.

The viaducts are Vancouver’s most glaring anachronism; leftover remnants of an age when freeway expansion meant progress and economic growth. However, in hindsight, most people would agree that the best planning decision that Vancouver ever made was to stop the freeway through downtown. As we proceed with planning decisions regarding the fate of the viaducts, we should learn from our past successes.

by Stephanie Doerksen, VIA Architecture

The 50’s and 60’s were the heyday of urban expansion and economic growth in North America. Miles and miles of freeways were constructed and the resultant increase in mobility led to economic growth that went far beyond the stimulus cost of the actual construction. By the 70’s and 80’s the first generation of freeways were beginning to need maintenance and repair. The cost associated with this infrastructure continued, while the economic growth it brought about had already happened.

Recently a new trend has emerged related to freeway infrastructure in North American cities: highways are being removed for the sake of urban renewal, redevelopment and the economic prospects associated with better urban design and more sophisticated transportation networks. Cities like New Haven, South Bronx, and New Orleans are getting on board. Some of them are even receiving federal funding in the form of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants. (Ref. Planetizen article This recent NPR article summarizes some of the reasons for and objections to these US examples.

Here in Vancouver, the removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts has been a topic of conversation for the past two years, but the conversation has recently picked up steam – and widespread support. City Counsellor Geoff Meggs has been responsible for promoting the idea with the City, but other prominent urbanists such and Bing Thom and Larry Beasley are also in favour.

On April 7th SFU’s city program hosted a public forum on the future of the viaducts. Over 200 people packed the theatre, and the discussion was generally supportive. The remaining question seems to be how soon and how much of the viaducts can be feasibly removed. The following options were presented by Dave Turner, the City’s transportation consultant:

  1. 20% in 5 years
  2. 50% in 10 years
  3. 100% in 20 years.

The Vancouver Sun describes these options in more depth here.

As with most highway removal proposals, the major objections are the cost of implementing the infrastructural change and the potential for increased traffic congestion. In the case of Vancouver’s viaducts, neither of these poses a serious obstacle. Certainly, there is a capital cost associated with the work of demolishing portions of the viaducts, however, if they are left in place sooner or later there will be a cost associated with maintaining them or rebuilding them. At the moment the viaducts are considered to be strong and in good condition but, as with any infrastructure, they will deteriorate over time. Highway infrastructure, even on flat ground, is incredibly expensive to maintain. This article has some statistics on highway costs in the US.

In addition to the future savings in maintaining or replacing the viaducts, the cost of tearing them down would be offset in the present by the gain in developable land. (Bing Thom estimates several hundred million worth of real estate could be reclaimed). The potential to redevelop parcels of land currently occupied by the viaducts is a timely consideration, given the recent and somewhat contentious review of the NE False Creek Area Plan. Removing even portions of the viaducts opens up all sorts of new land use possibilities for the area.

potential redevelopment parcels

The second and possibly more ardent objection to removing the viaducts is the increase in traffic congestion it would cause. However, there is no evidence to support the theory that traffic congestion would increase. In fact, there is quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. The viaducts were closed for 21 days during the Olympics, with no noticeable traffic impacts. Granted, the Olympics were a bit of an extreme example and for residents of Strathcona and the Commercial Drive area it was a bit of a pain to have to detour down to Hastings or up to Pacific to get into town.

It’s important to note that in two of the three options that are currently being proposed, there would still be a local connection to the downtown core, but it would be a normal, at-grade road with traffic lights and intersections, instead of a giant overpass. In other words, it would not prevent local residents from accessing downtown via Georgia/Dunsmuir. As for drivers arriving from further east, according to Turner, neighbouring routes are not currently at capacity and could support an increase in volume. This was certainly borne out during the Olympic closures.

Turner noted that diverting extra traffic to neighbouring routes would result in some increased congestion, but that it would also encourage commuters to use transit or other transportation modes. While he’s right about the second part, there’s good evidence to suggest that even if the overall traffic numbers remained constant, removing one route would not cause increased congestion. It has to do with principles of network optimization and how drivers make decisions on which route is the most efficient. This article in Scientific American describes these principles and some recent research on traffic flow.

The best recent example of this is from Seoul, Korea. In 2003, the city demolished a six-lane freeway through the center of town and replaced it with a park. Sceptics were shocked as traffic flow in the city actually improved as a result.

Coming up: Part 2: Why should we remove the viaducts?

JP Thornton, our Director of Practice in the Vancouver office was just featured in Grand & Toy. Here’s an excerpt:

Q: What’s your elevator pitch?

A: Our goal is to move beyond designing the right building and instead design the right building in the right place. We believe architecture extends past the property line and into the community. Through collaboration, we create connective communities ‘via’ architecture, that’s where our name comes from. We connect the live, the work, the play, the move and the recreational aspect of a community into an interrelated, livable, sustainable and human experience.

Q: How do you keep staff motivated and engaged?

A: Because we’re a studio our employees aren’t doing the same thing every day. One moment they may be presenting to clients, the next they may be detailing a construction project. We encourage collaboration by making sure everybody is aware of what is happening on all projects. The worst thing in the word is people working in silos and not knowing why they’re doing what they’re doing. We’re also innovative and early adopters of new technology.

To check out the rest of the Q&A, click here.

Monday News Roundup

Apr 04, 2011

GORGEOUS “Luna” faucet and shower (Design Milk)
Check out this beautiful faucet and matching showerhead, inspired by the moon and stars.

Before I Die, by Candy Chang (Design Milk)
[love this] In her New Orleans neighborhood, Candy turned an abandoned, graffiti-ed house into something inspiring. She covered an entire side of the house with giant chalkboards with the words stenciled “Before I die I want to _________.” She then left pieces of chalk for residents and passers-by to fill in the most important things they want to do in their lifetimes.

Mobility’s diminishing returns (Strong Towns)
We like to believe that the United States is the land of opportunity. We also believe, for good reason, that increasing mobility increases opportunity. But when does this correlation break down? When do we go too far, to the point where the cost of improving and maintaining mobility actually stifles opportunity?

First Crescent in South Africa (Design Milk)
The original home on this site was demolished with the exception of a small basement area, converted into a guest suite. The oddly-shaped lot offers beautiful views of the Camps Bay beach and Lion’s Head to the north. Everything about this home takes advantage of the views from the windows to the outside space and cantilevered roof.

Is sprawl over? (The Transportationist)
In what is believed to be a turning point in American history, new figures from the U.S. Census indicate that suburban sprawl might be coming to an end.

Ideas for achieving an urban forest (Vancouver Sun)
Instead of stricter bylaws, perhaps what is needed is a heightened sensitivity to the value of trees

Will Seattle look to Portland to make bicycling safer? (Seattle PI)
It’s not a new idea but it has enough appeal that one City Councilwoman is trying to accelerate the development of special bike corridors on side streets, perhaps with new trees. natural drains and vehicle limitations to lure new cyclists outdoors and into the neighborhoods.

Outdoors: Ceramic Lanterns from CB2 (Remodelista)
Spring is here (and summer is just around the corner), and we’re thinking about outdoor lighting: we like these simple Ceramic Lanterns from CB2.

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 inspector. Called simply The Tree House, he says his vision is now complete after a ten year grow-in period and numerous structural improvements.

Tearing down freeways to make room for a new bicycling economy (Grist)
Here’s one way to fund bicycle infrastructure: Stop building freeways in cities. Better yet, tear down the ones we already have.

New media makes transit more attractive (Sustainable Cities Collective)
Last week, we released the results for our “Tech for Transit: Designing a Future System” study, a collaboration between Latitude Research and Next American City. The study asked regular drivers in Boston and San Francisco to go car-free for one whole week, sharing their experiences and recommendations along the way.

As Americans get larger, FTA raises standard for average transit passenger weight (Good)
Last month, we heard that Americans are now fat enough to need larger ambulances. Earlier this month, the Federal Transit Administration bowed to the inevitable and submitted a proposal to change its bus testing regulations “to more accurately reflect average passenger weights and actual transit vehicle loads.”

What emerging generations want:  a piazza (Sustainable Cities Collective)
As the 1600+ entries in this blog provide evidence for, emerging generations are moving into downtowns, driving less, walking more, living in smaller homes they can actually afford, preferring local businesses and slower food, prioritizing health,going green and valuing community and social networking like never before. It keeps coming up again and again, that the one amenity that does a remarkable job of fulfilling these values is the timeless piazza.

New idea:  Food Halls (Sustainable Cities Collective)
When you hear the term “food court”, most of us automatically think, “fast food in a mall”. What if the experience was more about slow food efficiently prepared, with a multitude of sit-down dining choices in environments designed for you to enjoy your food, sprinkled with specialty food shopping choices? Enter the “food hall”.

The link between thriving towns and a sustainable rural landscape (Switchboard at NRDC)
Yesterday, the Eastern Shore (MD) Land Conservancy announced the launching of a new Center for Towns to support “models of sustainable, walkable, diverse, well-defined and vibrant communities within our beautiful rural landscape.”  The Center was announced at a press event attended by yours truly in the beautiful town of Easton, where the Conservancy is also holding a conference.

Interactive urban agriculture map (Grown in the City)
Grown in the City has launched an “Interactive Urban Agriculture Zoning Map” to track urban agriculture zoning across the United States.

The future of urban agriculture (Sustainable Cities Collective)
Dr. Cohen’s current research focuses on urban food policy, particularly innovative planning strategies to support food production in the urban and peri-urban landscape, public policies to engage citizens in sustainable food production, urban planning and food access, and civic agriculture in cities and suburbs.

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 combining them in Photoshop.

Once I have all my linework drawn and scanned (all with the same resolution and file type), I’ll begin combining them into a Photoshop file, again using the crosshairs to align them. With each layer, I use ‘Free Transform’ (ctrl-t) to move and rotate the layer into the correct alignment. However, DO NOT rescale the drawing. Because each drawing was scanned at the same resolution, they should all be at a consistent scale, and therefore no resizing is necessary.

Also, when these drawings are brought into PS, they are opaque, and you can’t see one through the other. The method for dealing with this will be, most typically, to go into the ‘Layers’ window to the ‘Blending Mode’ drop down menu, and select ‘Multiply’ for each of your layers (see Figure 8).

Figure 8

‘Multiply’ causes anything in the layer that is white to have 0% opacity (completely transparent), and anything that is black to have 100% opacity (completely opaque). Anything in between (gray tones or color) will have an opacity somewhere between – e.g. a gray tone with a K value of 50% will have 50% opacity. It is extremely useful when overlaying linework on a drawing. Once all my layers have their Blending Mode set to Multiply, this is what it looks like (Figure 9).

Figure 9

Now, you may have noticed that we have some artifacts from the scanning, not to mention that it’s looking a little of kilter. To eliminate unwanted pencil lines and shading from scanning you’ll need to go to each layer in remove them, either with the eraser tool, a white brush, or my preferred method, the clipping mask.

The clipping mask is an excellent, and most importantly, non-destructive tool for modifying a layer in Photoshop. Here’s how it works:

I’ll start by turning off all of the layers but the one I’m working on, in this case the Trees layer. With the Trees layer selected, I click on the ‘Clipping Mask’ button at the bottom of the Layers window (see Figure 10), creating a clipping mask for that layer (see Figure 11).

Figure 10

Figure 11

The clipping mask does what you might expect – it creates a mask that hides parts of the layer and reveals others. Parts of a clipping mask painted black will hide that portion of the layer, those painted white will reveal that portion of the layer (gray tones will have an opacity equal to their K-value). Unless you have something selected, the clipping mask will start out white, so we’ll want to select a brush and set our foreground color to black so we can start eliminating parts of the drawing. As we paint over these parts of our drawing, it will disappear. However, what is convenient about the clipping mask is that it does not directly affect the original (hence the ‘non-destructive’). If we make a mistake, simply switch the foreground color to white and you can reveal parts of your drawing you may have accidentally hidden. (more on clipping masks later…)

Figure 12 shows our drawing with the clipping done to all the layers, as well as a background layer with a white fill that covers up any holes we might end up with. I’ve also moved the drawing into the center of the artboard.

Figure 12

Now, it looks to me like the drawing is a little off kilter, and I’d like to straighten it out. Select the ‘Ruler’ tool by clicking and holding the ‘Eyedropper’ on the toolbar (Figure 13). Then use the ruler tool to delineate a horizontal or vertical line on your drawing (Figure 14). Then, on the Menu bar click Image -> Image Rotation ->Arbitrary (Figure 15). This will bring up a dialogue box that is already filled in with the necessary value of rotation to make your ruler line perfectly orthogonal.

Figure 14

Figure 15

So that’s all for this week. Next time we’ll get into adding color, Photoshop brushes, more on clipping masks, and more!

(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 growth of Texas and Florida, but there is much to be learned from the less extreme, but still significant, population growth in less sunny places, like Seattle.

First breath of food revolution reaches BC (Vancouver Sun)
While the world reels from global oil shock and rising food prices, the time is ripe to revolutionize the way we produce food and local food systems, according to evangelizing farmer Joel Salatin.

Stimulate your local economy and your wallet by getting rid of your car (GOOD)
The big numbers are impressive: a city can keep over $127 million in the local economy by reducing car ownership by just 15,000 cars.

Transit benches that can withstand the sits, leans and etchings of time (GOOD)
As any public transit rider will agree, the worst part of waiting for any train or bus has to be taking a seat on that grungy, funky public transit bench. So that’s why fabricators at Veyko in Philadelphia decided to reinvent the typical molded-plastic afterthought into a sculptural, durable centerpiece of one of Philly’s SEPTA stations.

How much could you save by riding transit instead of driving? (Grist)
According to the American Public Transportation Association, an average two-person American household can save $825 a month by giving up one car in favor of public transit (those figures include parking).

Bike lane bickering in NYC (Sustainable Cities Collective)
As a native of the neighborhood at the center of the bicycle lane controversy now tearing apart the New York intelligentsia, I have watched the drama unfold with conflicted bemusement.