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Monday News Roundup

Jul 19, 2010

Streets ahead: A revolution in urban planning (The Independent)
Cities of the future won’t be filled with androids but with ‘silver citizens’. And that means a revolution in urban planning

Coal Protest: Moms Begin Ascent of Mt. Rainier! (Earth Justice)
Four Washington moms have begun their attempt to summit Mount Rainier this weekend to deliver a strong message to their governor about coal.

Bouncing Back from the Disaster in the Gulf  (Huffington Post)
The Gulf oil spill is yet another grim reminder that our society’s reliance on highly complex and centralized energy systems renders us highly vulnerable. In fact, there seems to be a correlation: the more complex and centralized a system, the more vulnerable it becomes.

Los Angeles Dreams of a New Downtown River Park (Inhabitat)
A 100 year-old rail depot resides next to downtown Los Angeles, and next to the rail yard is the famous LA viaduct, a ribbon of concrete and steel cutting thought the heart of the city. The city recently funded a study to re-envision this 20th century monolithic development as a 21st century park complete with a green belt, a transportation corridor, and a recreation area lined with mixed-use developments.

Sound Walls Made From Grass (Planetizen)
The Ohio Department of Transportation is experimenting with “green noise walls” instead of the standard eyesore, using bags of soil sprouting greenery as an alternative to concrete.

Ridership down in America? look deeper (Human Transit)
London’s Bicycle Superhighway Opens Today! (Inhabitat)
As a way to encourage bike commuting and improve safety for bicyclists on the road, London is opening a series of bike superhighways along important commuter routes.

Rescued From Blight, Falling Back Into Decay (NYTimes)
At 1694 Davidson Avenue, a building in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx that the city once owned, tenants say conditions have deteriorated.

Restoring New York Streets to Their Bumpier Pasts (NYTimes)
Masons installing cobblestones along Laight Street in the TriBeCa area of Manhattan, where many restorations are under way.

8-Bit Capitol Hill (Capitol Hill Seattle)
Here’s a map of the Hill — and all of Seattle — rendered in old school, 8-bit computer graphic style.

The top 10 reasons building a smaller house is better (Washington Post)

Walking — Not Just for Cities Anymore (Brookings)
I see compelling evidence that the collapse of fringe drivable suburban markets was the catalyst for the Great Recession, and the lack of walkable urban development due to inadequate infrastructure and zoning is a major reason for the recovery’s sluggishness. Joel feels the demand for walkable urban development is a fraction of the future growth in households.

Slow City (BLDGBLOG)
There’s an interesting article in the New York Times today about the design and implementation of “aging-improvement districts”—that is, “parts of the city that will become safer and more accessible for older residents.”

A Fast-Paced City Tries to Be a Gentler Place to Grow Old (NYTimes)
To make it safer for older people, the city added four seconds to the time pedestrians are given to cross intersections like Broadway and 72nd Street.

by Mel Ifada, VIA Architecture

VIA Architecture converted to Vision in February 2009. Vision is a Professional Services Management program for Project-related businesses. At that time, there was a relatively small group of companies in Vancouver, BC who used the program. However, the users were keen to collaborate and a ‘Vancouver Vision User Group’ was initiated.

There is a rather large network of User Groups in the States and now a growing number of them in Canada. The purpose of the User Groups is to provide a platform for all types of users (Accountants / IT / Human Resources / Project Managers, etc) to discuss + brainstorm problems and solutions. There is no sales pitch – just users talking to users, helping users, networking, sharing experiences, adding value to each other.

Earlier this year, the Vancouver Vision User Group leader changed careers from being an ‘IT Guru user’ to pursue an opportunity on the sales + support side of the business. This is a great indication of the outgoing leaders’ belief in the product and its potential for growth within British Columbia. However, it also meant that the User Group was in need of a new leader.

As I have personally benefited greatly from attending user group meetings and various other Vision meetings, I volunteered to take on this role. My expectation was that the meetings would continue to be a maximum of a dozen or so participants at any one time which is a manageable sized group to host at VIA Architecture’s Vancouver office. The User Group hadn’t had a meeting for about 8 or 9 months so I set a pre-summer meeting for June 8th.

The response was overwhelming (in a wonderful way). We had 24 physical attendees and another 3 companies represented by teleconference! This is the largest meeting of Vision users in Vancouver that I’m aware of to date. It was fantastic! Some people had travelled for well over an hour each way to attend – others had flown over from Vancouver Island just for this meeting!

Many issues were discussed, solutions shared, grievances aired, and the next meeting date set for September 2010. The group is strong and keen!

Thank you to VIA Architecture for being an active participant in the Vision community and to Marlene, VIA’s Director of Finance, for supporting me in taking on this role.

Monday News Roundup

Jul 12, 2010

Public Art meets Public Transportation (GOOD)
Public art and public transportation combined? What more could you ask for?

Portland Does it Again (PriceTags)
PDX comes up with another great idea to celebrate its public spaces – this time its bridges.

Germany Targets 100 percent Renewable Electricity by 2050 (Treehugger)
Germany is already a global leader in solar power, but that’s just a start as far as Germans are concerned.

Evergreen Line a Go (Beyond Robson)
Despite uncertainty over the project’s funding, Metro Vancouver’s Evergreen transit line – a new rapid transit line that will connect Coquitlam to Vancouver via Port Moody and Burnaby – will proceed as scheduled, according executive director Dave Duncan.

Pavilion made from recycled Speedos (Treehugger)
This amazing pavilion designed by students at Chelsea College of Art & Design has been on show during the London Festival of Architecture for the last couple of weeks. It is made from the unlikeliest of materials, Speedo swimsuits, and we think it’s a fantastic example of the design possibilities that can be found in the upcycling process.

Community garden accessible to all (Straight)
Jill Weiss has designed the city’s first community garden accessible to people with disabilities.

Street density by transportation mode (The Transit Pass)

The Vancouver model comes to China (Crosscut)
Expos are about the world, but also remaking cities. Shanghai’s fair showcases urbanism, which includes a Northwest pavilion that promotes density but will sell sprawl too, if that’s what China wants.

Commuter Pain Index (Wired)
Quit whining about your commute. It isn’t that bad, even for you Angelinos and New Yorkers. Your daily slog through traffic is nothing compared to Moscow, where people might spend more than three hours sucking exhaust fumes while going nowhere fast.

Artist turns Paris into a playground (GOOD)
The French artist Jerome G. Demuth (who also goes by the moniker “G”), recently installed swings around Paris for the public to use.

Belltown – is this as good as it gets? (Crosscut)
Belltown’s history over the past 25 years suggested vitality, density, and the kind of success needed for the state’s growth management plans to succeed. Now, it may be at a tipping point, in the wrong direction.

This week’s sign of the apocalypse (Kaid at NRDC)

paris: world’s best transit logo? (Human Transit)
I’ve seen a lot of transit logos all over the world, and this is my personal favorite. Perhaps I love Paris too much to be fair.  Perhaps one has to know Paris to appreciate it.  But that’s fine; it’s a logo for Parisians.

Friday Feature: Diana

Jul 09, 2010

Who are you and what do you do?
Diana Wellenbrink – architect. Back in my home country I was arch.Diana Popova — when you’re an architect in Bulgaria, you put your title in front of your name just like doctors do.

What made you decide to go into your field?
When I was twelve, I visited the home- museum of Victor Vazarely in Pecs, Hungary. I was so impressed by the two-dimensional transformation, textural effects, the play of perspective, and light that upon returning back home I started painting (of course trying to imitate the scene). Sometimes I wish to be as excited about other things now as I was then. The built up knowledge end experience seems to steel that “virgin” appreciation and joy of discovery. Though I still could wow loudly — a couple of years ago I visited Louis Khan’s Salk Institute Campus and no matter that I’ve studied about it before, I’ve read that the physical experience cannot be compared to anything.

What did your family think of your chosen field?
My mother, a teacher in Chemistry and a widow raising two children, asked shortly “How much do you need?”; I told her and that was the end of the conversation. She gave me the money I needed to study drawing for 3 years and mathematics for 2 years in order to be accepted in the University. Mother, thank you! I hope one day I would be able to support my son in pursuing his dream.

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why?
My teacher in drawing, who was an architect that I kept in contact with until I left for America. He was literally beating us for “basic stupidity” but at the same time he was sitting and holding our hands to teach us how to “loosen”, “how the object should start to appear”, and “never forget the big, focusing on the small”. Unfortunately his professional life proved that talent without a business approach won’t make an architectural career.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced along your educational path? (academic, financial, motivational, family or peer pressure, outside distraction, etc.)
That in architecture, you should have a strong personality, but that at the same time, you need to learn to give up – how much, when, where. One of my professors at school marking my work said: “I wish to put a ”D-“on your work, because I don’t think a client would like it, it is so ‘dark’, but it shows who you are and what your mood is, so “A-”.

So you to find who you are once and second how to “twist” that with a certain project, or geographic circumstance, or budget issues, or client’s personality, or team preferences is not easy I think it is never ending process.

What inspires you?
Works of art and architecture. I wish to say nature, but I am an urban type of person and I like to see the “marks of civilization”. If I am in the mountains and I see a shelter, I feel relaxed. That is why, I guess, I am an architect – to build shelters.

What schooling is required for success in your career?
Work is the best schooling. I didn’t believe it when one of my teachers asked us to redraw a project that had been designed by a well established architect. Now I know he was right.

What kind of people are the most successful in your field? Are there any specific attributes?
I’ve already mentioned that unfortunately only talent in the field of architecture is not enough. You need to have a special approach that is a talent of its own. At certain moments, you need to be a psychologist, a public speaker, a businessman, a brick layer, a wrestler, and many more…

What is the best advice you were ever given?
A quote of one of my professors, leading a class in modeling, also famous sculptor “Don’t say a word unless you could summarize it as a sketch.”

The advice of my thesis advisor upon saying good bye to each other: “From this point on, do not let anybody not address you as arch. Popova”. Interpreted, that should mean that what you gain as a professional if official, so nobody should be allowed not to respect that and there are only certain institutions that could object or suspend this.

A quote by memory of a line from Kipling’s poem: “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, // But make allowance of their doubting too.”

Is your field growing? (ie. is there room for new entries and is there career growth?)
I wish to say it stays as broad as it has always been.

What advice would you give someone considering a career like yours?
Go, go, go! There are few minutes in your career, but they are worth for all efforts and sleepless nights. One of mine was when we lit up a newly renovated place and the old lady who gave this place to her granddaughter and was reluctant of our “invasion” started crying and said “it is as if I’m seeing my place for the first time, it is so wonderful”

An Eight Year Old Perspective

by Richard Leong, VIA Architecture
Background info for this post:

“The current trend of density and downtown living has left me thinking of a more simple time, less complicated, perhaps naïve and due to traces of synaptic loss, slightly idealized. What is written is a stream of consciousness memory/reaction that I have culled from the back alleys of my memory…”

The imagery is a metaphor for the fact that in Vancouver, and maybe in Seattle as well, that the natural surroundings overpower the architecture. How do we reconcile this? Can we make architecture stand out? When thinking of community, place and neighbourhood, what is it that brings forth the fondest of memories? What can we do as architects, planners, and designers to make something that the public can make their own?

With the mist clearing, the scene unfolds with vivid colours of emerald greens, ultramarine blues in battle with dreary greys, and hue upon hue of cooler greys. Once in a while a warmer grey appears but this is a rare occurrence. The paranoid skies erupt with the crying of clouds and a sudden splashing of raining rain beats down, but as I have said earlier the skies are untrusting and do not maintain any sort of consistency. Within minutes, the streaming sunlight and the nakedness of the sun is exposed in all of its glory. Mountains emerge with their dotted viridian trees and in the foreground bright orange red cranes are thrust into one’s field of vision. These cranes are loud at times and they pluck their large loads with reckless abandon from the awaiting barges and docked ships. Sure, these cranes are huge, they’re gigantic chairs, but compared to the background, an endless palette of coastal mountains, these manmade structures are miniscule. Although as tiny as they are, I still stare at them in awe.

Before I forget, there are also the railroad tracks that run between the back alley of the laundromat and the site of the cranes. The sound of these tracks with the stainless grinding of steel against steel would lull me to sleep night after night. Of course the blaring horn was loud and the signal crossing would ring into the night but when you got used to it, it was like a warm glass of milk before bedtime. I did mention the laundromat across the street didn’t I? I don’t remember the name of the girl whose parents were the owners. It was years ago, but oh how we played…running up and down the alleys and near the tracks and pedalling furiously on our three wheeled chariots across the streets.

The longshoremen knew our names and would always say hi at quitting time. They would give us spare change to buy ice cream or something every now and then. I guess it was every second Friday or something like that. Off to the corner store we would go. The ice creams were always good and usually I would get the ice cream sandwich. I would get two and give one to my younger sister. The laundromat girl would get a bag of assorted jellies or candies. I can’t believe that I don’t remember her name. As I said, the ice creams were good but you had to really concentrate to taste them because your nose would wander off and sniff the wafting breeze that was lightly scented with salmon, probably sockeye.

At night it wasn’t just the trains and trackyards that interrupted the peace, sometimes for months at a time, there would be the heavy sound of fans or other machinations from the fish processing plant, the cannery. This would happen without fail year after year during the salmon season. Well, I could go on but the mind is starting to wander, hey look…a new condo development taking over the site of that historic little motel…

This is the city that I remember, the village of my childhood…and how times have changed.

Image links: Image 1, Image 2

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m a British Architect working in the field of Transit Architecture (aka station design) with VIA Architecture

What made you decide to go into your field?
I originally wanted to become a pilot but my parents were frightened that I might be conscripted and be made to bomb people. Granted, it sounds ridiculous now, but at age 13 I looked through a careers book and didn’t get past the letter A. I really enjoyed drawing and was fascinated by how things were put together so a career in Architecture appealed to me. I’ve worked in many fields from millionaire’s mansions and mixed use projects to humble cabins. Transit Architecture I champion in particular as it helps improve the quality of life of so many people from so many social backgrounds every single day.

What did your family think of your chosen field?
“That’ll be handy for renovations.”

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why?
Frank Lyons who was one of my Diploma tutors in the School of Architecture of the University of Plymouth. He made it ok to move on from white modernism , to embrace materiality and to inject humanism into architecture.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced along your educational path? (academic, financial, motivational, family or peer pressure, outside distraction, etc.)
The death of both my parents while I was still completing my schooling.

What inspires you?
Making a positive impact to people’s lives

What schooling is required for success in your career?
The traditional architectural education system in Britain is somewhat different to North America. The ‘fast track’ requires three year’s study for an undergraduate degree specializing in Architecture, followed by a two year post graduate qualification in Architecture. Then there’s at least two years of internship (although four is preferred before the professional qualifications which take another 6 months.

What kind of people are the most successful in your field? Are there any specific attributes?
A mix of artistic and analytical skills is important, as are a good people skills.

What is the best advice you were ever given?
Get on and draw it.

Is your field growing? (ie. is there room for new entries and is there career growth?)
Absolutely. North America is now realizing the importance of mass transit systems to the long term viability of its cities. Ridership figures continue to go up. I expect to see an increase in expansion and improvement projects as well as the implementation of completely new systems across the world.

What advice would you give someone considering a career like yours?
It demands a lot of hard work and long term commitment from the start. Spending some time working in a practice is essential as an Architect’s daily work is not the same as Hollywood may make you believe, though it can be a very rewarding career for the right person.

Monday News Roundup

Jun 21, 2010

ARC – International Wildlife Crossing Infrastructure Design Competition
Competition that blends transportation and bio-cultural networks with a much needed architecture.

Take this quiz: are you addicted to oil? (Simple Steps)
Like other addictions, our addiction to oil has made us heedless of the damage it causes ourselves and the world around us. Take our quiz and find out if you’re ready for change.

Vancouver: family friendly city (Vancouver Sun)
Take a bow, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Kitchener and Guelph, Ont.: you’re the most family-friendly cities in the country, according to one new ranking.

Portland mayor wants 20-minute neighborhoods (Grist)
Newish Portland Mayor Sam Adams wants to build more “20-minute neighborhoods” in his fair city.

Local power – tapping distributed energy in 21st century cities (Grist)
Residents of Hammarby Sjöstad, a district on the south side of Stockholm, Sweden, don’t let their waste go to waste. Every building in the district boasts an array of pneumatic tubes, like larger versions of the ones that whooshed checks from cars to bank tellers back in the day. One tube carries combustible waste to a plant where it is burned to make heat and electricity. Another zips food waste and other biomatter away to be composted and made into fertilizer. Yet another takes recyclables to a sorting facility.

Who says what’s livable (American City)
Per Infrastructurist, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that livability means “being able to take your kids to school, go to work, see a doctor, drop by the grocery or post office, go out to dinner and a movie, and play with your kids in a park, all without having to get in your car.”  But what, precisely, makes them “livable?”

Upcoming Lecture:
July 29th Jarrett Walker (Human Transit), 5:30 – 7pm at Space at the Steps, sponsored by Great City

Seattle wants urban farms, more chickens (Seattle PI)
The city of Seattle wants to make city agriculture easier and more productive by allowing taller greenhouses, more chickens per household, and the existence of large commercial food farms near neighborhood homes.

Vancouver’s backyard chicken revolution (Vancouver Sun)
Hundreds of clandestine urban egg farmers and thousands of illegal chickens can rest easy. Vancouver city council passed a bylaw amendment Tuesday to make it completely legal to keep laying hens in backyards.

London Underground goes greener (Guardian)
Liverpool Street, Victoria and Bank among 10 tube stations to cut carbon emissions through energy efficiency measures

Seeing past the BP spill: Fixing our systems instead (World Changing)
Yet, while the BP Spill is the biggest single oil spill we here in America have experienced, in terms of overall impact, it’s just a drop in our pollution bucket. Thousands of major spills happen around the world each year. Even in terms of oil spilled in North America, this disaster is small compared to business as usual: more than 90% of all the oil spilled in North America comes from oil leaked from cars (or poured down drains) finding its way to the sea

Neighborhood amenities influence risk for child obesity (KUOW)
A few years ago a Seattle study came out that used zip codes as a way to predict obesity. Neighborhoods with higher property values had slimmer residents. People living in zip codes with lower property values were more likely to be overweight or obese. A new study expands on that research. Scientists at Seattle Children’s Research Institute have more evidence that communities, including physical environment, contribute to obesity.

Thinking about the economics of sustainable communities (Kaid at NRDC)
Last week, I spoke to the annual convention of the American Institute of Architects in Miami Beach, as part of a session on neighborhood density.  We had a sizable, knowledgeable and attentive audience, and I was struck by the fact that most of the comments and questions after our session were about what we need to do to craft sustainable urban economies, not the facts and figures we had presented regarding the market for walkable neighborhoods, how to design for environmental sustainability, and the dividends that urban densities can bring to their communities.

Friday Feature: Amanda

Jun 18, 2010

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m an intern architect, working in the transit and urban design sector, an area I never would have imagined myself while in school. And yet I find myself loving it!

What made you decide to go into your field?
After graduating high school, I only had a vague idea of what I wanted to do. I figured I would go into engineering since I knew I had a fairly analytical mind but it just didn’t get me all that excited. So I went to community college at BCC for two years where I took an architecture history course as an elective and absolutely loved it. I was fascinated by how much personal and artistic expression went into architecture and I enjoyed hearing about the unique stories associated with every building. After that, I was sold – and off to architecture school I went.

What did your family think of your chosen field?
My family was pretty happy about it actually. They felt like it would be a good blend of engineering and art. Coming from an apparel designer (my mother) and an artists/sign-maker (my father), it’s funny that being an architect hadn’t dawned on me earlier.

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why?
That is really hard for me to answer because I feel like I had a number of really good professors who each taught me aspects of who I am (as a designer). However, there is one professor from my graduate studies, Paul Hirzel, who taught me that being passionate about my work is what truly opens the door to good design. Without a personal connection to your designs, a building will remain merely raw material without soul.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced along your educational path? (academic, financial, motivational, family or peer pressure, outside distraction, etc.)
I have a tendency to get extremely absorbed into whatever I put my mind and efforts toward and while this is great for accomplishing educational goals, it puts a huge strain on your ties with family. So for me, my hurdle was and still is learning to let go sometimes so I can enjoy my family.

What inspires you?
A lot of things inspire me – beauty of the landscape, the underdogs of the world, the bond within communities, good books, music, painting…the list can go on forever.

What schooling is required for success in your career?
A bachelor’s in architecture is all that is really required but a master’s degree is even better. However, if we aren’t talking about just qualifications and certificates, then I would say taking an art or sketching class and getting outside the United States and doing some traveling.

What kind of people are the most successful in your field? Are there any specific attributes?
People who are capable of working as team members and who are capable of walking the fine line between art and the reality of function.

What is the best advice you were ever given?
It is better to have one simple but strong idea than to have a million weak ones.

Is your field growing? (ie. is there room for new entries and is there career growth?)
Of course there is! This is perhaps one of those rare times in our country where we will see leaps and bounds in many professions as they struggle to collaborate in order to be more efficient and unique than the rest. And that means using the knowledge and new ideas of students just coming out of school that can bring their energy as well as dreams with them.

What advice would you give someone considering a career like yours?
If you find yourself going through the motions but never really finding any passion in what you are doing, it’s time to get out. Architecture, more than many other professions, is not worth the time, energy, and stress if you don’t love both the process and the outcome. It’s brutal but true.

by Wolf Saar, Director of Practice for VIA Architecture

The other day, I was going through my normal weekend routine of picking things up, and as I was making my way downstairs with my arms full of laundry and various other items, I noticed I hadn’t hung up a shirt that was laying on the bed. Instead of putting the stuff down, or getting to it later, I decided to try and hang up the shirt with my free hand.

Like an acrobat I repeatedly tried (ultimately unsuccessfully) to place the shirt on the hanger without the hanger swinging away. I finally dropped my pile of stuff and hung it up properly. Then I started thinking: what would I have done if my arm was in a sling? What if I had suffered a stroke and lost the use of my arm? As an architect and designer, what could I do to remedy that type of situation? This is a great example of what the aim of Universal Design really is: to make all things accessible and able to be manipulated, regardless of ability.

Less ridiculous than my Saturday morning act is what my dad faces every day as an 89 year old experiencing the progressive diminishment of his abilities due to Parkinsons Disease. He currently lives in a 35 year old Burnaby, BC high rise condo with my mother; narrow hallways that hinder his passage with a walker, a standard tub that he cannot negotiate without complete assistance and doors with knobs that are difficult to turn. And then there’s the toilet which, because he basically falls onto it, we fear will ultimately become irreparably dislodged from its mounting.

Thankfully, at 85, mom is relatively fit and can provide the care and assistance he needs so he rarely has to deal directly with the barriers that are designed into the space he inhabits. But this condo creates difficulties even for her; until I added a second one, the door peephole was mounted at “standard” height and, being short, she couldn’t actually use it.

I can excuse a 35 year old design on the basis that we were not as sensitized to these issues back then. But, as a 51 year old who can now visualize a future of “aging in place” for myself, I am still amazed at the way we often take the expeditious approach to the design of the places we live in.

As an architect with a passion for designing spaces for elders, I make it a point to look at the way senior housing is designed and am repeatedly disappointed in the number of “independent” living facilities I’ve seen that comply with ADA but don’t take the next step to design universally. Combo microwave/kitchen hoods positioned up high above a stove are my pet peeve because they’re hard to reach and potentially a burn hazard. It’s also evident in elements such as ranges without front controls, dishwashers that aren’t raised so the resident doesn’t have to stoop down and standard bathtubs you have to climb over the edge of to get into.

Several years ago, I went to a presentation by Valerie Fletcher, Executive Director of the Institute for Human Centered Design in Boston. The Institute is an international non-governmental educational organization committed to advancing the role of design in expanding opportunity and enhancing experience for people of all ages and abilities through excellence in design. That talk was a turning point for me because it clearly showed me how I could influence design in a very real way and contribute in a positively to the experience of aging.
Valerie introduced the notion that, besides accessibility, Universal Design advances “Social Sustainability.”

When we discuss sustainable design, we consider three broad facets: environmental, financial and social. In considering the concept of “Aging in Place” and the social aspects of Universal Design, the goal of independence can be expanded to be “Aging in Community” by promoting the design of accessible and maneuverable environments in the public realm. Universal Design promotes socialization of seniors as contributing members of society by breaking down barriers while placing less of a burden on social services. There is nothing “greener” than being able to continue to live in your own home or community.

Despite the challenges that their living unit presents, my parents do live independently and, in a broad way their location next to a Skytrain Station and a few blocks from their primary doctor, dentist, grocery store and a full-service mall serves them well. Basic needs in the public realm are met, such as curb ramps and adequate lighting but being next to a large shopping center means that, in this case, the car is still king and navigating their neighborhood is both daunting and a bit dangerous due to discontinuous pedestrian ways and drivers that seemingly ignore them. More and more, I see my parents retreat into the condo and limit their forays outside.

There are a number of excellent resources available to designers and the public. In the Seattle area, the Northwest Universal Design Council was formed in an effort to help advance Universal Design thinking in the Puget Sound region. This organization is exceptional in that it brings together people concerned with providing universally accessible environments and advancing the mission of an enlightened approach at all levels of design. This is an energetic and steadily growing group consisting of members of the public, government officials, architects, designers, students and builders with a common goal: to advance the design of “Environments for All.”

As another valuable resource, Aging and Disability Services of King County provides a particularly good clearing house of Universal Design links and resources. In the Lower Mainland, check out Citizens for Accessible Neighborhoods’ website at

And, bringing it back to how to hang a shirt with one hand? Maybe give up on the hanger and look at that old alternative: the coat hook.

Tuesday News Roundup

Jun 15, 2010

Janine Benyus using Biomimicry to Design Cities (Treehugger)
Janine Benyus helps design cities the biomimetic way

Apartment Therapy’s ‘Small Cool Kitchens’ contest yields interesting observations (Apartment Therapy)
(and) Treehugger — lessons from apartment therapy kitchen competition

The Way We Design Now (NYTimes)
Allison Arieff – Design now exists less to shape objects than to produce solutions.

Denver Urban Farms (Grist)
Denver busts urban farming’s yuppie stereotype

Good neighborhoods have lots of intersections (Grist)
It’s a little counterintuitive, but it turns out that having lots of intersections is really important for neighborhood walkability and transit use

A Growing Concern (Earth Island)
Can urban farms translate popularity into profitability?

The variety of American street grids (Discovering Urbanism)

Seattle’s waterfront streetcar – not coming back? (Human Transit)
Ultimately, if Seattle loves the Waterfront Streetcar enough to pay for it, or get its tourists to pay for it, then by all means Seattle should have it. My job as a transit planner, though, requires me to ask, now and then, if the proposed service is going to be useful as transit.  Will this thing actually be useful to people who just want to get to where they’re going?

Blame it on the Train (NY Post)
Late for work? NYC offers excuses via email