Tag Archives: place making

Is This the Future of City Design?

Now THIS is something interesting… an online platform that is allowing the community to help plan the future of New York City, through a combination of online gaming, social media and research. Whilst this system is in Beta mode, it shows some extraordinary potential in how city planners might better engage with their communities, generating some usable outputs in the process.

 nyc manahatta

The M2409 (Mannahatta 2409) project is an online platform a little like ‘Sim City’ [don’t pretend you don’t know what that is] that allows us to create an account then start designing our own future section of New York City using a palette of materials and attributes.

M2409 allows you to create your own vision for a piece of the city, making it private or ‘public’ meaning anyone in the world can log in and see your idea. One key element of this system is that it provides us with a number of future climate change scenarios to work with, e.g. ‘future climate in 2050’ or ‘severe storm in 2080’, so the very premise of this scheme is that we’re designing for future city resilience. If we choose to we can also recognise the original pre-European condition of Mannahatta (if we choose to).

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Eric Sanderson’s scheme for 14th St.

The more I consider this one the more potential I can see… a new avenue for improving city resilience by ‘design from the people’? A new channel to see what voters and rate payers want for their neighbourhood? Might ‘big data’ eventually connect with a platform like this to give us real-time data to design from?

I came across this via the Nature of Cities web site – great write-up on this by Eric Sanderson. Check it out here.

Want one of these for your own city? Personally I’m thinking ‘no’ for mine… I can see myself becoming completely absorbed in this at the expense of all else: it’s got city resilience, design, urban planning, place making, maps… far too many distractions!

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Pop Up Retail – Greener Than You Think?

How often have you been asked to spend time in your job removing something rather than adding? It’s actually really challenging and many people fail miserably at simplifying a complex issue.

But a trend is emerging where city Councils work to remove bureaucratic obstacles such as high license fees and onerous operating requirements, and allow small operators, start ups, artists and students to open their own retail store or shopfront in a temporary location, even if it’s just for a few days or a week.

pop up box

There are many smaller operators who just need temporary space in order to promote their wares, refine their products or pitch, and get out there into the marketplace. Pop-up stores, whether they be stand alone prefabricated stores or simply empty space in a tenancy that hasn’t been let, offer a great opportunity for emerging businesses to get started.

What I’m loving about this trend is the range of benefits for community resilience. Here are just a few examples;

  •  activation of failed spaces; they bring new crowds and interest into urban places that have not worked;
  • diverse street life; changing pop-ups over weeks or months add a new dynamic to the street – you never know what you’ll encounter;
  • utilisation of idle floor space; much better for an empty shop to be used for something rather than nothing – it’s a subtle way of making the city more efficient;
  • sparking local economy; some councils and even developers are offering low or no rent periods for pop-ups in order to help an area reach a critical mass of activity and visitors;
  • they allow an agile demand and supply relationship to be maintained – if the market quickly decides it wants something else, the pop-up approach can rapidly evolve to cater for this, thereby making the local economy more robust;
  • they tend to be more design / art focussed, further adding to the character and interest of a place;
  • they are a low cost way to test retail or business configurations to see what works best in a location.

You might find it tenuous to link retail with sustainable cities, but the notion of a thriving, robust and diverse local economy is absolutely vital in making local communities more resilient, and this trend towards a more dynamic retail model is evolving our old sense of shop-based retail into something more like a community event.

There are even Council-led or privately developed programs that help build on this momentum, including free Apps that tell you  what’s happening and where on any given day. Splash Adelaide is worth checking out to see how a Council might support  this culture through digital platforms and social media – an enticing glimpse into a treasure-hunt future? I’m hoping that my next visit there will coincide with a fleet of mobile food vendors in the city : )

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If you’d like to help get this thinking ‘out there’, please vote for Green Futures in the People’s Choice blog awards. Thanks!

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Jobs of the Future: Urban Farmer

Position Description; Urban Farmer sought for Smith Street Community. Must have extensive knowledge in horticulture, aquaponics and bee keeping. The role includes providing support and teaching to the community who wish to increase their food security, enhance community resilience and mutual reliance, and re-connect their families and children with organic, seasonal and healthy food.

The majority of homes and street verges are under-productive and require the establishment of new street orchards, planted verges and diverse seasonal produce crops on individual Lots, with the intention to swap produce through a weekly urban orchard program. An additional pilot program underway in conjunction with local Council includes returning sections of street parking to vegetated and edible rain gardens.

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what would an urban farmer post be without Michael Mobbs?

 

The Forester must have a strong understanding of organic horticulture, natural soil production and local climatic conditions. Understanding of local soil conditions an advantage. Strong engagement skills and familiarity with working with local Councils is desirable, and the Forester will be collaborating with the local Council in managing the assignment of their annual Community Resilience funding.

Ability to craft hand-made beer will be considered an added advantage by the community’s enthusiastic annual home brewing contestants.

Remuneration will be subject to performance, diversity and quality of product, and community feedback. Payment sources shall be the following;

  • Nominal part cash payment comprised of monthly contributions from the community;
  • Part payment from Council Community Resilience program funding;
  • Part payment from Community members’ health insurance providers [for providing healthy organic food and supporting community involvement];
  • Part payment from the State Health Department [for reducing demand on healthcare provision through providing healthy food and enhanced social capital];
  • Part payment as share of produce.

If you don’t mind a little hard work, a lot of socialising and garden chats, herding ducks and farming fish, dodging children’s toys, teaching adults and children, mucking with compost, stealing from bees and chickens, and beer tasting, then give us a call – we’d love to hear from you.

… We already get health insurer subsidies for gym membership and physiotherapy, and it’s only a matter of time before we get the same for consuming healthier food, joining community groups and for making our neighbourhoods more resilient. This job would be a great gig.

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A City Resilience (Liveability) Survey

We regularly hear about some city that has just been awarded the ‘world’s most livable city’ award, of some description. Even my home town of Adelaide got into a No.1 spot last year [Lonely Planet ‘best in travel’… must be the wine?]… and I’ve always wondered how these conclusions are reached (and I’ll leave Adelaide alone… they have enough to contend with ; )

After a bit of digging it’s apparent that these ‘surveys’ are of course biased towards the audience of whoever has sponsored the survey, e.g. an automobile association might survey its members and conclude that a car-centric city is superior to one that has a focus on walkability.

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one of the many surveys

Even when searching for a globally fair ‘livability’ index it’s apparent that it will never be completely objective or fair, unless the survey takes into account how the people of that city or community actually feel about where they live.

My search led me to a really handy ‘city resilience’ survey. The principle here is that ‘livability’ is so nebulous that it’s difficult to even brief for and design to – it means different things to different people, however when we place more focus on the living community it becomes more of a discussion about community and city resilience.

resilience survey

image from ‘City Resilient’ by Partners for Livable Communities

This city resilience survey – or ‘Community Scorecard’, by Partners for Livable Communities provides a well written plain-language survey that is tailored specifically for community engagement. The survey assesses 5 qualities that comprise ‘resilience’;

  1. Economy – jobs, innovation, talent attraction, economic base
  2. Environment – resource efficiency, consumption, air and water quality, access to the outdoors
  3. Education – high quality public education access, learning programs
  4. Health & Safety – physical and mental health
  5. Quality of Life – community care, interaction, open-ness to ideas

If you’re in a role where ‘livability’ is part of the challenge, or if you simply want to gain a better understanding of what makes a strong and resilient community, the web site and the survey are a good read and easy to digest.

And here’s the challenge – you need to get a total score of at least 110 in order for your community to be considered ‘resilient’… see how you go.

Resilience Through Placemaking

A common thread found in Resilience theory is that of community strength. A community’s ability to survive and even thrive during tough times is largely decided both in the way that community builds itself around its physical places and also in the way people work and band together to create those spaces.

The art of place-making is arguably the best demonstration of community resilience at work. By definition placemaking involves the residents of a community – it’s not the product of an architect’s pen but rather the result of a community-designer-builder collaboration over time.

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image from the Quicker, Lighter, Cheaper post

The Project for Public Spaces is a great placemaking blog with a recent post titled The 7 Psychological Functions of the Art of Placemaking. An interesting take on one of Alain de Botton’s latest works and worth a read. You’ll need to hit the link to get the discussion behind each of the functions.

The 7 Functions are;

  1. Remembering
  2. Hope
  3. Sorrow
  4. Re-Balancing
  5. Self-Understanding
  6. Growth
  7. Appreciation

While the place is important, the “making” builds connections, creates civic engagement, and empowers citizens—in short, it builds social capital. As architect Mark Lakeman of Portland’s City Repair organization puts it, “the physical projects are just an excuse for people to meet their neighbors.” … The relationships that grow out of the “making” are equal to, if not more important than, the places that result. (MIT’s recently-released white paper Places in the Making)

Grass roots resilience – no need for funding or white papers or green papers or drawn out consultancies. It’s just people like you and I getting on with realising great ideas in the spirit of placemaking start-ups.

“Imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time.”

A beautiful piece around the psychology of hope…

It’s easy at present to succumb to the temptation of criticising the intentions of Australia’s government – they want to repeal our carbon pricing scheme, lower our emissions reduction targets and generally commit to being a bench-warmer in global affairs.

But if you’ve read this blog you’ll likely know that Newton is a mate of mine, and I often refer to his Third Law – the one about ‘equal and opposite reactions’. So for all the head-in-the-sand hyperbole that we’re seeing at the moment, there must be (by definition) an equal measure of positivity and vision and hope out there somewhere.

And I know where it is.

It’s you.

Hope is that feathered thing perched on your soul (Emily Dickinson)

When doing some reading about place-making I came across this short but intense piece about the psychology of hope, about ordinary dreamers dreaming big and acting on that lump in the throat or tear in the eye… about acting now.

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Shared on Brain Pickings by Maria Popova

This is a moving piece about the decisions we make in life, about living with compromises and their long term effects, and about course corrections. I have a lot of friends who are around the 20-year mark in their careers, and I know at least some who might be feeling exactly this way right now.

If you do want a prosperous future, if you do want a clean future for us and our kids, if you do want to be an Aussie and keep punching above your weight in the global ring, then let that feathered thing take flight. Dare to ‘imagine immensities’ and set about making them come true… you are surrounded by like minds, those who are creating the equal but opposite force.

Have a read of this short piece about hope, then get to work. Now.

SITES – Could it Fill The Gap Between Our Rating Tools?

If you’re familiar with the mainstream ‘green building’ rating tools you’ll know that landscape is often captured within one or two credits amongst the entire tool, and there is generally nothing that rewards good place making.

There’s a case for putting more emphasis on the landscape for the following two reasons;

  1. The landscape we create externally to the building often has the potential for ecological good that far outweighs what the building is doing, and
  2. It’s the landscape (and building edges) that creates our public space – indeed the spaces external to our green buildings are the canvas for our experiences of the city.

The Sustainable Sites Initiative from the American Society of Landscape Architects is a terrific ‘public spaces’ and landscape guide and certification tool. It addresses the full bottle of landscape opportunities and includes a ‘Site Design – Human Health and Wellbeing’ category which gets right into the detail of place making.

SITES

Check out the site during some me-time on your Friday. The rating tool guide and supporting Case for Sustainable Landscapes are written in clear language and include great overviews of landscape and ecological principles.

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At risk of introducing another rating tool, SITES seems to fit nicely between our current suite of green building and green infrastructure certification schemes. Even if you don’t follow the certification pathway there is some great intel in this one.