The Power of Designing with Pedestrians in Mind

Providing more public space for pedestrians is one of the main goals of urban renewal projects taking place in cities around the world. 

By planting more trees, implementing more sidewalks and bike paths and establishing new seating areas, it is possible to design more welcoming places with less traffic congestion and that promote sustainable methods of transportation, such as walking or biking.

With the aim of publicizing urban renewal projects that have made cities more pedestrian friendly, Brazilian group Urb-I launched the “Before/After” project, which compiles before and after photos that show how cities have redistributed their public space.

The project is collaborative so that anyone can use Google Street View, or another similar tool, to raise awareness of the changes taking place in their cities.

Read on to see the transformed spaces.

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Regnbuepladsen, Copenhagen, Denmark. Image Courtesy of Urb-I

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Padre Alonso de Ovalle, Santiago, Chile. Image Courtesy of Urb-I

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Griffith Park Boulevard, Los Angeles, United States. Image Courtesy of Urb-I

See more here.

11 Principles for Creating Great Community Places

06_develop_a_vision-223x300Effective public spaces are extremely difficult to accomplish, because their complexity is rarely understood. As William (Holly) Whyte said, “It’s hard to design a space that will not attract people. What is remarkable is how often this has been accomplished.”

PPS has identified 11 key elements in transforming public spaces into vibrant community places, whether they’re parks, plazas, public squares, streets, sidewalks or the myriad other outdoor and indoor spaces that have public uses in common. These elements are:

  1. THE COMMUNITY IS THE EXPERT
    The important starting point in developing a concept for any public space is to identify the talents and assets within the community.
  2. CREATE A PLACE, NOT A DESIGN
    To make an under-performing space into a vital “place,” physical elements must be introduced that would make people welcome and comfortable, such as seating and new landscaping.
  3. LOOK FOR PARTNERS
    Partners are critical to the future success and image of a public space improvement project.
  4. YOU CAN SEE A LOT JUST BY OBSERVING
    We can all learn a great deal from others’ successes and failures. By looking at how people are using (or not using) public spaces and finding out what they like and don’t like about them.
  5. HAVE A VISION
    The vision needs to come out of each individual community. However, essential to a vision for any public space is an idea of what kinds of activities might be happening in the space.
  6. START WITH THE PETUNIAS: LIGHTER, QUICKER, CHEAPER
    The complexity of public spaces is such that you cannot expect to do everything right initially.
  7. TRIANGULATE
    “Triangulation is the process by which some external stimulus provides a linkage between people and prompts strangers to talk to other strangers as if they knew each other” (Holly Whyte).
  8. THEY ALWAYS SAY “IT CAN’T BE DONE”
    Creating good public spaces is inevitably about encountering obstacles, because no one in either the public or private sectors has the job or responsibility to “create places.”
  9. FORM SUPPORTS FUNCTION
    Although design is important, these other elements tell you what “form” you need to accomplish the future vision for the space.
  10. MONEY IS NOT THE ISSUE
    This statement can apply in a number of ways. For example, once you’ve put in the basic infrastructure of the public spaces, the elements that are added that will make it work (e.g., vendors, cafes, flowers and seating) will not be expensive.
  11. YOU ARE NEVER FINISHED
    By nature good public spaces that respond to the needs, the opinions and the ongoing changes of the community require attention.

Read full article here.

Rainbow Art Work Unites a Community

Germen Crew just completed what could be one of the world’s largest murals in a small Mexican pueblo. The colorful mural was Commissioned by the Las Palmitas, Pachuca District municipality in the state of Sinaloa, long known for its role as the “Drug Capital of Mexico.” The Nuevo Muralisimos of Mexico spent five hard months working with the community to realize this ambitious urban revitalization program. A massive public art project comprising 209 homes and over 215,000 square feet, the Macro Mural reveals a hybrid style that leans heavily on the group’s graffiti background, deftly coaxing the country’s most recognizable art form into the 21st century.

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The impressive but still limited translation of Planisferio’s interview with the Germen Crew group suggests the people living in Palmitas weren’t necessarily sold on the project right away, so it was necessary to nurture a trusting relationship with residents, and also with the children; it was their houses that were being painted all sorts of colors, after all. The artists think of themselves as providing the Germ of an idea, but much of the design and execution was ultimately a group effort that united a friendly and vibrant community plagued by poverty and mistrust.

All told, 452 families or 1808 people are said to have been touched by Germen Crew, which consists of 10 artists, and their radiant mural visible from afar. They used the highest quality paint to ensure durability and longevity and engaged the community at every juncture. It’s really something for the people to be proud of, and reactivates Mexico’s deeply-layered street culture. And of course, the government deserves serious kudos for recognizing the role that art plays in a healthy urban environment.

Read more here.

Infographic Highlighting 8 Of the Worl’s Greatest City Parks

Urban parks are one of the most important components of a healthy and livable city. Not only do they sequester carbon and provide respite from the concrete jungle, but parks are also great cultural and historic landmarks. In honor of urban parks, Fairmont created an infographic highlighting eight of the greatest city parks from around the world from London’s Hyde Park to the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The infographic offers an overview of each park and their design, random facts, and insider’s tips to give readers a greater appreciation for these landscapes.

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Original article can be found here.

Downtown Cleveland Is Turning a Traffic Hub Into a Public Park

To hear Clevelanders talk, Public Square is a place you pass through to reach somewhere else. When Moses Cleaveland laid out the town in 1796, he imagined the open area at its center as a New England-style commons: a gathering space for settlers, a grazing area for livestock.

But its natural position as a transit hub—first for stagecoaches and streetcars, later for buses and automobiles—steadily intruded on that civic purpose. Despite efforts by some residents to preserve it as a park, including a decade-long stretch in the 19th century when it was fenced off to horse-drawn wagons, roads and traffic triumphed over people and place.

3d272314dOver the years, it just turned into more like a series of big traffic islands,” says the landscape architect James Corner. Two major streets, Superior and Ontario, bisect Public Square, creating four discrete squarelets. Locals who find themselves in one of the quadrants have a tough time getting to another. If the cars aren’t enough of a hindrance, the lack of things to do or see in the area is: of the square’s 10 acres, more than six are paved over with concrete or asphalt. Now, with the square’s original communal spirit greatly diminished, Cleveland has asked Corner—a revivalist with what he calls a “theatrical flair”—to help bring it back.

City planners are increasingly realizing that investment in public spaces, many neglected for decades, can provide a competitive edge in luring new businesses and residents—especially young creative types—to the urban core. The High Line now attracts millions of visitors a year, and property values nearby have skyrocketed. “There’s an economic imperative to look for how you can keep a city vibrant and vital,” Corner says, “because otherwise people just leave.”

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Cleveland certainly took note of the High Line’s success. The city’s own downtown population, which plummeted during the economic slump of the 1980s, has risen to an all-time high in recent years, helped by billions of dollars of investments in attractions like a convention center, a medical marketplace, and a casino. But Cleveland still lacked a central point where people could meet for coffee, or walk a dog, or stroll on a date. Public Square “has been our front yard for over a century,” Ann Zoller, the head of land Studio, a local design partner working with Corner’s firm, says. “We really felt that if you had all this development but you still had a dysfunctional Public Square, the city was never going to thrive as it could.”

By the time Cleveland engaged Corner’s help, in 2008, many ideas for how to revamp the square had come and gone. They all suffered from the assumption that traffic around the site could not be disturbed. Corner came in with a bold idea: if we can’t remove the streets, let’s build an elevated park above them. The hilltop-park concept didn’t pan out, because of the cost and complexity, but Zoller says it got locals reimagining Public Square as a place prioritizing people over cars. A traffic analysis determined that the city could close one of the streets and narrow the other to a passage for buses, which could be rerouted during major events. Construction started this spring on Corner’s final design, which is estimated to cost $32 million.

Read full article here.

Public Spaces Are a Bellwether and A Bridge For Difference in the Communitie

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Placemaking can bring people together and create a sense of shared ownership of a city and its public spaces. Through Placemaking, community places not only become more active and useful for the people who help to create them, they can become more welcoming to people of all ages, abilities, income levels and backgrounds.

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Public spaces are a bellwether, and a bridge, for difference. Photo of Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn by Ethan Kent

Since public spaces can both reflect and shape the communities they serve, they become incredibly meaningful places for people working to create more equitable cities. Many underserved communities have been systematically excluded from the prosperity and vibrancy that their city continues to generate for its wealthier residents. When neighbors come together to improve their public spaces, results can be tangible and immediate, and this process itself amplifies the sense of inclusion that great places can generate.

These benefits are often obscured in public debates surrounding Placemaking. Critics have voiced concerns, again and again, that Placemaking provides amenities that are geared toward a specific demographic—that its aim is to make “less desirable” areas more aesthetically palatable, and that it works to accelerate (or even initiate) gentrification by increasing property values and driving long-term residents out of their neighborhoods. Because of such fears, which urban critic Matt Yglesias has termed “gentrificationphobia,” neighbors often resist improvements to the public realm, from the installation of bike lanes to the development of long-vacant properties.

PPS developed The Beach in Detroit’s Campus Martius through a Placemaking process. It has become a shared place that brings together, and bridges, vastly different populations.

PPS developed The Beach in Detroit’s Campus Martius through a Placemaking process. It has become a shared place that brings together, and bridges, vastly different populations.

“It’s not always that neighbors feel new development will make the area worse,” writes

Yglesias, “sometimes they oppose new development because it will make the area better. [While concerns about people being priced out are not] crazy, it is crazy that this is the kind of thing people need to worry about in urban politics. ‘Your policies will improve quality of life in my community’ should never be a complaint about a policy initiative.”

Here we can see the fundamental misunderstanding that has led to so much of the concern around Placemaking today. A bike lane is not Placemaking; neither is a market, a hand-painted crosswalk, public art, a parklet, or a new development. Placemaking is not the end product, but a means to an end. It is the process by which a community defines its own priorities. This is something that government officials and self-proclaimed Placemakers ignore at their own peril.

This is why the involvement of all residents is vital for creating great places. Placemaking offers a unique opportunity to bring people of different backgrounds together to work collaboratively on a common goal: a shared public space. When local officials, developers, or any other siloed group prescribe improvements to a place without working with the community, no matter how noble those groups’ intentions may be, it often alienates locals, provokes fears of gentrification, and  increases the feeling and experience of exclusion. This kind of project-led or design-led development ignores the primary function of Placemaking–human connection.

Read full article here.

City of Atlanta Must Carefully Weigh its Future Transit and Streetcar Options

By Heather Alhadeff

The reaction to Maria Saporta’s recent streetcar/BeltLine articles produced an unusually hot-tempered string of comments. From my perspective as a transportation planner, what seems to be muddying the waters of this debate is a natural misunderstanding of the long-term, multipurpose benefits of a variety of transit routes.

Commenters tended to lump all trip purposes and transportation technologies together. A more nuanced understanding could help the dialogue become more productive.

Additionally, comments narrowly defined benefits and costs when in actuality there are seemingly unrelated outcomes and impacts that a city must balance. In many economic debates, it’s not uncommon to recognize ancillary benefits.

For example, solving the City of Atlanta’s pension problem didn’t affect anyone in my family, but it right-sized a significant budgetary weakness and improved the city’s bond rating, which will continue to directly impact my life via other projects and programs.

Providing transportation options to a citizenry is one of the most essential and effective ways a government can ensure the highest level of opportunities and quality of life. But life and progress are nit static. Cities deliver transportation systems in segments or phases and at the same time people are moving and economic conditions shift. However, one thing is certain. A segment passes though areas of different types of land uses and land value and is used by both the rich and poor for different types of trips, at different times of day.

Sometimes I use I-85 to get to my soccer games, sometimes to a meeting. When I was younger, I used I-75 to get to my job, now it’s used to visit some friends. My family drives a sedan to dinner, but at one time we needed a 15-passenger van for a longer trip. A van was lower and certainly cost more in gas, but it was the most appropriate option for that trip. I have been lucky enough to have enjoyed a flight on a small private plane to go a state or two away. I have also used a larger jet to fly all the way to Washington State.

Similar to needing different cars and planes, a MARTA bus varies from MARTA rail, and I use and need both for different destinations and trip types. Sometimes I will travel on the train from Midtown to downtown, but sometimes I will take the Midtown-downtown bus if I need to speed up to a meeting nearby or if heavy packages prevent me from walking to the station. The upcoming streetcar service will help me too, although buses have been serving the area and the train station is nearby. The bottom line is that a true transportation system requires different types of technologies for different trip purposes and for different times of the day.

Some people will not ride a MARTA bus, but they will ride a MARTA train. Some people will not fly, but they will drive. If a city wants to offer its residents the most opportunity to succeed (thereby reducing resource demands) then it is the city’s responsibility to consider and plan for as many people and trip types as it can.

The general idea of connecting the traditional BeltLine transit loop to more destinations and riders in the city has been in the heads of planners for years. In the City of Atlanta’s case, a couple of years ago the Transportation Improvement Act (or TSPLOST) was absorbing an inordinate amount of time from elected officials, policy makers and an already overburdened staff. The City’s Transportation Planning staff and the Atlanta BeltLine Inc’s transportation staff were both asked to assess and organize their projects to compete with the new regional TIA criteria.

Fatefully, around the same time the Atlanta Regional Commission was also updating its long-range plan. So, with city and ABI staff goals overlapping, the city staff was also busy organizing the rest of the City’s project needs.

The city leadership and ABI staff determined it was the appropriate time to look at additional routes linking to the BeltLine, specifically calling for Streetcar service and the type trips that technology offers.

Thus ABI staff launched a prioritization process for BeltLine-related routes that will be used by citizens “off” of the BeltLine. To be fair to ABI, they took the lead on planning for those BeltLine-connecting routes because they had more staff and planning funds than were available to the city’s staff at that time.

So it’s no wonder there is public confusion and pressure from City Council to better understand the staffing roles and the lens with which the different entities prioritize projects.

The on-going transit debate can be a healthy one if we can at least begin to differentiate between the benefits and attributes of the Atlanta Streetcar, the BeltLine-related projects as well as MARTA’s bus and rail.

Any one transit segment is likely to serve existing congestion demand, while on some parcels, it will enable future growth — development likely to be less dependent on cars. Any one segment can be expected to serve rich and poor, workers and retirees. The difference is some segments will serve varying proportions of those parcels and people, yet each project will benefit everyone more than any “ridership or economic estimate” could hope to calculate or predict.

As we look to the future, we need recognize multiple stages of growth and needs that does indeed mean pursuing funds for projects requiring existing ridership as well as serving citizens and businesses regardless of the amount and value of development surrounding them. Such wise variety in transit investments ensures that we are creating the Atlanta we want to become.

Scores with Interior Design at IMG

The elevator lobby has basketball texture on the floor, turf on the walls along with a scoreboard. Employees and clients congregate to meet and relax in the Half Time area. Larger meetings are held on bleachers that rise above a grass turf. The open office area with custom workstations is the gridiron with yard markers on the floor. The door handles are wrapped in pigskin with stitching used for footballs.

From the second you step off the elevator it’s obvious that at IMG College of Atlanta, it’s all about sports. Perkins + Will’s interior group focused on the sports theme when redesigning the office, down to the last detail. “Everything in the space has the textures of college sports,” said Meena Krenek, a designer at Perkins + Will.

The interior design creates a profound connection to IMG, which represents the multi-media rights of more than 70 collegiate properties, with the use of iconic materials, textures, and graphics found in the collegiate sports world, allowing employees to feel comfortable in the office environment, while maintaining a professional and unique atmosphere for visitors.

“When you walk off the elevator, you immediately know what type of business we are in, and what caliber we are. We feel like we are a better company and I think it shows in the environment that’s been created for our employees, and also for our clients when they come to visit us. They are absolutely amazed,” said Cory Moss, Senior Vice President & Managing Director of The Collegiate Licensing Company, an affiliate unit of IMG College. “It has dramatically improved our communication and our capabilities.”

Read original article here.

South Fork Wins Urban Design Awards

Urban Design Awards The South Fork Conservancy’s vision of connected creekside trails won two major design prizes May 20 from Atlanta’s Urban Design Commission. The 31 mile Trail Design Vision Plan, created by Ryan Gravel at Perkins+Will,  was praised by city of Atlanta judges.  A second award went to the project creating the Creekside trail under construction beneath the flyover ramps at I-85 and GA 400.  Heather Alhadeff at CenterForward deftly steered the trail plan through city and DOT permitting constraints.  Built as mitigation for neighbors, the trail connects Cheshire Bridge Road to Lindbergh Drive along a half mile of soft-surfaced trail. DOT managers expect the trail to open soon.

Bringing Imagination and New Life to Downtown Providence

The Downtown Providence Park Conservancy (DPPC)

Every Thursday in the summer, at about 9am, the Downtown Providence Park Conservancy (DPPC) crew gathers and prepares for the long day ahead—nine non-stop hours of family programming in Burnside Park.

On one edge of the park, The O’Crepe food truck is already open for business as Jennifer Smith and her team of interns and volunteers unlock the doors of the Imagination Center and start moving colorful equipment out into the park. Folding tables, stools, and art supplies head to one area for Art in the Park, as jumbo beanbags, colorful benches, and a sound system head to another for Storytime. Book carts filled with the work of local authors and illustrators roll out onto the Imagination Center deck to create an outdoor reading room.placemaking

By 11am this small urban park has been transformed into a crowded and bustling place—families with children watch a local storyteller perform, while other kids build Lego towers or climb onto the park’s boat sculpture. As artists Phillipe Jejeune and Ricky Katowicz are busy setting up for Art in the Park, passersby simply take in the scene as they wait for the lunchtime food trucks to roll up.

“Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper”

As further design work and fundraising for Greater Kennedy Plaza got underway, local partners were eager to apply PPS’s “Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper” approach right away in order to test and refine some of the ideas in the plan. Immediately, The Greater Kennedy Plaza Coalition (including representatives from the city, RIPTA, and Cornish Associates) launched an ambitious and diverse programming schedule, including a relocated farmer’s market, a new craft market, regular performances, and special events. The group also hired their first full-time staff person, program manager Deb Dormody.

“Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper” was “a matter of necessity” for this project, explains Cliff Wood, Executive Director of the Downtown Providence Parks Conservancy (formerly the Greater Kennedy Plaza Coalition). “It’s smart to build a space by trying things,” he continues, “See what people want—because for something to be sustained it has to have a constituency. We did that, and lo and behold it worked.”

“Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper is about engaging multiple uses for a space, trying things out, seeing who you can attract, and who will invest in the space in various ways. People can invest financially,” Wood says, “but they can also invest their time in making the space better, or they may invest emotionally by embracing the space, using it, and making it part of their routine or lifestyle.”

The next step in DPPC’s “Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper” approach was launching a suite of family programs. Partnering with local parenting blog KIDOinfo, DPPC organized a weekly outdoor Storytime program for families in Burnside Park. The following year they added Art in the Park and a mobile playground. Although these might seem like programs that are suited only for children, DPPC’s Jennifer Smith was intent on creating activities that would appeal to a wide range of users: “We wanted to have high artistic quality and something that would work on a level that parents can appreciate and something that would be fun,” she explains. “There is always something that is engaging parents at a deeper level and that kids can have fun with. One of my favorite things is seeing the parents play. You see the parents start to play with their children and start to play with each other. Adults who don’t even have children start to play.”

Read more here.