Urban Planning

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Urban Re-Planning: Detroit


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We’ve seen misguided urban renewal projects ruin vibrant neighborhoods. We’ve seen highways and railroad tracks cut cities off from their waterfronts. We’ve seen insane tunnel projects try to stitch them back together. We’ve observed cities like Youngstown Ohio try to trim their city limits and downsize, we’ve seen cities like Charlottesville Virginia tinker around with the idea of changing to a town. The latest? Razing the city. Detroit is demolishing tens of thousands of buildings to revitalize itself. What’s tricky with Detroit is that the viable areas tend to be on the outskirts, and the planners want to blow out a lot of what’s in the middle. Don’t the residents burn it all down on Devil’s Night anyway? That was a wrong thing to say. Sorry. Maybe all they need it Clint Eastwood. Lately all of the Detroit images I have in my head come from Gran Torino and Hung.

This article in yesterday’s New York Times is really interesting. I wonder what efforts, if any, will be made to recycle and reuse the materials from the buidings they demolish? I wonder if this is the answer, and if it’s not, what is. I wonder at what point in declining populations and deteriorating neighborhoods we decide to just pull the plug and give up. Whatever the result, it will be a landmark precedent in urban planning forever.

  • image one from here
  • image two from here

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Inspiration Monday: The High Line


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Ah, The High Line. After years of following this project, from the fight to save it to the competition to the completion of part one, I FINALLY got to set foot on it! I’m so happy. This design is so genius, it might just be my favorite landscape architecture project of all time. In fact, at the moment, I can’t even remember what my old favorite was, isn’t that terrible?

What’s so great about The High Line? Where to begin? I loved looking down on it from the 16th floor of The Standard. I loved seeing it from the street and thinking “I have GOT to get up there pronto!” I loved experiencing the city from that level, at eye-level with billboards, elevated cars, seeing building facades from a different height. I loved that at first glance one might be fooled into thinking the plantings were wild, but then upon seeing them seeing that they were carefully curated and that unseen maintenance was occurring. I loved all the different options for seating – some amphitheater style, some bistro tables, some lovely benches, some in the middle of a small grove.
I loved the mix of materials and the overall railroad industrial aesthetic, and I especially loved the metal tracks that remained and reminded visitors what the history of this place was all about – better yet, I loved where the tracks veered off on little side exits into brick walls, which reminded me of the entire industrial system that used to exist – the rail cargo having a direct entrance into the factory buildings. When we all try to be greener, we should think of this true door-to-door delivery where a product could go from the source to the destination in one trip.
Another thing that’s so interesting is that at one point in urban planning, skywalks were installed everywhere. This move was later blamed for the demise of street life in these areas. Conversely, the elevated public space of The High Line has made the neighborhood even more desirable and drawn even more business down at the street level on up. I’m nuts for this project. If you are too, you should become a friend of The High Line.






Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

In Memorium: Lawrence Halprin Dies at 93


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I was sad to hear of Lawrence Halprin’s passing on Sunday night. He was one of my favorite landscape architects. For eleven years, I lived in Charlottesville Virginia and was able to enjoy the Halprin-designed Downtown Mall. I could go on about his best-known projects, like Ghiradelli Square or the FDR Memorial, but my very favorite design of his is Lovejoy Plaza in Portland, OR, and a glance at his sketchbook pages tell you all you need to know about why his designs work so well. Without weighing us down with a bunch of archispeak gibberish, we can follow the idea from it’s initial contextual inspirations to the final product:

I should have known when I went to find a picture of Lovejoy Plaza on flickr that my favorite one would have been taken by Ken McCowen. To see more beautiful images of Halprin’s work taken by Ken, click here.

Halprin was that perfect combination of conscientious urban problem solver who understood natural processes. He did such an artful job of understanding the greater context of a place and bringing his interpretations of ecology into cities in an artful way. Lovejoy Park is a perfect example of this. He contributed so much to the American landscape; whether helping to heal the gash a freeway cut through a neighborhood in Seattle or protecting the land by leaving a soft footprint at Sea Ranch. He will be missed.

For more information on the Halprin Landscape Conservancy, click here.


Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Have you been on The High Line Yet?


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I haven’t, but I’m dying to! What did you think?

I’m a huge fan of Bill Cunningham, and he has a charming video here about the fashions he’s seeing on The High Line.

Speaking of fashion, check out the High Line Merch here. I love the Trina Turk green and white print hat:

Keep up with High Line news over at The High Line Blog and the ever-growing Friends of The High Line flickr group pool. This shot is from flickr member ljpsf.

top two photos from thehighline.org


Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

This is Cool – Redesign Your Street at GOOD Magazine


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Check out all of the inspiring submissions to the GOOD magazine “Design a Livable Street” Contest. Here are two of the many wonderful candidates:

By Chris Malloy:



By Shaun Smakal:



Go check out the rest of the entries here.

All images courtesy of GOOD magazine. Winners will be announced on May 18th.