Posts tagged ‘urban planning’

Career development book clubs?

I recently found myself wondering if career development book clubs exist, because I read almost exclusively for professional and/or educational reasons. Even though there are some novels that are very dear to my heart (for example: The Life of Pi), movies have really become my primary source of fictional entertainment instead.

I have also recently become increasingly interested in urban planning and community development, as opposed to architecture and other spatial design (both of which recur throughout my educational and professional pasts). Which is why I’m considering getting my hands on the following six books:

Clockwise, from top left: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces by William H. Whyte, Asset Building & Community Development by Gary Paul Green and Anna Haines, Grid/Street/Place: Essential Elements of Sustainable Urban Districts by Nathan Cherry, The Architecture of Community by Léon Krier, Architecture Without Architects: A Short Introduction to Non-pedigreed Architecture by Bernard Rudofsky, and The Image of the City by Kevin Lynch.

Does anyone have any other recommendations? Or tips on how to find (or start!) a career development book club?

February 17’s daily design idea is there’s no need to constantly reinvent the wheel; the best ideas often come from new syntheses of existing ideas.

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February 17, 2011 at 5:42 pm 1 comment

Form and Content 101.

A friend of mine is TA’ing a theater class next semester, and the wonderfully offbeat professor asked her to research books outside of theater that deal with the relationship between form and content. So she asked me for some advice! (I was flattered.)

After a quick perusal of my personal library, here’s what I came up with. Please feel free to comment and/or leave your own suggestions.

1. Learning From Las Vegas (Revised Edition) by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour
Particularly the part of the book that deals with the Decorated Shed vs. the Duck.

2. “This is Not a Pipe” originally written in French by Michel Foucault, referencing the title of two paintings by René Magritte
The translation that I have is by James Harkness and appeared in the book “Aesthetics, Method, and Epistemology (Essential Works of Foucault, 1954-1984, Vol 2)”


“La Trahison des Images” (“The Treachery of Images”) (1928-9) or “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” (“This is not a pipe”), painting by René Magritte, 1898-1967. The work is now owned by and exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.


“Surrealist Painter,” comic by Dan Piraro

3. Design of Cities by Edmund N. Bacon
While I may not agree much with Bacon, he provides good insight to his style of urban planning, and the book has great illustrations. Ed Bacon is also Kevin Bacon’s father, which is just fun.

4. Towards a New Architecture originally written in French by Le Corbusier
Now considered the manifesto of this modernist pioneer, the translation I have is a classic version by Frederick Etchells.


book cover of Towards a New Architecture

5. Understanding Pictures by Dominic Lopes
Explores (in digestible English!) how our minds deal with the visual and epistemic content of images, from a philosophical perspective.

6. “Feature binding, attention and object perception” by Anne Treisman
This essay, found in the book “Attention, Space, and Action: Studies in Cognitive Neuroscience,” discusses support for the idea that we have to pay attention to something in order to understand all of its visual parts (i.e. colors, shape, direction) and therefore understand what it is as an object in the world.

December 22’s daily design idea is what’s your favorite piece of literature that deals with form and content?

Special thanks to Sara for inspiring this post!

December 22, 2010 at 12:46 pm Leave a comment

Tektonomastics: The Building Names Project

Re-blogged from Urban Omnibus.
Written by Haruka Horiuchi and Frank Hebbert.
Originally posted October 6, 2010.

“The notion of multi-family housing in New York brings to mind unromantic concepts like density, (un)affordability or noisy neighbors. But maybe there are some simple ways to re-enchant the idea of dense urban living. This week’s feature offers one such strategy: identifying, mapping and analyzing those residential buildings that have proper names. 150 years ago, a residential structure for more than one family meant tenement, plain and simple. And in order to convince residents that sharing a roof and some walls with unrelated neighbors didn’t have to confer a social stigma, property developers had to do some marketing, 19th Century style. The practice of naming buildings is still in effect, but remains subordinate to the more homogenizing numerical identifiers of address or grid. Help tektonomasticians Haruka Horiuchi and Frank Hebbert put a more personal face on New York’s building stock by adding a building to their citywide map of named buildings. Here, the two of them describe what they are up to with this project in advance of their psychogeographic tour of the named buildings of the East Village and this weekend’s Conflux Festival. Read more below, join them this weekend, and contribute to their growing database. -C.S. [Cassim Shepard]

Tektonomastics: The Building Names Project is a collaborative effort to map the named residential buildings of New York City and beyond. But first, what does tektonomastics mean anyway?

>> find out after the jump

Continue Reading October 24, 2010 at 11:48 am Leave a comment

Update on Prospect Park West bike lanes

Re-blogged from Steven can plan.
Written by Steven Vance.
Originally posted October 23, 2010.

“On Thursday, the day of the anti-bike lane rally and adjacent counter rally, the New York City Department of Transportation released preliminary “before and after” data about speeding and sidewalk riding, the two major concerns the neighborhood had about the street.

Instead of 46% of people riding bikes on Prospect Park West sidewalks, only 4% do. And only 11-23% exceed the speed limit, where before the new bike lane, 73-76% would. Download the document (PDF) via TransportationNation.

A commenter (BicyclesOnly, from NYC) weighs in:

One of the main complaints against the redesign is that it reduces the roadway from three lanes to two, which means that double parking (which is very common here) effectively reduces the roadway to one lane. At one lane, you get some congestion and delays. […]

But is that really so bad? The impetus behind this project was concerns for rampant motor vehicle speeding. Because this roadway at three lanes had excess capacity, more than half the vehicles can and routinely would exceed the speed limit, creating a barrier between park slope residents and their park. 90% of the Park Slope community lives, not on Prospect Park West, where this project was installed, but to the west.

So to be fair, I wouldn’t suggest that the project has had NO effect on residents. But from a safety and utility perspective, and looking at the entire community of people who use this corridor–not just the people who live on it–the trade offs clearly are worth it. That’s why the local Community Board endorsed this project. And it bears mention that the Community Board is hand-picked by the Borough President, who is the leading OPPONENT of the project. So the community review process was NOT rigged in favor of approval.


Photo showing bike lane construction in progress.”

>> October 23’s daily design idea is well-planned public space relies on understanding the stakeholders (and their alliances).

October 23, 2010 at 5:35 pm Leave a comment

“Looking good only counts if it does good, too.”

The title of this post is quoted from the website of community-oriented architecture firm David Baker + Partners, whose great video Better Living Through Density was shared by Baker during his presentation at Architecture for Change. One of my favorite moments (located at 2:04) is the comment that dense living requires less stuff but offers more opportunity for the individual and more benefits for the environment. The video also makes an especially strong argument for denser living by explaining the inverse relationship between population density and carbon footprint size (the serious charts start at 1:25).

I completely agree with Baker that density is a positive in urban environments, but I should admit that I really enjoy living in the densely populated city of New York, taking the subway daily, and being friends with my neighbors. As Richard Sciortino, the self-declared “developer in the room,” noted during his turn to play Devil’s advocate: “density requires demand.” And I know that not everyone, especially in America,  is as enchanted as Gary Chang at the idea of having only 344 square feet to themselves.

That said, Baker also pointed out that once you make something a standard, it generally gets cheaper to do, which can help previously undesirable construction options become more attractive. The cheaper-by-standardization model has certainly proved helpful in eco-friendly construction (see the 100K house for one of my favorite examples) and could probably be applied to denser models for living as well.

September 26’s daily design idea comes from an interview with Riken Yamamoto in anticipation of the upcoming book Total Housing: Alternatives to Urban Sprawl: “the system of ‘one family in one house’ is already collapsed”. Living spaciously may look nice, but the environmental and personal benefits of living smaller are becoming increasingly clear.

left photo of DB+P’s stunning and mostly affordable-unit g2 Lofts; right photo of Riken Yamamoto’s Shinonome Canal Court Block1, featured in the upcoming book Total Housing

This post is 5 of 7 within a series exploring Public Interest Architecture.

September 26, 2010 at 9:28 pm 2 comments

Grids have more than “convenience and utility”.

Grids are such an important part of design. The grid is used as a tool for understanding, the foundation of entire projects, a challenge for reinterpretation, and more. Whether you love or hate relying on the grid, it’s everywhere. I personally am a huge fan, and I believe that employing grids usually leads to both beautiful and functional work.

A grid became the planning basis for an up-and-coming New York City in the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811, which initially faced severe criticism from landowners and journalists. It has a rich history in construction (especially with materials like brick and tile), drawing, and graphic design. And it pops up all over in everyday life.

Two of my favorite uses of the grid are Lingelbach’s Scintillating Grid Illusion and Gehry’s Dancing House:


Scintillating Grid Illusion


windows of Dancing House

April 3’s daily design idea is respect the grid.

April 3, 2010 at 12:22 pm 1 comment

Density and vertical farming, or New York meets New Hampshire.

I happened upon another good infographic in one of GOOD’s latest contests. This one is by Shane Keaney:

It presents some interesting thoughts. What if all Americans really did live super densely (the density of Brooklyn), in one tiny little state (the size of New Hampshire)? It’s interesting to me to think about being able to physically get to everybody in the country within the day without pre-planned travel. I wonder if the quality of landlords would be better or worse than they currently are in Brooklyn? I wonder what our accents would sound like (or if we’d even have any anymore)? I wonder how vacation habits would change?

I also wonder what would happen in terms of farming and food production… which got me thinking about a different post on GOOD that asked Could Manhattan Feed Manhattan? The video on this post, produced by The Why Factory, shows a gorgeous (silent) video rendering of the vertical space needed to produce all the food we consume on this island. One of the solutions: a 23-mile high vertical farming tower.

March 19’s design idea is consider the theoretical effects of large-scale population density on your everyday life. I’m honestly not sure if I’m for or against the idea of every American living in a New Hampshire-sized bubble. But I do think it would be pretty cool to have 650 feet of vertical farming on my roof.

March 19, 2010 at 10:34 pm 2 comments


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