Top Five Urban Design Solutions
Tags: adaptive reuse, carfree, Dockside Green, facades, green building, kiosks, LEED, portland, public space, Southeast False Creek, street furniture, Streets, urban design, urban ecology, Vancouver, Vauban
With this highlight of urban design winners, we hope to draw out a discussion around public space and built form. The focus of this list is current trends in urban design, ones that have been built rather than ones that haven’t happened. There are heaps of exciting ideas coming from firms, competitions and students that are very innovative. The real winners, however, are the ones that actually happen. Today, high quality urban design is widely applied in our urban centers as a critical element in any municipal density initiative, as it is recognized to have positive impacts on ecological, economic and social well-being.
1. Urban ecology
Vancouver’s Olympic Village recently was called “the greenest neighborhood in the world”. This is quite a statement considering the achievements of nearby Dockside Green in Victoria. Together, they are the first two neighborhoods to receive LEED Platinum designation. These developments also share a commitment to biodiversity and urban habitat creation along with highly integrated stormwater management. We can look forward to a future with more bioswales and urban wetlands, as made famous by Seattle’s Street Edge Alternative (SEA) streets.
2. Kiosks (Covered Outdoor Space):
Kiosks are typically used for small commercial retail enterprises, but they don’t have to be. It’s often enough to just build a simple covered structure so that people can do that outdoor living we’ve all been hearing about (especially when it is raining). This shelter in Portland’s Director Park is a great example of how kiosks can offer flexibility in addition to opportunities for community economic development.
3. Deep Facades:
If you have heard architects using the puzzling term ‘skin’, this is in part what they are referring to. Deep facades meet with green building to provide additional insulation to improve energy efficiency, as well as for managing passive solar and air circulation. As pilot tested in Vancouver’s South East False Creek, planners may have to modify zoning regulations to allow for these deeper building walls. As shown above, the Cooper Union Building by Morphosis Architects has an extra façade layer of mechanical screens that open and close automatically depending on the building temperature in order to manage energy usage.
4. Salvaged urban infrastructure:
No matter how ‘green’ planners and designers try to be in designing new infrastructure, re-using what already exists often remains the more efficient choice. Popular examples of infrastructure for reuse include shipping containers, industrial buildings and materials for recycling (plastic bottles, books, cans…) In Atlanta, Georgia, reuse of infrastructure is happening at the city scale with the BeltLine Green Corridor. A disused rail line now circles the city. With the help of Perkins+Will and Field Operations (of New York’s Highline Park), Atlanta will eventually have a new 22-mile-long park.
5. Car Free Villages:
Completed in 2006 Vauban, Germany is a car free community of about 6,000 people where street parking, driveways and personal garages are prohibited. Only 30% of the residents own cars, single-family homes are not allowed, and the buildings are limited to five stories for maximum resource efficiency. This idea is slowly catching on elsewhere in the world as well. While we are at it, let’s turn the parking lots into gardens!
….and Bonus No. 6: Street Furniture
On the subject of outdoor living, public space can be furnished with chairs, lounges, benches, beanbag chairs, bike racks, waste bins, and games. An interesting social experiment, cities have even found that street furniture does not even need to be locked down. If it can work in Times Square it can work anywhere. The Gantrys State Park in Queens offers bright orange lounges and hammocks. Now it’s time to bring back the public drinking fountain!
Please share some of your own winning urban design examples with us in the comments below!