Streetwalk by Charlie Davidson

Charlie Davidson’s original proposal was for a series of benches that had the appearance of walking. This idea was a direct response to the brief which asked designers to draw pedestrians into the east side of town and the newly furbished Sunniside gardens from Sunderland city centre.


Would an Infrastructure Bank Have the Power to Reform Transportation?

“Not every project of regional and national significance is going to generate a return that justifies a financially rational loan for the bank to make,” says Scott Thomasson, an expert in infrastructure finance from the Progressive Policy Institute. “There are projects that are worth doing as a nation where the benefits aren’t going to be repaid financially. They’re going to be enjoyed in other forms” like improving public health, easing traffic congestion, or reducing emissions.
Thomasson worries that a narrowly structured bank, following a traditional bank model, won’t address compelling projects that can’t capture user fees or other financing streams.


Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts

Is it possible that a better understanding of Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts can help distinguish between what is valuable and what is not in the literature about the cultural economies of cities?

Tamara Greenfield: We certainly hope so! Usually when the arts are discussed now as part of the economy of cities, they are framed either as a Cultural Attraction (large museum, aquarium, performing arts complex) or Cultural Production (high value art, high volume traditional handicrafts, music, film). There is little understanding of the value of diverse levels of creation and cultural activity to the cohesion and economy of a specific neighborhood, rather than to a larger creative ecology or regional economy. FAB’s members range in size from volunteer-run art collectives to nationally renowned theaters, and have long histories of community outreach, racial and ethnic diversity, low cost programs, and training for emerging artists and youth. Each year, FAB’s member arts groups serve more than 1,250 artists and attract an audience of more than 250,000 to our neighborhood. Some artists and productions are developed here and move into a more commercial realm; other dance and theater is experienced exclusively by neighborhood residents or drawn from a focused, regional network (Spanish-language theater, Gay & Lesbian performance art) that serves an important (though less visibly commercial) purpose to those communities.

Caron Atlas: I would say that NOCDs can be useful in helping to reframe the discussion of the creative economy in a manner that factors in equity and considers how creativity is defined and validated and how economic benefits are shared throughout communities. I think NOCDs are a great way to think about culture and creativity as part of grassroots resilience and sustainable development – rather than top down, and often unsustainable, development strategies.


People want high-speed rail, just as it becomes a political minefield in the US.


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NYCDOT – Urban Art Program

The Urban Art Program is an initiative to invigorate the City’s streetscapes with engaging temporary art installations. As part of the World Class Streets initiative, art will help foster more vibrant and attractive streets and offer the public new ways to experience New York City’s streetscapes.

DOT will partner with community-based organizations to install temporary murals, sculpture, and other installations in plazas, and on medians, triangles, sidewalks, jersey barriers and construction fences. DOT will also work with organizations/artists on temporary art projections and lighting projects in plazas and on appropriate bridges (masonry on sides of bridges), viaducts, and archways, as well as performance art and musical and theatrical performances in plazas and DOT ferry terminals.

Organizations or organization-artist teams are invited to apply to one of the three Urban Art Program tracks:

Site to Site

World’s Largest Skatepark in New Jiangwan City, Shanghai

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Paul Goodman Changed My Life (doco)

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Dezeen » West Kowloon Cultural District

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Energy Efficient Homes For Musicians

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London Underground: Dalston Renaissance

Nearby is the newly completed Dalston Barn. The French architectural collective EXYZT designed the simple timber-frame structure with five pitched roofs as part of a wider plan for the area that was developed by Muf Architecture/Art and J&L Gibbons Landscape Architects in consultation with the local community. Instead of a deterministic master plan for the area, the design team identified 76 micro-projects that build on the existing qualities of the neighborhood and gently inserted new amenities, including signage, plantings and play facilities. Local businesses, schools and community groups are involved with the management and afterlife of these projects.

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Creative Class: Where the Creative Class Jobs Will Be

More than 35 million people are currently employed in creative class work in fields like science, technology, and engineering; business, finance, and management; law, health care, and education; and arts, culture, media, and entertainment. The creative class makes up roughly a third of total employment and accounts for more than half of all wages and salaries in America. Creative class employment has seen relatively low rates of unemployment during the course of the economic crisis. Creative class jobs will make up roughly half of all projected U.S. employment growth – adding 6.8 million new jobs by 2018

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Project Morrinho

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Book Review: Urban Interventions – Personal Projects in Public Spaces

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The zest in the west: Sydney’s sizzling centre

As the ugg boot has refashioned itself, so has Parramatta, which bills itself as the creative city. It has a $1.4 billion makeover of Civic Place in the pipeline, part of one of the state’s largest mixed-use urban renewal projects.

Parramatta City Council is also rolling out the red carpet next month with the launch of a Screen NSW program to entice filmmakers to use its historic buildings and pretty river setting as a backdrop for movies. A $100,000 plan to turn disused commercial buildings into spaces for artists to exhibit and sell their works recently won state and council funding.

Parramatta City Council plans to offer its downtown building foyers as display places for artists whose works feature in Sculpture by the Sea. It already provides 15 artists reduced rent at the studios it operates in Church Street Mall. it is hoped that the World Heritage listing of Old Government House and Parramatta Park this month will lead to a boom for tourism to Australia’s second-oldest city, which attracts about 35,000 to 50,000 international, interstate and local visitors a year.

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Is Los Angeles really the creative capital of the world? Report says yes – SmartPlanet

Los Angeles is now the “Creative Capital of the World,” with one in every six people in the region employed in a creative field, according to a new report.

According to the 2009 Otis Report on the Creative Economy (.pdf) — sourced from the Otis College of Art and Design located in, you guessed it, Los Angeles — the city’s strong network of colleges and universities, its growth of new digital industries that attract skilled workers and (relatively) stable economy all help L.A. claim the throne as No. 1.

Part of the reason is that digital media has taken off in the city. Unemployment may be affecting the country, but the report forecasts a 10 percent increase in employment for digital artists from now through 2013. That includes animators, digital effects artists and motion graphics artists.

The report also highlights L.A.’s growing base of “nonemployer” firms — those with revenues but without paid employees, such as freelancers or creative professionals in the fine or performing arts. There are two self-employed people for every person working in a traditional firm in these disciplines, according to the report.

Los Angeles County counted $121 billion in creative receipts, better than all industries except tourism/hospitality and international trade.

But the city hasn’t done enough to promote its creativity beyond the entertainment industry, according to the report. A lack of recognition, insufficient government planning and support, lacking K‐12 school curriculum in the arts and tightening school district budgets are otherwise detracting from the city’s creative talent pool.

Is L.A. really creative capital of the world? The introspective report doesn’t compare the city on the world stage, so it’s hard to say. But if you believe in the creativity of the Mazda Miata, the SR-71 fighter jet, the Internet, the French Dip sandwich and yes, bare midriffs — the City of Angels is indeed king of creativity.


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jan gehl: urban visionary

danish architect jan gehl‘s work has influenced the street culture and sustainable development
of many cities around the world. his most successful and widely-noted work has been
the transformation of copenhagen from a car-dominated city to a pedestrian-friendly space,
embracing urban cycling as an important part of the city’s culture and identity. his 1971
publication ‘life between buildings’ is still considered to be an important and relevant
body of text for any urban strategist today.

the core foundation of his practice is to simply put the people first. a lively and healthy city
should encourage the people to use public spaces. by eliminating heavy traffic infrastructure
with bike paths, wider sidewalks, and other systems of private mobilization, the city will
become a space to inhabit and enjoy rather than just a point of passing.


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Streetsblog New York City » Final Deal on New Domino Locks in Parking, Adds Shuttle Buses


Final Deal on New Domino Locks in Parking, Adds Shuttle Buses

by Noah Kazis on June 30, 2010

Add a whole lot more cars and some shuttle buses to this picture, and you’ve got the approved plan for the New Domino. Image: The New Domino

The New Domino development slated for the Williamsburg waterfront passed the City Council’s land use committee yesterday in a unanimous vote, thanks to a last-minute deal between the developer and project critics. Under that agreement, the project’s tallest towers will shrink from 40 stories to 34, though the total number of units will remain the same. The project is now expected to sail through the remainder of the approval process.

In terms of transportation, the developer has now promised to provide shuttle buses to nearby subway stations. With room for 1,428 cars, the project is far from a model of sustainable planning, but with the fight over New Domino now at a close, it’s worth remembering that livable streets advocates won some real improvements during the land use review process: the shuttle buses and last month’s reduction in off-street parking.

The bottom line remains, however, that with 1,428 parking spaces, this is an auto-oriented development. “The transportation plan hinges on bringing more cars into the neighborhood,” said Ryan Kuonen, an organizer with Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, a local community organization. Still, she said, “It could have been worse — the plan used to be worse.”

With both Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn strongly supporting the project, final approval was all but guaranteed. “This thing was going to get passed,” said Kuonen. The only question was how the New Domino would change on the way to approval, and the adjustments that unfolded were almost uniformly towards more livable streets.

The changes were “pretty much as good as you were going to get on these issues,” said Rachel Weinberger, a parking expert and professor of transportation planning at UPenn. “If this is what we get when the system is working how it’s supposed to, we need to rethink the system.”

The shuttle buses, if implemented well, could help make transit the mode of choice for a few more New Domino residents — and will certainly improve their trips. The project is located about three-quarters of a mile from the closest subway stations. That’s walkable, but hardly appealing in miserable weather. A shuttle will give the significant number of people who’ll be taking the subway a quicker, more pleasant commute. “It’s the right idea,” said Weinberger, noting that the implementation will matter a lot. According to Council Member Stephen Levin’s office, the routes haven’t been determined yet.

The inclusion of shuttle buses at the New Domino also sets an important precedent. “It expands the envelope of what types of transportation improvements developers are responsible for,” said David King, a planning professor at Columbia who had previously called for including shuttle buses at Domino. “In most cases developers are only responsible for parking,” he continued, explaining that buses are very rarely a condition for approval. If it becomes widespread practice to require large-scale developments to improve residents’ access to transit, not just give them space for cars, that’s a tangible shift. 

Shuttle buses can only do so much, however. First, they’ll be targeted only at New Domino residents. “It’s really solving a problem for the people moving there,” said Kuonen, “not the people who are already living there.” One easy way to ensure that these shuttles are a community benefit, not just a resident perk, might be to run them all the way to Union Square; many Williamsburg residents were more concerned about adding even more commuters to the overstuffed L train than they were about added congestion on the roads.

More importantly, shuttle buses will do little to counter the car use induced by all that parking. ”They will serve the people who don’t have a parking space,” said Weinberger. “It’s not going to be of huge relevance to those who have a car,” she continued, citing research she just completed showing that in New York City, residents with parking are likely to drive to work, even if they live near good transit options. The congestion-busting impact of the shuttle buses, therefore, will be limited. 

So about all that parking. Here too, livable streets activists won a small victory. Local organizing convinced Borough President Marty Markowitz to request a 266-space reduction in the amount of parking at New Domino, which the City Planning Commission agreed to enact — a rare case of the review process yielding a less car-centric outcome than the initial proposal. 

Of course, the amount of parking originally proposed was so enormous that the New Domino will still add a flood of cars to the neighborhood, congesting the free Williamsburg Bridge just feet away, guzzling gas and exposing pedestrians and cyclists to greater danger. The policy that larded Domino with parking in the first place — attempting to build enough off-street automobile storage to match the car-ownership rates of the surrounding area — needs to be discarded as too disconnected from broad transportation goals. 

Moreover, while the shuttle buses could quite easily disappear after a few years, these parking spaces are forever. That’s why it rankled when the mayor promised a comprehensive traffic and transit study for the area as one piece of yesterday’s deal. The city has already made a huge, and permanent, transportation decision. If, years from now, that comprehensive study finds that the inclusion of so much parking was a bad decision for the neighborhood, the horse is already out of the barn. The only way to align this project with the goals of PlaNYC, significantly reducing the amount of parking, won’t be an option.


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South London Gallery: art in the walls | Culture | The Guardian

An extremely well-appointed one bedroom flat, complete with north-facing terrace and its own lift down to an art gallery, cafe and garden, was seen by the public for the first time at the weekend. The flat forms part of the South London Gallery’s £2m redevelopment and will be occupied for short periods by a series of artists-in-residence. For now, though, the flat is being used as gallery space for its new show, Nothing Is Forever, themed around a clever idea. Artists including Fiona Banner, Mark Titchner and Robert Barry have put work directly on to the walls so that it becomes part of the building’s fabric, or bones, when the walls are painted in September. Opposite, Yinka Shonibare has designed a fabric to cover the gable end of a 40m-tall Peckham tower block. The SLG’s redevelopment is a good thing and demonstrates the need for more private investment in the arts: only 20% of the costs came from public funds.


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david chipperfield architects: rockbund project and art museum


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Will Phoenix Rise from the Flames? – The Future of the City – The Atlantic

I find myself agreeing with Richard Florida here – cities must be suspicious of a real-estate based economy – leading cities are now starting to recognise their true assets, the people who make up the city, and their skills.


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Reinventing Urban Transport: Singapore-Malaysia cross-border transport agreement and opportunities

So will Singapore seize the opportunity to create a new Park Connector along the Malayan Railways corridor? There is no news on that for now. 

The KTM corridor would make a wonderful “rails to trails” type project. It would be tragic not to preserve this right-of-way for non-motorised transport. Such a park connector could provide a direct, flat, bicycle route free of road-crossings all the way to the edge of the financial district at Tanjung Pagar from Woodlands via Upper Bukit Timah, Ghim Moh/Holland Village, Biopolis and Queenstown. Right now, the PCN network is rather disjointed (see the map below).


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How Portland Sold Its Banks on Walkable Development


How Portland Sold Its Banks on Walkable Development

by Noah Kazis on May 25, 2010

Gresham, Oregon used to look like your typical suburb. Lots of lawns and lots of parking. When Portland’s MAX light-rail line expanded to Gresham, developers saw an opportunity to bring something different: walkable development. But a downturn in the local real estate market interceded. One developer trying to build a four-story condo project decided that he’d be better off with a video store surrounded by surface parking.

The Crossings at Gresham brought transit-oriented development to Portland’s suburbs, opening the door for financing to flow to similar projects. Image: Myhre Group Architects.

Metro — Portland’s regional government — decided that wasn’t good enough. They bought the site outright. Then Metro proceeded to double down on the original plans for the project, which it called The Crossings. Four stories became five, making the development the tallest building in Gresham. Condos became a mixed-use development with ground-floor retail, sidewalk cafés and engaging street-level facades.

There was still one big problem: financing. Charlotte Boxer, director of commercial real estate at Pacific Continental Bank, was skeptical of Metro’s project. “What would draw people to live there, or what would make a retailer decide to lease there?” she asked. “There was substantial risk on Metro’s part and on ours as the lender, because we had no comparables to go to that would say this would work.” For the project to succeed financially, they’d have to charge rents 25 percent higher than the going rate in Gresham, for a type of development no one had ever tried there.

In many parts of America, efforts to build transit-oriented, walkable communities are foiled because financing can’t be secured for projects that differ from the templates lenders have become used to since World War II. In Salt Lake City, for example, the local government’s push for transit-oriented development has been stymied because local banks won’t lend to projects without huge parking lots.

Why do lenders balk at development that reduces car dependence? In a word, inertia. “The lending industry appears to be very conservative, if your
definition of conservative is doing the same thing this year as you did
five years ago,” said David Goldstein,
the co-director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s energy
program and an expert on environmental real estate financing. Because banks have no institutional memory of lending to transit-oriented
development, they are reluctant to do so going forward.

In Portland, officials and activists have begun to escape this cycle. The policies they’ve pursued to foster walkable development are instructive for many American cities looking to grow without making traffic congestion worse.

Even in transit-rich New York, economic development officials have subsidized developers who import car-oriented standards. They are happy to secure favorable lending terms, underwritten by the U.S. government, for multi-story parking decks. It’s safe to say that goals like enhancing the pedestrian environment or attaining sustainability targets are not motivating these decisions. Portland development officials do things differently. When planners there decided that urbanism and sustainability were good outcomes, they went out and started convincing lenders to change the way they do business.

Megan Gibb runs Metro’s transit-oriented development program, which works with developers and offers financial incentives for TOD. The Crossings, for example, received discounted land, tax breaks, and other financial incentives from Metro. ”Our whole program is to build more market-comparables,” said Gibb. “The more TOD projects there are, the more it builds on itself.” Each project that gets built makes the next one easier to finance.

Gibb also highlighted the centrality of public-private partnerships to Portland’s success. According to Gibb, banks normally look at standard, car-oriented development models and say, “We know this worked in the past. Why would we want it to be any different?” When the public sector commits to smart growth, however, bankers instead see that the government “thinks this is really important and is willing to put their money where its mouth is.” For financial institutions that are often quite risk-averse, government action provides the security necessary to move forward.

John Warner, who manages most of the TOD projects at the Portland Development Commission, argues that at first, government may have to push the envelope to convince banks that walkable development pays off. “Until you’ve got examples that lenders can look back in time at,” he said, “you have to be doubly conservative and oversubsidize something to prove the concept.” Warner added that in Portland, where lenders have bought into a consensus about the need for sustainable development, they’ve been able to walk back many subsidies.

At The Crossings, Metro’s vision — and incentives — turned the project into reality. Financially, it’s a complete success, with 100 percent occupancy and a sizable waiting list. It’s won awards for transit-oriented design and earned the praise of Gresham’s residents and politicians. Perhaps most importantly, however, it set an example.

Boxer, the initially skeptical executive at Pacific Continental Bank who provided The Crossings’ financing, now says she is “very proud to say I have financed the project.” She also calls it “truly pioneering,” providing a model for how to bring walkable development to suburban locations. The Crossings, itself possible because of the successful projects that preceded it, helped pave the way for more and better transit-oriented developments that followed.

The Beranger condos, a new transit-oriented development in Gresham, wouldn’t have been possible without The Crossings’ success. Image: Gresham Downtown Development Association.

Even in Portland, though, proponents of walkable development have more convincing to do. One bank that’s played a central role in financing urban-style housing near transit, ShoreBank Pacific, is still getting accustomed to projects with less parking, for instance. “Having no parking for a business is still a pretty challenging place to be,” said ShoreBank VP Bonnie Anderson.

Moving forward, then, Portland will have to craft policies that expand the comfort zone of lenders. Gibb and Anderson saw shared parking and car-share as tools to mitigate banks’ fears about financing projects with fewer parking spaces than normal.

There are also structural reasons that banks avoid transit-oriented development, which can’t be overcome by building a few market comparables. Because profits from transit-oriented development tend to materialize more slowly than from typical suburban development, new financing methods are needed to make TOD more attractive to lenders. And of course, banks respond to the regulatory environment. Portland makes many developers adhere to principles of walkable development near transit lines.

It’s true that Portland area bankers have yet to embrace the full range of development needed to reduce car-dependence. But as the region attempts to grow sustainably, it benefits immensely from development officials like John Warner, who talks passionately about “the community organizing needed to get all the stakeholders on board with the absolute necessity of transit-oriented development.” While here in New York, where growth is ostensibly shaped by a citywide sustainability plan, the chair of the local Economic Development Corporation still thinks that not providing enough parking is “the worst thing we could do.”


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set + drift: shopping cart farming


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Tokyo’s urban design role | The Japan Times Online

When governments and corporations are able to connect with residents' passions and potential for action, Tokyo can become an urban forest with a thriving ecosystem where the health of soil, plants, animals and people are deeply intertwined. In the leap from last century's industrial economy to a sustainable future, Japan is poised for an outsized role on the world stage. By focusing on habitats and culture, Tokyo can become a model for a new balance between people and nature in 21st century urban life.

A Place Is Better Than a Plan by Andrew M. Manshel, City Journal 19 October 2009

Small changes are appealing for many reasons. They’re cheap, for one thing. Also, what works can be easily expanded, and what doesn’t work can be as easily terminated or altered. One successful food concession can become two; an unsuccessful stall selling local crafts can be replaced; a planter made from a material that discolors or chips can be replaced with a better one. Contrast that with grand schemes, which can attract broad opposition and be subject to complex political, logistical, and financial obstacles. Once an elaborate design has been committed to, backing away from it—or even altering it—becomes both politically and mechanically complicated. Further, planners have a limited capacity to predict how people will respond to their designs. The larger the project, the more likely unintended consequences become, and the more difficult it is to change course.