How Urbanism Is Reshaping Cities and Rekindling Community

Today’s world is an environment that is connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s nearly impossible to unplug from work, which means no boundaries and constantly being on alert. With these stressful work demands, more people are seeking “work-life integration” and more fulfillment in personal and family life, while also being productive and effective at work. For architect Teddy Cruz, this isn’t foreign territory – he’s been studying the blurring of boundaries at home and work for more than a decade in Tijuana, Mexico, where families adapt and expand their homes as needed.

Meagan Dickermann of Pfau Long Architecture says from a design perspective, “we know the mantra ‘form follows function’. Today’s offices look like living rooms, cafés function as workplaces, and homes have multiple offices. We are even seeing modern day communes where a mix of professionals choose to live (and sometimes work) under one roof to spark new ideas, relationships and ventures. This mix is driven by advances in technology and a we-can-have-it-all mentality.”

Cruz observed that an extra unit might be built as a retail or restaurant space to meet the needs of the neighborhood. When needed, the family may add another bedroom for their son and his new wife, or for a grandparent. “The form and function of the space is adapted to the family’s demands at that particular time of life. The result is a micro-scale mixed use “ecosystem” where family, business, and neighbors each perform essential roles,” writes Dickermann.

Dickermann says that “Cruz shares the shantytown lessons of organic growth and combined functions as a methodology for transforming the repetitious, single use, suburban developments in the sprawling areas of southern California.”

“Cruz describes multi-use frameworks with shared infrastructure—like community-owned storefronts that rotate vendors and give residents a place to conduct business. These bottom-up micro-scale developments provide a basic yet adaptable framework for neighborhoods to introduce opportunities for local commerce and connections close to home,” says Dickermann.

CEO Tony Hsieh, CEO of online retailer Zappos, has developed a concept similar to Cruz , one that embraces the potential of dynamic communities with urban design.  In 2013, Hsieh moved Zappos headquarters from suburban Henderson, Nevada, to a building that once housed Las Vegas City Hall. In creating the ideal work setting, Hsieh visited other corporate campuses such as Apple, Nike and Google where he noticed they lacked one thing: urbanism

Fremont East District in Las Vegas is part of Tony Hsieh's Downtown Project











Hsieh launched a project separate from Zappos called Downtown Container Park that aims to make Vegas a destination for tech entrepreneurship and rekindle the city’s community. The development, unique for its purpose and it materials: it’s made out of shipping containers in old downtown Vegas on a block-long pedestrian mall that was once made up of lower-end casinos and motels with the purpose of providing entrepreneurs space and resources to build their new companies.


According to the Downtown Project website, the project seeks to transform downtown Las Vegas into “the most community-focused large city in the world. We are doing that by inspiring and empowering people to follow their passions to create a vibrant, connected urban core.” Hsieh’s focus is on ROC, Return on Community, with the goal of helping to “make downtown Vegas a place of Inspiration, Entrepreneurial Energy, Creativity, Innovation, Upward Mobility, and Discovery, through the 3 C’s of Collisions, Co-Learning, and Connectedness.”

Of the $350 million Hsieh allocated to the revitalization of downtown Las Vegas, $200 million is invested in real estate, $50 million in small businesses, $50 million in education, and $50 million in tech start-ups.

So far, the Container Park has boutique shops, restaurants, tech startups and a treehouse, which is an interactive play area for children. It has also created 825 new jobs.

What other ways are businesses, small and large, rekindling community?

Social Media and the Built Environment—the Research Continues

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Two years ago, our book Social Media in Action was published to help architects, landscape architects, engineers and environmental consulting firms use these tools in ways that help them reach their business and marketing goals. For this, we surveyed, studied and interviewed hundreds of firms, but much has changed in two years: new tools have  emerged and more firms are embracing social media in creative and innovative ways. So inevitably, new research is required.

2012 Survey Results

Yesterday, in collaboration with Reed Construction Data, my co-author Holly Berkley and I launched a new study on the social media efforts of building product manufacturers to help these companies understand the most effective + efficient ways social media can be used to support their core business goals.

We need your help keeping this data current!

We’re looking for building product manufacturers–of all sizes and across the U.S.–to take a short online survey (it should take about 10 minutes), sharing insight into why, how and when you use social media. We’re also digging into costs, time and ROI of social media use among your building industry peers today. Select participants will be contacted for follow up interviews and possibly featured as a case study.

In exchange for your time, all survey participants will get a first look at the 2014 data results, along with a special white paper written by Holly and me, analyzing how building product manufacturers can best use that data to make social media work for them. In addition, as a special “thank you”, we’d like to offer anyone who takes this survey a discount code for 25% off your purchase of Social Media in Action.

Ready to get started?


Top 4 Architecture and Design Blog Posts from Week of Oct. 14, 2013

Cannon on sketching relationships. Stantec's elements of community. Digital experiments in public space. An Array architecture journey. Sharing Ted Baker's dozen. 131021

Sketching to establish relationships. Matt McGrane, an architect at Cannon Design who runs the firm’s summer sketch sessions, discusses the importance of sketching in the design process.

“I love to draw the places around me, especially when I travel.  By sitting down for a half hour in a space and sketching, I am able to not only capture what a space looks like, but whenever I look back at my sketches, I remember how it felt to be there.” – Matt McGrane

Via Cannon Design Blog


Essential elements of community. Phil Carlson, a senior planner at Stantec, explores how community expressed in the built environment touches on three elements: environment, health, and economics, which all add up to quality of life.

  • Environment: An urban community saves energy compared to sprawling development. A community that offers destinations and services within walking and biking distance uses less energy than one where almost every trip must be made by car.
  • Health: A tight-knit community improves health. There are the simple physical aspects of being able to walk or bike to daily destinations versus sitting in a car.
  • Economics: The economics of many businesses depend on customer loyalty, and customers in an identifiable community will be fiercely loyal to local businesses.

Via Stantec Blog


Outdoors in the digital world. Landscape architect Lisa DuRussel explores how to keep public spaces relevant in the interface of landscapes and digital technology in the first of a series of blog posts.

With constant connection to people and information, digital culture integrated into public spaces has become second nature. Are we driven to distraction with our iPhones, iPads, and iPods? Or can the capabilities of these devices be used to create a more flexible, adaptive, and experiential use of public spaces?

Via Metropolis Magazine POV


Architecture journey. Ryan Keszczyk, an architecture student at Tulane University who is interning at Array, discusses how his time at Array influenced him to work in the healthcare architecture industry as it changes and adapts with new technology.

Five years in architecture school is just the beginning of my journey to becoming an “Architect.” My time in college allowed me to get a solid foundation on the theories, technologies and continued advancement of the architecture profession.

Via Array Architects Blog


Innovative Social Media

Clothing retailer Ted Baker London is reaching out to aging hipsters through digital content. invites visitors to "Spread the Ted" with a "Baker's Dozen" of video shorts like How to Play It Cool, which has 1,600 views as of October 13, as well as Winks and fashion spreads.


Via Clickz



Top Four Architecture and Urbanism Blog Posts for Week of Aug. 12, 2013

HOK celebrates kiosks. A healing space by P+W. BUILD shows how it draws on a site. MGA offers some guidance. Seattle police, tweets and munchies.  130819


Celebrating Kiosk Museum. HOK participated in the grand opening of the Kiosk Museum in downtown San Francisco on July 24, which has been in the works for nearly a year.

The HOK team designed the case and led the installation of the street museum. The final product is a walk up museum located on the street that is accessible to anyone.

Via HOK Life


A healing space. Perkins + Will has launched a video about Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital that showcases a facility that promotes healing and addresses the needs of the widest possible audience.

The design of the building is highly innovative, and is an inspirational place to do rehabilitation and encourage movement. All of the architects used a wheelchair at the old facility to understand the use of wheelchairs and accessibility.

Via Ideas + Perspectives


Drawing on the site. BUILD discusses streamlining its design and building process by marking the construction site with the light fixture locations, a helpful exercise for architects as they see firsthand how the final build will come together at full scale.

Here are the top 5 things BUILD has learned along the way:

  1. Know your clearances
  2. Alignment is key
  3. Use it as a final check
  4. It’s about the experience
  5. Bring the right tools

Via BUILD Blog


Guiding principles for success. Industrial Brand talks to Michael Green, TED speaker and advocate for wooden tall buildings, about marketing for Michael Green Architecture (MGA) and architecture firms in general.

Green says one of the main contributors to MGA’s success is its authentic and relatable motives. MGA has a benevolent reason why it does what it does that goes far beyond growth or profits. The beliefs and values of MGA’s brand are really what attracts people, stakeholders, and potential clients. When people perceive these traits, agree with them, and see they’d enjoy working with MGA, a long term relationship is already in the works.

Via Industrial Brand Blog


Innovative Social Media Campaign

Seattle police live-tweet Doritos. Seattle Police Department used social media for two-way communication for Hempfest, the largest celebration of the pot culture. To educate citizens about the new laws, officers from the police department handed out bags of Doritos at the festival.

The bags of chips included a message with "dos and don'ts" of the new law and a link to the department's educational blog post, and humorous #OperationOrangeFingers tweets before the event and live-tweeting until the giveaway.

Via Forbes


Top 4 Architecture and Urbanism Blog Posts for Week of July 15, 2013

HOK kiosks. Bug tech at Cannon. HMC and the next Frog. P+W's tech lab. Twinkie returns.


New kiosks.  HOK is introducing two new kiosks as part of its re:NEWS project near San Francisco’s Union Square.

While previous reuse ideas have included a bike repair kiosk and printmaking, the new kiosks will be a pop-up museum housing a collection of puppets from around the world. This project is a partnership effort with Community Arts International, the Union Square Business Improvement District, HOK and JCDecaux.

Via HOK Life


Bug technology. Jack Mevorah of Cannon Design explores the idea of replicating a spider web, which has been unveiled by Japan-based Spiber.

The company has created a kind of synthetic spider-web material it calls Qmonos, named after the Japanese word for spider web (kumonosu). Spiber says the artificial spider thread it has produced is equal to steel in tensile strength yet is flexible as rubber.

Via Cannon Design Blog


An efficient way to build. HMC Architects and Project Frog, a component building company, have teamed up to deliver “Impact,” Project Frog’s next generation building platform specifically designed around the needs of 21st century learning.

The new building platform, called Impact, answers the call of students and teachers across the nation for healthier, inspirational buildings, while addressing the needs of administrators for speed, durability and affordability.

Via HMC Architects Blog


A tech lab. Bruce Toman and Bill Schmalz of Perkins + Will, discuss the firm’s research center dedicated to investigating new technologies that contribute to high-performance buildings, finding applications for those technologies in the firm’s designs and contributing to the knowledge base of the architectural profession.

The Perkins+Will Building Technology Laboratory uses computers to generate virtual scenarios and to test innovative ideas. “Tech Lab’s research can strongly influence the designs of our projects, resulting in buildings that are energy-efficient and technically advanced, while also providing their occupants with pleasant environments to work or live in.” -- Bruce Toman and Bill Schmalz

Via Ideas + Perspectives


Innovative Social Media

Twinkies return. Twinkies make the “sweetest comeback in the history of ever” with the launch of a multi-platform campaign strategy to engage its users with media. Social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vine form the core pillars of that strategy.” The microsite, Feed Your Cakeface, has been populated with Instagram images and Vines showing the first bite of the snacks.

There is a giant Twinkie in Times Square, a cupcake in Los Angeles. And Twinkies teams are handing out buttons and a Twinkies food truck tour is planned to tour the country and give out cakes.

Via ZDNet and Feed Your Cake Face