Weekly Roundup of Design and Urbanism Blog Posts for Week of April 22

HMC's community garden. Lessons for Oregon. Learning to innovate from Metropolis. The Dirt on the equity of smart growth. ArchDaily's noteworthy social media campaign. 130429


Community garden. As part of Earth Week, HMC’s Ontario studio planted a community garden of vegetables and learned about compost, irrigation and earthworms.

There is, however, a community component,  in launching the garden: hunger. The purpose of HMC’s community garden is to engage staff to volunteer and collaborate outside the studio, promote sustainable living, and inspire staff and visitors to start gardens of their own.

Via HMC Architects Blog


Lessons for Oregon. Architect Randy Nishimura writes on how the devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011 was a wakeup call and wealth of information for seismologists, hydrologists, and engineers in the Pacific Northwest.

Orgeon needs to become better prepared by investing more in earthquake and tsunami-resistant infrastructure and preparedness. “The challenges we would face when the unthinkable happens include how to deliver timely rescue and relief to affected coastal communities, especially if vital roads and other conduits through the Coast Range are severed.” – Randy Nishimura

Via SW Oregon Architect Blog


Learning to innovate. Educator and businesswoman Michelle Greenwald shares key takeaways that companies like to hear in understanding how physical and mental environments can impact creativity and collaboration.

  1. It’s critical to allow and allocate time to innovate and do things well.
  2. A range of customer touch points makes new products and services great.
  3. It’s extremely important to create a psychological and physical environment that fosters innovation.
  4. Having a Methodical Process and Great Stimuli maximize creativity.
  5. All ideas need solid screening criteria that both fit what the brand stands for and make economic sense.

Via Metropolis Magazine POV


Is smart growth equitable?  With the rise of “smart growth” approaches to urban development – the promotion of dense, walkable urban centers as an alternative to sprawl – there are questions whether smart growth is actually equitable.

Those compact, walkable neighborhoods are in hot demand across the country so it costs more to live there, which means not everyone gets to reap all the health benefits from living in a walkable community. In gentrifying neighborhoods, the issue is further compounded because people who once lived in these communities and could walk everywhere are being pushed out because they can’t afford the rising rents and property taxes. They are instead being shunted to the suburbs, the growing place for the poor in the U.S. where many can’t afford cars so they are even more affected.

Via The Dirt


Innovative Social Media Campaign

Arch Daily created an engaging social media campaign on Facebook to commemorate World Book Day. They asked “What is your all-time favorite architecture book?” followed by having people post their top books in the comment section and then follow “The Architect’s Library” on Pinterest where they have posted an amazing selection of books.

Arch Daily Pinterest

Arch Daily Facebook






Favorite Design and Urbanism Blog Posts for Week of April 15, 2013

HDR wonders about meddling with nature. Creating good places with Perkins+Will. Architects + Artisans' offers thoughts on shingle style. Studio E Architects on the new black: small. A birthday party on Facebook.


Meddling with mother nature. Mark Meaders, sustainable design project manager at HDR Architecture, talks about whether an aerial spraying of insecticide to kill mosquitoes with West Nile virus in Dallas was necessary and even effective.

Meaders asks if the decision to spray affected things we didn’t consider and longer term consequences of spraying and nature such as the bee population in Dallas. Bees contribute $14 billion to the value of U.S. crop production through their pollination efforts.

Via Blink Perspective


Creating a good place. Carl Meyer, a principal at Perkins +Will, examines the importance of third places – the informal “public places on neutral ground where people can gather and interact,” according to urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg.

Meyer ponders whether the third place is something that can be designed, and looks deeper at the idea.

“Can we design spaces that allow both interaction and anonymity? If so, what are the elements of space that encourage diversity, to include families, the young and older, extroverts and introverts?”  --Carl Meyer

Via Ideas & Buildings


Shingle style. The book “Shingle Style” written by Lucia Howard and David Weingarten looks at poets, artists and musicians of San Francisco who built their homes and clad them in shingles from nearby forests.

The book looks at 20 homes in the book, mostly between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet.  Howard and Weingarten, architects at Ace Architects in Oakland, place all of them in context as the best examples of American shingle design.

Via Architects and Artisans


Small is the new black. Studio E Architects explores the soaring popularity of tiny dwellings, and offers tips on what you should look for in a micro-flat.

In California, 160 square feet is the legal minimum size for a dwelling unit. Some people are experimenting with ultra-compacts in that range – however most developers are looking at units that average between 250 to 400 square feet.

Via Studio E Architect Blog


Innovative Social Media Campaign

Gerber celebrates 85 years. Early childhood nutrition brand Gerber is celebrating its 85th birthday this year with a virtual cake on its Facebook page for its 5.1 million fans. Gerber is giving away a daily cash prize for 85 days for those who "join the party," but eligible recipients must like the brand first. On the 85th Birthday Party tab on Gerber's Facebook page, fans are prompted to blow out a virtual candle for a chance to win the daily $585 prize. Each entry also gives participants a chance to win the grand prize of $20,085.

Via Clickz

Gerber on Facebook





Top Design and Urbanism Blog Posts for Week of April 8, 2013

Gensler on types of urban interface. Manaugh looks at Arctic instruments. Preservation Nation features church like no other. Earth day with Ayers Saint Gross and Living Classrooms. The Dirt shows the power of flowers.



Urban interface. Sarah Mathieson, an architectural assistant from the Gensler London office, discusses how the London office explored how education campuses interact with their immediate surroundings, or what they call the Urban Interface, as part of the Education Practice Area Next Gen Initiative.

The group identified a series of Urban Interface typologies that define these current and future campus trends:

  •  Suburban/Rural: Has dedicated facilities separated from the surrounding environment, allowing for multiple interactions between educators and students; establishes a clear institutional identity but offers less real estate flexibility and less accessibility if the student is off campus.
  • Urban Cluster: Offers real estate flexibility, allowing for interaction with educators and accessibility both on and off campus. As students are more dispersed, however, interactions between them are fewer, and the sense of institutional identity isn’t as strong.
  • Urban: Has dedicated facilities allowing for interactions between educators and students and is accessible on and off campus, as it is based in the community. It offers less real estate flexibility.
  • Virtual: Possesses no real estate but is accessible from anywhere. As the institutional identity is digital, it is thus not part of the greater community.
  • Global: Real estate accessible in multiple locations exports the institutional identity and allows for interactions between educators and students. This reach could be seen as diluting the offer (exclusivity).

Via Gensleron Cities


Arctic instruments. Geoff Manaugh writes about at a trip students from the University of Lund School of Architecture took to the Arctic island of Svalbard last autumn led by David Garcia.

Students flew up to visit "the far north, beyond the Polar Circle, to Svalbard, to study the growing communities affected by the melting ice cap and the large opportunities for transportation and resources that the northeast passage now offers," researching first-hand the "urban structures in the extreme cold" with Arctic instruments.

Via BLDG Blog


Historic church gets mural makeover. Graffiti artist Alex Brewer, also known as HENSE, took to Washington, D.C.’s city streets last year to transform an abandoned, historic church into a work of art.

In several weeks, HENSE dove into his imagination and conjured up the beautiful, vibrant mural that now envelopes the church.

“Most of the tools I use in my murals and paintings are the same tools I learned to use by working in the street in the early years. I use rollers, brushes, spray paint, inks, acrylics, mops, enamels, paint sprayers and other various mediums and tools… Recently I've been experimenting in treating my exterior works similarly to my paintings.”

Via Preservation Nation Blog


Living classrooms. In honor of Earth Day, 14 volunteers from Ayers Saint Gross had the unique opportunity to help build 23 floating wetlands that will be planted and launched into the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 20..

Spearheaded by Living Classrooms and Biohabitats, the project will support the city of Baltimore’s effort to make The Harbor swimmable, healthy and fishable by 2020.

Via Ayers Saint Gross Blog


Flower power. Tyler Silvestro, a master’s of landscape architecture candidate at the City College of New York (CUNY), examines the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL), one of the Earth’s greenest buildings and the latest addition to the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Richard Piacentini, executive director of Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, says the primary drive behind the Center for Sustainable Landscapes is to function “as elegantly and efficiently as a flower.” While the merits of this approach can be questioned, the pure essentials of this poetic gesture are there.

Via The Dirt




Favorite Design and Urbanism Blog Posts for Week of April 1, 2013

BNIM's collaboration stage. Lake|Flato on the Evolution of air barns. Stantec sees common ground in ski areas and airports. Placemakers on mixed use. Innovations in education with LPA.



Setting the stage for collaboration. BNIM staff attended the firm’s annual Symposium, opting for “family” conversation that encouraged informal dialogue instead of traditional breakout sessions.

The Symposium discussions focused on five issues, with individual participants tapped to write editorials on the issues for the blog. Joe Keal starts off with the topic of collaboration:

“As design professionals, collaboration is inevitable. In many instances, we have colleagues that we have successfully coexisted with over a span of many years – working to establish trust, respect and a great deal of mind-reading. In other instances, we are looking for peers and mentors that inspire us, or do amazing work, or utilize processes that blow our minds. If we are not doing this… well, we should be.” Joe Keal

Via BNIM Blog


Evolution of air barns. Grace Boudewyns of Lake Flato discusses working on “Air Barns,”  a project that was designed to provide a habitat for a client’s string of polo ponies.

“The project started as a simple napkin sketch then evolved into a hands-on collaboration with the Contractor (Jeff Truax) and his welders during construction.  The Construction Documents were drawn by hand, on vellum, on an old drafting table that used to reside at my house.  That table now lives on as a relic of this lost art at my workspace today.” – Grace Boudewyns

Via The Dogrun


Ski areas and airports share common ground. Bruce Erickson, a senior associate at Stantec, explores how ski areas and airports have a lot in common and how planners of each property can learn from one other.

Ski areas and airports share three main “areas” from a planning perspective:

  1. Land side: Parking, shuttle, utilities etc.
  2. Air side: Runways, taxi strips, ski runs, lifts, and/or specialized maintenance equipment
  3. Inside: Base lodges and terminals

Via Stantec Blog


What is mixed use? Howard Blackson,  principal  and director of planning at Placemakers, looks at the term mixed use, which has held different meanings in various places over the past 40 years.

Blackson says mixed-use can be defined as three-dimensional, pedestrian-oriented places that layer compatible land uses, public amenities, and utilities together at various scales and intensities. This allows for people to live, work, play and shop in one place, which then becomes a destination for people from other neighborhoods.

Via PlaceMakers Blog


Innovative urban education. Kate Mraw, an associate and interior designer at LPA, continues to discuss San Diego’s e3 Civic High, a revolutionary school-within-a-library that aims to redefine the meaning of the studio. The second part of this series examines design goals and features, and as well as the administration’s emphasis on sustainable architecture and engineering.

“The design principles for the learning environment centralized around three ideas: personalization, social connections and flexibility. For learning to happen everywhere, we understood that movement mattered—regardless of the primary function, secondary uses were explored, developed and designed.” – Kate Mraw

Via LPA Blog



Favorite Design and Urbanism Blog Posts for Week of March 25, 2013

Evolving Library. Removing urbanity. Guide to rendering. Site and structure in Norway. Human rights social media blitz. 130401

Evolving library. David Dewane of Gensler, discusses Librii, a digitally enhanced, community-based, revenue-generating library network created for the developing world. Librii has launched a Kickstarter campaign to receive funding for the pilot library.

Dewane explores the five ways Librii is innovative.

  1. Flip the business model
  2. Shift from consumption to production
  3. Broaden the collection
  4. Rethink the network

Go boldly where no one has gone before

Via Gensleron Cities


Removing urbanity. Kenneth Caldwell of Caldwell Communications writes about his feelings of sentimentality when he sees the loss of urbanity in buildings and architecture in San Francisco.

“Every day I walk around the city. I look for the sign that a person who cared about urbanity or beauty, whether it is an architect, designer, artist, artisan, chef, or bartender, is still at work holding up the value of the human individual’s contribution. Each time a faceless corporation removes the mark of a person, we lose something beyond the artifact itself.” – Kenneth Caldwell

Via Design Faith Blog


Guide to rendering. Build LLC discusses the importance of renderings, and how they have found them to be beneficial throughout multiple phases of their design and build process.

“Not only do we benefit from renderings, but our clients do too. At meetings, after looking over a set of two-dimensional drawings, a few crisp renderings can add a level of clarity and understanding. While we never shoot for photorealism with our rendered work, (more on that later,) a rendering that starts to talk about materiality and experience is something we can get behind.”

Via Build Blog


Site and structure in Norway. David Hirzel, principal emeritus at Sasaki Associates, writes on how he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study architecture in Norway in 1963, with a particular interest in wood construction and Norway's rich history with this type of building.

Hirzel talks about what struck him when he first saw the stave churches and farm buildings was their dramatic setting in the many valleys throughout Norway and how the individual church buildings and the groupings of farm buildings related to the unique environmental characteristics and functional requirements for the location and each building.

Via Sasaki Stream


Innovative Social Media Campaign

The Human Rights Campaign's ubiquitous logo went viral last week in anticipation of two landmark marriage equality cases argued before the United States Supreme Court. Facebook reported a 120% increase in profile picture swaps to support gay marriage, as compared with an average day.

According to a post from Facebook data scientist Eytan Bakshy, 2.7 million more users swapped their photos Tuesday, March 26, than on the previous Tuesday, due to the viral marriage equality Facebook campaign started by the Human Rights Campaign.

Via Mashable


Human Rights Campaign