Top 4 Architecture and Urbanism Blog Posts for Week of August 5, 2013

081113 Night out with bats. Using wood to build high-rises. Cultural vibrancy in Chicago. Effectiveness of user groups. Tweeting to help the homeless.

Night out with bats. Lake Flato talks about the nightly feeding exodus of Mexican Freetail bats from their roost at Bracken Cave, an event managed by Bat Conservation International which is a San Antonio group that seeks to educate people and protect bats.

Bracken Cave is home to the largest colony of bats in the world, with 15-20 million bats living in the cave. Before dusk, the bats steadily stream out of the cave for more than 3 hours en route to their 60 mile trip to feed, during which the lot will consume thousands of pounds of insects per night.

Via The Dogrun

Using wood for high-rises. Andrew Lawrence, a structural engineer at ARUP, discusses how urbanization is driving cities to build densely and sustainably and using wood to build tall buildings seems like a good alternative.

Wood is the only completely renewable building material and has almost zero embodied energy because it’s grown with solar power. Wood is also cellular material like bone, so it’s strong and light. Relatively easy to work with, wood lends itself to high quality prefabrication techniques. It’s light to transport to site, reducing transport costs and carbon emissions.

Via Arup Blog

Cultural vibrancy in Chicago. Keith Campbell, a vice president at RTKL’s Chicago office, explains why he likes to pay property taxes in Chicago – and why he thinks it’s a good deal.

The City of Chicago devotes a small percentage of taxes to the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, which is dedicated to enriching Chicago’s artistic vitality and cultural vibrancy.  This includes neighborhood music festivals, farmers markets, pilates, tai chi, yoga and zumba in Millennium Park.

Via RTKL Blog

Effectiveness of user groups. Martin Valins, a principal at Stantec, examines the validity of user groups, or if by asking the right questions, you can get what you need.

“Planning around the specific requirements of a user group (or in some cases, that of a dominant personality) can lead to a solution that is a net fit to that one view point. The result will probably be fine, but how often do we find that the person with the most dominant voice leaves before the project is even completed?” – Martin Valins

Via Stantec Blog

Innovative Social Media

Tweeting to help the homeless. A new program called Everyday Connect leverages social media to help the homeless in San Francisco. Project Homeless Connect’s team of staff and volunteers meet between 10 and 20 homeless children and adults each day with a specific, urgent need such as a wheelchair or pair of socks.  A tweet (via @PHCSF) is sent to the community asking for an item with the hashtag #EDCDailyNeed. Usually, it takes less than a day to fulfill the request.

Via VentureBeat

Favorite Design and Urbanism Blog Posts for Week of February 4, 2013

Health architects an endangered species. Landscape architecture in China. Values in architecture. Tools at schools. And, social media ideas from the Girl Scouts. 130209

Health architects an endangered species. Bill Brinkman, executive vice president and marketing principal at HDR Architecture, writes on how physicians at HDR’s 5th Translational Health Science (THS) Colloquium in La Jolla, California, believe that the future of healthcare will be medical diagnostics done via wireless technology.

At the colloquium, Dr. Eric Topol said that core diagnostics typically done in a hospital can be done on a modified iPhone, which includes cardiograms and tests for blood, sweat, saliva, and urine. A microchip nanosensor smaller than a grain of sand can be put into your bloodstream and detect a heart attack a week or two before it happens -- and send a signal to your iPhone.

Via Blink Perspectives on Design


Landscape architecture in China. Landscape architecture education has come back into favor in China, and Chinese universities have established or reestablished nearly 200 landscape architecture programs in less than a decade.

Eight academics from the United States and China discuss the cultural exchange taking place between their countries and issues educators face in China as they try to build the profession there.

Via Landscape Architecture Magazine


Values in architecture. James Pfeiffer of BNIM explores themes from “Collaborating with the Public; Advocating for the Social” at Professional Practice Week in Halifax, Canada.

Pfeiffer points out some of the themes that emerged from the dialogue in Halifax:

  • Architecture is ultimately about the power of ideas to be transformative and impactful.
  • Architecture is a social driver:  its role is sometimes more about designing a social mix (the conditions within which architecture lives) rather than simply being about bricks and mortar.
  • We can’t over tailor our buildings anymore. More and more, our structures must embody the notion of “long life, loose fit.”
  • Constraints are drivers:  we take constraints, challenge them, and reinvent.
  • We design more than just buildings:  we design pieces of the city, community and the public realm.
  • Our work should be generous and regenerative.
  • Our respective practices require time and space to release moments for speculation.
  • Authorship is less important in a current practice:  ideas belong to everyone; the best ones ultimately “win” and are integrated into our projects.

We should strive for work that embodies the idea of doing “twice as much with half as much.”

Via BNIM Blog


Tools at schools. Design studio aruliden and Bernhardt Design launched an initiative to teach eighth graders the value of design as a problem-solving tool at The School at Columbia University.

The project immersed students in the entire design process, from research to ideation to 3D modeling and the launch. What began as a simple effort to get involved in the community grew into a much larger realization that design has a role in the classroom. Check out this video to see concepts and what students gained.

Via Cannon Design Blog


Innovative Social Media

Girl Scouts embrace social media. Girl Scouts celebrated their first National Girl Scout Cookie Day, embracing Twitter, food trucks and new package design. @GirlScouts will tweet the location of its Cookie Day Truck as it makes its way through New York City, staffed with Girl Scouts selling thin mints and other favorite cookies.

Via Diners Journal Blog

Related: Girl Scouts






PARK(ing) Day 2012 Brings Public Space, People Together

PARK(ing) Day was celebrated around the nation Friday, with people going beyond creating temporary parks by bringing communities together in new ways. Launched in 2005, PARK(ing) Day ( was started in San Francisco when an art studio dedicated to environmental projects set up a park in a metered space. Since then, the event has spread, with temporary parks popping up in 162 cities and 35 countries over the past seven years. The third Saturday in September is designated as the day for creating temporary community-oriented public space or green space.

This year, in the U.S., there were 586 parklets. The top five states with the highest parks were California (195 parks), Pennsylvania (37 parks), Maryland (34 parks), Kentucky (31 parks) and New York (29 parks).

Throughout the world, advocates for parks and public space created fun and innovative parklets. In Cincinnati, Ohio, artists replaced cars with stages and galleries. People engaged in a series of shows illustrating the benefits of serendipitous art in public places. Dancers from the Cincinnati Ballet dancers practiced at the barre. Pones, Inc., an innovative artists collaborative,  basked at a beach dance party with sand, swimsuits and music, Circus Mojo featured tricks in their center ring – and passersby tried to hula or toss a ring.

In Amsterdam, there were miniature parks to make a green corridor between two city parks, demonstrating the potential for improvement of the urban infrastructure. The Parks and Recreation in Dallas, Texas, rolled out a sod soccer field onto a Main Street parking spot.

"Lighter than Air” – an installation of colorful tall-tube balloons, inflatable balls, and a “flying bicycle” was put up in San Francisco on Valencia and 17th. Hosted by INTERSTICE Architects and PUBLIC, the organizations said riding a bicycle is the closest many people will feel to flying so wanted a whimsical bicycle-themed space where everyone could sit, eat, and play.

SWA Group put up parklets where they had offices in the U.S. In Houston, people played cards. In San Francisco, there was a bocce ball court and a grassland installation.

What did you do for PARK (ing) Day? Comment with your link to photos and we’ll post them on Facebook or our Pinterest page.

Check out our PARK(ing) Day photos on Pinterest.

More photos of PARK (ing) Day

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