Monday, December 28, 2009

4 principle agendas to transform cities and towns

1) Toward an Architecture of Place - Public institutions such as museums, government buildings, libraries and others can become important anchors for civic activity in every city by assuming a broader role within the community and adapting and evolving their buildings to host a broader range of activities.

2) Building Community through Transportation - The planning and design of transportation networks and streets can be reshaped to encourage economic vitality, civic engagement, human health, and environmental sustainability, in addition to serving peoples' mobility needs.

3) Public Markets and Local Economies - Public markets and farmers markets not only create dynamic community gathering places, but they can spin off a myriad of other community benefits - from revitalizing downtowns, to bringing fresh, healthy food to low income neighborhoods, to creating new business opportunities for immigrant entrepreneurs.

4) Creating Public Multi-use Destinations - In the competitive globalizing economy, great cities are becoming defined more and more by their great public destinations-user friendly, lively squares, waterfronts, great commercial streets, markets or combinations of all of these. Placemaking provides the way for cities to redefine their vision around creating or enhancing these destinations.

Great public spaces require strong leadership groups that make the community vision a reality so that little by little, the public begins to "own" the space. 

Each of these articles tells a part of that story.

"The Biggest Little Park in the World" in Landscape Architecture magazine showcases Discovery Green in Houston, Texas, and builds the case for using a community based vision and program to determine how a space will be used before the design is developed. It also describes the critical role of management in evolving a place once it is built.

"Grand Designs" published in Green Places, a British publication of the Landscape Design Trust, begins with a brief exchange between PPS President Fred Kent and architect Frank Gehry at the Aspen Ideas Festival last summer about the role of iconic design in making good public spaces. But more importantly, the article tries to put forth a different approach to public space planning  not just with  buildings but also landscape design and transportation.

In an article written by  PPS itself in Urban Land entitled "Toward an Architecture of Place", we put forth a program for how architecture can be more effectively used to create places.

Finally we want to share  an article from Momentum Magazine, a bicycle advocacy publication, which discusses how streets can be used as public spaces.

The ways to begin moving toward an architecture that incorporates community, environmental stewardship, and a sense of place include the following:

-Move away from solely iconic solutions and toward a larger vision of an architecture of place.”

- Establish an entirely new field that encompasses design but is not defined exclusively by it—a field broader than architecture, urban planning, urban design, or community development, with a special emphasis on the skills needed to work with communities in creating streets, institutions, and public spaces that improve people’s lives. Within this context, iconic architecture could be a valuable asset, but not the exclusive focus.

- Ask basic questions about a building’s impact before the first sketch is made on any project, large or small, such as the following: How will it generate vibrant public life? How will it honor its context in the community? How will it create a community place and draw on local assets—cultural, historic, social, and economic? How will it bring people together and enhance their lives?

In order to create great cities, attention must be focused on many levels of urban life: livability, local economies, community health, sustainability, civic engagement, and local self-reliance. Good architecture and design should be at the heart of these efforts. When all these goals are aligned, there can be a movement to repair the environment and improve living conditions.