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Posts Tagged ‘urban design’

Traffic Roundabout: Award-Winning Civic Space

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on February 1st, 2012

Source: City Parks Blog

Photo: Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects

From “A Design that Celebrates the People”: Normal, IL Traffic Circle Wins Smart Growth Award as New Civic Space” by Colleen Gentles:

[In December last year], EPA announced the winners of the 2011 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement. We are excited to report that Normal, Illinois is the recipient of the award in the Civic Places category for their traffic roundabout.

We’ve written before about how the town’s new traffic circle has successfully managed traffic flow at a busy five-way intersection, diverted thousands of gallons of untreated stormwater away from the nearby creek, and become the town center by bringing residents together in an attractive public space. The more recent news is how the traffic roundabout is spurring local economic development with the construction of a multimodal transportation station adjacent to the circle, courtesy of a U.S. Department of Transportation grant. Both the transportation hub, which will eventually have high-speed rail service and create an estimated 400-500 new jobs, and the circle take advantage of the town’s existing infrastructure, bus service, and the historic central business district to attract even more residents to the new town center.

“The one-third-acre roundabout does much more than move cars. It invites pedestrians with shade trees, benches, lighting, bike parking, green space, and a water feature. People have lunch, read, and play music, and the open space invites community gatherings such as a holiday caroling event. It is the anchor for a community-wide revitalization and is part of Uptown Normal’s LEED-ND Silver recognition.

A popular rails-to-trails conversion, the Constitution Trail, leads to and around the roundabout, helping both to revitalize Normal and to bring people from surrounding areas to Normal’s central district. A new Children’s Discovery Museum on the edge of the roundabout already receives over 140,000 visitors per year, and a hotel and conference enter have recently opened nearby. One indication of the success of the redevelopment is that property values in the district have increased by about 30 percent since 2004.” Smart Growth Awards

According to the short video, this traffic circle was almost banned to pedestrians. It’s a good thing town officials fought back. [Watching the video, it looks like there are weekly farmers markets held on the roundabout too.  KA]

Read more about the project here, as well as the other winners from the 2011 National Award for Smart Growth Achievement.

The roundabout was designed by Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects.  Check out their site for more photos and project details.

Photo: Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects

Edges and Social Spaces: City Design

Posted in Models, Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on September 28th, 2011

Source: Sustainable Cities Collective

Photo by Chuck Wolfe

From “Confronting the Urban Mirror” by Chuck Wolfe:

To my mind, one of the most compelling features of a provocative urban environment is a place where people watch people—which becomes a small-scale human observatory. Such places are often indicative of safe public environments, including active streets, corners and squares. They are particularly prevalent in cultures where neighbors readily interact, and the seams between public and private are softer than zoning setbacks, while still allowing for a private world.


The sustainable cities we seek should include small places, where, as here, when the bustle of life begins in the morning and evening, people interact with facets of the city around them. I suspect that workable density, in the city of the future, will abound with the types of spaces readily ascertainable from cities of the past. We need places where we sit on the edges of the public realm and look in the mirror, to be reminded of who we really are.

Read the full article and check out the delightful photos by Chuck Wolfe on Sustainable Cities Collective.


Public Health, City Health: Exercising & the Value of Local Parks

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on May 16th, 2011

Source: City Parks Blog via Sustainable Cities Collective

Photo of Green Gym members: Scottish Government via flickr CC

From “Green Gyms and Medical Miles: Promoting Public Health with Parks” by Ryan Donahue:

We’ve previously looked at ways in which the medical community is using exercise prescriptions as a way to combat obesity and inactivity. Park prescriptions are only a portion of the spectrum of exercise prescription programs. Fortunately, the growing awareness of the benefits of outdoor exercise – in addition to the cooperation of parks departments, environmental nonprofits, and individual parks – means that these programs should continue to grow. Once patients have left the doctor’s office with a prescription in hand, there’s still plenty of work to be done. Someone has to ensure that public parks are meeting the needs of people trying to develop good exercise habits, and that newly inspired patients can find interesting and engaging ways to exercise in local parks. A growing body of evidence that suggests that exercise in the outdoors provides some quantifiable benefits over indoor exercise. A study released February in the journal Environmental Science and Technology analyzed data from 11 different studies that compared benefits from outdoor and indoor exercise programs, and found that outdoor exercise was associated with “greater feelings of revitalization, increased energy and positive engagement, together with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression.” Not surprisingly, those who participated in outdoor exercise “stated that they were more likely to repeat the activity at a later date.”[1]

Read the rest of this article by Ryan Donaghue to find out more about Green Gyms, Prescription Trails and an Urban Ecology Centre in Milwaukee.

The Buckminster Fuller Challenge

Posted in Models by Devin Maeztri on June 16th, 2009

The Buckminster Fuller Challenge is an annual award of $100,000 prize to support the development and implementation of a strategy that has significant potential to solve humanity’s most pressing problems.

The Buckminster Fuller Challenge 2009 WinnerThe Buckminster Fuller Challenge 2009 WinnerThe Buckminster Fuller Challenge 2009 Winner

What they look from the entries are:

  • Comprehensive – addressing the interaction of key issues responsible for present conditions; aims to solve multiple problems without creating new ones
  • Anticipatory – factoring in critical future trends and needs as well as potential long term impacts of implementation
  • Ecologically responsible – reflecting nature’s underlying principles while enhancing the Earth’s life-support systems
  • Feasible – relying on current technology and existing resources
  • Verifiable – able to withstand rigorous empirical testing
  • Replicable – able to scale and adapt to a broad range of condition

See the 2009 Buckminster Fuller Challenge Award winner.

What should be done with dead malls?

Posted in Models by Devin Maeztri on June 15th, 2009

This article discusses about redeveloping vacant malls into a more sustainable building.
Original article posted by Sara Wolfson, published in Smart Growth Around America.


“But people kept going, and new malls kept going up. But the traditional shopping mall as we know it is all but extinct. Developers have trended towards the open-air ‘lifestyle center’ – an imitation of the downtown center that malls were once replacing – but even those are struggling in today’s economy.”

To read more of the article visit Smart Growth Around America.

MPs Plan to Let Artists Take Over Empty Shops to Prevent Ghost Towns

Posted in Models by Devin Maeztri on May 15th, 2009

This article discusses a new way of dealing with cities and sustainability – facilitating changes through creativity. Orginal article by Robert Booth published in The Guardian.

Artists take over empty shops

“Empty shops can be eyesores or crime magnets,” Blears said.” Our ideas for reviving town centres will give communities the knowhow to temporarily transform vacant premises into something innovative for the community – a social enterprise, a showroom for local artists or an information centre – and stop the high street being boarded up.

To read more of the article visit The Guardian.

Vertical Farm – Resourcing space

Posted in Models, RDAG by Devin Maeztri on April 20th, 2009

The Vertical Farm project was initiated by lecturer, Dickson Despommier, and his students at Columbia University in New York City.

The Vertical Farm is a concept of a thirty-story urban farm producing fruit, vegetables, and grains with a greenhouse on every floor. Citing factors such as the need for reforestation and the future growth of world’s population, Despommier believes that cities must learn to feed themselves. Depending on the crops being grown, a single vertical farm could allow thousands of farmland acres to be permanently reforested.

Vertical FarmingVertical FarmVertical Farm
With about 160 of these buildings, you could feed all of New York.

The Vertical Farm would use hydroponic methods to feed 50,000 people. By growing crops in a controlled environment there would be minimum risk of disease, weather related disasters, less likelihood of genetically modified “rogue” strains infecting crops, and all food could be grown organically, without minimum waste.

Features of Despommier’s design include solar panels, a wind spire, glass panels, a central control room (allowing for yearround,24-hour crop cultivation), circular design, an evapotranspiration recovery system and pipes (to collect moisture which can then be bottled and sold), a blackwater treatment system, and a pellet power system (to turn nonedible plant matter into fuel).

However, as Despommier concedes, it would cost hundreds of millions to build a full-scale skyscraper farm due to construction and energy costs. For more information visit

This is from “Social Innovations in Victorian Food Systems”, case studies by Ferne Edwards.

On the state of sustainable cities

Posted in Research by fedwards on March 6th, 2009

The section below is republished with permission from the Going Solar Transport Newsletter #99, 24 February 2009, compiled by Stephen Ingrouille. Going Solar newsletter provides an excellent commentary on sustainable transport issues. The original article is by John Whitelegg, Canberra Times, 4/2/09. It outlines the states of several world cities such as London, Beijing and Sydney.

“The world’s great cities are at a crucial tipping point in their development. London is finding it difficult to cope with the growth in demand for public transport, Beijing has serious air pollution and the infrastructure of US cities is collapsing. Australia’s cities are rightly regarded as some of the finest urban environments in the world but they, too, are in trouble.

“The Sydney city region is typical. Its traffic levels are among the highest in the world, its air pollution routinely breaches World Health Organisation standards, and its planning and metropolitan governance are not fit for the purpose. Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne have fuelled traffic growth with an excess of highly expensive new highways and a failure to recognise global trends in so-called demand management. London has its congestion charge, Toronto will not build new roads and many other cities are heavily into high-quality public transport, walking and cycling strategies. Australia is being left behind.
Read the rest of this entry »

Urban Design and Health

Posted in Research by fedwards on January 19th, 2009

The section below is republished with permission from the Going Solar Transport Newsletter #93, 13 January 2009, compiled by Stephen Ingrouille. Going Solar newsletter provides an excellent commentary on local sustainable transport issues in Melbourne.

“The closer you live to the city, the better chance you have of being trim, a study of Sydney suburbs has found. University of NSW researchers, in conjunction with the NSW Department of Health, examined residents in 40 local government areas across Sydney. They found those living in the outer suburbs were 30 to 50 per cent more at risk of being overweight and 40 to 60 per cent less likely to be physically active than their inner-city counterparts. ‘We set out to replicate other studies that linked urban sprawl and obesity that were conducted overseas, particularly in the US, and to see how Sydney compared’, said Bin Jalaludin, who led the study. Professor Jalaludin said the lack of urban development in more sparsely populated areas meant people were less encouraged to walk. ’We hypothesised that areas with greater population density had more mixed land use and commercial development, which means more places to walk to’, he said. The study also connected car use in sprawling areas to obesity. ‘It seems that people living in purely residential areas tend to drive more and we know that people who drive more tend to be more obese’, Professor Jalaludin said. Read the rest of this entry »