Kent Larson: ‘Brilliant designs to fit more people in every city’

From TED Talks via YouTube:

How can we fit more people into cities without overcrowding? Kent Larson shows off folding cars, quick-change apartments and other innovations that could make the city of the future work a lot like a small village of the past.

From Greater Greater Washington:

The central fact about cars, from a planner’s perspective, is that they take up space. Lots of space. And this matters because space in cities (a.k.a real estate) is scarce and therefore expensive.

Cars take up space when they’re moving and they take up space when they’re parked, and even though they can’t be simultaneously moving and parked, you have to plan for both states and plan for peak demand; so you have to set aside some multiple of the real estate actually occupied by the car at any given time.

That’s just a practical observation about the spatial geometry of cities that doesn’t bow to my ideology or yours. And it would still remain true even if cars ran on nothing but recycled newspapers and emitted nothing but rainbows and unicorn tears.

In the past, our policy response has been to just set aside more and more space for cars: More freeways, more roads, more lanes on existing roads, more parking garages and surface lots. This approach hasn’t worked, and there are two very practical reasons why:

First, you can never build enough. There’s a phenomenon called "induced demand" that is very well understood by now. A new lane or a new freeway never reduces congestion in the long run: People respond to new capacity by driving more or by living or working in previously remote places, and you’re very quickly back where you started and have to build still more. The same phenomenon applies to increases in the supply of parking. It’s a game you can’t win.

Second, when you do make more space for cars you quickly start to crowd out any other potential mode of transportation, especially walking. All those parking lots and freeways and roads spread everything else out so that the distances become too great for walking. And the more you optimize any given space for cars the more hostile that space is for pedestrians. Very quickly you get to the point where it becomes impossible—or prohibitively depressing—to get things done on foot.

And this last fact has huge quality-of-life implications for human beings—not just because driving to a distant strip mall for a gallon of milk is less pleasant than walking to a corner store, but also because for many people driving simply isn’t an option.

Check out the rest of the article here

(Infographic source: Muenster Planning Office)

Getting Around, Safely: ‘Share the Road’ (PSA)

An encouraging sign of the times from the Canadian Automobile Association via their YouTube page. Who knows? Maybe one day they’ll just be known as the Canadian Mobility Association.

Related:

Public Space: ‘Shower of colour! Artist creates illusion of floating umbrellas in vivid art installation’
From Daily Mail:

Suspended from mid air these stunning colourful umbrellas certainly put other art installations in the shade.
Looking as though they are floating above the ground the brollies are held in place by wires between buildings in Agueda, Portugal.
The installation is an initiative by the council, in the small town just south of Porto, and is part of an art festival call Agitagueda.

Check out the rest of the photos here.

Public Space: ‘Shower of colour! Artist creates illusion of floating umbrellas in vivid art installation’

From Daily Mail:

Suspended from mid air these stunning colourful umbrellas certainly put other art installations in the shade.

Looking as though they are floating above the ground the brollies are held in place by wires between buildings in Agueda, Portugal.

The installation is an initiative by the council, in the small town just south of Porto, and is part of an art festival call Agitagueda.

Check out the rest of the photos here.

Public Space: When they built the urban plaza in the Southeast False Creek neighbourhood (2010 Olympic Village) here in Vancouver they "put a bird on it." Actually, they put two birds on it, but you can only see one of them in this photo. I’m a big fan of artist Myfanwy MacLeod’s 'The Birds'. Every time I’m down there I see people and kids especially reacting to them in such fun and curious ways, as if they are trying to figure out if they are friendly, menacing or something in between. I also like the reminder that they offer that nature is larger than us humans. As for the official explanation of the piece:

The work highlights both the lighter and graver sides of what can happen when a non-native species is introduced to an environment, how the beauty of birds can sometimes mask their threat to biodiversity.

If you’re interested, I’ve got more pics here.

Public Space:

When they built the urban plaza in the Southeast False Creek neighbourhood (2010 Olympic Village) here in Vancouver they "put a bird on it." Actually, they put two birds on it, but you can only see one of them in this photo.

I’m a big fan of artist Myfanwy MacLeod’s 'The Birds'. Every time I’m down there I see people and kids especially reacting to them in such fun and curious ways, as if they are trying to figure out if they are friendly, menacing or something in between. I also like the reminder that they offer that nature is larger than us humans. As for the official explanation of the piece:

The work highlights both the lighter and graver sides of what can happen when a non-native species is introduced to an environment, how the beauty of birds can sometimes mask their threat to biodiversity.

If you’re interested, I’ve got more pics here.

From The Vancouver Sun:

A 30-foot-long lunch table that pops up in the middle of a street just long enough for office workers to eat lunch is the newest idea for creating impromptu meeting places in Vancouver.

Starting in July and running once a week on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, volunteers will close a downtown city street, erect the table and put out chairs. For two hours, anyone can come down and brown-bag it at the Lunch Meet event. The city is also looking at encouraging street food vendors to set up near by.

And then, just as fast as it is put up, the whole thing will be taken down and the road opened to vehicle traffic again.

The idea is the newest project of Viva Vancouver, a $390,000 city-sponsored program that is behind a number of other summertime street closures and public-space activations.

The project is being done in partnership with the Vancouver Public Spaces Network and will only run for the month of July. But other street activations, including a complete closure of Robson Street between Hornby and Howe will run the entire summer.

On Tuesday city council was notified Viva Vancouver will set up 10 projects, some of which will be roving events while others will be semi-permanent installations on side streets.

Starting June 23 and running until Labour Day, the Granville Mall will be closed to vehicles every Saturday and Sunday. The Robson Street closure covers the same period, and starts with the Vancouver International Jazz Festival in its new downtown home.

Additionally, the city plans to create a few more “parklets” similar to its Parallel Park installation on West 14th Avenue at Main Street.

The Lunch Meet table was made last year by students in the CityStudio Vancouver program from a fir tree that fell in Killarney Park. The table, which is in three sections, has been used for other public events including as “a centrepiece of dialogue” for community information around the city’s Greenest City Action Plan.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo credit: Vancouver Sun)

From Salon:

For a long time, tactical urbanism was associated with guerrilla gardeners and fly-by-night pop-up parks, whereas large-scale “city planning” was seen as the job of bureaucrats with blueprints. But more and more often, City Hall is taking a more active (as opposed to purelyreactive) role in these types of smaller, cheaper, localized efforts, and sometimes even leading them. “Tactical urbanism has always been a combination of both bottom-up and top-down,” says Mike Lydon, a principal at the Street Plans Collaborative, an urban planning firm, “but now you’re seeing more of these ideas proliferate at the municipal level.”

In a way, thinking small is the next logical step in America’s urban renaissance. When cities really started changing 10 or 15 years ago, the economy was booming and the Internet was a newfangled gizmo. Today, cities have less money but more ways to communicate, two conditions perfectly suited to more focused, low-cost planning. Now you can home in on a specific neighborhood (or even just a few blocks), find out what the residents there want or need, cheaply implement it on a trial basis, and make it permanent if it works.

“We try to distinguish tactical urbanism from DIY urbanism and other similar movements,” says Lydon. “The intent is always to make something long-term and permanent.” In essence, cheap, ephemeral projects act as advertisements for better infrastructure. A roll-up crosswalk ends up painted onto the street by the city. An instant playground is taken over and maintained by the parks department. Just last week in Cleveland, after a pop-up cycle track was removed after its one-week lifespan, locals, disappointed to see it gone, starting asking the city for a permanent one to replace it.

Its easy to see why penny-pinching local governments would want to get in on this. The pedestrianization of Times Square, which began in 2009 as a pilot program that utilized little more than paint, orange traffic barrels and $10 lawn chairs, was a landmark moment in city-sanctioned tactical urbanism (the plaza has since been upgraded with curbs and sturdier seating). That same year, San Francisco launched Pavement to Parks, an initiative to turn underused street space into pedestrian refuges. Upon dedicating the first one, Mayor Gavin Newsom acknowledged that the city was catching up with what was already a grass-roots phenomenon. “I know that many of you have been talking about this for … at least 13 or 14 years,” he said. “Formally, it’s been at least a decade since community groups came together and talked about converting this pavement into a plaza.”

New York and San Francisco were early adopters, but Ethan Kent, vice president of the nonprofit Project for Public Spaces (PPS), says that until recently, such efforts existed as “a cool trend, but not the paradigm shift” that’s now transforming official policy. Last week in Philadelphia, for instance, the chief of staff for the mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities announced that the city would add more parklets and pedestrian plazas this year, building on the success of the Porch, a public plaza created in November out of underused space near 30th Street Station for the low cost (by municipal standards) of $300,000. This “Lighter Quicker Cheaper” endeavor, as PPS calls it, resulted in a space where less turned out to be more: Instead of spending lots of money to program it, it was left flexible for people to program themselves. Today, depending on when you show up at the Porch, you could find a fitness class, a farmer’s market, a live performance, or some of the 16,000 people who work within a five-minute walk eating lunch there.

“The ‘Lighter Quicker Cheaper’ method gets people focused on the uses,” says Kent. “Typically people can’t see how they can change the public realm because they feel like they’re depending on big capital projects.” But when city governments become tactical urbanists, it combines the best of both worlds: a space provided and sanctioned by the city, but one that the community can remake in its own image.

Check out the rest of the article here.

Related:

(Photo: Better! Cities & Towns Online)

Here’s a days old shot of the thriving community garden just west of the Southeast False Creek neighbourhood/ 2010 Olympic Village.
The City of Vancouver’s website explains that:

Southeast False Creek (SEFC) is a leading model of sustainability in North America, incorporating forward-thinking infrastructure, strategic energy reduction, high-performance buildings and easy transit access.

Here’s a days old shot of the thriving community garden just west of the Southeast False Creek neighbourhood/ 2010 Olympic Village.

The City of Vancouver’s website explains that:

Southeast False Creek (SEFC) is a leading model of sustainability in North America, incorporating forward-thinking infrastructure, strategic energy reduction, high-performance buildings and easy transit access.
Public Art: Terracotta Warriors in the City
Here’s a shot of one of many fibreglass Terracotta Warrior sculptures that have been painted up and started appearing around the city for the summer. Previous years have seen orcas, eagles and "spirit bears" serve as templates for artistic expression, some better than others. The concept began in Zurich, Switzerland in 1998 and has since spread to cities around the world. In the fall, the sculptures will be auctioned off in a fundraiser for charity. You can read more info on this year’s crop here.

Public Art: Terracotta Warriors in the City

Here’s a shot of one of many fibreglass Terracotta Warrior sculptures that have been painted up and started appearing around the city for the summer. Previous years have seen orcas, eagles and "spirit bears" serve as templates for artistic expression, some better than others. The concept began in Zurich, Switzerland in 1998 and has since spread to cities around the world. In the fall, the sculptures will be auctioned off in a fundraiser for charity. You can read more info on this year’s crop here.