Enjoying the multiple conversations that Monday’s piece started about Little Free Libraries, I can’t help but share the two that our family has been enjoying this summer. In doing so, there’s a striking difference between the development pattern of Monday’s neighbourhood in Kansas versus this 100-year-old Winnipeg neighbourhood in which I live. Do those development patterns have anything to do with the vastly different public responses that these libraries have received? Maybe not, but it’s an interesting contemplation.
The 22nd annual gathering of the CNU wrapped up Saturday night, June 7, in Buffalo. We’re looking forward to the recordings at cnu.org over the next few weeks to fill the inevitable gaps, since the competing sessions and hallway conversations presented the usual embarrassment of riches.
Rather than go for a tidy narrative, let’s just share some random observations and sound bites from the four days.
Steve Mouzon’s much anticipated new book, New Media for Designers + Builders, releases today. This groovy user-intensive e-book is a road map for revising the marketing efforts of the design and construction community. The premise: Tired marketing budgets are antiquated and out of step with a post-recession world where values have shifted towards authenticity and frugality. The book is a how-to manual to jump start design-related social media savvy. It’s not just about starting a conversation and sharing ideas with your potential customers, but also about learning from the collective design community voice. Not for the love of the contract, but for the love of the conversation.
For the past 18 months, PlaceShakers has been covering the work of my friend, Clay Chapman, and his quest to build a near-permanent, structural masonry home for a price accessible to the middle class. I wrote this introduction when he was breaking ground and, later, when the shell of his test home was completed, I posted a follow-up.
That house, which launched his “Hope for Architecture” initiative, is now complete and Clay’s been engaged to build a new house — a modest variation of the original HFA house — for a new client.
Throughout my professional career, whenever a new or innovative approach is taken on a development project, its title automatically defaults to that of ‘Pilot Project.’ It occurs so often that I am changing my title to ‘Pilot Project Pilot’ as I would then be involved with pretty much every development proposal out there. Due to overuse, I suspect that conventional ‘Pilot Projects’ will fade away, just as the terms Smart Growth, Watershed Planning, and Lifestyle Centers have.
Enjoying a serendipitous downtown walk this week, I was reminded of just how important this concept is. Seemed like a good opportunity to dust off this oldie-but-goodie.
I’ll admit it: I wish there was a more user-friendly way to say “terminated vista.”
Perhaps I’m more sensitive to it because, as regular readers here know, I’m not an urban designer. I just work with them. That means I’m more inclined to scratch my head like any other layperson when I hear wonky expressions that sound far too highfalutin for an everyday community.
That’s too bad, because the terminated vista plays a pivotal role in good community design.
The flurry of social media discussions sparked by my recent series on lessons from great cities has made it apparent that a few things aren’t clear. When I write about a particular square in some inspiring place, I’m hoping you won’t take away from it that we should stamp 5-story buildings on 50-yard wide squares all across the landscape. But rather I’m reaffirming that a sense of enclosure can indeed provide a feeling of comfort and satisfaction. You’ll know, if you’re a frequent PlaceShakers reader, that this sense of enclosure is illegal across much of North America because of auto-centric land use laws that require wide, fast roads.
The places we inhabit are rarely if ever arbitrary. They’re the products of intention. Personal. Economic. Environmental. Religious. We choose for ourselves, individually and collectively, the kind of places we want and — through leadership, policy, investment, advocacy, action and, at times, inaction — those places begin to take form.
It’s a complicated dance of complementary and competing interests. Making it something that happens for us, rather than something that happens to us, requires, perhaps more than anything, a shared understanding of exactly what it is we’re talking about. A common language.
Want to get some sleep tonight? How about snuggling up with your local Development Code? Read any section, such as Sign Violations and Enforcement Procedures, and I’m willing to bet you’ll be out before you get past the Statement of Purpose.
That’s a problem, because such volumes don’t exist to cure insomnia. They exist to engage us in the collaborative project of creating our shared surroundings. That means something and, while I understand that Comprehensive Plans, Zoning, and Subdivision Ordinances, by virtue of their lofty stature, might make for poor everyday reading, we all suffer when they end up so… tedious.
“Our life is frittered away by detail … simplify, simplify.” – Thoreau
Living in season asks us to “entice people outside, where they get more acclimated to the local environment, needing less heating or cooling when they return indoors,” according to Steve Mouzon via treehugger.
Howard Blackson dares us to live outdoors where “we can again connect with our climate and place — another step towards unsealing ourselves from our hermetic suburban environments.”