Berliner Kinder: Berlin and its playborhoods

You’ve heard my fellow Placeshaker, Scott Doyon, say Smart Growth = Smart Parenting. More than once, actually. As well as how living in a walkable neighbourhood may shape our children. I’ve also talked about how my winter city, Winnipeg, nurtures active kids, as well as put some of those ideas into a TEDxTalk. Last week, walking around Berlin, my 10-year old pointed out the exceptional numbers of downtown kids, and really enjoyed hanging out in some of the neighborhood parks.

Continue Reading

Mixing Light Industrial with Residential: The artisan’s delight

We’ve talked extensively here on PlaceShakers about how to integrate industrial uses into walkable neighborhoods. And the sorts of land use modifications, often via form-based codes, that are necessary to enable these uses within safe parameters. This week in Berlin, I was particularly inspired by the example set by Hackeschen Höfe, for mixing artisanal manufacturing with residential in mid-rise mixed-use. And they’ve been doing so successfully since 1906.

Continue Reading

Why Placemaking Matters: What’s in it for me?

When a mayoral candidate from my city wrote me to ask me to repeat in writing what I’d said the night before, I realize I need to de-wonk and make my elevator speech more memorable. Why does city planning matter to people who aren’t urban designer types? If I could take an extra five minutes of your time, I’m interested in hearing each of your pitches, in the comments below. Here’s mine, thanks in part to countless conversations with many of you: Continue Reading

Connections, Community, and the Science of Loneliness

On my last trip to see my aging parents, I was struck again by the loneliness that comes from diminished connections. They are both inspiring people, and in their younger years were notably adept at making connections with and for others. And at helping people see the good in each other, in themselves, and in the communities they call home.

However, over time those connections are slowly dissolving. While there’s little to be done at this stage, this experience reaffirms the expediency of staying connected as long as we can to all the networks – internal and external – that make for wellness.

The process of saying “what if” does little good. However, I can’t help myself.

Continue Reading

Cities of Love: Paris, Boston, Venice, Québec City (and Buffalo?)

Gearing up for several sessions I’m really looking forward to at the 22nd Congress for the New Urbanism in Buffalo this week and feeling particularly grateful that winter in Winnipeg is finally over, I’m thinking about some of my happy places.

What’s more romantic than Paris in the spring? It’s a question that’ll get you 26 million hits on Google, so I won’t dive in. Romantic cities will get you 53 million hits. Clearly finding our happy place is something that we’re willing to travel great lengths to experience, and increasingly willing to change the status quo in order to build little love at home.

Continue Reading

Industry, Infrastructure and Intermodalism—Still Mixed Up on Special Districts?

Guest-ShakerIn her September 2011 blog, Special Districts Getting All Mixed Up, Hazel Borys questioned why we treat large format areas with distinctive uses, such as manufacturing or aviation, as “special” to the point of exclusion from our efforts to integrate all urban land uses and activities into a spatially coherent whole, ending with an inspiring contemporary example of planned “strict integration” of land uses in the corridors and boulevards connecting the El Paso International Airport to the city.
Continue Reading

London’s Lived-In Look

It’s summertime, and that means another installment of lessons from great cities. Last summer, I shared some images and impressions from Montreal, Mont-Tremblant, and Ottawa. Over the next few weeks, look for updates from Berlin, Paris, and this week, it’s London calling.

Before, I focused on elements in those great Canadian cities that have been made illegal in the suburbs, under contemporary land use practices. What’s on my mind this week are the benefits of great transit and civic space, as well as how to codify some of London’s highly functioning non-tourist neighbourhoods using the form-based codes we often discuss here on PlaceShakers.

Continue Reading

Ways to Fail at Form-Based Codes 04: Don’t Capture the Character

The other day, I was riding my bike from a deeply walkable, bikeable neighbourhood to a more auto-dominated environment, and I was struck again by the tactile response when you’re walking or biking through this change. In the walkable neighbourhood, fellow cyclists were in the streets or in bike lanes, mixing safely with the traffic-calmed cars and frequent pedestrians. But as I moved into the autocentric roads, otherwise law-abiding cyclists take to the sidewalks out of sheer terror at the fast moving cars that often fail to see them.

And pedestrians? They become scarce to nonexistent.

Continue Reading

Ways to Fail at Form-Based Codes 03: Misapply the Transect (to the region rather than the neighborhood)

When it comes to misapplying — or, more commonly, overly simplifying — the Transect, we’re all guilty on some level. For instance, I often speak generally about its inherent rural-to-urban spectrum and how, as you move through it, the landscape changes its character. The highways and byways whisking you through the wilderness and countryside get increasingly slower as you approach the city center, becoming streets of very specific proportions. Buildings change too, sitting on their lots in much more formal fashion as you move to the core, with trees and sidewalks dutifully matching the rhythms of their formality.

Continue Reading