Lessons Learned from Berlin Shopfronts

Like many European cities, Berlin teaches us myriad lessons in building successful shopfronts. While the exclusive international shops along Kurfürstendamm and Friedrichstrasse are elegant and effective, the more creative successes are found in neighborhoods and courtyards. Kaid Benfield’s People Habitat describes in detail the reasons Hackeschen Höfe is so successful at the holistic level, and last week Hazel Borys discussed the diversity of uses, so here we’ll just explore the interesting shopfront contributions. There are some very successful shopfront examples in the Prenzlaur Berg neighborhood as well.

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An Interview with Kaid Benfield, Newly-Announced ‘Senior Counsel’ for PlaceMakers

Kaid Benfield, newly-announced ‘Senior Counsel’ for PlaceMakers.

Kaid Benfield, newly-announced ‘Senior Counsel’ for PlaceMakers.

Many of you know — or know of — Kaid Benfield, who’s led smart growth and sustainability initiatives at the Natural Resources Defense Council for two decades. Kaid is stepping down from his NRDC post. And we’re delighted to announce that he’ll become Senior Counsel for Environmental Strategies for PlaceMakers, effective the first of January.

See our press release detailing the announcement here.

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“People Habitat”: Kaid Benfield takes Smart Growth to a higher level

For several weeks now I’ve intended to write up my thoughts on “People Habitat,” the recently-released book from NRDC smart growth sensei — and friend — Kaid Benfield. Not that it’s anything he needs, mind you. A quick look at his reviews over on Amazon reveals a diverse collection of accolades, consistent only in their five-star assessments, and I suppose my hesitation has stemmed from a desire to not just heap on a little more well-deserved praise but to add something fresh to the discussion.

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Urban Happiness Index Revisited

A couple of weeks ago I floated some ideas on a national Urban Happiness Index. Similar to Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index and Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness index, which is being contemplated by China, an Urban Happiness Index would tie satisfaction and wellbeing to the form of the built environment. Perhaps an alternative idea would be the Healthy Place Index.

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Unplug! Accommodating Our Need to Escape Each Other

Sense of community. It’s been a rallying cry of New Urbanists since the beginning and for good reason. For years leading up to the birth of the neo-traditionalists, it didn’t take much effort to realize that our surroundings had changed—a lot—and not for the better.

Our neighborhoods—subdivisions, really—were isolating us from each other and from the things we needed to get done. Despite the ample comforts we’d developed to help mitigate the separation, that’s simply not a good recipe for human productivity, much less fulfillment.

There was a hole to be filled, and the distinctly market-based New Urbanists stepped in to fill it. Continue Reading