top bar
QuickTopic free message boards logo
Skip to Messages


The story of two urban design hacks that worked

^     All messages            3-18 of 18  1-2 >>
Alex SteffenPerson was signed in when posted
05:38 AM ET (US)
I don't know, but perhaps people might be interested in this piece I wrote about what Seattle might have done, a few years back:
Stefan JonesPerson was signed in when posted
01:09 PM ET (US)
Thought of two more last night, walking past Orenco Station: A firm that puts up realistically weathered and faded wall advertisements ( and sheathings of distressed, weathered wood to erect around maintenance buildings to make them appear to be old sheds, farrier shops, and etc.
ChasquiPerson was signed in when posted
01:01 PM ET (US)
Stefan, you should market your idea - there are a ton of "fake developments" already out there with (especially in north texas) what they call "new urbanist" features.
Stefan JonesPerson was signed in when posted
07:54 PM ET (US)
Haven't heard about the crows.

A coyote wandered on a MAX train last year, by the airport. The security people found him stretched out on a seat. He looked utterly nonplussed in the newspaper photo, like he had every right to be aboard.
__xPerson was signed in when posted
07:40 PM ET (US)
I like your creativity Stefan. Especially the fake custom fiberglass statues of mythical historical figures. That rocks. I saw a a blurb about crows who have figured the automatic doors and ride the MAX. That fits into the surreal scape you mentioned.
Also commenting on Quinn's post: Mixed-Use is a big term in New Urbanism planning. As they have found that people with differing incomes actually create healthy living enviroments. I have not read any of the studies eplaingin this. I could assume the rich become bored with each other and head off to the nasty part of town, and the wealthy neighborhoods become targets for crime. While the poor mire in crime and decay.
Here is a link to a site about the topic that you can input your state (If from the US) and find out about projects near you.
Edited 02-18-2003 08:23 PM
Stefan JonesPerson was signed in when posted
06:25 PM ET (US)
Just had an odd thought while checking my post:

A firm that adds *fake history* to New Urbanism settlements.


* Fiberglass statues of guys on horseback, for the town square. Modular. You can choose from a variety of heads and gear. When you submit the web form, the artisans go to work, epoxying together modules and spritzing the result with InstaPatina.

They'll also make a plaque describing the accomplishments of your fake town hero. ("A good deed embiggens the littlest man!" -- J.S.)

* A Differentiation Department. All the buildings in OS look alike. These guys, perhaps ex-Hollywood set makers, swarm over a cookie-cutter downtown and fit the buildings with facades and architectural fillets and fillers and flaws. They'll also put in realistic-looking, but guaranteed trip-proof, cracks in sidewalks.

* A place that installs Automats. Not a full blown recreation of a Horn & Hardardt; the food would be high-end vending machine / packaged cafeteria fare. Authentic-looking 1940s fixtures, staff in crisp white uniforms, WIRELESS ACCESS!
Stefan JonesPerson was signed in when posted
05:16 PM ET (US)
Portland Suburb strangeity:

I live in the western suburbs, but within the Metro planning zone. If I drive five minutes north, I'm past the growth boundary, and it's suddenly farmland. Odd.

But what I want to write about is Orenco Station. A New Urbanism development.

The "station" is the MAX line, 1/8 mile south. Easy commuting. The road to the station has streetwalks, benches, light posts, but nothing else. Big empty fields. Expansion space, I guess. Kind of eerie.

The pseudo-downtown consists of 3-4 blocks of three story buildings. Two-story townhouses with retail (trendy / yuppie / overpriced) on the ground floors and offices / galleries in the basements around back. It looks . . . odd. Like a small town dropped from space, or grown from a nanotech Seed.

North of the quasi-downtown is a subdivision of various types of brand-new houses. Some single homes on small lots, some duplexes. There are two big grassy "commons" with nice landscaping and benches and such.

It's a nice place, all-round, but terribly sterile. Not the slightest bit of funk or history.
quinn nortonPerson was signed in when posted
10:32 PM ET (US)
god, i miss portland.

i've been told that developers hate portland and are actively trying to prevent other areas from making the same good decisions, because it's bad for the bottom line. as compared, i guess, with somewhere like the southbay where you don't bother building for less than 10% clear profit and set up no low income housing and reinvest nothing into the community. i've also heard that one of the things that makes portland's downtown work well is that it really manages to mixes classes and lifestyles.

of course, i can't give a source for any of this, it's just hearsay. but i still miss portland. can it really be all that hard to make other cities as good?
Edited 02-17-2003 10:33 PM
StewartPerson was signed in when posted
09:57 PM ET (US)
(Well, cripes, then, Cory: hook me up.)
whitPerson was signed in when posted
09:23 PM ET (US)

Portland, at least, has been reaping the benefits of good decisions made in the early '60s; I lived there from 1989-1996 (and loved the city), but qestion whether the decisions made in recent years will result in as liveable a city ca. 2025.

On a side note, if you're in Portland and interested in such things, the historical society has an excellent oral history department, with a lot of material covering the movers and shakers of 60s-70s Portland.
Edited 02-17-2003 09:23 PM
__xPerson was signed in when posted
08:48 PM ET (US)
Interesting link. This issue is one dear to my heart; New Urbanism. I used to live in the nightmare known as Seattle. Great place to visit, hell to live in. Most of the problem is politics. Portland on the other hand is a model city for modeling new urbanism concepts. A primary facet being the "no sprawl" boundry. By establishing limits on the city it forces archetucture based on frugal use of a limited space. Where I now live in the city of Boise, Idaho we are facing some of the same sprawl issues. (I won't mention our current lame political situation.) I recently worked on a CD-rom for the local transit authority which opened my eyes to transit issues. I also recently read an article in a popular design mag about a trend where designers and creatives have had a new found interest in the engineering and design of the societies they live in. I believe a key to good urban design is a public dialogue, legislative investement, and programs that are inclusive to creatives.
Stefan JonesPerson was signed in when posted
05:47 PM ET (US)
The other side of the story: BAD urban re-design.

I'm thinking of East Liberty, a borough of Pittsburgh. The once-lively small-scale downtown was getting tatty and empty. So: "Let's make it pedestrian friendly! No roads! Parking at the periphery for the scum who still drive!"

Place turned out all wrong. The parking lots are hard to find, so people careen around the surrounding loop road multiple times, dodging busses. The place is emptier and scruffier than ever.

I'll take a nice grid city, thanks. There's no reason streets and peds and trollies can't coexist.
Cory DoctorowPerson was signed in when posted
05:12 PM ET (US)
I have friends who're crazy painters in Van -- they moved there from TO because the painting scene is so much better; likewise, there's the super-weird Vancouver School of photogs, who construct elaborate repros of historic settings and then take picturs of them with refurbed/reproed vintage cameras, who're apparently all the rage with monied German collectors.
StewartPerson was signed in when posted
05:08 PM ET (US)
I live in Vancouver's West End and walk to work in Yaletown. In the West End you easily see 10 pedestrians for every car that comes by, day or night (the West End has probably the most effective traffic calming design in any city that developed post-auto, though it was initially put in place to bust up prostitution strolls).

However, like (in my limited experience) Portland, Vancouver has a ring of shitty suburban sprawl that'd match any west coast city.

The downtown penninsula, OTOH, is amazing: 1000s are moving in every year and the density is approaching any real metropolis. I can walk to work, movie theatres, art galleries, night clubs, restaurants, 24 hour grocery or drug stores, a hospital, many competing supermarkets (*downtown* -- in *North America* -- and outside of Chicago or NYC).

All we need is a better art scene ...
kennyPerson was signed in when posted
04:59 PM ET (US)
i grew up in portland (well beaverton :) anyway metro rocks, go metro!

dunno about what they're doing with old town and the pearl district lately tho...
Deleted by author 02-17-2003 04:05 PM
^     All messages            3-18 of 18  1-2 >>

Print | RSS Views: 817 (Unique: 607 ) / Subscribers: 2 | What's this?