Category Archives: Urban Design

Tech Companies are Bad Urbanists, Can Learn more from Planning!

Allison Arieff, an editor of SPUR in San Francisco, writes about the challenges of tech companies’ increasing interest in city locations.  Looking particularly at the San Francisco Bay Area, she discusses how many tech companies are locating in cities, but as far too insular of entities.  Many, including Twitter, aren’t promoting street traffic because they offer so many urban amenities and shops inside their buildings while restricting access to only employees.

She sees the same phenomenon in suburban tech companies too.  Facebook has created a small faux urban area in Menlo Park with cafes, dry cleaners, and doctors offices in a sea of parking.  The area is only open to Facebook employees.

Smaller companies and start ups are being a bit more deliberate (partly out of necessity) to locate in areas that are part of neighborhoods and don’t disrupt the urban fabric.  Arieff notes the 5M Project as a good example of an integrated tech-neighborhood mixed use development.

Think About Community Assets Differently

After a recent visit to New York City’s High Line Park, I spent some time thinking about how communities could make similar transformative investments in public space.  In fact, in Philadelphia, at the Callowhill Reading Viaduct, a community group is working to renovate an elevated rail line into a similar park.

2013-10-05 13.35.27(Photo is The High Line Park, near the Standard Hotel and Chelsea Market)

The landscape design and beauty of the High Line have already been well documented, and many places do not have the resources to recreate the High Line.  Recreating very similar interventions may be difficult, impossible, or forced in other places.  The thinking and community visioning are possible everywhere though.

What communities can do is take a look at their community differently.  For many years, the High Line was an abandoned elevated rail that blighted the community, and some explored demolishing the structure.  Instead, a small group of visionaries saw a different future.  Many communities have some overlooked space or white elephant property that can be re-imagined and turned into an asset.    All it takes is creativity, vision, and hard work to implement the idea!


MOOC for Urban Planning Update #cplan

The University of Pennsylvania School of Design will be offering a massive open online course titled, “Designing Cities.”

The course starts on October 7, 2013 and runs for ten weeks.  Renowned urban designers Gary Hack, Jonathan Barnett, and Stefan Al will lead the course offered through Coursera.  It will cover designing for population growth, rapid design change related to natural disasters, and how to make cities more sustainable and livable.