Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Active design for buildings and places

The reason that I am focused on process redesign and systems change is because I think it makes more sense to organize places and organizations in such a fashion as to routinize the production of preferred outcomes, rather than to expect preferred outcomes to result from particularly motivated individuals or mostly by happenstance.

WRT "people", the issue is to build robustness into the system, so that the people in an organization produce the right outcomes, regardless of who is at the top.

Yesterday's presentation at the National Building Museum by Jack Robbins of Perkins + Will on active design focused on shaping the building environment through design, so that people are more physically active, which is an imperative, given the incredible, almost catastrophic rise in obesity rates, where as much as 30% of the U.S. population is now obese.

His presentation referenced a number of interesting studies (I'll post a link when the presentation is up).

I didn't realize it, but he was one of the leaders of the effort that produced New York City's Active Design Guidelines, which I have written about before (and has been added to the right sidebar).

The guidelines are provided at two different scales: for buildings and individual spaces; and at the scale of neighborhoods.

He also mentioned the New York City Pedestrian Level of Service Study. The standard pedestrian LOS in the Highway Capacity Manual is a straight scale where less people on a sidewalk is rated more highly than more people. NYC argues that this is too simplistic of a measure, and that lightly populated sidewalks may in fact be a sign of poorly functioning places, rather than highly functioning places. Part One of the study includes a great literature review. Part Two will generate a new method for calculating Pedestrian LOS.

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