Monday News Roundup

Interesting articles and posts you may have missed last week:

9 Urban Fails  (yUrbanism)
(these are hilarious)

Roundup of some great alcove beds (Remodelista)
Thomas Jefferson understood the appeal of alcove beds (see his iconic alcove bed at Monticello here); here's a roundup of some modern favorites.

Tall or sprawl, Metro Vancouver has it all (Vancouver Sun)
Metro Vancouver is losing nine square feet of land per second to urban sprawl. Author David Owen, however, still puts Vancouver among a short list of "green" places to live, due to their high density and lack of carbon footprint per capita. Here are six places Owen considers green - and six that, by his definition, are "brown," or not representing sustainable living.

Great studio retrofit of an aging printing press in downtown Barcelona (Inhabitat)
The allure of the old infused with the new could not be more pronounced in this studio retrofit of an aging printing press in downtown Barcelona.

Check out this kitchen island that disappears into the floor (Design Milk)
Tim Thaler wanted to maximize the floor space in his kitchen, but also needed a solution for an island. How could he have both? By hiding the island in the floor. Tim’s island comes up and down with the touch of a button on his iPhone — there’s an app for that.

Taking a green roof to the extreme (Sustainable Cities Collective)
Art Vandelay of Golden Colorado has taken the concept a little too far for the local building inspector. Called simply The Tree House, he says his vision is now complete after a ten year grow-in period and numerous structural improvements.

Tearing down freeways to make room for a new bicycling economy (Grist)
Here's one way to fund bicycle infrastructure: Stop building freeways in cities. Better yet, tear down the ones we already have.

New media makes transit more attractive (Sustainable Cities Collective)
Last week, we released the results for our "Tech for Transit: Designing a Future System" study, a collaboration between Latitude Research and Next American City. The study asked regular drivers in Boston and San Francisco to go car-free for one whole week, sharing their experiences and recommendations along the way.

As Americans get larger, FTA raises standard for average transit passenger weight (Good)
Last month, we heard that Americans are now fat enough to need larger ambulances. Earlier this month, the Federal Transit Administration bowed to the inevitable and submitted a proposal to change its bus testing regulations "to more accurately reflect average passenger weights and actual transit vehicle loads."

What emerging generations want:  a piazza (Sustainable Cities Collective)
As the 1600+ entries in this blog provide evidence for, emerging generations are moving into downtowns, driving less, walking more, living in smaller homes they can actually afford, preferring local businesses and slower food, prioritizing health,going green and valuing community and social networking like never before. It keeps coming up again and again, that the one amenity that does a remarkable job of fulfilling these values is the timeless piazza.

New idea:  Food Halls (Sustainable Cities Collective)
When you hear the term “food court”, most of us automatically think, “fast food in a mall”. What if the experience was more about slow food efficiently prepared, with a multitude of sit-down dining choices in environments designed for you to enjoy your food, sprinkled with specialty food shopping choices? Enter the “food hall“.

The link between thriving towns and a sustainable rural landscape (Switchboard at NRDC)
Yesterday, the Eastern Shore (MD) Land Conservancy announced the launching of a new Center for Towns to support “models of sustainable, walkable, diverse, well-defined and vibrant communities within our beautiful rural landscape.”  The Center was announced at a press event attended by yours truly in the beautiful town of Easton, where the Conservancy is also holding a conference.

Interactive urban agriculture map (Grown in the City)
Grown in the City has launched an “Interactive Urban Agriculture Zoning Map” to track urban agriculture zoning across the United States.

The future of urban agriculture (Sustainable Cities Collective)
Dr. Cohen’s current research focuses on urban food policy, particularly innovative planning strategies to support food production in the urban and peri-urban landscape, public policies to engage citizens in sustainable food production, urban planning and food access, and civic agriculture in cities and suburbs.

How to Create an Attractive Site Plan Using Hand Drawing and Photoshop – PART 1

by Brian O'Reilly, Super Designer for VIA Architecture

In this series of tutorials I’ll be going through a few techniques you can use to enhance both hand and digital drawings. In this case, I was given hand drawn site plans for a local farm from our Director of Community Sustainability, and asked to take them from a sketch to a full color plan:

(click image to view larger)

To begin, I used trace paper to redraw certain portions of the original drawing to simplify the overlays that will be used in the Photoshop portion of the exercise. It seemed to make sense to draw the trees and vegetation (Figure 3), the rock walls (Figure 4), the paths and buildings (Figure 5), and the shadows (Figure 6) each separately. This is a pretty flexible part of the process – you need to consider what elements you want to have individual control over in terms of brightness, contrast, color, etc. Also, one of the most important considerations is selection, that is, what portions of your drawing you’ll want to be able to easily select in Photoshop with, for instance, the magic wand tool (more on that later…)

Another important thing to remember when combining a number of drawings into one is to establish reference points. You’ll notice that in each of the separate layers I drew, I’ve included four crosshairs (see Figure 7) – one at each corner of the property line. This will make it much easier to align the drawings when combining them in Photoshop.

Once I have all my linework drawn and scanned (all with the same resolution and file type), I’ll begin combining them into a Photoshop file, again using the crosshairs to align them. With each layer, I use ‘Free Transform’ (ctrl-t) to move and rotate the layer into the correct alignment. However, DO NOT rescale the drawing. Because each drawing was scanned at the same resolution, they should all be at a consistent scale, and therefore no resizing is necessary.

Also, when these drawings are brought into PS, they are opaque, and you can’t see one through the other. The method for dealing with this will be, most typically, to go into the ‘Layers’ window to the ‘Blending Mode’ drop down menu, and select ‘Multiply’ for each of your layers (see Figure 8).

 Figure 8

‘Multiply’ causes anything in the layer that is white to have 0% opacity (completely transparent), and anything that is black to have 100% opacity (completely opaque). Anything in between (gray tones or color) will have an opacity somewhere between – e.g. a gray tone with a K value of 50% will have 50% opacity. It is extremely useful when overlaying linework on a drawing. Once all my layers have their Blending Mode set to Multiply, this is what it looks like (Figure 9).

  Figure 9

Now, you may have noticed that we have some artifacts from the scanning, not to mention that it’s looking a little of kilter. To eliminate unwanted pencil lines and shading from scanning you’ll need to go to each layer in remove them, either with the eraser tool, a white brush, or my preferred method, the clipping mask.

The clipping mask is an excellent, and most importantly, non-destructive tool for modifying a layer in Photoshop. Here’s how it works:

I’ll start by turning off all of the layers but the one I’m working on, in this case the Trees layer. With the Trees layer selected, I click on the ‘Clipping Mask’ button at the bottom of the Layers window (see Figure 10), creating a clipping mask for that layer (see Figure 11).

 Figure 10

Figure 11

The clipping mask does what you might expect – it creates a mask that hides parts of the layer and reveals others. Parts of a clipping mask painted black will hide that portion of the layer, those painted white will reveal that portion of the layer (gray tones will have an opacity equal to their K-value). Unless you have something selected, the clipping mask will start out white, so we’ll want to select a brush and set our foreground color to black so we can start eliminating parts of the drawing. As we paint over these parts of our drawing, it will disappear. However, what is convenient about the clipping mask is that it does not directly affect the original (hence the ‘non-destructive’). If we make a mistake, simply switch the foreground color to white and you can reveal parts of your drawing you may have accidentally hidden. (more on clipping masks later…)

Figure 12 shows our drawing with the clipping done to all the layers, as well as a background layer with a white fill that covers up any holes we might end up with. I’ve also moved the drawing into the center of the artboard.

 Figure 12

Now, it looks to me like the drawing is a little off kilter, and I’d like to straighten it out. Select the ‘Ruler’ tool by clicking and holding the ‘Eyedropper’ on the toolbar (Figure 13). Then use the ruler tool to delineate a horizontal or vertical line on your drawing (Figure 14). Then, on the Menu bar click Image -> Image Rotation ->Arbitrary (Figure 15). This will bring up a dialogue box that is already filled in with the necessary value of rotation to make your ruler line perfectly orthogonal.

Figure 13

Figure 14

 Figure 15

So that’s all for this week. Next time we’ll get into adding color, Photoshop brushes, more on clipping masks, and more!

(Tuesday) News Roundup

Belltown Apartments Planned (DJC)
Our latest project, Joseph Arnold Lofts, featured in the DJC today.

Commuters rely on bicycles in aftermath of Japan’s earthquake (Sustainable Cities Collective)
In the outcome of Japan’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake and consequent tsunami, commuters relied on bicycles for quick and reliable transportation.

Check out this kitchen island that disappears into the floor (Design Milk)
Tim Thaler wanted to maximize the floor space in his kitchen, but also needed a solution for an island. How could he have both? By hiding the island in the floor. Tim’s island comes up and down with the touch of a button on his iPhone — there’s an app for that.

Abandonded Skyscraper in Venezuela is the World’s Tallest Shanty Town (Inhabitat)
In the middle of downtown Caracas in Venezuela is an abandoned 45 story tower that has been reclaimed by squatters who have turned it into a thriving vertical shanty town.

‘Citysumers” define powerful new urban trend (Sustainable Cities Collective)
Citysumers - The hundreds of millions (and growing!) of experienced and sophisticated urbanites (with disposable income), from San Francisco to Shanghai to São Paulo, who are ever more demanding and more open-minded, but also more proud, more connected, more spontaneous and more try-out-prone, eagerly snapping up a whole host of new urban goods, services, experiences, campaigns and conversations.“

How Seattle transformed itself (NYTimes)
As the 2010 Census rolls out, much of the attention of news organizations is focused on the continuing growth of Texas and Florida, but there is much to be learned from the less extreme, but still significant, population growth in less sunny places, like Seattle.

First breath of food revolution reaches BC (Vancouver Sun)
While the world reels from global oil shock and rising food prices, the time is ripe to revolutionize the way we produce food and local food systems, according to evangelizing farmer Joel Salatin.

Stimulate your local economy and your wallet by getting rid of your car (GOOD)
The big numbers are impressive: a city can keep over $127 million in the local economy by reducing car ownership by just 15,000 cars.

Transit benches that can withstand the sits, leans and etchings of time (GOOD)
As any public transit rider will agree, the worst part of waiting for any train or bus has to be taking a seat on that grungy, funky public transit bench. So that's why fabricators at Veyko in Philadelphia decided to reinvent the typical molded-plastic afterthought into a sculptural, durable centerpiece of one of Philly's SEPTA stations.

How much could you save by riding transit instead of driving? (Grist)
According to the American Public Transportation Association, an average two-person American household can save $825 a month by giving up one car in favor of public transit (those figures include parking).

Bike lane bickering in NYC (Sustainable Cities Collective)
As a native of the neighborhood at the center of the bicycle lane controversy now tearing apart the New York intelligentsia, I have watched the drama unfold with conflicted bemusement.

Transport Planning Elements: Case Study: Syria, Part 3

by Jihad Bitar, PhD and urban planner for VIA Architecture
Click here for Part 1 of Integrating Transport Planning and Land-Use Strategy as a Solution: Case Study - Syria
Click here for Part 2

Parking Policy
Parking Policy is a very important planning tool in balancing the supply and demand for parking spaces. With the objective of minimizing additional traffic by controlling and restricting parking we can decrease congestion and car usage while simultaneously ensuring the economic viability of the city centre and its popular spots.

 (Photo Credit: Emad Al Sagheer)

A recent article5 by Ethan Baron in The Province led me to a very important study6 that was published by the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy, the study emphasises the fact that “Parking policy can be a powerful tool to encourage people to take public transportation or to bike,” The study also blames the chaos of parking in the downtown areas of many cities world-wide on the absence of parking policies, which, evidently, is quite correct. It then concludes that “Parking regulation is the best way to regulate car use.”

Therefore, parking is a very critical part to any integrated transport system because it has a significant influence on car use. When parking is not available at our final destination, car usage will be questioned and consequently minimised.

 (Photo Credit: Samer Kallas)

Here are a few parking policy strategies that can be used in city centres to help decrease car dependency and return public spaces to citizens:
  • Limit or remove on-street parking in city centres. This way popular city spots will give the city the space it needs to breath and for its citizens to use as walkways, café patios, public spaces, parks, and even bikeways.
  • Build new smart parking where possible. Maximize or upgrade existing parking in the downtown core using stalked parking but also freeze the numbers of car allowed in those parking areas.
  • Raise parking fees in downtown areas. This will result in reducing congestion and car dependency.
  • Encourage the use of public transportation and other modes of traveling.
  • With regards to parking policy in the residential neighbourhoods of the city; studies and research are highly recommended on the micro scale (neighbourhood and street) to determine where the best locations for the neighbourhoods’ residents parking should be. 
  • By building and investing in smart parking that contains parked cars within the perimeter of each residence within each neighbourhood around the city we can perhaps be able to empty the streets from parked cars and create areas of high quality public spaces.
 (Photo Credit: Samer Kallas)
  • Implement strict rules of how many cars any building can have according to its capacity
  • Encourage electric and compact-sized cars
  • Introduce the culture of car sharing and car-pooling
5- Baron, Ethan. Making Parking Difficult Makes for Better Cities. The Province, January 20, 2011.
6- Kodransky, Michael and Hermann, Gabrielle. Europe’s Parking U-Turn: From Accommodation to Regulation. Institute of Transportation and Development Policy, Spring, 2011.

Traffic and Road Management
“While travel is essential to economic productivity, many of the additional miles we are forced to drive simply because of the layout of our cities and a lack of options might be dubbed “empty miles”7

 (Photo Credit: Wojciech Ogrodowczyk)

All city traffic consists of a hierarchy of road networks interacting with smaller local roads and various facilities and it is this connection that sometimes leads to conflicts. In order for the traffic on these road networks to flow properly it has to be balanced and therefore we need to have Traffic and Road management.

In general, the Traffic and Road management objectives are to:
  • Reduce the impact of arterial roads on activity centres and residential neighbourhoods
  • Reduce the barrier effect that arterial routes impose on the city’s urban fabric
  • Increase public transportation priority and performance on the roads
  • Reduce private vehicle dependency going into city centres and popular areas
  • Reduce vehicle speeds in residential areas.
  • Improve safety for all road users
The following are several effective strategies that work in managing traffic flows:
  • Propose the Congestion tool/pricing as a tool for managing congestions in the downtown area. The income can be used for upgrading public transportation. “A Congestion pricing or congestion charge is a system of surcharging users of a transport network in periods of peak demand to reduce traffic congestion. This variable pricing strategy regulates demand, making it possible to manage congestion without increasing supply. Market economics theory, which encompasses the congestion pricing concept, postulates that users will be forced to pay for the negative externalities they create, making them conscious of the costs they impose upon each other when consuming during the peak demand, and more aware of their impact on the environment.”8
  •  The old city of Damascus is a car-free zone 24/7 except for emergency and some commercial loading/unloading in specific hours between (cars being hazardous materials should a fire erupt)
  • Enforce and promote safe driving attitudes on the streets since driving habits play a major role in giving pedestrians a sense of security during travel and within their meeting places.
  • The frequency of public use of the streets will impact the vehicle speed zone. The more pedestrians, cyclists and public transportation vehicles on the streets the slower the traffic will be.

(Photo Credit: Samer Kallas)
  • Promote the health and environmental benefits of walking, cycling and using public transportation. Introduce fun and constructive ideas for the public (i.e. Walking day, Car-free day, Biking Day, Painting pavement day etc.) Introduce incentives that encourage people to consider walking to work or use public transportation.
  • Create an inter-regional partnership of job-housing balancing system that will work on not only on the micro planning level but also on the macro planning level.
  • Environmental justice needs to be addressed in detail for every neighbourhood and region of Syria. Through a special dedicated national fund Syrian citizens can support green projects such as brownfield rehabilitation projects and reviving natural elements (rivers, forests, green corridors)
  • Create a Department of Street and Public Life: Copenhagen, Denmark is an example where the public life and the way citizens interact with the city become an entity by itself.
(Photo Credit: Samer Kallas)

7 - Kooshian, Chuck. Winkelman, Steve. Growing Wealthier; Smart Growth, Climate Change and Prosperity, Center for Clean Air Policy, January 2011.
8 -"

Transport Planning Elements: Case Study: Syria

by Jihad Bitar, PhD and urban planner for VIA Architecture

Click here for Part 1 of Integrating Transport Planning and Land-Use Strategy as a Solution: Case Study - Syria

The main Transport Planning elements we need to integrate in the land Use strategy -- Part 1 will cover Public Transportation, and Walking and Cycling, and Part 2 will cover Parking Policy and Traffic Management.

Public Transportation

It is necessary to develop a comprehensive public transportation policy that is embedded within the city’s vision, and integrating an accessible, safe, comfortable and clean transportation system. Introducing a workable public transportation system is seriously needed if we want any Syrian city to have healthy growth and the ability to sustain that growth. This is the first step of many toward a sustainable urbanism in Syria.

The majority of our people already depend on public transportation, which means large volumes of transportation vehicles are needed in the streets to do the job. Yet, without any reduction of private car dependency, the outcome will end with even more pressure on an already maximized street capacity. A solution for this problem might be reducing car use while building high density, separated guideways for high speed and frequent service. This can be achieved by introducing several types of rapid transit including: the Subway system (Metro), Elevated system (Monorail/Skytrain) and Grade level system (Bus Rapid Transit BRT, Light Rail Transit LRT).

 (Photo Credit: Samer Kallas)

Thinking from a financial point of view, the BRT system might be the more affordable and more achievable system to adopt in the short-term for the Syrian cities.

Many cities around the world enjoy the BRT system: Curitiba, Brazil; Guangzhou, China; Ahmedabad, India; Johannesburg, South Africa; Tehran, Iran; and Istanbul, Turkey. If we provide this kind of high quality service that respects people’s dignity, they will use public transit more and help their city grow in a better way.

The ultimate goal, however, should be a multimodal public transportation system (Subway and Elevated) for the long term if we decided to go full speed on improving public transportation.

To solve the many issues that our cities suffer from, including air pollution, pedestrian traffic, car dependency and traffic congestions, we must start with creating a reliable and sustainable public transportation system. Without it nothing can move forward neither traffic nor development and definitely not the public spaces or aesthetic features we aspire for.

Additionally, let’s not forget the financial gain that public transportation introduces by creating new jobs, attracting private investments and promoting a new culture of urban development.

Walking and cycling

“There’s no great urbanism without a walkable environment, without active streets, and without diverse communities.“3

(photo credit: Wojciech Ogrodowczyk)

Jan Gehl, the Danish urban designer, outlined in his latest book; “Cities For People”4,
that the first step in fixing our cities is to address the human dimension which has been overlooked and neglected in connection with urban development for the last 50 years and regardless of the city’s global location, economic viability and stage of development: “Making city life viable will require careful work with people’s conditions for walking, bicycling and using the city outdoor space” he wrote, and at the end of his book Ghel wrote this: “It is cheap, simple, healthy and sustainable to build cities for people” which I totally agree with.

The fact is walking and cycling have a valuable role to play in any integrated land use and transport planning strategy. These two activities are accessible to a large proportion of citizens and have positive social benefits yet minimal environmental impacts.

A pleasant walking and cycling environment needs to be created to encourage people to use these modes. By encouraging the culture of walking and cycling our society will receive tremendous health and environmental benefits. From a financial point of view, by reducing trip lengths and speed, people will start to notice, and will likely support, local businesses and services on their way to work, to school, or to where ever their daily activities takes them.

Walking in the streets of Damascus, for example, can be as stressful as driving. In this case, the problem is a combination of low quality pedestrian pavements with uneven surfaces and the absence of feeling safe because of the presence of and the priority for cars. Vehicles are constantly taking over pedestrian spaces and there is a general lack of design standards that helps distinguish pedestrian pavements from the rest of the street.

 (photo credit: Wojciech Ogrodowczyk)

Designated pedestrian networks are needed. A comprehensive study of how to give pedestrians dedicated routes for a safe and connected journey throughout the city must be introduced if we want to encourage people to walk and become less car-dependent. Many studies have proven that when people live in connected areas they use their cars less often. This is precisely what we need in Syrian cities.

While Damascus is not a mega city by international standards, it is compact and dense and yet somehow still a charming city, full of potential. Its surface area is still manageable, which makes possible the implementation of some simple and affordable ideas for pedestrian and public spaces.

Promoting cycling will be a challenge in the Syrian culture especially when the general view of cyclists does not go beyond the stereotypes of ‘the poor’ or ‘food delivery workers’. However, this image can easily change when people discover that modern cyclists in the city are often just the average high school or university student, the working youth and the average middle class educated citizen.

 (photo credit: Samer Kallas)

To encourage cycling to and from educational institutes and city centres, a good start could include building safe bike lanes around the university and the major schools and paralleled to the BRT roads. Doing these projects should not be seen as luxury but an evolution toward a healthier lifestyle and better environment. Bike culture is a green and healthy culture that is missing in our cities today and we need to begin introducing it.
Bike sharing and renting can also be implemented later in the second or third phase of the plan after a sound foundation of cycling networks has been laid.

Once introduced, and in order to continue to grow this culture of walking and cycling we need to integrate the needs of pedestrians and cyclists into any new development and to ensure new developments are permeable for pedestrians and cyclists.

 (photo credit: Ali Bazzi)

3- Interview with Calthorpe, Peter. Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change. February 08, 2011.
4- Gehl, Jan. Cities For People, Island Press, September 6, 2010.

Integrating Transport Planning and Land-Use Strategy as a Solution: Case Study - Syria

by Jihad Bitar, PhD and urban planner for VIA Architecture

“What we build – where and how – has a tremendous impact on how we sustain our communities, protect the environment and bolster prosperity.” 1

My trip to Syria first started with the snow storm mess in Europe where I, like many other travellers, had to connect through different airports to reach my destination – Damascus.

 Photo Credit: Samer Kallas

When I arrived in Damascus in the morning, I had to get through the city’s usual rush hour - it was a stressful 30 minute journey. The chaos, danger and pollution that those thousands of vehicles bring to the city’s streets is unacceptable, especially in a city struggling to show its beauty.

The absence of any rules that organize and manage the numbers of vehicles on the streets is stunning. One day, in the very near future, street movement of Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, Lattakia and many other major Syrian cities will come to a standstill. Unfortunately, this dark reality will only become much worse if we don’t take responsibility and deal with this problem today. Even now, we are already too late.

Photo Credit: Emad Al Sagheer

Undoubtedly, we have no other choice but to try and stop the increase in daily use of private motor vehicles just so our city’s streets can breathe again. It will be extremely difficult, however, if it’s done, we can return our public spaces to places of movement, experience and public activity.

In my humble opinion, what Damascus is missing is a comprehensive integration of Land Use Strategy and Transport Planning. This will help reduce the growth in car numbers and car use, which, consequently, will reduce street congestion as well as air, noise, and visual pollution. Land Use Strategy is the most important planning instrument for any city to create the image it wants, while Public Transportation, Walking and Cycling, Parking Policy and Traffic Management are the main elements of the Transport Planning system.

The main objectives of integrating Land Use and Transport Planning are to:
  • Promote the long-term investing strategy in public transportation projects
  • Promote the use of public transportation by increasing Land Use density and mixed uses around transport nodes and corridors
  • Encourage people to reduce car dependency
  • Promote developments that support sustainability, walking, cycling and public transport use, like Smart Growth and Transit-Oriented Development TOD
  • Management of traffic and parking in city centres and popular spots.
Working with people, helping them to understand the integration plan and engaging them in the process are essential steps in making a plan work and for growth to happen. In other words, education, transparency, and feeling of inclusiveness are the keys to success. In Bogota, Colombia the first step of progress was by educating the citizens and introducing ‘the culture of citizenship’:

“Mayor Mockus defined the culture of citizenship as “the sum of habits, behaviours, actions and minimum common rules that generate a sense of belonging, facilitate harmony among citizens, and lead to respect for shared property and heritage and the recognition of citizens’ rights and duties.” 2

The main goal of the integration process is not to abolish vehicles in our city; it’s more about targeting bad habits that have substantial effects on our public street life and managing those habits to a point where we, the human, can have our spaces. This is why it’s so important for citizens to take part in the solution and become full partners in their neighbourhood’s development process. Secrecy and ambiguity regarding planning for people’s neighbourhoods, communities, and cities has never been a solution. It didn’t work yesterday and it definitely won’t work today or tomorrow. Communication and engagement is a must.

Commitment in implementing and monitoring a plan is another necessity in order for progress to happen. The strategy should be reviewed annually for evaluation and revision.

In addition, the environment is not presented here as having a separate element in the integration process; rather, it is highly dependent on the success of a plan. Every positive change we make in the transport system of a city, regardless how small, will have major consequences on its environment. A cleaner and healthier environment is a sign of a working strategy. The greener we are the more we protect our children’s future and make our cities good places to live in.

Photo Credit: Samer Kallas

There are no magic solutions -- it’s hard, it takes time, extensive research, a great deal of experimenting, monitoring, and rules, and large amounts of money. It needs everyone’s engagement if we really want our city to become a better place to live in.

Up next:
The main Transportation Planning elements we need to integrate in the Land Use Strategy: Public Transportation, Walking and Cycling, Parking Policy, and Traffic Management.

1- Kooshian, Chuck. Winkelman, Steve. Growing Wealthier; Smart Growth, Climate Change and Prosperity, Center for Clean Air Policy, January 2011.
2- Montezuma, Ricardo. The Transformation of Bogota, Colombia, 1995-2000: Investing in Citizenship and Urban Mobility. Global Urban Development Magazine, Volume1, Issue1, May 2005.

Monday News Roundup

“It wasn’t nature that created straight floorboards; it was the limitations of technology.” Such is the philosophy behind Bolefloor, a new Dutch company that manufactures wood flooring by cutting boards according to the natural curves found in trees. The method saves wood by optimizing the number of boards that can be produced from one tree.

A mapping project, to make sure we can show what a force urban ag is here in Seattle.

Apps for urbanists  (Yurbanism)
"Recently I came across a post by Matthew Latkiewicz on Smart Blogs that showcases a few more location aware mobile apps."

Honesty in transit marketing (Sustainable Cities Collective)
An agency’s brand and message can be very easily co-opted by engaged customers, including, in the best case, well-meaning riders, or in the worst case, disgruntled customers holding a grudge. As a result, transit marketers must learn to lay off the spin and start laying on the truth.

There has been much discussion in the design community over the last week about Barbie's sudden ascension into the ranks. Mostly, about how Mattel got it all wrong.

Self-affirmation manual for urbanites (Sustainable Cities Collective)
Just in time, a Harvard economics professor has arrived to reassure us of the rightness of our way of life. Edward Glaeser’s recent book Triumph of the City is both a manifesto on behalf of the best cities and a self-affirmation book for confirmed urbanites who may just once have considered cheating with a suburb.

In response to the obesity trends illustrated below, it was just a matter of time before they introduced a plan to invest in an infrastructure that prioritizes public health, especially through being physically active. Produced by the NYC Department of Design and Construction, the highly illustrated 138-page Active Design Guidelines is one of the most comprehensive documents on the subject ever published.

"For people who live and work around [urban highways], they always had huge negative side effects: They broke up the urban fabric, were noisy, and divided cities," says Ted Shelton, a professor of architecture at the University of Tennessee who has studied urban highway removal. Removing roadways presents an opportunity for wiser, gentler redevelopment that can – if all goes well – add vibrancy and livability to areas around city centers.

Can art save our cities? If it's Candy Chang's crowdsourced fantasy urban planning, then yeah, probably.

Guest columnist Jeffrey C. Sanders reflects on the history of the Northwest food movement and its potential for connecting east and west, city and country.

Facebook ponders urban design with charette (Sustainable Cities Collective)
Facebook is hosting a “design charrette,” inviting more than 100 architects and other design professionals to engage in a fast-paced, collaborative planning session to envision infrastructure upgrades to areas surrounding Facebook’s new campus.

Friday Feature: Mark

Mark's Friday Feature wraps up the series as we have covered almost everyone working in our firm. See the post by MTV's Get Schooled that started this series.

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Mark. In my tenure with VIA Architecture I’ve lived near and worked in both the Seattle and Vancouver offices. I do a lot of different things – but so does everybody at this firm. In the simplest form of a description, my primary role with VIA is to solve puzzles. The method for that which keeps me running is producing and managing Building Information Model (BIM) files for interesting projects. I’m also good at fixing things for some odd reason. I get to work on cool projects like transit stations and mixed-use residential buildings as well. This requires an involvement of software knowledge with construction & design awareness.

What made you decide to go into your field? Also, what did your family think of your chosen field?
My father is an Electrical Engineer (retired), and had started two consulting firms during his career. Because of that, I was exposed to not only the A&E industry, but what it’s like to be a business owner and manager in that field. Looking back, I pretty much knew at an early age that I would end up in this field. However, where it became clear that it would be Architecture instead of Engineering was probably around high school. The right lobe holds more of my cognitive and perspective than the other.

My parents always wanted (and still want) me to be in a field where I am happy, and have a passion for. They knew what I was getting into, so it wasn’t like I was venturing into uncharted territory.

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why?
Probably my father, for the reasons given above. For design and pure Architecture, I’ve been blessed in my career to be around a number of people that are genuine practitioners. From them I’ve learned the most. The people around me are excellent teachers that I selfishly steal from as well.

My belief is the best teacher is one who provides inspiration that provokes contemplation. They’re farmers planting seeds. The principals and colleagues in VIA (past and present) also provide inspiration and influence for me on a daily basis. These lessons have no shelf life, are full of fiber and fat-free.

What inspires you?
The divine moment. Sometimes it’s referred to as the ‘Aha!’ moment. This is when the harmonics of an idea combined with the constraints of reality resonate correctly. It’s similar to the act of tuning a stringed musical instrument. The feeling you get when the string is vibrating to the perfect pitch is unquestionable. For application to the profession, one experiences this when they reach a design solution, or puts together the perfect narrative for a report. I’ve experienced this feeling recently even from putting together a specification section for vapor barriers that felt water-tight (pun intended). An epiphany can be a divine moment, but a divine moment is not necessarily a sudden realization.

When these happen, the elation is unparalleled. To seek them out, that’s probably my inspiration and motivation. Another inspiration occurs for me when experiencing a wonderful place that was designed with every element detailed and positioned so that each of these notes make the symphony that the author had intended.

What kind of people are the most successful in your field? Are there any specific attributes?
Most successful: The individuals that realize the balance between good design, efficient work habits, and business sustainability.

Specific attributes: Team player. This doesn’t mean that you have to be in the middle of everything.

Is your field growing? (ie. is there room for new entries and is there career growth?)
I don’t believe that the field is growing as much as it is basically adapting. This is a time of major change due to current political, environmental, and relative economic factors. Sustainability has had a huge impact on our field, and it’s just getting started.

On a somewhat related note, I also see a gap that’s growing between the construction savvy and the general design capabilities, in regard to the Architectural work force. Parallel to that is an apparent difference in construction document preparation and production abilities. In the 80’s there were a lot of people joining the workforce out of college that understood how to use the CAD programs that were new and regarded (reluctantly by some) as the future. Yet, as much as a lot of these people were comfortable with how to use the software, they didn’t know how to make it apply to producing a set of construction documents that conformed with the industry standard. Now our field is going through another transition from 2-Dimensional CAD to Building Information Management (BIM) that works in virtual 3D.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that we keep inventing new methods and means to design and produce the medium that will communicate these ideas. However, the basic rules and grasp of constructability and how to produce a drawing that someone could build from are still taking a secondary role. Bottom line: Don’t let the plough and tractor decide what to plant, and where it should grow (another farm reference).

What is the best advice you were ever given?
(Given at different times throughout…)
“The work comes first”
“Don’t be shy”
“Pace yourself”
“Keep it fun”
“Keep it simple”

What advice would you give someone considering a career like yours?
Pretty much everything listed immediately above with special emphasis on ‘Listening’.

Research is paramount as well. Whether it’s about the technology and products that are out there, the codes that we have to design by, the client’s background and vision, etc…

Never Stop Studying!

Also, keep it fun. If it isn’t, you lose the passion. If you lose the passion, then you’re in the wrong place.

Trends in Small Farming -- Kitsap County

by Catherine Calvert, Director of Community Sustainability for VIA Architecture

Earlier this week I attended a meeting of the Kitsap Community and Agricultural Alliance, an advocacy group that is doing good work in promoting farming in the county. Its activities include raising the profile of farmers and local food within the community, advocating for farm protection, and hosting an annual local harvest dinner.

The speaker for the event was Tim Trohimovich, the Planning and Law Co-Director of Futurewise, a Seattle non-profit whose mission is “to promote healthy communities and cities while protecting working farms, working forests, and shorelines for this and future generations”. The focus of the group’s discussion with Tim was on Kitsap’s struggle for farm zoning protection, but he also presented a very interesting series of statistics on trends in land use in the county:

Kitsap Land in Farms (acres)
Washington Land in Farms (acres)
Kitsap Average Size of Farm (acres)
Washington Average Size of Farm (acres)
Kitsap Number of Farms
Washington Number of Farms
Kitsap Percent of Land in Farms used for Organic Production

Washington Percent of Land in Farms used for Organic Production

Kitsap Market Value of Agricultural Products Sold
WA Market Value of Agricultural Products Sold

Kitsap Market Value of Direct Sales
Kitsap Direct Marketing share of total sales

Central Puget Sound Value of Direct Sales
Central Puget Sound Direct Marketing share of total sales

WA Market Value of Direct Sales
WA Direct Marketing share of total sales

Kitsap Total Per Farm Income from Farm-Related Sources (including non-food sources and services)
WA Total Per Farm Income from Farm-Related Sources (including non-food sources and services)
Sources:  Futurewise, Chase Economics Report 

From one perspective, these statistics could paint a pretty bleak picture of trends in the county – in just five years a 5% loss of acres of land used for farming, and a staggering 77% loss in the market value of agricultural products sold. But these figures also represent what I see as a significant shift in farming within the county, with a clear move away from larger conventional farms and toward smaller holdings focusing on direct sales to consumers. In comparison to other counties in the Puget Sound area and the state in general, the practice of direct sales by farmers (farmer’s markets, on-farm sales, CSA’s, etc.) is by far more prevalent in Kitsap. Organic farming is also five times more common in Kitsap than in the rest of the state.

Certainly in Kitsap, as in other places, the interest in growing and consuming local food has been explosive, particularly since 2007 when these statistics were gathered. It will be interesting to see how these trends continue to evolve when comparable statistics are available for more recent years. Kitsap once had an important role as a producer of agricultural products, particularly poultry and dairy, which were major industries by the early 1900’s. Apparently many early settlers raised chickens because they did not need to remove tree stumps left behind from decades of logging, a practice so successful that it lead Silverdale to proclaim itself to be the “Egg Capital of the World” at one point.

Given the historic importance of agriculture in the county and the proximity of its farmland to the metropolitan Seattle area, it would appear that Kitsap is well positioned to develop this market in coming years. One of the challenges in Kitsap is the absence of specific agricultural zoning, an issue currently being addressed by the county’s Food and Farm Policy Council. A strategic plan report for agriculture in Kitsap, released last month by Chase Economics, is available on the Kitsap Food Chain website. This report provides an excellent summary of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the agricultural sector in the county.

For any readers interested in learning more about farming in Kitsap, or learning more about farming skills in general, the WSU Extension is offering a West Sound Small Farms Expo in Bremerton on March 5th. This is an all-day event with courses on Agritourism, Horticulture, Food Systems, and even Charcuterie. Community interest in relearning traditional farming knowledge is enormous -- a similar event hosted by the WSU Snohomish Extension in January drew over 800 people seeking instruction in farm management and animal husbandry. Find out more about the Kitsap event by clicking on this link.