Archive for the ‘Vision’ Tag

Vision for Visioning

Nice 4 story houses overlooking a square near centre city London

Nice 4 story houses overlooking a square near centre city London

It’s hard to have to pull together a consensus on a whole community of people, if not impossible. Determining which public inputs and ideas are better may lead to compromising some other goals determined by the community. A community likely cannot be walkable and transit oriented if the goal of the community is for everyone to own a car. The trade offs between values like these are ones where community visioners must extract the most important details from.

Talking amongst the community members may eventually take shape into an idea of what the community wants to look like, but there are other tools that are much more effective and time efficient. In today’s world of globalization, there are many communities that feature more than one primary language. Talking might not just be an option to gather a fair public input. This brings me to the most important tool in visioning: visual representation. Visual representation can be anything from charts to blue prints to computer designed buildings and areas. Upon seeing these representations, people can choose whether or not they agree the mechanisms brought forth by the visioner has a place in their community. Visual representation of ideas is the best way to communicate because there is a clearer understanding of what is being presented with little room for self interpretation and there is no foreign language that needs interpreting.  There are many more case-specific reasons visual representations are great tools for community visioning, but this should tickle the mind of anyone seeking a community visioning process.

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Student Intern, Vertices LLC

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Building Design and Visioning

Sjöstad, Sweden

Sjöstad, Sweden

Building design is becoming more integrated into modern visioning. Preferences and styles of everyone cannot be fully explained as economists say, but there are some aspects of building design that are in high demand. For instance, in urban culture it is now in style to design buildings that encourage human interaction. This may seem tough to translate building styles into human interaction, but let me explain.

As a case study, I present to you Sjöstad, a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden. Sjöstad was built in a previously brownfield area around Stockholm, but since 1996 it has experienced planning and growth as residents have started to move in town. There is already shops, parks, and transit available for all the newcomers. But Sjöstad is interesting because due to the planning specifications and outlines, Sjöstad was thought to attract more older couples with its medium sized balconies and 5 to 6 story buildings, but instead “young couples 25 to 35 predominate.” Maybe it is the nearby skiing.

But in all seriousness, according to irishtimes.com there are a few aspects that make Sjöstad more desirable and hip. One of those was mentioned before- the balconies. Balconies encourage people to be outside while still at home. They also encourage people to be involved in street life activity. For example, if someone happened to be out on their porch and saw a friend walk by on the way to the shops, they would be able to see each other, talk about the kids, or make plans for the night. People would also inevitably talk to their neighbors if they were out having morning coffee on their balcony as well.

In addition to balconies, planners and architects used some other basic building design principals that I will quote straight from the Irish Times:

“Architecturally, a five-point programme was laid down. New buildings had to follow “traditional Stockholm inner-city character” but with larger apartments, greater variation between buildings in terms of emphasis on outdoor spaces, balconies and terraces, flat roofs and greater variation of materials.”

I wish to point out the variation between buildings. Here in New Jersey, not too far from Rutgers University, there are many communities where you cannot tell one neighborhood, let alone a block from another. There are entire communities made up of the exact same 3 or 4 “cookie cutter” houses. Every place ends up looking the same and as a result, places lose their individuality. The details of building design described above help create a special place- and Sjöstad has noted people enjoy it by entertaining 12,000 tourists a year (according to Irish Times), and its not even completed yet!

The last point I want to hit on is the newer planners and architects that went into executing the Sjöstad plan. Instead of highly experienced architects and planners, younger, fresh minds and ideas were employed that focused on these new concepts that buildings encourage interaction. There was also a good deal of focus on sustainability. I would argue that a large proportion of experienced architects and planners do not focus enough on the sustainability aspect. I will be sure to talk about more sustainable design in the future.

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Intern, Vertices LLC

The article from the Irish Times can be found here

Princeton Future: A community visioning plan for Princeton, NJ

A typical street scene on Nassau Street

A typical street scene on Nassau Street

Princeton has always been known for the small historic college town that it is. Princeton Future is a grassroots program designed to get the locals involved in the planning and policy of their town. There are several hot debates in Princeton about planning, and the one that I most consistently hear about is parking and traffic.

Thankfully, one meeting attendee “advocated a plan to get people out of their cars.” Now of course in this day of age it may be political suicide in most instances to take on people and their cars, but as planners and the local residents see their town continue to grow, the way to allieviate traffic and parking issues may be to limit the opportunities to have to drive.

For an example, the Town Topics weekly Princeton newspaper says that instead of granting variances to developers to meet parking requirements, developers should have to pay into a fund that should be designed to help mass transit options. The theory is that by doing so, it will help the traffic problem while also avoiding a need for more large parking areas. If by making public transit more accessible and convienient can help reduce each household by, on average, half a car, the fund should be viewed as a success.

However, as Kevin Wilkes puts it, “[sustainability] speaks to social and economic conditions, as well as those of energy and the environment.” He added: “[it is imperative] that we keep our population at all income levels present and happily working in town.” In other words, the whole goal of the visioning process should be catered around the needs of the people already living and working there, but also allow for economic growth. Many argue that Princeton’s parking problem is driving economic opportunities to more accessible places, so they need to create more parking to avoid such. However, I believe that planners must realize that catering too much to cars  destroys the walkability and small town feel that Princeton has been known and loved for.

Max Stember-Young, Rutgers University Intern, Vertices LLC

All material in this post have come from http://www.towntopics.com

Picture from Wikipedia (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/32/Holder_Tower_Nassau_Street_Princeton.jpg)