Smart Community Design Visualization

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Starting with a barren asphalt parking lot, I love this visualization of the walkable design for a shopping district in Glenview, IL [via]. It is all about transforming the character of a place. If only more designs were presented this way, convincing people wouldn’t be so difficult.

Another example of how small (and inexpensive) changes in a Memphis neighborhood can go a long way in rejuvenating community life.

Vote for Gateway National Recreation Area Design finalists

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Do you know of a national park near New York City? Probably not. The Gateway National Recreation Area spreads over more than 26,000 acres and is located on the New York-New Jersey harbor and coastline. This national recreation area was crated in 1972 and provides recreational opportunities for more than 22 million tri-state area residents while protecting the natural and urban ecologies of the system.

Gateway National Recreation Area Design finalists

The Gateway National Recreation Area is currently planning on furthering the potential of the park and with the help of Van Alen Institute, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), and Columbia University are conducting a design competition. The competition has already attracted more than 100 architects, planners, and conservationists. The finalists are posted online and are pretty impressive. In a rare move, the competition has now moved to the voting stage where the public votes on the design of their choice. Head over and vote for the design of your choice; especially so if you live in the tri-state area. Conservation and protection of the last vestiges of our ecology are of utmost importance however it is equally important for us to reconnect with our natural habitat even if it is for recreational purposes.

Urban Landscaping

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I was in Singapore in the late 90s. It was a trip planned at the last minute and right in the middle of a college week. However the opportunity was simply too good to miss (in India or at least in typical middle-class households, missing a day of school is unthinkable unless you are on your deathbed). It was my first ‘foreign’ trip and being in architecture school at that time, all my attention was on the urbanscape details. Having heard of the amazing job that Lee Kuan Yew had done to transform a fishing village to a bustling metropolis, I was ready to see a thriving city dotted with umpteen flyovers, wide lanes of road filled with fast traffic, and gleaming glass skyscrapers (yeah! I had a skewed sense of what makes for good urbanscape).

But as soon as I landed at the Changi Airport, I was blown away by how green the city was. Green as in landscape profusely; not just in grand city parks that we normally associate with a landscaped city but also in small details like traffic islands, road dividers, and even the space under the flyovers. Govindraj had a similar experience recently and he took additional effort to find the secret of making a city green. He learned that Lee Kuan Yew took personal interest in the subject of soil and vegetation, trees and drainage, climate and fertilizers:

In an equatorial forest, as Lee learnt, with big tall trees forming a canopy, the rain water drips down. But in Singapore, the trees had been chopped down, it would all come down in a big wash. So Lee decided that fertilizers would replenish the soil and began the task of making the compost from rubbish dumps, adding calcium and lime where the ground was too acidic.

Lee asked his officials to find out which plants could survive below the flyovers where the sun did not shine much. And instead of having to water these plants regularly, which was expensive, he got his officials to find a way to channel water from the roads, after filtering it to get rid of the oil and grime from the traffic above.

Govindraj is right in observing that although Singapore is geographically located in a hot tropical zone, thanks to the urban greenery you feel a lot more at ease. Greenery in Singapore, as we learnt isn’t an accident but a deliberate attempt led from the top. It is true when they say that great cities don’t just happen but have to be shaped either by individuals with foresight or an ever-interested community.

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[tags]Singapore, urban, Lee Kuan Yew[/tags]

Orienting your office space

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Inspired by Roger Ulrich’s findings on health care design that shed light on therapeutic landscape i.e. patients whose windows looked onto a green landscape had shorter postoperative stays, took fewer pain medications, and received fewer negative medical evaluations, Reg Adkins shares similar insights on ‘nudging’ your office:

  • Choose the corner that is furthest from your entrance for your desk. You will then be in a position to control your work which enhances your confidence.
  • Face in the general direction of the door when conducting business. This symbolism will help you remain open to possibilities.
  • Mirrors create distraction and anxiety. They leach away your control of the environment. Keep them away from your work area.

Read the rest at Adkins’s Elemental Truth. Now I would slightly wary of following these guidelines without completely understanding their significance. Vaastu Shastra, the ancient Indian architecture guide has also been reduced to a similar set of specific guidelines that emphasize more on spirituality instead of climate orientation that it was initially based on. The effects of therapeutic landscape are psychological as well as elemental in terms of environment and climate (hence the advice to go live seaside for some ailments). I hope such guidelines do not cross the bridge to blind faith and remain rooted to factual findings as Ulrich did.