Urban design

Dealing with urban design

Charrette devises plan for ‘Walkable Towson’

A major suburban center near Baltimore will likely become much more congenial for pedestrians, thanks to a six-day charrette sponsored by Baltimore County. The charrette, led by Stuart Sirota of TND Planning Group, produced a plan that calls for redesigning a hazardous roundabout, converting one-way streets and roads to two-way traffic, and connecting a large, existing shopping mall to the downtown section of Towson, Maryland.

A campus for India, shaped like a mandala

Vedanta, the largest new university in the world, will have a plan that draws from Indian spiritual traditions.

On an expanse of flat rural land near the Bay of Bengal, earth-moving is to get under way this fall for an extraordinary institution. Vedanta University — to be built with a billion dollars donated by Indian industrialist Anil Agarwal — will have a shape like no other university on the planet (see plan on page 1).

The recovery of urbanism:

Alley-loaded and on-street parking can easily make new urbanist neighborhoods more than competitive with sprawl in lower-density situations.  In denser center and core zones, though, the parking issue truly comes to the fore. By its basic nature, parking forces uses apart, disrupting the adjacencies that make for effective and efficient urbanism. New Urbanism must provide parking, but not at the cost of coherence.

A 54-acre expansion of downtown Savannah

A 54-acre expansion of the downtown of Savannah, Georgia, extends the historic city’s connection to the Savannah River. The plan for Savannah River Landing, initiated by the city, includes a series of squares based on the city’s famous Oglethorpe plan. It generally emulates the urban design and architectural patterns of Savannah. Christian Sottile, a professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design, was primarily responsible for the plan, New Urban News was told by Brian Brodrick of Jackson Spalding, a spokesman for the developer.

Andrews University students create new urban plan for Gulf Coast

Andrews University students recently created a new urban plan for a small community in Harrison County, Mississippi, that is experiencing significant growth in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Saucier, which has about 200 people in its village center, sits at the junction of Highway 49 from Gulfport and the new Highway 67 from Biloxi.

Stormwater management as civic art

How to handle rainwater in ways that accentuate placemaking

In times past, engineers often integrated elements of civic art, architecture, and history into a city’s parkways, bridges, and other public necessities. In doing so, they enhanced the character of the urban environment. Today, when engineering often deals with the environment, there is an opportunity once again to serve civic purposes — by handling rainwater well.

Typology and urbanism: The disposition of types

The most recent Technical Page outlined the idea of typology — an ordered assembly of building types — as a basis for making good urbanism. Any fully developed building type manifests three consistently characteristic aspects; its function,  its configuration, and its disposition. Function is the broad range and mix of activities which may be well-harbored in a building manifesting a given type; it is not the narrow, unreachable-in-practice, mono-use tailoring of Modernist theorization.

Plan caption: The organic block and street structure

A 160-acre, 1,000-unit traditional neighborhood development (TND) was planned in early September for a quarter-section greenfield site in Omaha, Nebraska. The organic nature of the block structure created by planner Placemakers and lead urban designer Bill Dennis is in sharp contrast to the geometrically square site (see plan). The block and street pattern grew out of natural landscape features, the planners said.

Reston Town Center: a downtown for the 21st century?

A handsome new book from Academy Press in Washington, DC, carries the inflated title Reston Town Center: A Downtown for the 21st Century. A more accurate, less puffed-up title would have been “Reston Town Center: A Downtown for the Suburbs.” The tradition-influenced center in northern Virginia’s 1960s “New Town” pursues a number of new urbanist ideas very skillfully, but falls short of being an ideal for cities, or for the century as a whole.

A plaza shared by vehicles and pedestrians

Downtown Montgomery will soon have a new plaza much like those in Europe. The Alabama city was about to rebuild an intersection around the 1885-vintage Court Street fountain when Ken Groves, head of the city planning department, asked Rick Hall and DeWayne Carver of Hall Planning and Engineering in Tallahassee to review the construction drawings. Hall and Carver saw the fountain area — which terminates a view down Dexter Avenue from the Capitol — as a place that would be congenial both for vehicles and for people on foot if designed and built properly.

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