The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has created a video in which industry leaders talk about how to make tall buildings liveable.
The video is part of an ongoing series by the council addressing big-picture questions about tall buildings.
Archive for the ‘Planning’ Category
The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has created a video in which industry leaders talk about how to make tall buildings liveable.
One would think that moving to the Bay Area would afford great advantages for a mid-career urban planner/designer. What with all of the cutting edge parking management and parklets, there is so much to learn. After 10 months I’m beginning to understand the ins and outs of planning in California. Though there are things that I miss about Washington besides the rain. The one thing I never thought I would reminisce about; I find myself mentioning in even non-planner company, the Growth Management Act.
That delightful piece of state policy borne of the exponential growth of the 80’s and 90’s (and often blamed on Californians) is the one key legislation that is so obviously non-existent in the Golden State, that I find myself quoting it endlessly. While the recession has stemmed the tide of suburban growth, and California has in many places adopted smart growth policies and embraced new urbanism for what it’s worth. The fact remains that most California policy and legislation does not have the teeth or the checks and balances of the Washington GMA. Though the State has recently worked to tie Green House Gas emissions to Vehicle Miles Traveled, it’s not strong enough to define a minimum density to limit suburban or exurban growth in a meaningful way. California continues to grapple with its love for the automobile- even while proposing to tear down freeways. While the ex-urbs continue to expand and demand all of the public transit, freeways and other services that support urban areas. I try restrain myself from asking, “What about your urban growth boundary?”.
For all its idiosyncrasies, the GMA is a valuable tool for the urban planner and I for one, miss it greatly.
Voters in downtown Los Angeles have approved key financing for a $125-million streetcar project, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.
The streetcar would run mainly along Broadway, and Hill and Figueroa streets, three of downtown’s main arteries, connecting various neighbors, including the old banking district, South Park, Civic Center and the fashion district.
Seattle’s 2.5-mile First Hill streetcar line is slated to be complete in the spring of 2014. It will go from Pioneer Square to Broadway and Denny on Capitol Hill.
Seattle has a number of walkable neighborhoods, from Capitol Hill to Belltown. An article in The Atlantic Cities offers 10 tips for making cities more walkable
HBB Landscape Architecture has created the Palletable Plants Park, a temporary installation in a parking space in front of the firm’s Seattle office at 215 Westlake Ave. N.
The “park” highlights edible and ornamental plants while showing what can be done with little more than an open parking space, recycled materials and versatile plants. It also has furnishings constructed from recycled pallets.
The installation is part of PARK(ing) Day, an annual one-day-a-year worldwide event designed to show what cities would look like if more public space was allocated for parks, recreation and social interaction rather than for cars.
Locally the event is sponsored this year by the Seattle Department of Transportation. A total of 14 parking spaces, almost all downtown, have been temporarily converted by groups and firms into everything from a photo booth to a Bocce ball court to a place where you can challenge your inner pedestrian by getting a Transportation Tarot Reading.
As part of Park(ing) Day, a number of local organizations, including Feet First, are sponsoring an event in Pioneer Square, which turns Occidental Park, Nord Alley and parking spots on Main Street into a summer lawn party. It ends at 2 p.m. today.
Nine of the 20 tallest buildings under construction in the world are located in China, which is now leading the way in the development of supertall buildings, according to the latest research study by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.
There are 239 buildings taller than 200 meters in advanced stages of development in China, far more than any other country. In 2011 alone China completed 23 buildings taller than 200 meters, which was also the top in the world, CTBUH’s research found.
At the end of 2011, there were only 61 buildings taller than 300 meters in the world; by 2017 China alone will have more than 60.
China’s ascendancy represents a fundamental shift in the construction of supertall buildings. In 1970, 92 of the world’s 100 tallest buildings were located in North America. By the end of 2012 only 29 of the top 100 will be in North America.
“China is dealing with the issues and challenges of developing urban environments on a massive scale,” said Timothy Johnson, chairman of the CTBUH and a partner in NBBJ, in a press release.
The surge in tall building developments in China has drawn criticism recently, with some charging that the buildings are too big and too expensive. A recent newspaper editorial referred to skyscrapers as “white elephants.”
The volume and height of tall building development in China is unprecedented. In 1990 there were five buildings taller than 200 meters in China; by the end of 2012 there will be 249.
The list of towers under development includes the 660-meter Ping An Finance Center, which will be the second tallest building in the world when it is completed, most likely in 2015, and the 632-meter Shanghai Tower.
In today’s world of signage and ads plastered everywhere, it seems odd to advocate more. But here we are…some local cornerstones might be missing out on customers, and signage could change that.
The Seattle Center offers great examples. Atop the Space Needle, two comments from the visiting throng seem most frequent aside from ones about Mt. Rainier: kids shouting “there’s McDonald’s, with the “M” on the roof,” and people of all ages asking “what’s that building with all the colors?” The Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum seem to have an awareness issue among tourists. Many of these people are presumably wondering what to do after the Needle, and might love to know about two of our best museums, which might even get the kids excited. Some signage viewable from 520 feet, not to mention some other angles nearby, seems worth the expense.
The Center House (ok, the “Armory”) is gradually adding new food outlets. But some break a cardinal rule of food courts: you can’t read the signs from across the room, particularly from some directions, and even if you can read the sign they’re not always clear from 150′ away about the cuisines they offer. Many visitors walk in, stand in one place, and decide what to eat, particularly families. The big signs seem to be winning. They’re aided of course by people’s familiarity with brand names, vs. local sellers who might have an artsy name and then, like Skillet, use smaller secondary signage to explain what they sell. For example Starbucks tends to have a line all day, often an absurdly long one (dammit), but a little coffee stand nearby goes mostly unnoticed, though in its defense it does say “coffee” if you’re looking from the south. For the Armory itself, a little of that “M” mojo would be useful too; why not tell Space Needle visitors above that food is available next door?
The new City Target is a welcome addition to Downtown. Their signage is clear – if you’re a block away, looking up, and familiar with their logo. But walking by, even the logo isn’t as easily seen. On high-traffic Pike especially, shouldn’t there be something pointed at pedestrians, a little above your head, that gives you some indication that it’s a Target store? Maybe even something that say they sell groceries, electronics, etc.? There’s a sign listing departments but it’s flush with the exterior and in small font, mostly useful as wayfinding for those about to walk in.
In Belltown there’s a place called Form/Space Atelier. It’s downstairs out of sight with only a small sign by the street entrance. After years of vaguely wondering what it is, this blog post was impetus to WebCrawler them. Turns out they’re an art gallery, not a furniture store. Good to know. Perhaps the sign by the door could have the word “gallery” added, unless this knowledge is
intentionally being closely held, or only for people who know that an atelier is typically the “workshop of an artist in the fine or decorative arts” according to wikipedia?
Again, the world has plenty of ads and signs. Actually far too many. But sometimes an addition is welcome – descriptive, not in anyone’s way, and pointed at likely customers.
The American Institute of Architects Seattle has sent a letter to the city council in support of proposed changes in the land use code that would eliminate the requirement for parking within a ¼ mile radius of “transit rich” areas of the city. Go here to see the letter. You can also read more about the issue in a post by SeattleScape contributor Matt Hays.
Generally it’s a good idea to focus transit service on trunk lines, to put the service where the most riders are. So, generally, King County Metro should be congratulated for its proposed route changes.
But that’s not the only priority. While nobody expects Metro to go everywhere, it shouldn’t cut entire neighborhoods off, particularly job centers where workers have grown to rely upon transit, which benefits all of us as well as the riders. Outside the major nodes it’s ok to ask people to walk, in excess of a half-mile in some cases, but how much beyond that is ok?
Harbor Island is about to lose its service entirely outside of the SW Spokane Street corridor at the south end. It’s more than a mile from there to the northern-most employers such as Vigor Marine and Crowley, much of it not particularly safe or comfortable, particularly in the dark. Today Route 35 runs two buses each rush hour (none the rest of the time), a bit
The current riders don’t want much, or so says the one who inspired this post — just a couple trips up the island at rush hour, ideally including one a little later than the current 4:09. Something a few blocks from work rather than the solid mile.
Solutions might be a special looping version of Route 50 a couple times per rush hour (either in addition to or instead of the main 50), or a separate rush hour shuttle connecting from the 50 to the north end of the island. Neither would be free, but either would be cheap vs. deleting a whole district from service.
Transit should help the the city function well, and parallel our regional strategy. Harbor Island packs a lot of economic punch, cramming in a lot of seaport and industry uses. It’s done this for generations. We’re not talking about leapfrogging new development and expecting new public services to cover it. This is about serving what’s existed for generations, and an existing community of riders.
Please don’t cut off this community.
Ground Zero – Melrose and Pine
To read the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog and its various commenters, that’s exactly how you might describe the current local sentiment about the impending redevelopment of a site at the southeast corner of this key “gateway” intersection, as it’s identified in the City of Seattle’s Pike/Pine Design Guidelines.
But seriously the collection of structures at this site (most recognizable as the “Bauhaus Books and Coffee” block) is definitely a character-defining element of the Pike-Pine Corridor, both in terms of its historic structures and some much-loved, iconic businesses located therein. In addition, as its “gateway” identification connotes, it’s one of the first remarkable collection of older, character-defining buildings as one arrives to the neighborhood from Downtown.
And now comes Madison Development Group (MDG) with a proposal to redevelop the entire site with a mixed-use building, which naturally raises local hackles. Why, ask many locals, do these sites need to be redeveloped when they contain such lovely buildings?
Well, market forces are obviously at play here, combined with permissive zoning that allows substantially more development potential than the existing buildings embody – as the City implements its growth-management-sympathetic goals of accommodating urban growth, supporting transit-oriented communities and generally building urban villages. In fact, the zoning has allowed greater development there for decades. But market forces are finally catching up with that development potential.
What tempers the all-out higher development potential of the underlying zoning are the above-mentioned Pike/Pine Design Guidelines that contain some very specific language encouraging the most sensitive design possible where “character structures” are involved. In essence, within the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District such “character structures” should be incorporated to the greatest extent feasible within the new development scheme. Some purists scoff at this, labeling it as a “façadectomy” approach to historic-building conservation, but frankly, short of full-on landmark or preservation-district level of control, that’s about the most the City can do legally to “conserve” these character-defining elements of such a neighborhood (be that Pike/Pine, Fremont or Greenwood).
What we should all hope for now is that MDG and its architects live up to the challenge to bring a truly sympathetic solution to this thorny design problem. Somewhere between preservation of the buildings as-is and a pastiche-level façadectomy approach should be the right, elegant solution that melds the character and essence of these historic buildings with a handsome, contemporary companion. This can be done, but it takes a high level of finesse not often seen in this neighborhood or elsewhere in Seattle . I won’t drag you through my list of successes and failures, but suffice it to say there have been some recent examples in this very neighborhood of both elegant additions, breathing new life into character buildings, and awkward, heavy-handed boxes abruptly shoved down on top of historic buildings. Let’s hope the former examples inspire MDG, not the latter!
To learn more about the planned redevelopment, go to http://www.djc.com/news/re/12039698.html