Tag: Architecture

When Good Design Meets Design for Good – How to Build with the Users in Mind

good design

When it comes to architecture and urban design we often hear about the designer’s intentions but we hear less often about the impact the design has upon users. But according to John Cary good design must be considered within the web of impacts on users, stakeholders, and community.

At every level, design is a matrix of relationships—from clients who make decisions about projects to designers who bring life to those clients’ visions. In between, in a health-care setting, for example, are users who range from doctors and nurses to patients and family visitors, among many others. Then there are those who give physical form to the structures: construction workers, artisans, craftspeople, and scores of others.

Consider the picture above – a corridor built of natural materials that incorporates sunlight as a design element to create a pleasing, calming and wholesome environment. This is part of the St. Jerome’s Centre, a home for disadvantaged children in Kenya. One of the requirements of the center was security, meaning that the building had to be constructed like a fortress with no outside windows. To compensate for this the designers built courtyards with screens to filter sunlight. The materials were produced with sustainable methods, using discarded materials from local manufacturing.

The effect of St. Jerome’s Centre is to give street children not just a place to be, but a place to be whole and thrive.

Read more of John Cary’s thoughts on design as a public good at City Lab.

15 Ways to Use Public Space to Make a City More Liveable

Hosier Lane, Melbourne Australia by Dale Bowerman via Business Insider

Hosier Lane, Melbourne Australia by Dale Bowerman via Business Insider

Business Insider’s title for their urban round-up is a little off – 15 of the most beautiful public spaces in the world, according to urban designers makes you think you’ll be seeing a dozen parks or outdoor malls. In fact what you’re getting is an overview of how insightful urban planning can transform a city center by considering the greatest public good.

Some of these include:

Millenium Park, Chicago Illinois – 25 acres of prime downtown real estate that makes the surrounding area more valuable because it brings joy to the public.

Borehamwood, England – A quaint but not spectacular town became more vibrant – and walkable – when automobile traffic was restricted.

Hosier Lane, Melbourne, Australia – This nondescript alley became a technicolor art experience when city planners allowed street artists to take over.

Two Dozen Free/Cheap Things to Do in Los Angeles – Plus a Few

Santa Monica pier

Santa Monica pier at night | Photo: ™ Pacheco via Matador network

Los Angeles is such a sprawling place that you have to plan carefully how to explore. Matador Network serves up nearly two dozen free or cheap things to do in the city of Angels that give you a real taste of the city – arguably much more so than a trip to Universal Studios.

You might not think of Los Angeles as a place to take in nature but Matador’s list even serves up a few waterfalls:

22. Go chasing waterfalls.
Cost: Free + gas + parking

There isn’t a ton of flowing fresh water in L.A., but if you know where to look there are trails that lead the adventurer to some small (hey, we take what we can get around here!) cascades. Wear sturdy shoes, sun protection, and bring plenty of water when doing any hiking.

Waterfalls to visit:

Monrovia Falls: An easy 1.7-mile hike from Monrovia Canyon Park entrance station (in Monrovia).
Eaton Canyon Falls: About 1.8 miles from the parking lot at the trailhead in Altadena and a very popular hike. If you have fantasies of having the waterfall to yourself, think again! Expect crowds.
Santa Ynez Falls: Perhaps easiest accessed from the trail system emanating from Topanga State Park. It’s about a 2.5-mile hike to the falls from the TSP parking lot.

To Matador’s list I’d add:

1) Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, everything you’ve ever seen in Core77 is on this street.(Check out the canals while you’re there.)
2) Central Library in Los Angeles – The Mother Lode of Art Deco
3) The Getty Museum – There are actually two Getty museums, Getty Center and Getty Villa. Both are free but you’ll need to pay for parking and at the Villa you need to make reservations.

The secret to enjoying Los Angeles is to visit neighborhoods that are close together – and avoid the 10 freeway if you can.

Lightweight Cardboard House Can Be Installed in One Day – Designed to Be Permanent

modular cardboard house

Modular cardboard Wikklehouse finished with wood panels | Photo © Wikkelhouse / Yvonne Witte

Cardboard has long been the stuff of dreams – the joke is that at Christmas children spend less time playing with a toy than with the box it came in. And few things are more exciting than the arrival of a new appliance and a box that can become an instant fortress or playhouse.

Now it’s cardboard’s chance to come of age with Wikkelhouse, a project for building modular housing developed by the Netherlands design firm Fiction Factory.

The houses are framed and then spun from rolls of cardboard on an armature in a factory. The cardboard is waterproofed, the modules are paneled inside and then shipped to their final location.

This is by no means the first time cardboard has been used as a permanent building material. But it might be one of the most energy efficient ways to build small scale dwellings.

[Via Contemporist]

Is Apple’s New HQ Really a View of the Future? Or Just a Blast from Our Suburban Past?

General Motors' PR Vision of the Corporate Park via Collector's Weekly

General Motors’ PR Vision of the Corporate Park via Collector’s Weekly

The idea behind the flying-saucer design of Apple’s new headquarters is to generate plenty of cross-traffic and promote serendipitous encounters. That may be the case, but according to an article by Hunter Oatman-Stanford in Collector’s Weekly the design really isn’t terribly new.

Connecticut General’s new corporate estate included snack bars, ping-pong tables, shuffleboards, bowling alleys, tennis courts, horseshoe pits, a barbershop, beauty parlor, game room, media library, meditation room, and gas station, as well as offsite services like dry-cleaning, shoe repair, flowers, and grocery delivery—more than half a century before Google and Facebook added such benefits.

When tech giants like Apple, Google and IBM locate their headquarters in sprawling suburban business parks they put pressure on workers to commute farther, spend more of their day on-site, and interact with a less diverse group of people than if the companies were based in the city, according to Oatman-Stanford.

Silicon Valley’s tech industry puts enormous strain on the housing markets in the suburbs where the companies are located and inflated the cost of housing in remote communities. Oatman-Stanford hints that there’s an element of classism if not outright racism behind the corporate HQ’s flight from the city.

Contrast today’s corporate park with Samuel Colt’s vision for Coltsville, a central factory connected to a cluster of affordable high quality homes, a family sporting complex, a church, a museum, schools, even a sustainable grove of willow trees to provide renewable resources. It seems like the 19th century city plan is the one that looks futuristic.

[via @PlacesJournal]


Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper – Revitalizing Public Areas on a Shoestring Budget


Lunch for 500 neighbors in Akron Ohio via popupcity.net

Lunch for 500 neighbors in Akron Ohio via popupcity.net

It doesn’t take a lot to create a sense of place and purpose. Think about how children will string a clothesline between two chairs, throw a blanket over it and immediately have a magical “tent-fort” that is somehow better and more purposeful than the room it inhabits.

That’s the idea behind “lighter, quicker, cheaper” placemaking. Architecture, redevelopment and urban renewal take a long time. We’re talking centuries…and a LOT of money.

But what if we want a good, vital place to be right now? That’s where LQC comes in. Check out the Pinterest board for lighter, quicker, cheaper spaces worldwide and you see dozens of ways people have been able to reinvent public spaces semi-permanently (is any architecture permanent?) and created vital, active spaces.

Also of interest: Pop-Up City

Order an Ultramodern Home – Starting at $38,000 | Shipping Containers

Honomobo container house via Gizmag

Honomobo container house via Gizmag

Shipping containers have been a promising alternative to prefab architecture at least since Stewart Brand’s Sausalito research library. According to Gizmag there is now a Canadian firm called Honomobo that will drop one of these ready-to-inhabit home spaces on your lot for the price of a basic remodel.

Of course you’ll have to work out the zoning regulations with your local municipality. Other than that Honomobo units can be ordered with everything you need to live, from solar power to hot water and electric heating.

If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer you can always buy your own shipping container (for $1200 to $5000 and up) and equip it on your own.