Designing Cities for All Seasons

By |May 12th, 2016|Categories: Ideas & Tools|

By Kevin Fraser It is May, and spring has officially arrived in Charlottesville, Virginia. The feeling is palpable: birds chirping, bees buzzing, and residents venturing outside in droves. For much of the planet, however, a different scene is playing out. In the Southern Hemisphere, the recent equinox was autumnal, beckoning an impending winter. For those inhabiting northern regions, the aforementioned spring display may seem a fanciful notion; a yet-distant reality, groundhog predictions notwithstanding. Which begs the question: what design interventions exist to leverage the unique aspects of cooler climates and make the shorter, less hospitable days more palatable? Skating, snowshoeing, and skiing are undoubtedly ingrained winter pastimes throughout much of Canada and the United States. But all of these could be considered destination activities in that they are likely to behoove a car trip and travel to a resort, chalet, or ice rink. For urban dwellers, besides the latter – [...]

Daylighting from Different Angles

By |April 10th, 2016|Categories: Design, Ideas & Tools|

By Katherine Gloede Blurring sometimes rigid boundaries between indoors and outdoors is key to biophilic design. Maximization of natural light, or daylighting, is a key ingredient ripe with obvious benefits and unique opportunities. Natural light reduces daytime energy use and fulfills our inherent attraction to affiliate with nature. This particular connection with the outdoors improves our circadian rhythm and brain function. A the University of Copenhagen, the Green Lighthouse uses daylighting to reach carbon neutrality. Completed in 2009, the student and faculty center is cylindrical, allowing sunlight to penetrate glazing at different angles throughout the day. At the building’s center, a long spiral staircase is bathed in sunlight from dawn until dusk. Solar shading ensures that, while light disperses, the building is not overheated during summer. Beyond reduced energy dependence, daylighting with angular intentionality puts ancient knowledge to use—our foremost calendar and timepiece is the sun. Around the same time [...]

The 606 Chicago

By |November 29th, 2015|Categories: Ideas & Tools|

by Megan Friedman In a city infamous for its towering skyscrapers and ability to spearhead industrial innovation, Chicago has recently turned toward reclaiming unused infrastructure and developing new urban public green spaces. One of these remarkable projects is the 606--a 2.7 mile, community-centric bike trail and park system. Designed as a lush green playground, the trail acts as a community connector between four neighborhoods. It provides an alternative (and perhaps more convenient) uninterrupted commute through the city. Historically, Chicago was a central port for goods across America. Seemingly all trains crossed through the city--connecting the eastern side of the country with the western portion. Following the city’s burgeoning growth, rail lines were elevated to avoid conflict between residents and crossings. One of these lines, parallel to Bloomingdale Avenue is today the Bloomingdale Trail--the pedestrian and bike trail portion of the 606. When traffic on the line was re-routed after little [...]

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Trail design guidelines for children and families

By |November 29th, 2015|Categories: Ideas & Tools|

by Julie Murphy When it comes to connecting children to nature in cities, trails are vital. Trails, pathways, and greenways are like arteries of nature in cities. They connect neighborhoods, parks, destinations, and create opportunities for meandering exploration. They may be destinations for runners and cyclists as well as bird watchers and hikers. So why focus particularly on kids and families? Today’s kids need nature more than ever (see the Children and Nature Network website and Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods, in the resources section below, for more).Most cities and park systems have lots of trails, but children and families don’t often use them. Young children have particular needs and designing trails with them in mind can help make the trails more accessible for people of all ages.  There are a few simple ways cities and parks systems can both design new trails and modify existing trails so [...]

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