Friday, December 11, 2009

Empowerment 2.0

With transit fare hikes being a hot topic in the city this fourth quarter, Torontonians are finding new ways to express their ideas and discontents. The benefits of social media seem to be measured by the amount of action TTC Chair Adam Giambrone's Facebook page receives daily - where thousands of Toronto residents have access to him directly voice their concern on the City's biggest service.

This online forum allows for real-time conversations and provides anonymity to citizens to voice their concerns. It is even able to attract those who are not politically inclined to participate and to do so in the comfort of their homes, expanding on the idea of the public forum by creating a digital one. Traditional forms of capacity building and the empowerment are done in a new way, addressing concerns with the goals of facilitating change in their communities.

Use of social networking around the world (courtesy of Weboptium)

I had a chance to speak with Mr. Giambrone - when he wasn't busy wearing TTC Chair or Ward 18 Councillor hats - about this new form of communication for the City and if it is a useful forum for him to inform decisions. As he is active in posting and responding, and with the public participation being there, he simply declared, "It works for me."

Not all Councilors utilize this resource, but think of the change it would bring to the political process for the city, and any metropolitan area for that matter. It would be a responsible move to react to these changes but even Giambrone questions, "I don't know how many councillors will respond."

It would be beneficial for a politician to have an online presence to interact with their constituents, and equally beneficial for them to participate in the discussions. Although this movement isn't mainstream yet, it proves to be a great forum to voice your opinions and add to the discussions happening within your city.

I challenge you to find your local politicians on Facebook and Twitter. If you can't, then bug them to get connected! With life moving at a 21st century pace, it should be part of their job description.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

New York Street Design

Earlier this year, New York Citys Department of Transportation released their Street Design Manual, with the purpose of being a guide towards quality design and sound implementation. After defining street typologies, the document continues to outline how people interact with the space, the materials used, and aesthetics, specifically lighting and furniture considerations.

The manuals overall goals are:

1. Design for Safety: Move people and goods safely.
2. Design for Access and Mobility: Accommodate all street users,giving priority to the most energy– and space efficient modes.
3. Design for Context: Respond to neighborhood character.
4. Design for Livability: Create a vibrant public realm with high–quality public spaces.
5. Design for Sustainability: Contribute to a healthier andmore sustainable environment.
6. Design for Visual Excellence: Create coherent and harmonious streetscapes.
7. Design for Cost–Effectiveness: Provide the greatest possible value to the public.

These ideas are expanded upon here.

These guides are fun reads as they look towards innovations and successes from cities all around the world, attempting to apply international ideas to their respective city. After all, a good design can work anywhere.

The Street Design Manual can be found via New York Citys DOT.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Google SketchUp Pro 7

I just upgraded to SketchUp Pro 7 and have been playing around with it for most of the day. I love being finished school for the semester :0)

Since my work on it isn't as good as the SketchUp promotional photos, I will post this video explaining what you can do with version 7.1 instead.

Shout outs to Google for making it so easy and so free (monetarily speaking).

Download via Google SketchUp.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Wonderwall Inc.

Fred Perry Moscow by Wonderwall

I had to post this.

I'm a sucker for retail store design - boutiques, in particular - and after doing some reading I found out that a single firm is behind creating the retail identity of several of my favourite brands.

Out of Japan, Wonderwall is the leading firm in the retail design business, creating unique experiences within commercial spaces all over the world since 2000. Their work isn't limited to interiors as they also have creative direction over architectural design.

A.P.C. store in Kita-Aoyama, Tokyo

View portfolio via Wonderwall.

Frank O. Gehry "since 1997" Exhibition

Walt Disney Concert Hall, 1999 -2003 @ 1:50 scale

Toronto-born architect Frank Gehry is being honoured with his first exhibition entitled "since 1997" currently on display at the Triennale Design Museum in Milan. The collection, co-curated by Gehry himself, brings together a selection of his iconic projects and attempts to explore how the buildings interact with its surrounding environment and human scale.

I don't know about you, but this scaled version of the Walt Disney Concert Hall would look great in my living room. Regardless, it's nice to see architecture make its way into art galleries.

More photos via DesignBoom.

For a glimpse inside Gehry's creative process, watch the Sydney Pollack directed documentary, Sketches of Frank Gehry here.

The future of pedestrian navigation

An App brings the New York subway system to the palm of your hand. To make things even easier for your day trip to the city, there are additional Apps that now include amenities as well - changing the way we interact with our cities!

The world is ours. Well, New York at least.

Better late than never, Utah

"We wanted to find out if cities are moving in the right direction, if they're realizing what they do in regard to land use
and transportation actually has a public health impact."

This story brings me back to my half-completed thesis project as it takes a look at the built environment and how it affects citizens’ health.

There are healthy lifestyle movements happening in cities all over the world, but no coordinated effort to plan healthy, walkable communities. We are required to take time out of our day to drive to a gym to run in a single place - there is something not very practical with that picture. If a healthy development plan was inherent, this would change the way people interact with cities, benefiting us in the long term, also promoting a more sustainable lifestyle - prompting us to walking to school, to amenities or even having live/work arrangements.

The following illustrates a place starting from the basics, with several neighbourhoods even lacking sidewalks. Poor design and weak policies are promoting sedentary lifestyles keeping neighbourhoods unhealthy and contributing to the rising Body Mass Index (BMI) levels.

These ideas are explored through Utah, but think of your neighbourhood when reading this, especially if you’re the type to drive everywhere.

Via The Salt Lake Tribune