Cities in North Africa, the Saudi Arabian peninsula, and the Levant face unique challenges from the tremendous heat and dusty winds of the surrounding desert and high humidity along coastal areas. These environmental forces along with social and cultural norms have resulted in unique cities created over the past several centuries. Built in the pre-industrial era, these old cities offer many lessons for designing dense urban districts that are environmentally responsive and sustainable. There are many fine examples of modern cities influenced by international planning techniques but adapted to the unique environmental challenges of the MENA region.Read More
Last century's general attempt to tidy up cities unintentionally removed many of the ways that we celebrate outdoor places, the fruits of our collective labor and the joy of living in neighborhoods. Thankfully, that is all starting to change. A rediscovered demand for sharing a meal together in both known and undervalued spaces has people clamoring to pop-up dining tables in cities around the world. It is proof positive of a shift from conventional thinking about urbanism to a more experience-based model as a core driver in building vibrant places and creating added value for cities. Farm-to-table has reached a new level.Read More
Memorable neighborhoods, towns, and cities are composed of specific types of places that share a unique ability to spark and continuously energize their communities. We have come to call this type of place Everyday Squares. As part of Urban Design Associates’ annual summer program, our Urban Researchers have immersed themselves in Pittsburgh to document, measure, and interview the curators of the Everyday Squares that are leading and sustaining the regeneration and vibrancy of the City’s many great neighborhoods.
One of the great things about living in Pittsburgh is the Strip District – the city’s version of a working market district. In our city, many people still shop for their pastas, olive oil, meats, fish, breads and pastries from local merchants, butchers and bakers. The traditions of Eastern Europe, Italy, Asia, and South America are alive and well there, albeit in a uniquely Pittsburgh way. It’s hard to find perogies, haluski, asiago and piave, locally made wines, homemade biscotti, fresh Italian pizzas, cannoli, South American treats like the Peruvian Pollo a la Brasa, old fashioned candy, Asian bbq chicken from a hot grill, and Italian espresso, side-by-side along the street in other U.S. cities.
Many of the issues that we face in our own cities are mirrored in the evolution of Moscow in the last couple of decades. The rapid increase in personal wealth and automobile ownership has facilitated middle class flight to the outer suburbs; this has created a staggering traffic problem that repeats itself daily. The jobs however are located in the center city with relatively few jobs in the outer rings of the metropolitan area. To make matters worse, Moscow’s famed metro system, built in the 1930s and 40s, is already over capacity handling some 8 million passengers a day. The resulting pattern is one we are all too familiar with in places like the Washington, Atlanta or Los Angeles – unrelenting congestion for much of the day and night.
For many, a life in town has had to come at the expense of access to nature. But as cities regenerate across the country, they are capitalizing on the restoration of streams and natural drainage ways that, up until recently, have been used for storm sewers, dumping grounds, and urban backwaters. They are uncovering them, cleaning them up, and maximizing their utility as great neighborhood addresses, sustainable storm water systems, and recreational destinations. It is stabilizing property values and saving millions in capital improvement dollars in the process.Read More
The Better Housing Coalition in Richmond is a Community Development Corporation dedicated to strategic investments in urban neighborhoods that are under-performing. This remarkable non-profit organization focuses on improving the quality of environment and access to services for residents and businesses in the context of neighborhood-generated visions and aspirations.Read More