Where Does Zoning Fit Into Our Future City Planning?

NYC.GOV – Department of Planning

“Let’s dump the word “zoning,” as in zoning ordinances that govern how land is developed and how buildings often are designed. Land-use regulation is still needed, but zoning increasingly has become a conceptually inappropriate term, an obsolete characterization of how we plan and shape growth.” - Roger K. Lewis 

Zoning, a concept just over a century old, is already becoming an outdated system by which the government regulates development and growth.  Exceptions and loopholes within current zoning legislation prove that city planning is pushing a zoning transformation that reflects the current and future goals and needs of city building.  To determine how zoning and land use needs to evolve we must first assess the intentions of future city building.  

Planners, architects, legislators and community activists have already begun establishing guidelines and ordinances that approach the goals of and livability.  For example, the AIA has established Local Leaders: Healthier Communities through Design and has made a commitment to the Decade of Design: Global Solutions Challenge. New York City has come up with Active Design Guidelines: Promoting Physical Activity and Health in Design and its Zone Green initiative in regards to updating its zoning resolution. In addition, Philadelphia has augmented its zoning to include urban farms and community gardens and it is safe to assume that many other will follow this precedent.  

So what is it about current zoning codes that makes it so outdated?  Follow us after the break for more.

Smithsonian Hires BIG to Rethink Historic D.C. Campus

Smithsonian Institution © Karissa Rosenfield / ArchDaily

The Smithsonian Institution has commissioned the innovative practice of Bjarke Ingels to reimagine the heart of its antiquated campus. The Danish architect has agreed to an eight- to 12- month, $2.4 million contract to draft the first phase of a master plan that seeks to dissolve the notable impediments and discontinuous pathways that plague the area.

More on this news after the break…

Refurbishing America’s Shopping Mall

The Arcade Providence © PBN/Brian McDonald via PBN

One thing about a recession is that it accelerates the demise of dying trends and struggling establishments. In this case, it is America’s beloved , which have been slowly in decline since their peak popularity in 1990. Now, in the wake of the 2008 economic catastrophe, American are riddled with these abandoned shopping meccas, from the mall to big box stores and shopping strips, whose oversize parking lots are equally as useless as the spaces themselves. The question is, how can we effectively repurpose these spaces?

A perfect example after the break…

San Francisco Paves the Road to Zero Waste

© Flickr user Sudheer G.

Approaching zero-waste is a matter of changing the way our culture thinks about use and reuse.  It’s not an impossible task, and is leading the march to establish a feasible means of enacting public policy, structuring programs and educating the public on what it means to be “zero-waste”.  With a goal set for 2020, the Bay City hopes to keep 100% of its waste out of landfills.  Mayor Ed Lee estimates that the leading waste management company “Recology” is diverting nearly 80% of trash from landfills to be recycled or turned into compost.  This begins with a public policy that sets a standard and gains traction as citizens embrace the goals of the city.  Support programs reinforce these guidelines that eventually become habits and a cultural response to treating our environment.

Read on after the break for more on San Francisco’s road to “zero-waste”.

Which Bold Idea Should Win Bloomberg’s Mayors Challenge?

Courtesy of Bloomberg Philanthropies

During a time of crippling political turmoil, local leaders are stepping up to fulfill their role as pragmatic problem-solvers and combating the tough challenges – such as economic growth, environmental protection, public safety and poverty – facing our today. This empowering phenomenon is highlighted by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, a competition designed to further inspire America’s mayors and local leaders to generate innovative ideas that solve major challenges and improve city life.

Over 300 cities across the nation took the challenge and 20 finalists were selected in November. Now, it is your turn to vote on the idea you believe to have the greatest potential for impact. Five bold ideas will be selected in the coming weeks, each receiving national and local recognition. In addition, the winning city will receive a $5,000,000 grand prize and four other cities will receive $1,000,000 to help implement their ideas.

The proposals after the break…

ABI Reports Six Consecutive Month of Growth and Best Conditions Since 2007

January 2013 via Calculated Risk

Reflecting the strongest growth since November 2007, the January Architecture Billings Index (ABI) surged to a score of 54.2 – a sharp and welcomed increase from December’s 51.2* mark. Released by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), the ABI is a leading economic indicator of construction activity that reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending. By remaining above 50, January’s score illustrates the six consecutive month of growth for the United State’s design and construction industry. This trend doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, as the new projects inquiry index accelerated beyond last month’s reading of 57.9 and reached a score of 63.2.

“We have been pointing in this direction for the last several months, but this is the strongest indication that there will be an upturn in construction activity in the coming months,” said Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. .  “But as we continue to hear about overall improving economic conditions and that there are more inquiries for new design projects in the marketplace, a continued reservation by lending institutions to supply financing for construction projects is preventing a more widespread recovery in the industry.”

Review the ABI Highlights in greater detail, after the break…

Ezra Stoller: Beyond Architecture

McMath Solar Telescope, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Kitt Peak, AZ, 1962 Gelatin Silver Print © Ezra Stoller, Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

Now on view at the Yossi Milo Gallery through March 2, rarely-seen images by modernist architectural photographer Ezra Stroller (American, 1915-2004) captures a Post-War American landscape with stunning images of industry, technology, transportation and working class Americans. 

Beyond Architecture covers the full range of Stoller’s work, including photographs commissioned by Fortune, Architectural Forum, and House Beautiful magazines in the 1940s and for commercial projects for IBM, Upjohn Pharmaceuticals and CBS in the 1940s and 1950s. Included are photographs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s John Hancock Building, Chicago, and the United Nations Headquarters, designed by an international team of architects led by Wallace K. Harrison and including Oscar Niemeyer and Le Corbusier.

A selection of these images after the break…

Developing Adaptable Housing for the Elderly and a Path to Sustainability

Maxwan Architects + Urbanists

In recent years there has been a lot of talk in the United States about our , mostly in terms of social security funds and medicare.  We have asked how we should deal with the impending problem that our elderly will outnumber the population that will serve as their caretakers.  While speculations for a solution have generally settled within the realm of the economy, urban planners and architects are asking a different set of questions and looking for solutions regarding how we design.  It is important to note, that while most of the discussion has been framed about the aging “baby-boomer” generation, Jack Rowe – speaking at the symposium for Designing Homes and Neighborhoods for an Aging Population in Washington, DC - pointed out that this concern is a conservative estimate of the bigger problem in our “demographic transformation”.  In fact, the trend is far more expansive; medical advancements and a longer life expectancy mean that for the next few generations each aging population is expected to outlive its parents and will exceed the population of its children.  This makes the issue at hand a more over-arching concern, or as Rowe later states, an issue that all members of society must face.

This is why we must think about architecture and in terms of adaptability for the aging, as we have already starting thinking about it in terms of handicapped accessibility.

More after the break…

Preservationists Surrender to Hopeless Battle for Prentice

© C. William Brubaker via Flickr user UIC Digital Collections

In response to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks’ decision to reject landmark status to Prentice Woman’s Hospital for the second time in three months, the two preservationist groups challenging the City of Chicago have withdrawn their lawsuits. This eliminates the last barrier standing in Northwestern University’s way to demolish the historic, structure for a new biomedical research facility.

“We felt that we had done as much as we possibly could to demonstrate the significance of the building and ways to reuse,” stated Christina Morris, a senior field officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “We just couldn’t see that we’d have any other outcome.”

For many, this news is disheartening as and preservationists from around the globe have fought in solidarity for much of the past year in an attempt to illustrate the importance of this one-of-a-kind structure.

More after the break…

LA Architecture School Boasts Stimulating Post-professional Programs

© ESTm, Marcelo Spina Studio, Artificial Clouds

Two dynamic post-graduate programs offered by the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in Los Angeles have been charged with examining core contemporary issues facing architecture today. Spanning topics from advanced manufacturing methodologies and new building systems, to urban planning and design challenges faced globally, these post-professional tracks allow students to rethink architecture and design through the creative lens of the SCI-Arc community.

The architecture school’s Emerging Systems, Technologies & Media (ESTm) and Future Initiatives (SCIFI) programs are conceived as intensive one-year (three semesters) post-professional degrees in architecture, functioning as think tanks and research engines within the larger framework of the school.

Situ Studio’s ‘Heartwalk’ Opens in Times Square

© Ka-Man Tse, Times Square Alliance

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Situ Studio has unveiled the fifth edition of Times Square’s annual Heartwalk installation – a heart-shaped “room within the city” made of salvaged Sandy debris. Inspired by the “collective experience of Hurricane Sandy and the love that binds people together during trying times,” Heartwalk begins as two weathered ribbons of wooden planks that gradually lift to form an illuminated heart enclosure in the middle of Duffy Square.

People are already falling in love, as you can see Instagram’s #heartwalktsq is filling up with images of elated New Yorkers standing within the “heart of City”.

More images after the break…

The AIA Elevates 122 Members and Seven International Architects to the College of Fellows

The 2013 Jury of Fellows from the American Institute of () elevated 122 members to its prestigious College of Fellows, an honor awarded to members who have made significant contributions to the profession. The 2013 Fellows will be honored at an investiture ceremony at the 2013 National Convention and Design Exposition in Denver.

Continue reading for more information and the complete list of newly honored Fellows:

13th Annual Structures for Inclusion Conference

© Iwan Baan

The thirteenth annual Structures for Inclusion conference (SFI-13) will be held March 23-24 at the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis Campus. The conference is preceded by the Public Interest Design Institute, a training program sponsored by the American Institute of Architects, that will be held at the same location on March 21-22. These are two major events that help compose the inaugural Public Interest Design Week, March 19-24.

BIG’s West 57th “Pyramid” Wins Final Approval

Courtesy of

After an “arduous” public review and a heated debate over affordable housing, New York’s City Council has unanimously awarded final approval to BIG’s tetrahedral-shaped West 57th apartment building in Manhattan. As reported by Crain’s New York Business, a compromise has been made to include 173 affordable housing units within the 32-story, 750-unit residential building and the neighboring industrial building that will be converted into 100 additional rental apartments. As you may recall, the community board and Councilwoman Gail Brewer initially threatened to “torpedo the project” if the apartments were only made affordable for a 35 year period. However, Durst apparently won them over by contributing one million dollars into an affordable housing fund.

“The good news, which is the mantra of my office and community board No. 4, is there will be, yes, by law, 35 years of income-restricted affordable housing,” stated City Councilwoman Brewer, who represents the area.

Foster Responds to Kimmelman’s “Offensive” Diatribe Regarding the New York Public Library

The ’s (NYPL) main building on Fifth Avenue, is a Beaux-Arts masterpiece designed by architects Carrère & Hastings. Image via Flickr User CC wallyg.

When applying “major surgery” to a beloved, 20th century “masterpiece”, you’re going to face some harsh criticism. Such is the case for Norman Foster, as the legendary British architect has been receiving intense backlash from New York’s toughest critics for his proposed renovation to the New York Public Library. First, the late Ada Louise Huxtable exclaimed, “You don’t “update” a masterpiece.” Now, the New York Time’s architecture critic Michael Kimmelman claims the is “not worthy” of Foster and believes the rising budget to be suspect.

More on Kimmelman’s critique and Foster’s response after the break…

Brookings Institution Reports University-driven Urban Economies Proposer

WEISS/MANFREDI Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism Shortlisted Proposal for Kent State; Click on the photo for more.

Think the best way to promote the economic and creative development of a city is to build stadiums and shopping malls? Think again. In a recent New York Times article, Steve Lohr reveals the findings from a Brookings Institution study that looks into where and why specific emerge as hubs of creativity and innovation.  By studying the patent filings of the United States’ 370 metropolitan areas, the study revealed that with the most innovation were centers of education and research.  San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California; Burlington-South Burlington, Vermont.; Rochester, ; Corvallis, Oregon; and Boulder, Colorado topped the list as the “output of innovation”.  Lohr suggests that this data can help promote policies that encourage urban development for economic feedback.

More after the break.

2013 Rudy Bruner Award Finalists Announced

Courtesy of

Celebrating those who transform urban problems into creative solutions since 1987, the biennial Rudy Bruner Award (RBA) has announced the 2013 finalists. The prize aims to illuminate the complex process of urban placemaking by seeking out often overlooked urban exemplars whose existence heightens the richness and diversity of American .

In celebration of their achievement, one $50,000 Gold Medal award and four $10,000 Silver Medals will be awarded to the finalists in May.

The 2013 Rudy Bruner Award finalists are:

2013 Young Architects Award

The American Institute of Architects () has selected fifteen recipients to receive the 2013  Young Architects . Defined as professionals who have been licensed ten years or fewer, the Young Architects will be honored for making significant contributions to the profession and providing exceptional leadership. The recipients will be presented the at the  2013 National Convention and Design Exposition in Denver, Colorado.

The complete list of the 2013 Young Architects: