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Public Policy: The Latest Architecture and News

Architects and Designers Urge Action on Healthier Policy Priorities

In the wake of the pandemic, designers and architects are rethinking and inventing innovative solutions for nearly every sector of design from hospitality, restaurants, workplace experience, and landscape architecture. According to the World Health Organization, 19 percent of factors that affect our health and well-being are directly related to the built environment, making architects and designers key to protecting public health.

Carlos García Vázquez: "The Modern Urbanism Has Rediscovered Traditional Cities"

Three years ago, in the wake of the release of his book Theories and History of the Modern City ("Teorías e Historia de la Ciudad Contemporánea", 2016, Editorial Gustavo Gili), we sat down with the author, Carlos García Vázquez, to discuss this complex and "uncertain creature' that is the modern city, focusing on the three categories that define cities today: Metropolis, Megalopolis, and Metapolis.

Based on an analysis of those "who have traditionally led the way in the planning of spaces" (sociologists, historians, and architects), the book illustrates the social, economic, and political forces that, in service to their own agendas, drive the planning, transformation, exploitation, and development of cities. In 120 years, urban centers have transformed from places where "people died from the city" to bastions of personal development and economic prosperity; however, the question remains —have cities really triumphed?

"Yes", says García Vásquez, "but we have paid dearly for it."

Night Life in Nueva York. Image © Joana FrançaHong Kong in the 90s, when it was still a British colony, but undergoing rapid economic development. Image © Wonderlane [Flickr], under CC BY 2.0 licenseBrasilia. Image © Joana FrançaCarlos García Vázquez. Image © María Carrascal+ 11

2018 Better Philadelphia Challenge: The Next Parkway

The 2018 Better Philadelphia Challenge | $5,000 First Prize

This international urban design competition for university students is now open for registration. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Philadelphia's iconic Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Center / Architecture + Design seeks creative concepts for what a new 'Parkway' could be in a dense and developed 21st-century city, connecting neighborhoods with nearby natural and cultural resources.

Imagine 2020: Denver Launches Arts-First Public Policy

The City of Denver has launched “Imagine 2020,” a pro-arts cultural plan that will pave the way for more city-wide “art opportunities” over the next seven years. According to the Denver Post, this initiative will include the revision of “plans, permits and codes” to allow for more installations, offer small micro-art grants for residents and neighborhoods, and establish large public gathering places throughout the city. You can learn more, here.

Mayor Bloomberg's Legacy:The Construction Boom of NYC

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's twelve years in office will leave an undeniable impression on the physical landscape of the city for future generations. The new and revised policies of this administration have encouraged unprecedented growth of New York City and its outer boroughs in the years following 9/11. According to a new series called The Bloomberg Years by WNYC and this article by Matthew Schuerman, Bloomberg's three consecutive terms have made New York City's skyline taller, have made the city more attractive and in turn, more expensive.

Join us for more after the break.

Where Does Zoning Fit Into Our Future City 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, just over a century old concept, 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 to reflect the goals and needs of city building today and in the future. To determine how zoning and land use need to change we must first assess the intentions of future city building. Planners and architects, legislators and community activists have already begun establishing guidelines and ordinances that approach the goals of sustainability and liveability. The AIA has established Local Leaders: Healthier Communities through Design and has made a commitment to the Decade of Design: Global Solutions Challenge. NYC 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. Philadelphia has augmented its zoning to include urban farms and community gardens. It is safe to assume that many other cities will follow this precedent.

The Architecture Foundation and We Made That Launch "The Open Office"

The Architecture Foundation has recently launched a month-long initiative named The Open Office. The scheme, which is described as “part 'Citizens Urban Advice Bureau', and part functioning practice” is the brainchild of London-based practice We Made That and will take place in the offices of The Architecture Foundation in Southwark, London until 22nd March. Operating on a walk-in basis, and displaying all work openly, The Open Office aims to engage and educate local communities on issues of architecture, urbanism and planning.

Read more about The Open Office scheme after the break.

San Francisco's Zero Waste Successes

The "Pit" in San Francisco © Walter Parenteau
The "Pit" in San Francisco © Walter Parenteau

Approaching zero-waste is a matter of changing the way our culture thinks about use and reuse.  It's not an impossible task, and San Francisco 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, SF 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".

What Can Architecture Do for Your Health?

© NYC DDC
© NYC DDC

In an effort to make New York City’s built environment “more livable and hospitable” the Department of Design and Construction (DDC), Health and Mental Hygiene, Transportation (DOT), and City Planning have developed the Active Design Guidelines: Promoting Physical Activity and Health in Design to be referenced in conjunction with the DOT’s Street Design Manual and other guidelines produced by NYC. The guidelines are written for urban planners, designers and architects and are driven by the need to address health concerns such as obesity and diabetes through intelligent design. Our built environments give us cues as to how to inhabit them and have tremendous effects, sometimes subconscious, on our lifestyles. Do you walk, drive, or bike to work? Do you take the stairs or the elevator? We make these types of decisions, which are largely based on comfort, on a daily basis. But the guidelines established in this manual are intended to give designers the tools to encourage healthy lifestyle choices to address the social concerns of NYC. So, what can planners, architects and designers do to create an active and healthy city? Find out after the break.

International Green Construction Code Announced with Widespread Support

Courtesy of International Green Construction Code
Courtesy of International Green Construction Code

Late last month the AIA announced that it is in support of the International Green Construction Code (lgCC) which will be a guide and model that helps architects and builders design buildings that conserve energy and move to a sustainable design strategy. The AIA is part of a long list of supporters which include ASHRAE, the US Green Building Council and the Illuminating Engineering Society. For architecture and engineering, this is a step in the right direction. This provides designers with a tool that makes responsible design less cryptic by offering solutions for energy saving strategies.

More on this after the break.