Our Lanes

Over the past few years I’ve learned how design impacts the social aspects of cities. Lately I’ve come across many new organizations promoting bike and pedestrian friendly streets, as well as complete-street development. Who doesn’t desire living in a sociable place where it is easy and safe to walk or bike to nearby amenities? Millions travel across the globe to popular destinations where food and attractions are within walking or biking distance, or is easy to get to through mass transit. But, why can’t we have that here? Why can’t I have that in my neighborhood? Why should I have to drive 20 minutes to get to a park downtown?
There are many reasons why we can’t do a lot of things in car-centric cities. For now, I’ll focus on what I’m planning on doing to improve my neighborhood. We can’t always wait for politics to try to implement a one-size-fits-all strategy. Sometimes it’s best to take the initiative to something you’re familiar with, in my case my neighborhood. In my early years, children used to own the streets; skating, building small bike ramps, drawing with chalk, and running in the rain. As we grew up and more houses went up, it became a less hospitable place for anyone. The nearest mini-park is a 40 minute walk, and an unsafe 15 minute bike ride.
Tonight I started drafting a few options for bike and pedestrian friendly streets in my neighborhood. They are narrow streets that barely contain two-way traffic. I’ve noticed that many drive at least 30mph and sometimes race through at faster speeds as there is no speed signage. Within the first hour of drafting I drew a couple of options that I hadn’t thought of before. Along with that I’ve begun to organize what will be necessary to implement the changes; meeting with the civic club, organizing phases of educating the community, a new community website, researching standards and codes, sharing case-study information, etc. This is only the starting point. The ultimate goals is that more ideas, such as neighborhood festivals and events begin to emerge so that we may become a true community. I hope it becomes a great addition and homage to other great examples of community initiatives that have come before. As friends join in this effort, I’ll be glad to return the help and knowledge to their communities.



+Community Recharge

A recent entry into a design challenge at designbymany.com
Electric Vehicle Charging Station link below:
+Community Recharge

“Inspired by the writings of Richard Rogers in Cities for a Small Planet, Jaime Lerner’s Urban Acupuncture, and the idea of holistic sustainability (economy, ecology, and equity), ‘Community Recharge’ proposes the use of electric vehicle charging stations at the heart of communities. This particular example showcases a neighborhood in the Houston area that is void of any place for community gathering, celebration, or recreation, much like many suburban developments; Simply, the lack of ‘place’. The charging station would serve as a jumping point in turning a dividing commercial street and property into a uniting community park that would serve its immediate neighborhood. In the time it takes for a resident’s vehicle to charge they would be able to utilize the community center’s services and the proposed park for recreation. Without their vehicles this new development would be within a five-minute walk for most of the neighborhood and at most a five-minute bike ride. The heart of the project lies in its chain reaction of attracting sustainable sensibility and activity.
The canopy provides shading for the vehicles while collecting solar energy for their recharge, and rain water is collected at a dipped end on the west side. The evolution of the center developed from regional Victorian-cottage typology by being elevated above ground, and providing a shaded porch atmosphere that wraps around the building. An open space in the canopy allows sunlight beams through to highlight the entrance, and vertical slots along the façade allow for unique play with sun and shadow.”



A couple of times recently I’ve had very vivid recollections of my live experience seeing Cirque Du Soleil’s ‘Alegria’ in the elegant white Grand Chapiteau. The vivid memory of stepping in the first time; my first live show. How small, dark, colorful, and intimate it was. The smells of popcorn, the chapiteau canvas, and my souvenir program. The warmish fresh spring weather, the chirping birds in animation, the excitement, the anticipation.
Today I realized 8 years ago in March was the first time I went to see it. I believe it was March 23 (I’m too lazy to check my ticket stub) It was incredible, beautiful, and magical.
The high quality of that experience opened my eyes to the type of beauty that can exist. Not to mention the proof of what can be accomplished by numerous creative teams in different disciplines working together. I think of the sensory experiences that design can evoke; smell, sight, feel, noise, and taste. The journey, sequence, and scale of spaces. The journey, sequence, and scale of events. The quality of what MIGHT happen in a space. The quality of possibility.


Architecture: Typo

The discussions these past two weeks have gotten the semester off to an intriguing start. During this last year at the college it seems all the lessons from the previous years are coming into focus at high-def. I couldn’t be happier that the focus this year is completely relevant to what I’m trying to figure out for my parents; helping them design their next home! My mom has been in love with a style of home she’s seen in Laredo TX for years, and the topics this semester are dealing with historic preservation, renovation, typologies, and city typologies. I’ve been pointed in the direction of architectural historian Steven Fox for a start, and I’ll need to do extra research on this particular house type… x_x I’d love to bring it into the 21st century, into Houston and its context, but also maintain the details my parents will enjoy in their probable dream home. I hope I soak enough information this year to accomplish that.
Tonight’s RDA lecture by director of Tulane’s City Center program Scott Bernhard was fascinating. He went sufficiently in-depth showing New Orleans’ growth pattern, its struggle with Hurricane Katrina and that civil engineering disaster, and finally the incredible projects the program is producing in the city.
At the heart of it all were a few lessons in the importance of involving the community with projects for them to be successful and valued, as well as bringing traditional house-types into post-Katrina 21st century New Orleans.
Over and over we see incredible examples of beautiful design (urban/architecture/landscape/industrial) inspired by what’s been done and how problems were solved. It’s a shame how easily the answers get lost.

Honorable Mentions:
Courthouse Towns
Steven Fox
Manuel Amabalis
Louis E Carranza
J.B. Jackson
Scott Bernhard