Better than my morning coffee

Last Thursday, my architecture firm had invited a guest speaker to present his work to us at the wee hour of 9 am.  I by opportunity had walked by the seminar room early and so had peeked in to see what all the set-up was about.  Learning that it had something to do with urbanism and public spaces, I dipped out of my desk area and into an hour of pure inspiration.

I remember inhaling with absolute delight when our guest speaker began his talk.  What serendipity!  The speaker was Fred Kent, president of Project for Public Spaces (PPS), a nonprofit planning organization that works with a community’s own people to revitalize and re-urbanize neighborhood centers all over the world.  Their mission is to help people create public spaces that give back to their communities and that bring value and local pride to its members.

To PPS, “…Placemaking is a catalyst for building healthy, sustainable and economically viable cities of the future.”  I listened with both my ears and hands, scribbling away as Kent described PPS’s “Placemaking” approach to programming these spaces.  I found their concept of the Power of 10 most exciting: in any city, first find ten destinations that people go to or ten reasons to be there (e.g., cultural museum); near each destination, identify ten places to go to (e.g., coffee shop, movies, bookstore); then at each place, identify ten things to do there (e.g. have a conversation, meet a friend, buy a lotto ticket).  If the quota is lacking, then program more of the necessary ingredient.  The idea here is that a great place to be should be brimming with activities of all kinds, for all kinds of people.

I could feel purpose in my step as I left the room.  I felt invigorated to hear about a group of people so dedicated to improving the quality of life through the same means as mine, and I returned to my work with a different sort of energy boost.  That morning’s event was the first inspiration for this blog.  Read my studio’s PPS blog here!

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Better than my morning coffee

Hello, World!

They say that with great knowledge comes great responsibility.  My professor of architectural history, Dennis Doordan, sent my graduating class forth with these words:

“Architecture is a form of stewardship as well as an honorable profession.  Architects bear an enormous responsibility as stewards of creation.  How you conceive, construct and manage the built environment will shape the quality of life–all life on our interconnected planet–for generations to come.  Here I want to remind you that architects are optimists by profession. To build is an act of hope and an affirmation of life.  We can design a better world.  You must design a better world.”

This blog is just a small effort to do so–to promote real urbanism and architecture in efforts to rediscover community and to create that better world for all of us.  By sharing what little I do know about architecture and urbanism, I hope to catch the eye of a few community members, who’ll then pass these ideas and intentions on to their fellow community members.

Above all, this blog is meant to encourage–to celebrate architectural and urban achievement and to earnestly call for more of that good stuff.  Come join me!

Hello, World!

I say, “I’m studying to be an architect.” You say, “Oh wow, what kind of buildings are you going to draw?”

Oh, man.  I never know how best to answer this question.  It’s a little naive, but by no means the questioner’s fault.  Here then, is a mini lesson on architecture and urbanism, as explained by one who’s still learning.  I figure since I’ll be using these words throughout, I should somewhat define these concepts at least for the purposes of this blog and at least so I know what I’m mumbling about.

Architecture.  It’s got something to do with buildings, and a lot more to do with a lot else.  It is the queen of the arts–ideally, a harmonious blend of technical knowledge and artistic vision, manifested into spaces where people experience life, every single day.  How we live, where we work, where we play, where we worship–these all tie back to architecture.  Our quality of life, therefore, is rooted in this great art.

Urbanism.  Although it has become somewhat of a buzz word, real urbanism is timeless and unmistakable.  Let’s think for a second.  Where is your favorite place in your city or town?  Where do you love to walk, to sit, to read a book, or to enjoy a coffee?  Where can you socialize, take your lunch, or just people-watch?  If these answers don’t come readily, it’s likely that these characteristics of vibrant neighborhoods aren’t available to you.  And it’s more than likely that they should be.

Urbanism, I think, is a people-centric way of life.  It speaks of streets that are safe and easy to walk across, of places vibrant with a mixture of activities, and of hubs where people of all classes and neighborhoods eat, linger, and laugh.  Most importantly, urbanism speaks of connectivity.  Of community.

I say, “I’m studying to be an architect.” You say, “Oh wow, what kind of buildings are you going to draw?”