When Andrew Howard and Jason Roberts began the first Better Block project, they couldn’t “go by the book”. Their guerilla street redesign tactics did more than just turn a few heads; their unorthodox approach transformed communities. The Better Block Project is simple in form: The project is a demonstration project which creates temporary bicycle infrastructure, landscaping, café seating and more to illustrate active streets and places. “Cities around the U.S. are looking for tools to help redevelop communities that enable multi-modal transportation while increasing economic development, and reducing carbon emissions. The “Better Block” project is a demonstration tool that acts as a living charrette so that communities can actively engage in the build-out process and provide feedback in real time.”
The 2012 IMCL International Urban Revitalization Award will be awarded for Ecuador's nation-wide program, "The Plaza: A Place of Encounter", a visionary project to revitalize social life and economic vitality by restoring the country's historic plazas. Jacobo Herdoíza, Director of this project, will give a public presentation at the 49th IMCL Conference, and will receive the Award on behalf of Ecuador’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage (Ministerio Coordinador de Patrimonio).
When the weather grows colder, healthy food enthusiasts mourn the loss of their weekly farmers market excursion. There is no need to fret, however, because farmers near and far are providing nutritious, organic, and local products year round. Farmers markets are expanding to provide winter root vegetables, squashes, fruits and greens along with artisan breads, meats, and cheeses even during the coldest months. Early January marked the opening of Dorchester’s Winter Farmers Market, in a primarily low income and crime ridden incorporated neighborhood of Boston. Access to healthy fresh produce can be difficult to obtain for many of these residents.
The gap between rich and poor in the US has widened markedly during the last 20 years. Middle class working families are rapidly slipping into poverty, and the poor increasingly see problems of health (over 30% obesity rates, with concomitant diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, etc.) and social health (unemployment, violence, and crime) devastating their neighborhood. These problems cluster in the poorest neighborhoods, diminishing opportunities for individuals to lift themselves out of the vicious cycle. Aspects of the physical environment accelerated these problems. Absence of healthy food, unwalkable streets, poor public transit, neglected main streets, lack of safe streets, squares and parks, and absence of accessible employment opportunities and satisfactory schools demonstrate a long-standing negligence on the part of planners and elected officials to maintaining fundamental conditions to assure health, well-being, and minimal economic and educational standards. A number of significant reports have recently been published proposing policies and strategies for addressing this problem.
Urbanized is a feature-length documentary film about a topic that interests us greatly—the urban fabric of our cities. The film was created by Gary Hustwit, who authored the films Helvetica and Objectified, two other great films that cover typography and design respectively. His filmography makes them a joy to watch, but the content of Urbanized will hopefully really get people thinking and talking about our built environment.
Designing Healthy Communities is an inspiring and essential book for all who care about how to improve conditions for ourselves and for our children in our communities. Dick Jackson, a world renowned public health expert, speaks directly to the reader with clarity and passion, and provides numerous examples of how each of us can contribute to solving the crisis. “The United States is confronting a ‘perfect storm’”, Jackson announces, “where three powerful threats are converging to create near-catastrophic conditions. The first threat is social: an aging population and a hurricane of chronic diseases. The second threat is environmental… including resource depletion and global heating. And the third is economic, particularly the struggles of middle-class and working people in a stagnant and staggered economy.” The book is heartfelt, calling for courage and integrity to solve these amazing challenges and to discover remarkable opportunities in the process.
Walkable neighborhoods provide a surprising number of benefits to our health, our financial wellbeing, our communities and global preservation. Compact development lessens our ever-expanding dependency upon the automobile, one of the leading causes of climate change. According to research, those who are residents of a walkable neighborhood weigh 6-10 pounds less than those who live within a sprawling suburb. Studies also indicate that residents who must commute by car to and from necessary errands are less likely to spend time getting involved in neighborhood activities.
Westland, MI takes seriously the fun value of mud baths. In July every year Wayne County Parks and Recreation Department mixes 200 tons of topsoil and 20,000 gallons of water to create a giant lake of mud for children to play in at the “Mud Day” festival. They are following in the footsteps of spa resorts that for centuries have offered mud baths as a therapeutic treatment, and of children who have always loved to mess around in the earth. But now, this wickedly messy, and deliciously calming activity has been shown by scientific studies to offer some important health benefits.
Most long time residents of Salt Lake City will tell you, they would have never believed their city could be at the forefront of public transportation innovation. Looking back just a few decades, Salt Lake was just as automobile dependent as most rust belt cities. Local government support for new planning techniques has revolutionized the urban fabric in the last twenty years. Salt Lake City provides an outstanding example of the positive effects of urban planning and design. Creating an integrated transportation infrastructure has been a great achievement and offers a model for small cities too.
What were they thinking? They portray a girl in a car gloating while the embarrassed biker tries not to be identified? This ad, run in student newspapers and fliers across the country, infuriated and disgusted students, faculty and university staff. GM thought they were being very cute, but apparently they did not anticipate the angry backlash from bikers, walkers and all those who remember GM’s sleazy history.
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