What We’re Reading – July 2011

by | July 18, 2011 0 Urban Design + Planning

Ideas flow freely here in SERA’s Urban Design + Planning studio, and it’s the constant sharing of perspectives that contributes to the fun we have in the office. From time to time we’re going to produce a compilation of some of these articles & websites that have piqued our collective interest and pass them on to those you who are following along.

Enjoy our latest round-up…

+ How to Make Systems Thinking Sexy | The Design Observer Group [John Thakara]

“A restorative economy is emerging… What these projects have in common is that they are creating value without destroying natural and social assets. I’m not talking here about a 1960s style retreat into an imagined rural idyll, with or without a teepee. On the contrary, the most dynamic restorative design is happening in urban contexts, where it re-imagines the urban landscape itself as an ecology with the potential to support us.”

Thakara’s work regarding design in a complex world is quite compelling and certainly integrates with our Civic Ecology and EcoDistrict models.

+ Across Europe, Irking Drivers Is Urban Policy | New York Times

+ Car Clash: Europe vs. the U.S. | New York Times

Europeans are doing all they can to discourage people from driving and parking their cars in and around cities. When European planners say that their aims are the opposite of American ones, it starts a vigorous debate.”

With a nod back to our post on Portland’s parking controversy a few weeks back, these two NYT pieces shed some light on the range of this debate happening in major cities on both sides of the pond.


+ Over-Innovation Makes U.S. Firms Suck At Sustainability | FastCo Design [Skibsted]

Jens Martin Skibsted and Rasmus Bech Hansen feel that “sustainability requires un-American values such as slowness and centralization.” Does this mean that sustainability is an unreachable goal for the US?

“…American brands must rethink the very idea of what they want consumers to consume and how they create value. In theory, you can grow in two ways: You can produce more, or you can add extra value to what you already produce. The latter is the way toward sustainability.”

50 ideas

+ 50 Ideas for the New City | Urban Omnibus

This “showcase of good ideas for the future of cities” offers plenty of fodder for design innovation. The compilation highlights concepts that the Architectural League of New York has explored on their Urban Omnibus website over the years and is a resource that we plan to revisit.

We like them all. But our favorite? #39 – Allow Accidents to Happen

+ Review – Landscape Infrastructure: Case Studies by SWA | L + U [Jason King]

“Defining contemporary infrastructure requires a multi-disciplinary team of landscape architects, engineers, architects and planners to fully realize the benefits to our cultural and natural systems.”

SWA Group’s recent book exploring an integrated planning approach has been met with wide acclaim. Portland local, Jason King, offers a thorough review speaking to this new dimension of thinking about natural landscape systems and our need to look to them first when planning large scale development and greenfield interventions.


+ The Merits of Modern, Urban Condo Living | BUILDblog [Seattle]

As we plan for denser urban centers and the growth of cities in general, we particularly enjoyed this rundown of the upsides to condo living by the gentlemen up in Seattle at BUILD LLC.

The most compelling reason? No yard to mow.

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