Urban Form

Where should green planning efforts come from?

Hundreds of urban planners, architects, developers, environmentalists, entrepreneurs and policymakers danced around this question last week as they convened on Portland for the second annual Ecodistricts Summit.

Hosted by the Portland Sustainability Institute (PoSI), the event complements a maturing experiment to make five of the Oregon metropolis's neighborhoods into "Ecodistricts," neighborhoods designed to be more sustainable.

Ducking the Elephant in the Room

The day takes shape slowly. Getting out the door just happens. Once you do the bus is ten minutes late. Then, so is the MAX, but you don't mind. You've been quietly extricating yourself from time. You wait in the chill beneath an interstate, listening to teenagers gossip. Staring at the spikes lining the steel beams beneath the roadway you think perhaps a bit too long about pigeon deterrence.

Rearranging Our Pieces, Playing With Our Future

Is our imagination so limited that we think anyone will survive by doing the exact same thing we've done for half a century? Why can't we take the same simple wonder of an afternoon of play and build a new world with the pieces we already have? Why can we not take our bricks and track and blocks and rearrange them, as we did countless times as children, into new buildings, new cities and new transportation networks? Why can't we put our architects to work redesigning the decrepit spaces that already pepper our world? Why can't we put builders to work reconstructing our destroyed communities? Why must we mine new materials and continue the urbanization of our wild lands when so much unused housing stock and other structures sit vacant?

Why can't we rearrange the pieces we already have? If we could do it endlessly as kids, we really can do it now.

Take offs

 am convinced in this moment that the city is limitless, recreating itself as it crawls across the landscape. Too many discount it as a disjointed whole lacking some maturity shared by the world's great destinations. But it is only here, it is only this sea of stories crashing upon each other, glittering from the ripples in the water. As the waves draw near I know I am here, only here, perhaps realizing only further that home means far less than a mindset. It is just another constructed identity.

Landings

Portland proper, if not its suburbs, swirls with the pot luck attitude of a true community, although strong, valid critiques exist of redevelopment within the city as well. Far more than any place I’ve been in the United States except perhaps, as a matter of fact, the original Portland, this is a self-determined city, including the blemishes of its modernity.

As I land and swirl through so many past worlds of mine, I remember I can move about the city without thought. However, I’m still constantly discovering more beneath Portland's surface. The only time I ever had a similar sensation was at my five-year college reunion last year, and that feeling was aided by the presence of so many others who had experienced that period of my life with me. But where the grounding I find among my undergraduate peers is most firmly rooted in a mindset, there seem to be physical roots here in Portland.

Adaptive Reuse: Parking Meters to Bike Racks

I'm in the midst of preparing some posts about the Expanding Vision of Sustainable Mobility summit hosted this week by the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. In doing so, I'm semi-procrastinating by skimming long-ago bookmarked blog entries and websites I set aside for reference in my master's project exploring the possibility of a transit revolution in the Los Angeles area. This might be a bit late, but I was impressed by this January post  from StreetsBlog LA about the Los Angeles Department of Transportation's (LADOT) plans to convert old parking meters to bike racks.