Tag Archives: Russell Preston

Creating a More Liveable City – Pecha Kucha Presentation

How can a city become more creative? Providence is rebranding itself as the Creative Capital. Sure there are quite a few artists and creative people here already, but shouldn’t this campaign be more then just graphics and websites? Shouldn’t the city be investing in the creation of quality public spaces that attract even more creative people? If we are to truly be the Creative Capital, we need to figure out how we can use our urban landscape better. I presented a few of these ideas at the last Pecha Kucha in Providence.

More on making liveable cities later this weekend. If you are interested in art, sculpture and public art you should check out Gillian Christy’s talk from the same night.

The American Clean Energy Security Act & Urbanism

Meeting Al Gore at Obama's 2009 InaugurationA Cape-and-trade system is at the core of the house version of the American Clean Energy Security Act passed on Friday. I know very little about climate change science and even less about cap-and-trade economics, but something strikes me as strange about this whole system. Isn’t it still only addressing the symptoms and not the cause? Ultimately, the reduction of carbon emitting lifestyles in America will lead to larger reductions in CO2 emissions. The bill does establish a 2020 target for America to have 20% of it’s power generated by renewables. Which seems like a good start, but is it enough? Just as the Huffington Post article points out what is missing, I would like to question if true, long term solutions are being considered. Why is urbanism not discussed as a viable solution to our environmental crisis? Rather then figuring out what to do with the carbon created by our car-centered American lifestyle, why not focus on how to stop producing the carbon all together. The last time I checked, walking wasn’t a tax and was good for both you and the environment. Now, why hasn’t the form of our built environment been called into question? I share Al Gore’s excitement over this “extraordinary moment“, and yet I fear real solutions to our global challenge have not yet been broadly discussed.

Discussing Living Urbanism at CNU

Living Urbanism Hill Living 1We held an open source conversation about the concept of Living Urbanism at CNU17. Below are a series of point that summarize the conversation. Many insightful topics were discussed such as redefining our understanding of the neighborhood, how to create elegantly sustainable places, how the community of a place is the foundation for its success and the power of using the concepts of social media in the real world, with real people.

Thanks to everyone who took more then an hour out of their Congress to share their thoughts on this emerging concept. I produced the image above as a diagram for how some of these concepts could effect the form of our built and natural environment. Please comment if I have missed anything or want to introduce additional ideas.

Characteristics of Living Urbanism:
1. Served by locally produced food.
2. Served by power produced by a local, renewable system.
3. Served by water provided by a locally renewed aquifer or water body and
4. supplemented by captured rain.
5. Served by infrastructure and commerce that supports a zero waste
economy.
6. Served by a transit system providing access to needs not easily reached
by foot.
7. Served by convenient access to Nature and the countryside.

Discussion on Living Urbanism:
What do we define as truly being “daily needs”? It could be stated that social interaction is the primary daily need.

Where does a sense of community come from and how do we capture that in a place?

What are the “loose fitting” characteristics of timeless places that we are not apply to our contemporary designs? More focus on the detailed characteristics of flexible buildings and neighborhoods need to occur. Rome being the best example of enduring and flexible form.

Streets need to be thought of more as places and not only thoroughfares. Public space is the platform for social interaction to occur. A Living Tradition needs the support of a community to carry on the lessons.

Creating high quality, beautiful public spaces throughout a neighborhood and city is, perhaps, the best economic development tool available. A piece of Living Urbanism must have fantastic postcards of it’s many publics spaces.

Stuff that sucks isn’t going to last.

Living Urbanism is a threshold. It supports a lifestyle that is resilient and, perhaps, more enjoyable. Regardless of form, a person’s daily commute to work would ideally be no more then 15 to 20 minutes.

The local geography of a person’s daily routine is important to consider when thinking about the structure and life of a neighborhood. This local geography is smaller then we think. What is the pattern of your daily life and how does your current built environment not support a comfortable routine.

There is an over concentration of jobs. How can technology support a decentralization of the workplace that is economically sensible? We need tools for linking and creating small outposts for big business.

All aspects of vertical sprawl need more concrete positions to be effective. If the train doesn’t work can you walk? Can urbanism really be resilient if it relies too heavily on technology that is not enduring through recession, depression and crisis.

We must remember that a high quality Civic Realm is directly related to the ability to create smaller units and therefore more density in less space.

“Beginning to Rethink Our Human Habitat” at Pecha Kucha Providence

My friend Stephanie Ewens was kind enough to shoot this video of my presentation at the first Pecha Kucha Night in Providence. I was amazed at how much thought needed to go into a 6 minute 40 second talk. It was super fun to give, but has opened up a lot more questions that I am just starting to put down on paper. Let me know what you think?

CNU New England Urban Design Workshops

CNU New England’s “301 Urban Design Workshops” start tomorrow in Providence. I will be helping instruct two of the events with Bill Dennis, Don Powers and Rick Chellman. Thanks a bunch to our partners, Maine Association of Planners, 1000 Friends of Connecticut and Grow Smart RI, for helping make the workshops possible.

A Better (Local) World by Design

The Better World by Design Conference ended a few days ago. The event has had me thinking about how local problems can be solved with better design. It was tremendously inspiring to see what several of the speakers, such as Iqbal Quadir, Aliza Peleg and Cameron Sinclair, are implementing in third world countries. How can we apply similiar techniques to Providence, and, for that matter, to an “over-developed” country?

On Sunday, I was part of a panel on Sustainable Architecture with Jonathan Knowles, Josef Mittlemann and Thomas Gardner. The discussion was quite good. A question kept coming up during the discussion which worth repeating. Why is urbanism not focused on more as a solution to climate change? I am planning on writing some more on this in a future post, stay tuned.

A Better World by Design Conference

Brown & RISD’s “A Better World by Design” conference is coming up this weekend. It will be great to hear Camron Sinclair, from Architecture for Humanity, speak. I am giving a tour of Downtown Providence Saturday and will be on the Sustainable Architecture panel Sunday. You can follow the conference blog here. Quite a green weekend ahead.