Across Canada, a renewed interest in urbanity is leading to density increases unheard of in more than a generation. As Corporate Knights writes, not all density is equal however. As the country works to reduce its carbon footprint, accommodate new residents and improve the cost efficiency of its infrastructure, creating “density done well” is essential. Smart policy and strategic planning coupled with an eye for the human scale will be imperative to successful density in Canada.
Cities and buildings are made for people and by people. Architects’ interpretation of the human body transfers into their architectural designs. Le Corbusier‘s tall and muscular person created utopian city sketches with large geometrical buildings. Similarly, Theo van Doesburg’s stacked up person looks exactly like many of his products. The way we perceive our surroundings influences how and who we shape them for. How would you, or your favourite architect draw the most vital of forms?
NASA scientists aimed to create more stable spaceships, but inadvertently found a way to make buildings safer during earthquakes. In an example of the hummingbird effect, an interstellar innovation presents an opportunity to change the way buildings are “earthquake proofed”. This has particular promise for cities on North America’s west coast as they prepare for the “really big one“. More broadly, the innovation underlines the potential to apply existing technology to new fields and the value of cross-sector cooperation.
A new golden age of cities has ushered in an era of intensification and redevelopment in urban centres. As a result, many cities are enjoying re-found affluence, but are also faced with growing affordability issues, something underlined in a recent Metropolis Magazine article. In many ways, the high societal cost of exclusion mirrors the burden that sprawl placed on public finances. As this cost becomes clear, triple-win projects that benefit residents, the city-region, and private actors are well-positioned for success.
As sites of opportunity, cities have a long history of attracting new, poor residents. Terrible housing conditions for these newcomers was well documented and in response, governments began offering social housing. Balancing quality of life, good design and cost has remained a stubborn challenge, however. Numerous designs have been tested, with varying success. Recently, a low-rise, high-density approach has regained popularity. This typology is promoted on the basis of encouraging eyes on the street and creating well-defined spaces, while lower building heights reduce costs. While the success of this typology within current socioeconomic context(s) remains to be seen, a return to this typology suggests that architects, social advocates and policy-makers may be closing in on the (contextually-dependent) Goldilocks of social housing.
It is well-established that school design affects learning. Now, evidence is emerging that views and surrounding landscapes have big impacts too. The Dirt has a new article about a University of Illinois study that found green views led to better attentional functioning and stress recovery after short breaks from academic activities. For designers, architects and landscape architects, this suggests that designs and retrofits that maximize indoor views of trees and greenery enhance the learning environment and further support academic success.
A subtle but important shift may be taking place in leading architectural circles. As Intelligent Life writes, longstanding starchitects with a penchant for parametric architecture appear to be losing favour to more restrained approaches. Programs to create slick digital designs and imagery are now standard tools, ones that architects are increasingly interested in combining with traditional styles for a fresh look. Perhaps more importantly, this shift includes greater focus on urban context and a holistic view of the city. Important steps in the pursuit of holistic city-making.