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Urbanism Does anyone really understand landscape urbanism?

Dan

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I may be revealing some lack of intelligence or comprehension with this post, but does anyone else find the concept of landscape urbanism to be ... well, obtuse, indulgent and inaccessible? Published articles about the subject read like postmodern essays, and associated illustrations tend to be comprised of superimposed fractals and diamond cut-like shapes superimposed on a larger landscape, with no hint at any kind of human scale. There are also no hints given as to how landscape urbanism can be implemented, except for an implied "fire all the planners, and let landscape architects take care of it."

A quote from Wikipedia:

James Corner, in an essay entitled "Terra Fluxus," describes the main qualities of Landscape Urbanism:

Process in time: urbanization is a dynamic process characterized more by terms like fluidity, spontaneous feedback, and non-linearity, than stability, predictability, or rationality. Ecology and systems theory are concepts inherent to the city.

Surface, not form: horizontality and decentralization in places like Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston, San Jose, and the suburban and exurban fringes of most American cites is the supermajority of the American urban condition. As many theories of urbanism attempt to ignore this fact or retrofit it to new urbanism, Landscape Urbanism intelligently tries to understand it and find solutions for it. Landscape Urbanism uses 'territories' and 'potential' as well as 'program' to define strategies; it finds thinking in terms of adaptable 'systems' instead of rigid 'structures' as a better way to organize physical improvements.

Form: the traditional character of the city; formlessness characterizes nature, that which has been untouched by human intent. This city/nature duality is critical to most theories of urbanism. Landscape urbanists argue that this is duality is naive and argue for a conflation of landscape and building.

Try explaining that to your planning commissioners or city council.

My simple working planner mind has a much harder time comprehending the meaning behind this ...

bLMFg.jpg


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As opposed to this.

ww15b.jpg


What concept do you think the public is more likely to understand?

I also noticed that the majority of landscape urbanism proponents are European. European architecture and planning academics tend to focus more on the theoretical application of a principle -- the "poetry" of planning -- rather than practical application.
 

HomerJ

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1,124
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18
I think it's a lot like certain architecture styles. Very artistic and ideologic, but very difficult to put into rational terms that everyone can understand and that become more difficult to put into a real scenario. What I like about their notion is it seems to place emphasis on the context of the landscape (although LU does not seem to acknowledge social contexts, or maybe I missed that). The problem I see is the same as NU, they think they have the answer to everything.

I think it would be pretty cool if developers took an approach more like Landscape Urbanism and it would be our job as planners to say, "Ok, what is this and how is it going to work with our comp plan?" That might make for some pretty interesting projects. Just a thought.
 

wahday

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23
I was part of as reading group after I graduated and we read and discussed some articles on this topic. Oh. My. God. I was really at a loss for how to apply this to the real world or how, even in the more concrete examples that were given, it was really different from what a lot of architects, planners and landscape architects were already saying. Except that now you can't understand what anyone is talking about.

But if you want to have someone break it down for you, go here.

You'll learn how to:
  • evolve invasive laminar flows
  • amplify visionary morphologies
  • enhance site-specific gradients
  • exurbanize vertical constituencies
Gah!:-c
 

Linda_D

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I was part of as reading group after I graduated and we read and discussed some articles on this topic. Oh. My. God. I was really at a loss for how to apply this to the real world or how, even in the more concrete examples that were given, it was really different from what a lot of architects, planners and landscape architects were already saying. Except that now you can't understand what anyone is talking about.

But if you want to have someone break it down for you, go here.

You'll learn how to:
  • evolve invasive laminar flows
  • amplify visionary morphologies
  • enhance site-specific gradients
  • exurbanize vertical constituencies
Gah!:-c

8-! Are "vertical constituencies" birds, squirrels or people living in high rises?
 

Pragmatic Idealist

Cyburbian
Messages
611
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16
"Landscape Urbanism" is the academic and pseudo-environmentalist equivalent of the crowd listening to talk radio and watching Fox News while believing that bike lanes are a plot by the U.N. to destroy the American economy in order to establish the one-world government prophesied by the "Left Behind" series.
 

Streck

Cyburbian
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610
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18
It's almost "organic" in nature. I think Frank Lloyd Wright would be a proponent of such if it could come from the human mind rather than a computer program.

Nice design, now if we could figure out the proper "in-fill."
 

Wannaplan?

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I find this very interesting. Over the past year I've had to do some research on a project to understand how to place a city into its regional context, and what all of that means for the city's future given a globally competitive economy. One book in particular helped my thinking on this, "Who's Your City" by Richard Florida. Some of the graphs on megaregions and their "spikiness" opened my eyes quite a bit. Upon reflection, my research was "external" - it looked at this particular city and compared it to other global regions. By comparison, Landscape Urbanism appears to more "internal" - looking at the composition and function of a megaregion as a unit.

Dan's attached graphs make me think of Boulder, CO. I visted there for the first time last summer. For many reasons, it is a wonderful place. But what exactly is "place" when considering Boulder? Is it the experience of shopping, eating, and people-watching on Pearl Street? Is it the viewshed experience of always being able to see the flatirons? Is it the experience of a day-long bike ride out of the city and sharing the roads with motorisits? Or is it all of the above? And if so, how are these discrete aspects inter-related? To me, it appears that Landscape Urbanism takes all of this into account, helping to expand one's view of what a region is and what it encompasses.
 

Hink

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I think it is another academic trying to put a new spin on an old concept. Not sure why academics think that they must produce some new concept all the time. Not sure what the fuss is about on this one...
 

Linda_D

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I think it is another academic trying to put a new spin on an old concept. Not sure why academics think that they must produce some new concept all the time. Not sure what the fuss is about on this one...

It's the "publish or perish" syndrome in academia. Somebody who comes up with the idea or theory that's "the next big thing" and gets it published gets tenure.
 

SW MI Planner

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I'm sure this qualifies me as a planning hack (as opposed to the professional that I am ;)), but I don't get it at all. The concept, the purpose, any of it.
 

beach_bum

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All I know about it that Duany often criticizes it. Well at little more, its considering the land/region as making the "place" instead of the built environment, I think. Suburban sprawl is product of LU he would probably argue. I was listening to a webinar recently where he explained it and his dislike of the concept.
 

Pragmatic Idealist

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611
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The biggest problem with Landscape Urbanism is that it completely disregards all observations about the way human beings choose to walk from place to place. So, L.U. perpetuates suburban sprawl and automobile dependency, which may be the ulterior motive of the proponents who, evidently, seek to argue that development patterns friendly to the oil industry are, in reality, ecologically-sustainable.
 

Tcmetro

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The biggest problem with Landscape Urbanism is that it completely disregards all observations about the way human beings choose to walk from place to place. So, L.U. perpetuates suburban sprawl and automobile dependency, which may be the ulterior motive of the proponents who, evidently, seek to argue that development patterns friendly to the oil industry are, in reality, ecologically-sustainable.

I was just about to say that it sounded like some way to make exurban subdivisions look environmentally friendly. :D
 

Pragmatic Idealist

Cyburbian
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611
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16
Here's the latest, biggest, and worst monstrosity of Landscape Urbanism: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/08/us-apple-headquarters-idUSTRE75759Q20110608

This spaceship landing on the landscape includes four stories of subterranean parking.

Apple might as well be a 1960's-style conglomerate.

"That's rather odd, 12,000 people in a building, in one building. But we've seen these office parks with lots of buildings, and they get pretty boring pretty fast, so we'd like to do something better than that," [Steve Jobs] said.

Oh, and Mr. Jobs is so in love with the historic site (where Hewlett Packard started) that he intends to demolish every historic building there. It'll be a monument to douchebaggery.
 
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Tobinn

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326
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11
I may be revealing some lack of intelligence or comprehension with this post, but does anyone else find the concept of landscape urbanism to be ... well, obtuse, indulgent and inaccessible? Published articles about the subject read like postmodern essays, and associated illustrations tend to be comprised of superimposed fractals and diamond cut-like shapes superimposed on a larger landscape, with no hint at any kind of human scale. There are also no hints given as to how landscape urbanism can be implemented, except for an implied "fire all the planners, and let landscape architects take care of it."

A quote from Wikipedia:
Try explaining that to your planning commissioners or city council.
My simple working planner mind has a much harder time comprehending the meaning behind this ...

I read the Wikipedia entry and I have no idea what the hell it means, I have no idea what the hell those chart-graphy things mean. Forget trying to 'splain to a council member - 'splain it to me!

As far as the fire all planners thing goes. I went to college and got myself shiny B.A. in LA. You def. do not want LAs playing planner. You also do not want Planners playing at being LAs. From my standpoint, planners and LAs should be the best of friends. LAs (should) have a terrific understanding as to how the "real" world works, how people use their environment. Planners should, too. The difference is that Planners know how to write it all down and LAs know how to get it in the ground. Very simplistic, I know, and plenty of exceptions. Other than that, Planners and LAs have a ton of overlap - speaking from first hand experience having moved through both curriculums in college. But we need both.

I may have gone off topic, sorry.

Back to Landscape Urbanism - seriously, planning ain't physics. And we need less gobbledygook-speak not more.
 

Cismontane

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900
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17
Here's the latest, biggest, and worst monstrosity of Landscape


I like it. Not every program requires "urbanism".. an R&D campus or a national lab or Apple Computer's hq, may require a contemplative building set in a green field, where workers are buffered behind many tress. Not everybody shares your architectural sensibilities. There is no "right" answer to these things. Legislating a "right" answer to aesthetics is tyranny IMO. it is fair to legislate against problems (garish signs, for example) or in favor of the preservation of historical character, but neither is the case here. It is not fair to legislate a particular urban form unless there is a functional reason to do so, within a legitimate application of the constitutitionally-sanctioned police power that is zoning and land-use.

And why do you think that a cheap tilt up office building built by HP within my own (still youngish) lifespan could possibly be worth preserving, from a historical perspective? I'll take the saucer, thank you.

btw, I see no application of the theory of landscape urbanism in the Apple building. It's just a modernist building in a garden, doing homage to the best (or depending on your perspective, worst) aspects of the historical legacy of Robert Wilson's (in my opinion, inspired) work (Union Carbide HQ, Vicks Building, etc) from mid-century through the 1960s. In many respects, it's the antithesis of landscape urbanism. If you want examples of landscape urbanism, check out the California Academy of Sciences building, the Shell Oil building in Monteuil France, or even traditional Southern California adobe buildings where half the ground floor is inset into hill sod, with courtyards over that gruond floor at entry level (not sure if there's a proper name for that building type, but you see a lot of them around Old Town San Diego or National City, San Diego) .. an urban form that dates back to the Spanish era, I believe.
 
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Pragmatic Idealist

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611
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... may require a contemplative building set in a green field, where workers are buffered behind many tress.
How do you get 12,000 people to and from this spaceship every day? Do they beam there with some sort of green technology not yet invented?

While Apple's progressive peers are returning to the city, Steve Jobs wants to encapsulate his people in this antiquated, Pentagon-inspired pod with an internalized design because, apparently, his workers need to be "buffered." The whole prospect is laughable.
 

Pragmatic Idealist

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The proof will be whether or not people want to work there. Apple's competitors for talent are offering employees good transit connections and walkability. Steve Jobs will offer traffic congestion, a long commute, and an employee cafeteria. What a visionary!
 

Cismontane

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900
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The proof will be whether or not people want to work there. Apple's competitors for talent are offering employees good transit connections and walkability. Steve Jobs will offer traffic congestion, a long commute, and an employee cafeteria. What a visionary!

And where is he going to find 4,000,000+ sq ft of space at a walkable location in Cupertino? And the HQ will come with its own biodeisel bus fleet for employee commutes. That's part of his plan. It is also part of the plan to REDUCE the number of parking spaces relative to the current site configuration. The complex will also be energy self-sufficient (effectively off grid)... although, to be honest, I'm not convinced they can pull that off upon commissioning.

And, once again, it is NOT an example of landscape urbanism. It's just modernism. The point of this thread was to discuss LU, not to afford you an opportunity to bash a building that emphatically has nothing to do with LU.
 

Linda_D

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The proof will be whether or not people want to work there. Apple's competitors for talent are offering employees good transit connections and walkability. Steve Jobs will offer traffic congestion, a long commute, and an employee cafeteria. What a visionary!

Did it ever occur to you that some people, especially geeky software engineers and programmers who have families, might actually like being out in suburbia/exurbia near the suburban/exurban homes where they live? 8-! Just because you hate cars, suburbia and cooking doesn't mean that everybody else in the country, especially in California, wants to live in an apartment, use car sharing, and not have decent sized kitchens with appliances.

As an IT professional of the programmer persuasion, I can also guarantee that Apple is NOT going to have any problem recruiting people. Apple puts out a "Help Wanted" sign, and the guy unlocking the door will likely be trampled by the programmers and engineers wanting to interview.

You really do need to broaden your circle of acquaintances to include people who don't think exactly like you do.
 

Cismontane

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Did it ever occur to you that some people, especially geeky software engineers and programmers who have families

I don't know about the preference for SFDs, since many IT people I know like the convenience of apartment living (but nice bucolic suburban garden apartments), but you're definitely right about office design. R&D people (whether IT or bio or other technical people) like spread out green campuses surrounded by green contemplative spaces. That's what generates top rents, not enforced visions of NU urbanity. This is why Rattner's otherwise highly successful University Park development and the Tech park subdivs outside Boston had so much in the way of problems during the design and lease-up process. They were forced to give their tenants the type of buildings they wanted DESPITE the city's requirement that they had to follow all the silly mixed-use streetwall-retail nonsense.

The result? They got their campus with someone else's loss: that streetwall-retail is still untenanted, years later, 'cause the those IT and biotech workers, beavering away in their campus-type buildings, have no demand for retail goods directly below their offices. Instead of taking the elevator down to the parking garage at the end of the day, they now have to walk several blocks to get to the standalone garage, but when they do so they don't bother to stop to buy stuff or hang out at streetfront cafes along the way. You just have deadspace and impoverished landlords. The streets still feel like a ghost-town, despite the NU principles in its design.

You can't force human behavior to your own ideological bias about how a city "should" look like. It'll fail and your project will fail. Jobs knows what his workers want. He's giving them exactly what they want because retaining those workers is everything for him and his company's profitability. You can bet that he will give them their dream office building.
 

JimPlans

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Trying to learn about landscape urbanism through reading seemed futile, so instead I looked for some real-world examples. http://www.groundlab.org/ has some examples, but they don't help me much. Mostly, landscape urbanism seems to mean removing all curves and repalcing them with straight lines. It also seems very influenced by brutalism, though that may just be my perception. Groundlab's projects reminded me of UMass Dartmouth, whose main campus (master plan and structures) was entirely designed by Paul Rudolph. In his own words, "SMTI [now UMD] juxtaposes a pedestrian campus defined by earth mounds with an encircling parking system. A spiraling mall created by buildings organizes the heart of the complex. The campus is intended to be a single building utilizing a single structural-mechanical system, to be constructed of one material." Click for google image feed.

To my eyes, in landscape urbanism land it's apparently 1960 all over again.
 

hilldweller

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I wonder about the security considerations that come with designing such a facility. Multi-national high-tech firms like Apple probably have protocols in place which favor a more isolated setting. I could be wrong, but the saucer-like design suggests to me a sort of surveillance component, an attempt to control the peripheral space around the building.
 

Linda_D

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21
Trying to learn about landscape urbanism through reading seemed futile, so instead I looked for some real-world examples. http://www.groundlab.org/ has some examples, but they don't help me much. Mostly, landscape urbanism seems to mean removing all curves and repalcing them with straight lines. It also seems very influenced by brutalism, though that may just be my perception. Groundlab's projects reminded me of UMass Dartmouth, whose main campus (master plan and structures) was entirely designed by Paul Rudolph. In his own words, "SMTI [now UMD] juxtaposes a pedestrian campus defined by earth mounds with an encircling parking system. A spiraling mall created by buildings organizes the heart of the complex. The campus is intended to be a single building utilizing a single structural-mechanical system, to be constructed of one material." Click for google image feed.

To my eyes, in landscape urbanism land it's apparently 1960 all over again.

Did a Klingon ship crash land or something? 8-!
 

Gotta Speakup

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I had tried to write a paper analyzing landscape urbanism's impacts on health. Ive had a very hard time since its impossible to pin it down to anything practical. Some of its adherents have a real poor sense of history, talking about the impacts of highways on cities, for example, without considering the neighborhoods that were bulldozed.

I could go on...
 

Cismontane

Cyburbian
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900
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17
This is off topic a bit, but intended to respond to Linda's point about tech and IT workers and forcing NU ideas like mandated groundfloor retail below residential and office space on 'em:

7 years in, no tenant:

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=cambr...oid=gb2Ks9WJ8h_Rv0g3pNPclg&cbp=12,297.54,,0,5

6 years in, no tenant:

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=cambr...=C-5U9CYOPhSIPA_WmkQm6Q&cbp=12,210.04,,0,1.11

There's literally miles of this stuff in that area. They can't even lease space at the base of 20 story residential towers and with 10,000 students less than half a mile away. On a recent visit to Tech Park, I counted four active storefronts. Four.. over nearly a mile of cumulative active frontage. Two were restaurants.. and like the 4th or 5th attempt to start restaurants there, each (they have a 6 month shelflife) plus two 7-11s. Seriously, 7-11s. Never saw more than one or two customers at a time in those 7-11s, at around noon. There is one passably successful food court-type mall with a multiplex movie theater but that's presumably enabled by the multiplex.
 

Pragmatic Idealist

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611
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16
Jobs knows what his workers want. He's giving them exactly what they want because retaining those workers is everything for him and his company's profitability. You can bet that he will give them their dream office building.
Jobs knows what his workers want? Why, then, are all of his competitors for talent going in exactly the opposite direction with their workplaces, which don't require cars or glorified van-pools to reach?

That building is all about what Steve Jobs wants.
 

Cismontane

Cyburbian
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900
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Why, then, are all of his competitors for talent going in exactly the opposite direction with their workplaces.

Again.. I'm going to have to ask you for specific examples. I know my tech parks pretty well. And don't cite the LA Cleantech Corridor. It's just a twinkle in somebody's eye.
 

Pragmatic Idealist

Cyburbian
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611
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16
This is off topic a bit, but intended to respond to Linda's point about tech and IT workers and forcing NU ideas like mandated groundfloor retail below residential and office space on 'em:

7 years in, no tenant:

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=cambr...oid=gb2Ks9WJ8h_Rv0g3pNPclg&cbp=12,297.54,,0,5

6 years in, no tenant:

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=cambr...=C-5U9CYOPhSIPA_WmkQm6Q&cbp=12,210.04,,0,1.11
Retail on the ground floor does not make New Urbanism, walkability, or street life, as your references to retail vacancies among significant land-use intensity in Cambridge illustrate. You said so, yourself. 20-story residential towers along with 10,000 students should support more than a couple of 7-Elevens. So, let's look at your Google Street View to see where these things are deficient.

Your examples show: no continuous on-street parking; no angled parking; no balconies; no upper-story setbacks; no continuous street-walls; excessive use of high-rise versus human-scale mid-rise construction; small windows that lack transparency; no memorable vista termini; gaping voids in the urban fabric; one-way streets; no active street frontages in surrounding buildings; no managed congestion of automobile traffic in order to activate the streets; no anchors for retail; a poorly-designed square that is too big and that has bad visibility and bad closure ratios; streets with bad closure ratios; bad architectural design with no memorable corners or random visual detail; poor transit connections; copious parking, especially in surface form, everywhere; a seeming lack of diversity in land use, building stock, and residences, as well as population; etc.

If these are your arguments against the New Urbanism, you may have a misapprehension of the term. I certainly don't think anyone viewing those spaces would consider them walkable or sociopetal.
 
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Pragmatic Idealist

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611
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Another misapprehension is that the New Urbanism somehow does not appreciate the importance of biophilia.

Parks, greens, and squares, as well as greenways and nearby open space (the natural and rural zones) are all part of the New Urbanism, as are green roofs, vertical gardens, and a careful approach to bioswales, biocanals, and other sustainable urban drainage systems. These things should be incorporated in a way that does not degrade walkability, however.
 

Gotta Speakup

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The Cambridge, MA Kendall Square area was master planned in the 1970s without any regard for New Urbanism. It's the old style, people won't work in a city unless they are in fortresses type of development. Even so, there is fair amount of retail in the area.
 

Cismontane

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Your examples show: no continuous on-street parking... lots of other architectonic junk


Um.. ok.. so what you're saying is, a few random, superficial frills and garnishes would bring about pedestrian activity? I'm sorry, but that's utter hogwash. By the way, I can find ALL of those amenities in failed retail in that neighborhood.

Land-use there is EXTREMELY mixed-use, by any measure, by the way. Residential buildings face most of those commercial blocks, there's even residential and lab space integrated into buildings with shared curtain walls. Streets are still dead. Tech workers like their labs.. not Times Square pedestrian densities.
 

Cismontane

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The Cambridge, MA Kendall Square area was master planned in the 1970s without any regard for New Urbanism. It's the old style, people won't work in a city unless they are in fortresses type of development. Even so, there is fair amount of retail in the area.

Actually no.. that area - about a quarter mile north of Kendall - is much more recent planning than that. The stupid mandated streetwall retail rule dates from something like 1998, if I remember correctly. Also, remember, University Park, on the other side of MIT, which is held up by the NUists as their ideal project, suffers from all of the same problems. I think they finally managed to get one shop front tenanted in it, other than that grocery store they've been subsidizing since 2004.
 

Pragmatic Idealist

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611
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R&D people (whether IT or bio or other technical people) like spread out green campuses surrounded by green contemplative spaces. That's what generates top rents, not enforced visions of NU urbanity.
Certain campuses are better designed than others. Those colleges and universities with carefully-planned open space that is organized into squares and plazas generally work. Even better are those urban campuses that are integrated with the rest of the city and that incorporate a great diversity of uses.

The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California is another walkable campus with a interconnected street grid, narrow lanes, and a beautiful design from the 1940's that fosters interaction. Most of the buildings have a human scale and pleasant proportions. http://www.flickr.com/groups/1432468@N23
 

Gotta Speakup

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Actually no.. that area - about a quarter mile north of Kendall - is much more recent planning than that. The stupid mandated streetwall retail rule dates from something like 1998, if I remember correctly. Also, remember, University Park, on the other side of MIT, which is held up by the NUists as their ideal project, suffers from all of the same problems. I think they finally managed to get one shop front tenanted in it, other than that grocery store they've been subsidizing since 2004.

You are correct on the opening dates, but the planning began a long time earlier.
 

Linda_D

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Jobs knows what his workers want? Why, then, are all of his competitors for talent going in exactly the opposite direction with their workplaces, which don't require cars or glorified van-pools to reach?

That building is all about what Steve Jobs wants.

This is another of your silly statements presented without any proof to back it up.

First off, yeah, Steve Jobs knows what his workers want because he's a techie turned entrepreneur. He's one of them at heart.

Second, who are these Apple "competitors" of whom you speak? Are most of them located in California -- or India? One of the big issues among IT staff over the last decade has been the outsourcing of programming work to companies in India where programmers work for a fraction of what their US counterparts make. In other words, there are a lot of competition for IT jobs -- especially since the recession -- just like for other jobs.

Third, even twenty-something single techies grow up, get married, have kids, buy a house and get a dog, save for kids' college and retirement, etc. Most techie people I know mind their pennies and don't spend frivolously. They'll buy in a Toyota or a Subaru but wouldn't consider a Lexus or Mercedes even when they can afford one.
 

Cismontane

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The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California is another walkable campus with a interconnected street grid, narrow lanes, and a beautiful design from the 1940's that fosters interaction. Most of the buildings have a human scale and pleasant proportions. http://www.flickr.com/groups/1432468@N23

That's not a tech park. It's a tourist attraction as well as a functioning studio. Tech parks are places where R&D and production is done for various technology industries. Producing movies is an unrelated activities. Techies are an altogether different group of tenants.
 

Pragmatic Idealist

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611
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That's not a tech park. It's a tourist attraction as well as a functioning studio. Tech parks are places where R&D and production is done for various technology industries. Producing movies is an unrelated activities. Techies are an altogether different group of tenants.
The Walt Disney Studios is not open to the public, but it was consciously designed to foster creative, interdisciplinary interaction among the personnel.
 

Cismontane

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The Walt Disney Studios is not open to the public, but it was consciously designed to foster creative, interdisciplinary interaction among the personnel.

It's still a different industry. Investment banks like to foster creative interdisciplinary interaction too and they like to be in busy CBDs. Engineering firms, like mine, do the same, but we also like to be in busy CBDs.. since we need to interact with architects, contractors, city officials, etc, frequently. You'll need to give us examples specific to the tech sector.
 
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