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December 12, 2012

Great urban design in Made for Walking

Made_for_Walking streetscape 1Designing great places is part art and part science. Good urban form sometimes just feels right, though there are necessary elements, found in the "five Ds and a P" formula, for example: diversity of land uses, density, design, distance to transit, destination accessibility, and parking. In the new book Made for Walking: Density and Neighborhood Form, landscape architect, urban designer, and photographer Julie Campoli takes urban design to the next level by identifying the essential characteristics of successful urban neighborhoods that provide a better quality of life and a reduced carbon footprint.
     Based on the latest research on urban form and travel behavior, Made for Walking provides new ideas about the role of density and the importance of diverse land uses. The urban design principles that build on Jane Jacobs’ work are illustrated through detailed case studies of 12 urban neighborhoods of approximately 125 acres each—a comfortable pedestrian walk zone:
     • LoDo and the Central Platte Valley, Denver, Colorado
     • Short North, Columbus, Ohio
     • Kitsilano, Vancouver, British Columbia
     • Flamingo Park, Miami Beach, Florida
     • Little Portugal, Toronto, Ontario
     • Eisenhower East, Alexandria, Virginia
     • The Pearl District, Portland, Oregon
     • Downtown and Raynolds Addition, Albuquerque, New Mexico
     • Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York
     • Little Italy, San Diego, California
     • Cambridgeport, Cambridge, Massachusetts
     • Old Pasadena, Pasadena, California
    These neighborhoods offer choices: various modes of transportation, diverse housing types, and a variety of things to do and places to shop. Their streets are comfortable, attractive, and safe for biking and walking, and  they all show how compact development can take shape in different regions and climates. Six specific qualities make them walkable: connections, urban tissue (the web of property lines and rights-of-way), population and housing density, services, streetscape, and green networks.
      Understanding urban design principles is important not only to new development, but to places that are being rediscovered and reinvented -- building on  “good bones”—human-scale buildings and ready-made networks of small blocks and connected streets that make walking easy.
     The further context for Made for Walking is the current era of high energy prices, economic uncertainty, and demographic change. An increasing number of Americans are showing an interest in urban living as an alternative to the traditional automobile-dependent suburb; many seek to reduce their annual vehicle miles traveled (VMT) as a way to save money and lower greenhouse gas emissions affecting climate change.
     Made for Walking builds on the award-winning volumeVisualizing Density (Lincoln Institute, 2007), coauthored with aerial photographer Alex S. MacLean. Julie Campoli is also coauthor of Above and Beyond: Visualizing Change in Small Towns and Rural Areas. In her practice as well as her writing, she combines a planner’s perspective and a designer’s sensibility to illustrate the built environment and the processes that shape it.  Her design practice, Terra Firma Urban Design, is based in Burlington, Vermont.

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