This week we read chapter 10 titled Urban Design, from the book Contemporary Urban Planning. This is the topic that I was mostly interested about when taking this course. The way that the book explaining the differences between architects, urban designers, and planners was very useful to me. Honestly I only thought that architects were the ones that went into building design. I never stopped to think that there are more people in play when it comes to the entire city layout. Architects focus on the design of a single building, spanning from 1-3 years. Urban design on the other hand deals with the organization of buildings and spaces between them. They do this based on transportation, neighborhood identity, pedestrian orientation, and climate. They are also for long periods of time varying from 15-20 years. Lastly there is the planner that considers the entire city. They are also much more involved in the political process.
One example that the book gave of urban design was of skyways. I had seen a few skyways here and there, and there is even a few in New Brunswick. I had never stopped to think as to why they were there. The book gives them as an example of a mean of travelling within very cold cities. The ones mentioned are Minneapolis, and Calgary Canada. These skyways stretch for very long distances all the way across the cities. On busch campus, here in Rutgers, I know of at least two that are there. I myself have used them trying to avoid the cold, lest did I know someone had planned it for that very purpose! Underneath is a map of the Minneapolis Skyway System.
Because of this design of “traffic flow”, other variables in this city are changed. The book explains that to rent a retail space that was on the same level of the skyway, was more expensive than renting it on the bottom, where the actual roads are. This is one example of the factors that urban designers have to keep in mind when designing something. I also wonder if the fact that the skyways are closed in, if they are actually safer. I would imagine that they are, but if someone where devious enough, the closed quarters may actually work to their advantage. New Jersey may not be as cold as these places, so that’s why maybe skyways aren’t used that much. In New Brunswick I have seen that it has been made pedestrian friendly over the years. One example was that there is a trail that I believe goes from Piscataway (Busch Campus) to New Brunswick (College Ave). It looks very nice, well kept, and marked, but I wonder how the safety of it is during the night.
The last thing that I would like to mention is edge city. It has no single design philosophy. “It is an evolving form of development based on a variety of economic forces and on understandings that developers and investors have of those forces”. Just in the United States, there are more than 200 of these cities! I had never even heard of these cities before! I wonder how much it would cost to live in these cities, and the affect they have on the property taxes of homeowners there. Do homeowners even actually own the land? These development may be characterized by different things. They may have closely spaced housing, and sidewalks everywhere to make walking easier. Alleys are also sometimes behind the housing so that garages and trash cans are out of sight. This would be good, since sometimes the wind kicks up and moves trash cans all over roads. I have heard of towns that have electrical wiring underground, I wonder if this is something available in edge cities too!