Recently there was an inspiring front-page story in the NY Times
about the hope that good design can bring to a blighted area like the South Bronx. In new architect critic Michael Kimmelman’s “In a Bronx Complex, Doing Good Mixes with Looking Good,”
he visits the subsidized housing development Via Verde. He writes, “The idea was to spur developers to team with architects in combining the latest green concepts with high quality architecture for a public-housing project, a ‘beacon that would re-engage deisgn with the issue of affordable housing.’”
In Glimmer I talk about the well-known past failures of urban renewal where whole neighborhoods were bulldozed or built without asking the people what they wanted and needed.
It looks like the Via Verde project may have avoided some of the mistakes of the past, simply by following the design principles I explore at length in Glimmer.
For instance they “went deep” in their research, most importantly asking people in the neighborhood what kind of building they wanted. When they got the answer “a healthy place to live,” it forced the developers to frame some questions including, “What is a healthy building?” Followed by: what could a housing development on its own do to shape and change behavior?
Using that as their framework, the developers and architects came up with a series of simple answers that together make for a refreshing living experience: Extra cross-ventilation to discourage the asthma-enhancing use of air conditioners; stairwells with windows to encourage people to use the stairs; communal garden plots on rooftops; a fitness center in a prominent ground-floor spot (instead of buried in the basement); and plenty of outdoor spots to stroll to.
Read more here
to find out how design thinking and good planning have enabled this architectural project to create something new and potentially exciting (the complex is still under construction in Sept. 2011, as pictured at right).
Meanwhile, new architect critic Michael Kimmelman has started up an Arts Beat blog
to encourage discussion (and the reader comments about the column and Via Verde so far are interesting). He can be followed on Twitter @kimmelman
No related posts, but check around GlimmerSite for lots of other interesting articles.