Tag Archives: urban design

What is the Heat Island Effect?

Urban Heat IslandsAs urban areas develop, changes occur in their landscape. Buildings, roads, and other infrastructure replace open land and vegetation. Surfaces that were once permeable and moist become impermeable and dry. These changes cause urban regions to become warmer than their rural surroundings, forming an “island” of higher temperatures in the landscape. Continue reading

Designing Barcelona in Favor of Public Health

Economic prosperity in Barcelona, Spain during the mid-19th century encouraged the population to rise, but infrastructure constraints seemed to compel the decline of urban design and by extension public health. Presently, airborne pollutants with the greatest impact to Barcelona appear to come from motor vehicles. The city’s solution is to repurpose the existing grid layout in favor of environmentally- and pedestrian-friendly city streets with the application of superblocks.

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The Basics of Land Use Planning

The Power to Plan
Local agencies derive their authority to shape their communities through planning and land use from the “police power.” The source of this power is both the federal and California constitutions. The police power is broad and elastic and entitles cities and counties to take actions to protect the public’s general health, safety, and welfare. However, in most cases local regulations may not conflict with overriding state law.
Local authority to regulate land use can expand to meet the changing conditions or priorities of society. Thus, actions that might not have been thought of as part of the general welfare a century ago (for example, curbing sprawl or promoting affordable housing) can fall within its purview today. Continue reading

Is Urban Infill a Sustainable Solution to Development?

Urban infill may be a viable solution for cities seeking to build tighter communities by utilizing space to its fullest potential. Conscious implementation of developments on underutilized land may be an effective sustainable agent that reduces daily vehicular travel time and the resulting environmental byproducts. Continue reading

Innovative Public Transportation Infrastructure

brt_1-imageDeveloping innovative solutions within an existing city layout may be one of the challenges faced by some cities when accommodating for growing populations. It can be time consuming and expensive for a city to rework its pre-existing urban infrastructure. Rather than retrofitting the city’s public transportation infrastructure, it seems to be more feasible for a city to create an innovative solution in collaboration with pre-existing developments. Continue reading

The Architecture of Affordable Housing

232 River Street, Santa Cruz: An Example of Affordable Housing Infill.

As affordable housing developers build in inclusionary zoning areas, cities and residents demand high quality architecture and construction comparable to market-rate housing


One of the challenges that frequently confront market-rate housing developers building in cities with inclusionary zoning ordinances is the requirement that a certain number of affordable units be built alongside market-rate housing to promote a more diverse community. The juxtaposition of affordable with market-rate housing also demands that the affordable housing features a higher level of architectural style to compete aesthetically with the market-rate housing. Continue reading

Why is the Washington Monument Not On-Center?

wamo-cross-axis-highsmith-w-redMy wife and I were fortunate to pass through Washington D.C. during last summer. That being my first visit, as an architect naturally I could not help but admire the Beaux Arts vistas, symbolism, and majesty of the Washington Mall. But something bothered me – the centerline of the White House doesn’t line up with the Washington Monument.

In a city so based on order and symmetry and strong axes, why is the Washington Monument not on axis?! It took me a bit of online sleuthing to find out why. Continue reading