Category Archives: Aesthetics

Winter Warmth

This is our first story in a short series on activating public space in the winter.

Weather impacts who Canadians are as a people and greatly influences when and how we choose to go outside and spend time in public space. Quite frankly, most often we abandon our public spaces – aside from skating rinks and hills where we ski, board and sled – for the colder months of the year, re-emerging at the first sign of Spring and sporting short sleeves probably before we should. There is a reason why Canada’s largest city, Toronto, is considering expanding what is already the world’s largest urban tunnel system, connecting much of the downtown business district.

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The Importance of Being Movable

By Jake Tobin Garrett

Maybe I’m lazy, but the first thing I do when I get to a park, plaza or other public space is look for a place to sit down. But it’s amazing how many public spaces get seating so wrong. It’s shoved far off in a corner, or plopped in the middle of open plazas where you feel like you’re on display, or, worst, there isn’t any at all. Many times I have wished I could just uproot a giant concrete bench and drag it to where I wanted to sit.

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How a Garage can Enhance a Neighbourhood

At the gateway to downtown Miami Beach’s celebrated pedestrian promenade sits an important new social and civic experiment, Herzog and de Meuron’s 1111 Lincoln Road. Completed in 2010, the mixed-use project features residential, office and retail components; however, the standout element that re-shapes the discussion about urban and architectural design is, uncharacteristically, the parking garage.

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A Touch of Green in Montreal

Even during the summer months Montreal’s urban core can feel a little cold and hard at times. Sentier Urbain has taken it upon itself to lighten things up and spread a little bit of green around the downtown. The organization has not simply planted a few trees or set up shop in one location. Instead, it has developed a series of gardens throughout the city, each with a different theme.

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New York Gets Waterfront Design Right

Is this how you think of New York City? Wood walkways, colourful flowers, tall grasses, warm lights? I’m not talking about the High Line, which has become one of the city’s top economic assets, drawing people from around the world to experience New York in a unique way from atop a former elevated railway. Steps away on the west side of the island, Hudson River Park is often overlooked by visitors as a must-see New York attraction.

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The Potential of Planned and Abandoned Spaces

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” said Robert Burns famously. But I would add that’s where the coolest stuff starts to happen. Many of us now, for better or for worse, live in planned spaces or neighbourhoods that are built on spec and are subject to land use planning guidelines. When interruptions in these plans occur, opportunities for innovation and creativity arise. They represent the chance to introduce something new into the pattern, perhaps only temporarily, but sometimes with a more lasting effect on the landscape, and moreover, on the people who live there.

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“One Wish to Change the World”

This year a French street artist named JR won the TED Prize, given out by the nonprofit conference on technology, entertainment and design. While I have been more than impressed with all of the projects and people featured on TED, I have been blown away by past TED Prize winners who are awarded $100,000 for their “one wish to change the world.”

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NYC’s High Line Park Theatre

By Jake Tobin Garrett

If you’re like most who have been reading about urban projects in the last year or so, you’re probably sick to death of reading about New York City’s amazingly successful High Line Park. You’ve probably heard all about how it took an unused elevated rail trestle and transformed it into a beautifully designed and landscaped linear park. You’ve probably also heard about the billions of dollars in private investment near the park that has been spurred in the area.

But did you know the High Line contained a theatre?

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Zurich—A City at the Water’s Edge

Photo: Sihl River

Zurich frequently tops livability indexes and now I know why. There are the basic qualifications—efficient transportation, low crime and almost no unemployment. But Zurich offers a unique relationship between people and water that makes the quality of life particularly enjoyable.

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