Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Design Advisor: a Tool for Transitioning Cities

In class on Thursday we looked at several affordable housing projects being created throughout the country, and were asked to review a few of the affordable housing projects found on: designadvisor.org. The affordable housing projects I chose to review are as follows:
I chose these for a few reasons, including their range of locations, size, and contrast of before and after. (Picture contrasts below)
Cabrini Apartments:

Cabrini Apartments Before

Cabrini Apartments

Regent Terrace Apartments:
Regent Terrace Apartments Before

Regent Terrace Appartments

Wentworth Commons:

wentworth commons before

wentworth commons

As you can see the buildings above were beautifully re-imagined and preserved. We were asked to answer a myriad of questions regarding these affordable housing projects:
  • Do these projects meet you expectations of affordable housing?
  • Did anything about these projects surprise you?
  • If you were looking for housing, would any of these projects appeal to you?
  • How might you change elements of these projects?
raise the bar
Were it not for a recent run in with several "high class" affordable housing units that I was denied residency with, I would have said these affordable housing units exceeded my expectations, but I know the bar has been raised drastically. Now it is time for the bar to be raised on all housing.

I feel at times what is known as the middle class income group is being left in the dust of those who are known as the upper and lower classes. (Please bare with me on the use of these terms as they are the easiest way to describe income classifications.) We spend loads of time providing for the lower class, and the upper class provides for themselves, and figure the middle class can do the same. If we really sought for equality, these same designs would be available to middle class residents. This response should give you an idea of how I would answer all these questions, but if not I will answer them below.

equal opportunity housing
Yes they meet my expectations. Yes it is surprising that often times affordable housing is drastically better than anything I can afford. I have looked at affordable housing projects as potential places or residency and been denied. And I would change only the fact that they are a lot of times strictly affordable housing units instead of mixed use and income.

Now the question I really wish to answer with this post is how these projects can be models or tools for transitioning cities. The green technology shown in these projects should be implemented in ever project no matter the group for who it is built. Subsidies can still be in place with certain projects, but I believe they should always be "mixed use" and mixed income, mixed class, mixed background, etc.

This may not be the case, but in my experience in searching for a nice place to live I have been denied affordable housing, despite it being the only affordable housing for the amount I can afford. These projects are models for how all buildings should be built, allowing communities to work together and grow together and help one another out with their distinct backgrounds, education levels, and skill sets. This is how I see these projects implemented as tools for transitioning cities.

Green Technologies
The green technologies in them are in a lot of cases astounding. Example:
Cabrini Apartments:
  • "Convenient on-street and in-building bicycle parking"
  • "High efficiency drip irrigation...for all landscaping."
  • "Low flow bathroom faucets and showers..."
  • "Recycled materials include [everything from the landscape materials to carpets, siding, and framework]"
  • "Formaldehyde free building insulation"
And the list goes on with all these projects. Why don't we use these concepts and practices in everything we build? Why aren't all buildings created equal? And why aren't all income classes treated equally?

Transitioning cities
A teacher in the inner city shouldn't be paid 1/2 of what a suburb teacher is paid, and one school district shouldn't get all the tax revenue of local businesses, where as another school get the horribly short end of the stick. All of these things should be equal shares, equal attention, equal programs, equal funding, equal quality. That is how I see this being displayed as a tool for transitioning cities.

Sustainability News

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I just wanted to take a moment to send a personal message out to all those in the fields of Landscape Architecture, Gardening, Horticulture, and Urban Planning/Urban Ecology. I created Landscape Connections for the purpose to share my love and passion for Landscape Architecture and Design, and Urban Ecology. I was a Landscape Architecture Major at Utah State University and currently study Urban Ecology at the University of Utah. I am working to compile as much information in the four previously mentioned fields as possible. If you have any further information, or would like to either add information or see information posted to landscape connections please let me know.