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Thursday, June 30, 2011

CULTIVATING THE ARTS -5


CITIES BENEFIT FROM USING
THE ARTS AS AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT TOOL


Charlottesville, Virginia may have fewer than 50,000 residents, but its vibrant arts community creates a quality of life that ranked the home of the University of Virginia as the best place to live in the United States in the book Cities Ranked and Rated.

In 1976, the City of Charlottesville turned a decommissioned 1916 Federalist style brick school building into the McGuffey Art Center -- a vibrant place where dozens of artists rent studio space far below market rate.

In return for low rent, artists agree to open their studio spaces to the public for a required minimum of at least 17.5 hours per week.
"It humanizes the process -- people walk right in to your studio and begin to realize there are flesh and blood people making these things and these people have a role in the community," said sculptor Jim Respess, who has been at McGuffey for two decades and chairs its gallery committee. "It's a nice fit: we have a really nice exhibition space, but the lion's share of what goes on at McGuffey is people can walk in `and see the dirt on the floor' -- the process (of marking art) unfolding."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

CULTIVATING THE ARTS -4


CITIES BENEFIT FROM USING
THE ARTS AS AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT TOOL


Chris Velasco, who founded PLACE in 2005 and serves as its President and Executive Director, has been actively engaged in the creation of innovative communities and sustainable facilities for 16 years. He has worked in more than 200 communities, creating more than $350 million worth of new, arts-centered facilities.

"Art is fundamentally a process and not a product," Velasco said. "There is a strong temptation to go to a museum and say `this is where art lives,' but it really takes place over a cup of coffee talking with an artist over their canvas, or in a loft with the dancers creating their dance. That is why I have spent nearly two decades of my life building very specialized spaces for the arts."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

CULTIVATING THE ARTS -3


CITIES BENEFIT FROM USING
THE ARTS AS AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT TOOL


Realtor Doug Moe, of Keller Williams Realty, has been selling homes and taken an active role in the Ventura community since 1976. Charged with selling the market rate, solar-powered, double-floor, loft condominiums at WAV, he is a huge supporter of the diverse development.

"When I really found out exactly what was going on at WAV, I thought `man, somebody did something great to get Ventura this fabulous project to completion in this economy,'" Moe said. "There were 800 applicants for the 54 units of artist housing -- that tells you how popular this is."

"This is very important to the residents of Ventura -- we see what's going on with the environment., we want a higher quality of living," he continued. "WAV addresses so many issues important to us -- affordable housing, having different segments of society living here. WAV also demonstrates that you can build affordable housing that is LEED certified and that you can build a mixed income gem like this without the city pouring money into it."

Monday, June 27, 2011

CULTIVATING THE ARTS -2


CITIES BENEFIT FROM USING
THE ARTS AS AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT TOOL


"The WAV is an economic engine and a cultural force," said Ventura City Manager Rick Cole. "It brings scores of artists into permanent residence in our downtown, provides an accessible new performance space, provides a home to individuals and families climbing out of homelessness and represents an exciting mix of uses and incomes. On top of all that, the LEED certification validates the vision that brought this unique community-within-a-community into being."
"At a time when every other mixed use and housing development stalled, the WAV opened to rave reviews," Cole added "It has kept the momentum going by bringing exciting new life to our historic downtown."

The sustainable structure -- developed by the Minneapolis-based nonprofit PLACE -- Projects Linking Art, Community & Environment -- has 6,100 square feet of ground floor space for arts-friendly businesses such as coffee houses, galleries and sidewalk cafes.

WAV provides affordable living and working space for over one hundred artists of every kind including painters, sculptors, dancers, poets, musicians and filmmakers. The WAV Theater Gallery offers performances, art openings and public gatherings.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

CULTIVATING THE ARTS


CITIES BENEFIT FROM USING
THE ARTS AS AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT TOOL


By Steve Wright

From almost the beginning of time, the arts have been supported by everyone from monarchs to popes to commoners because of their humane, beautiful, spiritual, and life-affirming qualities.

In these challenging economic times, an equal argument can be made for valuing the arts like precious infrastructure, as important to cities as walkability, transit and parkland and as essential as streets, water and sewer lines.

Countless cities -- from obscure to famous, from modest to sophisticated -- have used the arts to revitalize old neighborhoods, create nightlife in fading downtowns and spur economic development in tough times.

In Ventura, California, the arts are at the center of a landmark development that combines market rate condominiums, affordable space for artists and even transitional housing for formerly homeless people -- all in a LEED-certified green building that is just a few blocks from both downtown shopping and the Pacific Coast beach.

The $61 million mixed-use, mixed income utopia is called WAV -- Working Artists Ventura. It has 54 live-work units for artists with monthly rents starting at $400. The top floor features market-rate lofts selling for more than half a million per unit -- which helps subsidize the cost of the affordable units. There are also 15 units of transitional housing available for low income renters who do not have to be artists.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A PLACE FOR THE ARTS -3



"We can make a profound difference by creating the exemplar --the model that is so powerful it changes the way we do things," he said. "There is this thought that it costs too much to build sustainably. But when we created the most sustainable building ever created in Ventura, we showed that you could build sustainable for the same cost as non-sustainable. We showed that if PLACE can figure out how to build sustainable housing marketed to homeless people and stay within budget, then other developers can certainly build sustainable for market rate condo and malls. We believe it isn't ethical anymore to create a community that isn't sustainable."

Velasco said PLACE is very focused on social justice and making sure everyone benefits from the enrichment of communities through the arts. In the WAV artist live-work and mixed use building in Ventura, California, more than 140 meetings were held before construction commenced -- to ensure that every element of the project was compatible to every element of the community.

"There is a lot of talk around the country about how the arts are a powerful gentrification force in a community. People say `isn't this (project) going to gentrify the area?' and the answer is `it sure seems that way, pretty reliably,'" Velasco said. "If we do assume that (the arts will bring gentrification), then the key is to ask ourselves `how do we make sure there are opportunities for persons from every income level to benefit in the growth in value?` "


Wright frequently writes about Smart Growth and sustainable communities. He and his wife live in a restored historic home in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana. Contact him at: stevewright64@yahoo.com


Friday, June 24, 2011

A PLACE FOR THE ARTS -2




Velasco, who founded PLACE in 2005, has created projects that have won numerous awards from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the American Institute of Architects.

"A solution to many of the problems we are facing starts where you live," he said of PLACE's commitment to building affordable, zero carbon, zero waste holistic communities powered by the sun, wind and earth. "Look at the amount of energy we consume in buildings. How we look at the creation of communities is important for the problems of the 21st century. (We must look at) how we deal with people who are different from us and involve them in opportunities to thrive. Fixing the commute problem, the carbon problem and the poverty problem -- you'd be hard pressed to find a more pressing problems."

Velasco, who was invited to submit an opinion paper to then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on environmental policy for her Strategic Energy Fund, is a frequent keynote speaker in the areas of sustainable arts, live-work communities, ethical development, community and economic revitalization and the environment.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A PLACE FOR THE ARTS


A PLACE FOR THE ARTS


By Steve Wright


Chris Velasco, founder of Minneapolis-based PLACE -- Projects Linking Art, Community & Environment -- has a messianic approach to live-work spaces for artists through sustainable, ethical development.

The president and executive director of PLACE said the arts are important for three reasons:

• "Arts express our human value," Velasco said. "The arts are the single most important and durable statement of human flourishing ever. Artists literally make our quality of life."

• "Arts are very important to the democratic process (small d)," he said. "The genius of the democratic process is that people don't have a solution at the end of the day -- they have the ability to hold two things that are seemingly opposite of each other in a productive tension, which allows people to work on things together. If you can hold two different ideas in your head at the same time, you can be an artist. And holding different ideas together in your head is exactly what democracy allows."

• "Arts provide a reason to come and see this experimental community," Velasco said. "People want to come and see what the artists are doing -- because it is interesting and protean. People say `why not create a community of accountants or teachers?' and I say they are certainly part of what we do, but they are not the draw of an artist."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

LEADING THE WAY TO HEALTHCARE DESIGN AND HEALTHIER WALKABILITY -3



Lombard and the School also worked with Dr. Szapocznik to create criteria for measuring walkability for Florida's State Surgeon General.

The idea is that communities could be measured by the criteria and take pride in being walkable enough to earn a "Seal of Walkability."

Lombard has teamed with School of Architecture faculty to publish professional papers on healthy living such as:

• The Relationship of Built Environment to Perceived Social Support and Psychological Distress in Hispanic Elders: The Role of "Eyes on the Street" in the Journals of Gerontology.

• Identifying Streetscape Features Significant to Well-Being in The University of Sydney Architectural Science Review.

• The Impact of the Built Environment on Children's School Conduct Grades: The Role of Diversity of Use in a Hispanic Neighborhood in the American Journal of Community Psychology.

• Built Environment and Physical Functioning in Hispanic Elders: The Role of "Eyes on the Street" in Environmental Health Perspectives

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

LEADING THE WAY TO HEALTHCARE DESIGN AND HEALTHIER WALKABILITY -2



"In the sprawl scenario, everybody has to drive out to the medical center, they park in a huge surface parking lot, they sit in a bland waiting room, eventually get called for their appointment, then drive home," Lombard said.

"Take the same clinic and make it the village center in an urban area and maybe the waiting room has public space -- where you can get a coffee and pastry, buy a newspaper and do your laundry. We are saying `let's look at our medical facilities as being good neighbors and functioning more like town centers,'"

This year's theme of the Global Business Forum, a campus-wide marquee event organized by the School of Business, is The Business of Health Care: Defining the Future. Lombard and the Dean participated in the January event, with the School of Architecture serving as the initial venue for the opening of the forum.

Monday, June 20, 2011

LEADING THE WAY TO HEALTHCARE DESIGN AND HEALTHIER WALKABILITY



LEADING THE WAY TO HEALTHCARE DESIGN AND HEALTHIER WALKABILITY
The School of Architecture is leading the way toward applying the walkable, compact, mixed use principals of New Urbanism and Town Planning to the design of health care facilities and healthier communities.

Professors Joanna Lombard and Frank Martinez and Dean Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk have been appointed to represent the School in its ongoing work with Dr. Jose Szapocznik at the UM Miller School of Medicine's Department of Epidemiology and Public Health.

Lombard, who has taught studios and published several papers on health care design, said the School's history of being at the forefront of New Urbanism positions it perfectly to be a nationwide and global leader in health care design that creates communities, rather than isolated institutions.

"Health care facilities are tremendous generators of jobs and great assets to any economy," Lombard said. "Even a little tiny clinic deals with a lot of people coming and going."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

HANDS ON ARCHITECTURE -7


School of Architecture Dean Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk applauded the set design course for providing another layer in UM's rich offering of diverse educational opportunities.

"It is good for the School of Architecture to create opportunities for students to move into the entertainment industry and other fields beyond an architect's office," Dean Plater-Zyberk said. "We prepare our alums for diverse career options inside and outside the profession."

Lejeune observed that in recent years, as digital technologies and automated fabrication processes are fast eroding the conceptual limits between architecture, art, film, and theater, architects like Zaha Hadid, Herzog & De Meuron, Frank Gehry and many others around the world are actively working on the theatrical stage.

Sheridan said his set design's enclosed curvilinear space defined by a 10-foot high wall "makes the spectator focus on the actors, their figures and conflicts; a 70-foot curved and dome-like screen looms above the space and captures a series of constantly changing and morphing digital images."

"For Strawberry Fields the wall is fully closed, whereas for Ballymore its central section disappears to reveal an Arcadian landscape barred by a series of barbed wire," Sheridan wrote. "Architectural models of New York and Irish structures cast moving shadows on the walls. The combination wall + dome magnifies the action and with the progression of scenes the nature of the stage becomes clear: not a physical space but the representation of a mental space."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

HANDS ON ARCHITECTURE -6


SET DESIGN COURSE STRENGTHENS BOND BETWEEN ARCHITECTURE AND THE ARTS

"The architect must not only understand drawing, but music" -- Vitruvius

"Architecture is frozen music" -- Goethe

A special problems class titled Stage and Architecture, held in consultation with Frost School of Music professors Alan Johnson and Dean Southern, challenged eight students to explore various aspects of research and scenic design relating to a pair of one-act opera productions: Strawberry Fields and Ballymore, Part I: Winners.

Professor Jean-François Lejeune led the School of Architecture's collaboration in the project, which featured presentations given at various stages from which suggestions were made for further development.

"At the end of the course, Joseph Sheridan’s bold design was selected for the final production, beautifully realized by projection designer and artist Laurie Olinder," Lejeune wrote in a booklet about the operas that were staged on the Coral Gables campus. "Sheridan’s project is another demonstration that Alban Berg and Bernd Alois Zimmerman’s vision of integrating opera, photography and film has become a mainstream reality."

Sheridan, a fifth-year student at the University of Miami School of Architecture, explained " In spite of seemingly diametrically opposed settings and scripts— Central Park in Strawberry Fields and the hilly landscape overlooking the town of Ballymore, Ireland, in Ballymore, Part I: Winners — the notion of escapism is vital to both operas. The protagonists — the Old Lady; Joe and Meg — explore freedom through fantasy (consciously and unconsciously) and ultimately achieve it through death. Both operas eventually deal with a dream-like state as the line between fantasy and the real world erodes as the action progresses. As a result, the scenic concept distances itself from any real location."

Friday, June 17, 2011

HANDS ON ARCHITECTURE 5


Ceo said in the age of texting, social media and other instant communication, it is good for students to get their hands dirty struggling with real tools and materials.

"These students have a leg up in the job market because they have some construction experience," Ceo said. "They've wrestled with pricing, ordering materials, getting it to site, securing it, work with materials, etc. Anyone employing a student right out of school would do well to have a student who has already worked in construction."

Ceo is thrilled that Adamson is returning to lead another Design/Build Studio this school year. He said it is essential to raise funds for the program so it can grow and continue to serve the community.

"It demonstrates the importance of architecture as community outreach," Ceo said, noting that UM SOA students have worked with Habitat for Humanity and other grassroots organizations. "Working with underrepresented communities should be a normal part of an architect's existence. The profession is not just about building for profit, but also must be abut considering the health, safety and welfare of the entire community."


Thursday, June 16, 2011

HANDS ON ARCHITECTURE 4


Robert Douglass, a Masters in Architecture graduate now working for Voith & Mactavish Architects in Philadelphia while completing an internship, has equally high praise for the design build studio.

"Getting the school into the community is a huge boost for the school's image and introduces students to the idea of using their specialized knowledge for community service," Douglass said. "The program really opened our eyes to the whole process of construction, even though it was a pretty small project. We went not just through the design, but also client approval, working with engineers, documentation, permitting, estimating, purchasing, phasing and logistics of construction, and construction. "

"I have a tendency (as, I think, do most architects) to want to do everything myself, but the Design/Build forced me to become better both at delegating and at teaching, which in retrospect were probably the most valuable things for me," Douglass said. "We learned a lot about being rigorous and methodical and cooperative in our working habits, both to improve the quality of the product and to make it easier to work as a team. I think a lot of us learned a little more about where our real talents and tastes lie within the wider field of architecture, which led us to a deeper understanding of ourselves, our classmates, and the industry."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

HANDS ON ARCHITECTURE - 3




Melissa Harrison, who recently graduated with a Masters in Architecture and now works on a contract basis with Dover, Kohl & Partners, said the most satisfying part of the studio was that in a matter of weeks, "we had something physical and permanent that we can always look back on and say we designed."

"We had to unfortunately abandon our initial project and begin again half way through the semester on a new design with a new client -- an unanticipated challenge and disappointing at first, but one that ultimately provided a good sense of what happens in the real world," Harrison said. " In a matter of just six weeks, we had to make a lot of new decisions and rethink our program and design criteria based on a new site, budget and a shortened timeframe in which we could actually deliver something. It was an intensive six weeks in the end, but we were able to adjust and respond and work collaboratively to meet the deadline at the end of the semester."

"Building the orchid house also made us realize how complicated and time consuming it can be to construct even what appears to be a simple structure." she added. "The process forced you to think about every detail, every connection, cost, schedule, and preparation of materials, and certainly lent new understanding and perspective about designing -- not so much in a vacuum as we usually do in studios -- but instead with true scope and scale in mind."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

HANDS ON ARCHITECTURE -2


The structure was made of reclaimed Cypress, which had to be hand-planed in the school's model shop. Adamson brought in extra tools and gave students training before they begin finishing the wood.

The pavilion was erected under a tent right on School of Architecture grounds, which gave wide exposure to the project to hundreds of students and professors passing by. It was built in three modules, so it could be transported by trailer for assembly at Motes Orchid.

“The Sales-Display Pavilion built by the UM Design/Build class is a structure perfectly matched to its site and use," said Motes Orchid owner Martin Motes, who bought the materials for the project. "The light airy design, providing ample air flow and visual interest reflects the best atmospheric qualities of the greenhouses where the flowers being displayed and sold have been grown. Similarly the choice of materials, predominantly native Cypress mirrors the wooden baskets in which the plants are rooted and the slat roofed growing house where they have been cultivated. The Design/Build Pavilion combines beauty and functionality in a way particularly suited to Motes Orchid.”

Adamson -- who has spent a lifetime living on-site in exotic places while he builds his site-specific, environmentally-sensitive designs -- said the project stressed hand craftsmanship.

"The important thing is students need to know the implications of their design. If you never touch the stone, the 2x4s, the materials -- you never know about your design," he said. "Simplicity is the lesson to teach to students -- to be practical. Students might want to overdesign something to show off to a professor, but this taught them that some of the best buildings are the more simple buildings.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hands On Architecture


HANDS ON ARCHITECTURE
DESIGN/BUILD STUDIO AND SET DESIGN COURSE PROVIDE STUDENTS WITH OPPORTUNTIES
TO COMPETE AND COLLABORATE TO CREATE THINGS OF BEAUTY


DESIGN/BUILD STUDIO EXPOSES STUDENTS TO REAL LIFE EXPERIENCES RANGING FROM CHANGING PROJECTS MIDSTREAM TO HAND FINISHING RAW CUT LUMBER IN THE MODEL SHOP

Thanks to the Design/Build Studio, under Visiting Critic Jim Adamson’s direction with Professor Rocco Ceo’s assistance, 14 students will begin their architecture careers with a built project already in their portfolios.

Adamson, a longtime member of the famous Jersey Devil architecture design/build collaborative, led students in a successful effort to create then build a wooden pavilion that now serves as a shaded sales structure on a world famous orchid farm in the Redland in south Miami-Dade County.

The project, full of real life challenges, fulfilled a long-time goal to make construction a regular part of our the School of Architecture's curriculum.

The studio started out with the goal of building a park pavilion, but that idea got caught up in local bureaucracy, so a new project had to be designed, built and fabricated in the remaining half the of semester.

Ceo and Adamson agreed that dealing with the realities of building versus designing provided invaluable experience to the University of Miami students as they train for careers in a challenging economy.

"It is difficult coming up with a single design idea out of a group, but our students are very good about that because they do a lot of collaborative projects," Ceo said. "Once we get to building, it takes on a life of its own -- it transitions from a personal project to a collaborative project. It's not an abstract line on your computer, it's out there and you're building it. It really connects design concepts with construction."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

CULTIVATING THE ARTS -6


CITIES BENEFIT FROM USING
THE ARTS AS AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT TOOL


Respess said progressive cities view the arts and artists as part of the fabric of the community and as a vital cog in the engine that drives economic vitality in core neighborhoods.

"One of the issues we wrestle with is `how do you maintain the artistic integrity of the building with downtown rents around it rents going through the roof?' It's tough for the city, because the city is not getting property tax from us," he explained. "The city has been very, very supportive of what's going on at McGuffey.

We benefit from a city council and city environment that has embraced the idea of the artistic process at the core of the city. The people here understand that our presence is as important as the objects we make."

Respess praised city leaders who support the art center and its recent designation on the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register.

"I feel very fortunate to be here and I take McGuffey very seriously," he said. "It is a beautiful old Federal Style building. If you took it away, you would destroy something that is homegrown and part of daily life in the downtown of one of the most special cities anywhere."

HELP FOR HAITI FROM THE HEAD AND HEART -- 5


UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI SCHOOL OF ARCHITECURE'S LEADERSHIP IN HAITI CHARETTE
FOLLOWING DEVASTATING EARTHQUAKE STRENGTHENS TIES AND LONGTERM
COMMITTMENT TO HELP REBUILD NEIGHBORING NATION IN NEED


By Steve Wright

The representatives of the Haitian government which participated in the Charrette included individuals from the Prime Minister’s Bureau of Counselors and the Ministry of Planning and External Cooperation (MPCE), as well as the Conseil Interministériel pour l’Aménagement du Territoire (CIAT).

"The charrette wasn't about blueprints for construction, it was more of an exercise for planning for how things should be done: showing internal coordination for medical facilities, hazardous zones, the ecosystem, roads, historic settings and more," Mangones said. "Everybody is very certain that decentralization is key to future of Haiti. This is an opportunity to push for decentralization, then provide self-sustainable villages."

The School of Architecture as a long history of responding to natural disasters, such as the rebuilding of south Miami-Dade County following the devastating Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Days after the quake in Haiti, Adjunct Professor Andres Duany traveled to Port-au-Prince in the
company of Dr. Green. Duany met with then Haitian President Jacques Preval and others in his cabinet and later toured the city, returning to Miami with a clearer understanding of how UM could be helpful in defining the coming rebuilding phase.

The resulting Haiti Charrette’s projects focused attention on the following categories: Impact within the Community; Sustainability; Land Use; Public/Private Cooperation. The 200-page charrette report, enhanced by hundreds of vivid drawings and photographs, was broken down into two sections: one focused on general analysis and recommendations and a second on case studies.

Wright has contributed thousands of stories about town planning, architecture, urban recovery and transportation. Contact the Miami-based writer-photographer at stevewright64@yahoo.com

Saturday, June 11, 2011

HELP FOR HAITI FROM THE HEAD AND HEART -- 4


UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI SCHOOL OF ARCHITECURE'S LEADERSHIP IN HAITI CHARETTE
FOLLOWING DEVASTATING EARTHQUAKE STRENGTHENS TIES AND LONGTERM
COMMITTMENT TO HELP REBUILD NEIGHBORING NATION IN NEED


By Steve Wright

"The University of Miami School of Architecture and the University-wide response has demonstrated it can do great things for people in need," Mangones said. "Project Medishare, what Dr. Green has done is amazing -- everybody down there is in awe. But the School of Architecture realizes that disaster response shouldn't just be limited to medical response. The University is taking the initiative and leading the way to inspire more people to get involved in not just rebuilding, but building a more sustainable future."

Mangones said he has spoken to University of Miami President Donna Shalala and knows she is committed to providing UM's resources long-term to support a permanent recovery in Haiti.

"It is amazing to think just a relatively few miles away, Haiti is one of the poorest countries on earth," Mangones said. "UM lead the way to show how these collective efforts can have impacts on people around the world. I applaud and thank the Dean and everyone else. Because of their efforts, the government was able to secure donations for reconstruction."

The body of work produced in the Charrette supported the Haitian government’s recommendations presented at the United Nation's International Donors Conference for Haiti at the end of March in New York. More than $5 billion in recovery funds have been pledged as a result of the conference.


Wright has contributed thousands of stories about town planning, architecture, urban recovery and transportation. Contact the Miami-based writer-photographer at stevewright64@yahoo.com

TOMORROW: PART 5

Friday, June 10, 2011

HELP FOR HAITI FROM THE HEAD AND HEART -- 3


UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI SCHOOL OF ARCHITECURE'S LEADERSHIP IN HAITI CHARETTE
FOLLOWING DEVASTATING EARTHQUAKE STRENGTHENS TIES AND LONGTERM
COMMITTMENT TO HELP REBUILD NEIGHBORING NATION IN NEED


By Steve Wright


Hundreds of brilliant minds gathered for five consecutive days to focus on Haiti's history, post-quake condition and future. The charrette helped develop spatial concepts for the government’s vision and its Post-Disaster Needs Assessment, as well as sustainable development models for future prototypical communities.

"At the University of Miami, concern about Haiti is wide and deep, involving many of our schools and centers. With a large Haitian population in the greater Miami area and close proximity to Haiti itself, the University had long ago determined that it should build relationships with our close hemispheric neighbor," states a report on the charrette.

"In the aftermath of the quake, those bonds were strengthened as we established channels of communication with Haitian ministries, government leaders and, humanitarian NGO’s--all in an effort to learn how our School could assist in addressing pressing needs, in light of country’s chaotic present and contorted political history as well as our School’s established strengths."

Because of the University’s ongoing work in Haiti, the Medical School, led by Dr. Barth Green, became a life-saving first responder after the earthquake -- arriving the next day and setting up a temporary hospital there, the largest to date in Haiti. Green's Project Medishare has continued to deliver first rate care to Haitians in need, a full half year after the quake.


Wright has contributed thousands of stories about town planning, architecture, urban recovery and transportation. Contact the Miami-based writer-photographer at stevewright64@yahoo.com

TOMORROW: PART 4

Thursday, June 9, 2011

HELP FOR HAITI FROM THE HEAD AND HEART -- 2


UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI SCHOOL OF ARCHITECURE'S LEADERSHIP IN HAITI CHARETTE
FOLLOWING DEVASTATING EARTHQUAKE STRENGTHENS TIES AND LONGTERM
COMMITTMENT TO HELP REBUILD NEIGHBORING NATION IN NEED


By Steve Wright

"There were a multitude of symposiums, lots of organizations collecting money, some self-proclaimed experts making proposals to build garden sheds as homes for homeless people in Haiti," Mangones recalled. "I did a presentation in February, then I came in contact with Lizz (School of Architecture Dean Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk), who said the government had asked UM to get involved -- exact subject unknown."

Mangones, who had recently become more involved in the Haitian-American Community, helping with beautiful facade designs that were built in Miami's Little Haiti, put his full faith in the University of Miami School of Architecture.

The resulting Haiti Charrette, a five-day event in March to address post-earthquake planning hosted by UM at the request of the Haitian government’s Commission for Reconstruction was as soothing to the soul as the quake was devastating to Mangones and his family.
The collaborative workshop provided a forum for Haitian architects, planners and engineers to work with University of Miami faculty and students and design professionals from the Haitian community in Miami.

Mangones was the team captain of the Cultural Heritage group. The Miami Committee was composed entirely of School of Architecture faculty and staff including Dean Plater-Zyblerk,
Sonia Chao, Director, Center for Urban & Community Design; Denis Hector, Associate Dean; and
Lamar Noriega, Director of Development.

Wright has contributed thousands of stories about town planning, architecture, urban recovery and transportation. Contact the Miami-based writer-photographer at stevewright64@yahoo.com

TOMORROW: PART 3

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

HELP FOR HAITI FROM THE HEAD AND HEART -- 1


UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI SCHOOL OF ARCHITECURE'S LEADERSHIP IN HAITI CHARETTE
FOLLOWING DEVASTATING EARTHQUAKE STRENGTHENS TIES AND LONGTERM
COMMITTMENT TO HELP REBUILD NEIGHBORING NATION IN NEED


By Steve Wright

Haiti -- an island racked by centuries of poverty, government scandal and life-and-death struggles -- was dealt an unspeakable blow by a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 earthquake whose epicenter was just outside the capital city of Port-au-Prince.

The Haitian Government reported that an estimated 230,000 people had died, 300,000 had been injured and 1,000,000 made homeless by the January 12, 2010 disaster. The numbers, almost too overwhelming to comprehend, included an estimated 250,000 residential and 30,000 commercial buildings that had collapsed or were severely damaged by the quake and its aftershocks.

For Miami-based architect Boukman Mangones, a Haitian-American whose family's roots in Haiti run back to the early 1800s, the heartbreaking events stirred a passion to help out. But how? How? he wondered.

"The earthquake was very personal," said Mangones, a project manager at R.J. Heisenbottle Architects, whose principal Richard J. Heisenbottle is a University of Miami School of Architecture graduate. "Myself and my wife both have family down there."

"I was desperately seeking ways of helping out," said Mangones. "But I'm not a doctor, I'm an architect -- so I wanted to get involved in architecture."

Wright has contributed thousands of stories about town planning, architecture, urban recovery and transportation. Contact the Miami-based writer-photographer at stevewright64@yahoo.com

TOMORROW: PART 2

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

THE NYC HIGH LINE: 7


HIGH (AND ACCESSIBLE) IN THE CITY

By Steve Wright

In addition to the views, the High Line is the perfect place to crack open a book and read with all the terrific urban sounds surrounding you. Best picks include: City Walks Architecture: New York, Alissa Walker's deck of playing cards with walking tours; AIA Guide to New York, the American Institute of Architects splendid book with more than 2,000 photos and 100 maps; The Flatiron: The New York Landmark and the Incomparable City That Arose with It, Alice Sparberg Alexiou's account of Daniel Burnham's famed early skyscraper; America's Mayor: John V. Lindsay and the Reinvention of New York, an empathetic look at the late Lindsay's service to the city during the turbulent term of 1966-1973; The Original Green [Unlocking the Mystery of True Sustainability], Stephen A. Mouzon's photo-filled and easy-to-read ode to traditional building and urban places; The Great Reset: How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity, Richard Florida's new geography and new technology guide to our urban future; and The Smart Growth Manual, by Andres Duany and Jeff Speck -- champions of the New Urbanism.

Wright has contributed stories about accessible architecture, urban travel and foreign adventure for more than a decade. Contact the Miami-based writer-photographer at stevewright64@yahoo.com

Monday, June 6, 2011

THE NYC HIGH LINE: 6


HIGH (AND ACCESSIBLE) IN THE CITY

By Steve Wright

The High Line is open from 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM daily. Last entrance to the park is at 9:45 PM. The park in the sky runs along W. 11th and 10th Avenues. Elevator access points are at W. 14th and W. 16th Streets. Its information lines is: (212) 500-6035. Web: www.thehighline.org

Chelsea Market, 75 9th Avenue between W. 15th and W 16th streets, is the perfect place to buy a snack for the High Line or for grabbing a bite after a visit. The market, carved out of the 1890s National Biscuit Company complex, has outstanding accessibility (including barrier-free public restrooms) and features munchies favorites: Eleni's (cupcakes and sweets), Sarabeth's Bakery (baked goods and light meals), Jacques Torres Chocolates (other worldly cocoa confections), Bar Suzette (crepes sweet and savory), 202 (brunch amidst designer Nicole Farhi's apparel) and two dozen more gourmet grub purveyors. Contact: www.chelseamarketcom

The Hilton Garden Inn Chelsea, 121 West 28th Street, has great deals on wheelchair-accessible rooms with two beds and a roll-in shower and it is only about a mile from the High Line. Contact the property at (212) 564-2181 or online at: http://hiltongardeninn.hilton.com/en/gi/hotels/index.jhtml?ctyhocn=NYCCHGI

Wright has contributed stories about accessible architecture, urban travel and foreign adventure for more than a decade. Contact the Miami-based writer-photographer at stevewright64@yahoo.com

TOMORROW: Part 7

Sunday, June 5, 2011

THE NYC HIGH LINE: 5


HIGH (AND ACCESSIBLE) IN THE CITY

By Steve Wright

Section 1 of the High Line is wheelchair-accessible with elevators at West 14th and West 16th Street. The northernmost point of Section 1 is at West 20th Street -- where there is stair access, but no elevator down to the street. Disabled visitors must backtrack (the views of the Empire State Building and rest of Manhattan are worth it) four blocks south to use the West 16th Street. elevator down to the street.

Section 2 of the High Line is under construction and set to open in the spring of 2011. Like the rest of the High Line, the next 10 blocks will be entirely barrier-free with elevator access points at West 23rd Street and West 30th Street.

Section 3 of the High Line contemplates swinging west, almost to the Hudson River, extending north from West 30th Street to West 34th Street. Those four blocks have not yet been secured for park use, but the City Planning Commission voted to approve the City's application to create the option to acquire the additional four blocks of High Line at the West Side Rail Yards. If the area is eventually acquired and refurbished for park use, it too will be 100 percent accessible.

Wright has contributed stories about accessible architecture, urban travel and foreign adventure for more than a decade. Contact the Miami-based writer-photographer at stevewright64@yahoo.com

TOMORROW: Part 6

Saturday, June 4, 2011

THE NYC HIGH LINE: 4


HIGH (AND ACCESSIBLE) IN THE CITY

By Steve Wright

The High Line has sparked a neighborhood renaissance, with hotels, restaurants, apartments and more going up next to it. Old industrial buildings along the High Line are being renovated for modern office, residential and other uses.

The High Line has served as a magnet to famous modern architects, such as Frank Gehry, whose first New York building is located along it. With other modern edifices completed or nearing completion designed by Jean Nouvel, Renzo Piano, Neil Denari, Shigeru Ban and Robert A.M. Stern, some have dubbed the rebuilding effort "Starchitect Row."

The park runs above the West Side neighborhoods of the Meatpacking District and West Chelsea. The High Line was built in the 1930s as part of a massive infrastructure project that lifted freight traffic 30 feet in the air, removing dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan's largest industrial district.

The trains stopped using the High Line in 1980 and sat abandoned, deteriorating and in danger of demolition for nearly two decades. Friends of the High Line, a community-based non-profit group, formed in 1999 to preserve and maintain the structure as an elevated public park operated under the jurisdiction of the City Department of Parks & Recreation.

Wright has contributed stories about accessible architecture, urban travel and foreign adventure for more than a decade. Contact the Miami-based writer-photographer at stevewright64@yahoo.com

TOMORROW: Part 5

Friday, June 3, 2011

THE NYC HIGH LINE: 3


HIGH (AND ACCESSIBLE) IN THE CITY

By Steve Wright

And what about the restrooms? Truly accessible restrooms are all too rare, let alone facilities located in an urban area that often become graffiti-splashed hovels for vagrants.

Thankfully, New York's only park elevated 30 feet above street level can answer "yes" to all of our accessibility concerns. It has regulation elevators, not lifts and its pathways are wide and welcoming -- we saw a half dozen wheelers during our first half hour on the High Line. The restrooms are large, perfectly-equipped for disabled visitors and attended by uniformed staffers.

We planned our trip well in advance, a necessary rather than optional strategy for anyone with significant mobility limitations. We checked out the High Line’s website. It had basic, simply-stated info about access points for people with disabilities.

Afraid to leave things to chance, we emailed a contact on the website. Assuring us of wheelchair access, we were instructed to use an elevator at the 16th Street entrance -- and it worked like charm and was attended by a uniformed staffer.

The High Line mostly runs flat, but there are very gentle ramps to cover slight changes in grade. The pathway ducks under at least one building, providing a covered area should a passing shower pop up.


Wright has contributed stories about accessible architecture, urban travel and foreign adventure for more than a decade. Contact the Miami-based writer-photographer at stevewright64@yahoo.com

TOMORROW: Part 4

Thursday, June 2, 2011

THE NYC HIGH LINE: 2


HIGH (AND ACCESSIBLE) IN THE CITY

By Steve Wright

Also on the list was a visit to the High Line, an innovative urban park constructed along an abandoned elevated freight railway along Manhattan’s west side. When it opened in June 2009 we’d read so much about it in newspapers and on the Internet, lauded for its sustainable ethos of recycling an industrial eyesore into an urban oasis.

As proponents of responsible urban design, this really appealed to our sensibilities. That, and the fact that it was located in the most exciting city in the world where one could also find unique high end pop-up stores, gourmet grub sold from trendy trucks and art exhibitions unavailable to those of us who live outside the five boroughs.

Yet we remained skeptical about the quality of the wheelchair access. Would a wheeler be able to get to every level of the park? How would the vertical accessibility be provided to an outdoor facility? Would they use lifts exposed to the elements that would end up as non-functional, rusted out garbage pits within the first month or two? Would the pedestrian paths be smooth and stable throughout, or would we explore a portion of it, only to find wheelchair-unfriendly grass or gravel?

Wright has contributed stories about accessible architecture, urban travel and foreign adventure for more than a decade. Contact the Miami-based writer-photographer at stevewright64@yahoo.com

TOMORROW: Part 3

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

THE NYC HIGH LINE: 1


HIGH (AND ACCESSIBLE) IN THE CITY

By Steve Wright

A fat bumblebee buzzes softly as it makes a lazy arc around the pink and violet-colored flowers, stopping to rest now and then. Perhaps he’s imitating us, or vice versa, as we take our sweet time to observe and meander along the path.

We’re not drowsy but relaxed and feeling very in tune with our wood, stone and iron surroundings. The breeze is gentle and sweet and the views, amazing. Even better is the fact that the wheelchair access is superb. We have not the least bit of anxiety about how we’ll make our way forward or back down to ground level.

We’ve not discovered some abandoned railroad trestle in the foothills of Utah’s canyon country nor are we exploring a covered bridge along the back roads of Vermont’s maple syrup region.

We are in the most intensely urban and dense location, quite possibly in all the world: New York City. We are walking along a path on the High Line.

When we prepped for our trip to New York, we made a list of “can’t miss” items: three course prix fixe meals at hot new dining spots, hunts for discount designer threads at funky consignment boutiques and browsing through the stacks at some of the best bookstores anywhere.

Wright has contributed stories about accessible architecture, urban travel and foreign adventure for more than a decade. Contact the Miami-based writer-photographer at stevewright64@yahoo.com

TOMORROW: Part 2