Archive | City culture

Quote: On city logotypes and slogans

I was not interested in an official city logotype or a slogan. City logotypes do little and slogans are a sign of insecurity. If your place needs a slogan, it has a problem. A brand is not just a logotype, it’s a set of values that are communicated through actions.

— Peter Saville, consultant creative director for Manchester, England

Source: The Atlantic Cities blog



Downtown is not the only town

I’m thankful for businesses like Aptera Inc. who have decided to move to downtown Fort Wayne and support our urban core.

But downtown Fort Wayne isn’t the only urban business district around here. If you want to do business — or open a business — in a close-knit, walkable, multi-use community, you could also consider:

New Haven, pictured at top. The photo was taken at Broadway and Main streets during the downtown businesses’ Halloween celebration last year. It was packed!

Roanoke, above. The location of Joseph Decuis and Reusser Design, among others.

East State Village. A couple blocks long loaded with restaurants, a bakery, a library branch, a chocolatier and the Firehouse Theatre.

Waynedale. There’s a Big Boy and lots of small businesses lining Lower Huntington Road.

Wells Street. Several blocks of eclectic shops: Hyde Brothers bookstore, Mr. Wimps jewelry, a funeral home, a coffee shop, a bakery, a discount grocery and plenty of people milling around.

West Main Street. OK, this is my neighborhood, best known for Paula’s Seafood, O’Sullivan’s and Recovery Room Upholstery. But look more closely and you’ll find outdoors equipment, architects and even the SOMA art gallery.

I’m sure there are lots of other small business districts scattered around town. Any you’d care to mention? What do you like about them?


Traditional neighborhoods and modern architecture

Scott Greider, over on his personal blog, quotes a portion of the San Jose historic design guidelines that addresses the role of modern architecture in older neighborhoods. (If you’re adventurous, you can download the entire 95-page PDF.)

What does San Jose say? It says, “Bring it on”:

Rather than imitating older buildings, a new design should relate to the traditional design characteristics of a neighborhood while also conveying the stylistic trends of today. New construction may do so by drawing upon some basic building features — such as the way in which a building is located on its site, the manner in which it relates to the street and its basic mass, form and materials — rather than applying detailing which may or may not have been historically appropriate. When these design variables are arranged in a new building to be similar to those seen traditionally in the area, visual compatibility results. Therefore, it is possible to be compatible with the historic context while also producing a design that is distinguishable as being newer.

A modern-style home can be a wonderfully contrasting complement to a historic neighborhood. It certainly beats decay and vacant lots, and it also beats a hundred suburban neo-Colonials with three-car garages in front.

I can’t say the modern home above is my style, but frankly, plenty of older, classical homes aren’t my style, either.

The style of the structure is not the main point. Urbanism is site plan more than architecture. If you bring the house close to the sidewalk, put the parking or garage in the back and make the front wall permeable (that is, not a blank wall), you are strengthening a neighborhood, no matter the style of architecture.

– photo of modern townhouse in Lincoln Park, Ill., by Scott Greider on Flickr


10 reasons cities are works of art

The Work Research Foundation‘s Comment magazine published a little point of view piece called “Public Arts in the City: with reference to Chicago.”

Not only does the author — Clinton Stockwell, the executive director of the Chicago Semester — give ten positive reasons for considering cities as works of art, he peppers his short essay with great quotes, including these:

“Place is space with historical meanings, where some things have happened which are now remembered and provide continuity and identity across generations.” — Walter Brueggemann

“Art points out to the Calvinist both the still visible lines of the original plan, and what is even more, the splendid restoration by which the Supreme Artist and Master-Builder will one day renew and enhance even the beauty of His original creation.” — Abraham Kuyper in Lectures on Calvinism

Read the essay here.

photo of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue by kitchaboy on Flickr


What creates community?

What creates community? Shared stories.

Shared stories require three things, two of which are obvious:

  • A story, or any kind of happening, even a small happening, like a game of cards.
  • Some sharing, that is, a group of people who experience the same happening.

But a shared story also requires:

  • A first-hand, intimate knowledge that the story is being shared.

A group of individuals sitting at home watching the same show different shows on separate televisions does not create community. But the smallest thing shared with a neighbor does.

An example of a shared story is the above photo, which was taken in downtown Wheeling, W.Va., in 1950. A parade had gone up Market Street — you can see it in the background. Today, downtown Wheeling is almost vacant and you must drive ten miles to a shopping mall to do any substantial shopping.

– photo from the author’s personal collection


Creating a pedestrian and bicycle friendly downtown

That’s the title of a promising event May 7 at the downtown Cinema Center.

Dan Burden, executive director of Walkable Communities, will be leading an event that hopes to answer these questions:

What are the elements that make up a pedestrian and bicycle friendly downtown? Learn what Fort Wayne can do to make our downtown more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. What are other successful communities doing? What are your questions?

Fore more information, check out The Good City’s new events page. When I find out more about what will actually happen at the event — Is it a presentation? A charrette? Very few details are on the city’s press release — I’ll post the information.


Politics can’t save urbanism

Yesterday, I pointed to this article at City Journal about how New Urbanism may have changed the conversation about urban planning, but it hasn’t changed the culture.

The article points out how many New Urbanists have grabbed on to the “climate change” movement, hoping its momentum will bring its “community-building ethos into the mainstream.” And along those lines, New Urbanists have hitched their wagon to increased regulation to make their dreams happen:

(New Urbanists’) first hope was “smart growth” — basically, the imposition of regulatory guidelines concerning things like density and access to public transportation. The New Urbanists tend to regard the triumph of the automobile with skepticism and would like to think it reversible. Al Gore would agree, and as vice president he took a stab at promoting a smart-growth “livability agenda” — with underwhelming results. Smart growth, for the record, now entails advocacy of a new stratum of government: federally mandated regional authorities would control key planning decisions for core cities and their suburbs as well as the sharing of major urban assets, not to mention federal dollars.

Instead, the article’s author says New Urbanists should move beyond a top-down approach:

They need to get beyond marketing strategy, eco-hype, and trendy buzzwords, and focus on the formidable task of cultivating political leaders across the ideological spectrum who have the gumption to redeem the nation’s urban landscape — one community at a time.

The article is correct — partially. Finding political allies at the local level is much better than finding them at the federal one.

But the article’s unspoken assumption is that politics got us into this mess, and politics will get us out. It’s a fatal error.

The problem isn’t political, it’s cultural. One reason the suburbs exist as they do is because we as Americans wanted to become more isolated from each other. Until the American people realize once again the purpose of cities — and decide that they are willing to sacrifice their own comfort temporarily to make cities more livable — then our culture will continue to spin off into increasing isolation, whether the walls are single-use zoning or technology or simply never leaving your car while outside a building.

Not even $3.65 a gallon gasoline will make us love our neighbor. Forcing us to live close to one another won’t rebuilt society if we simply don’t want to.

– photo by puroticorico on Flickr