The Greek word arkhitektōn means builder of art. Not many place architect and artist on the same level, but if you look at the very base of the meaning of the word, you could say we are all artists. Maybe it’s the building you pass each day on your way to work or the street grid that makes up your neighborhood, art truly comes in all forms and this last Friday we got to showcase both our buildings and our personal collections. The Indianapolis Downtown Artists and Dealers Association invited our firm to be a part of their Indianapolis First Friday Art Walk. You could call it an art party in Indy and little did we know how much fun it would be to see the many faces in our community stop by, but it sure was a delight. Even better was the number of people who came to support the Fletcher Place neighborhood and made our office a part of their trip.
Citizens of Salt Lake City Utah have carried on a love-hate relationship with their often quirky and opinionated mayor, but Ralph Becker knows one thing continues to put his city on the map and that is the mass improvements his administration has made in walk-ability. He says in just a few years, the city changed nearly 150 codes and ordinances to simply get out of their own way in creating a better urban experience. Men’s Health magazine recently ranked the capital city the “fittest city” in the country based on research of several communities. Becker, a former city planner turned mayor doesn’t drive to the office each morning, instead he insists that no matter the conditions he is to ride his bike. From supporting policies that encourage physical activity to helping raise funds to construct over 200 miles of bike lanes, 50 miles of bike trails and nearly 50 miles of walking trails, connecting the people to the city is just a step in improving the quality of life for residents. It could be all of these features that helped land him in the position of president of the National League of Cities in 2015.
From the experience and exponential growth one city in the inter mountain west to today’s announcement from the Surgeon General, you can see how our country is taking quality of life and health seriously in regards to urban design. Step It Up is the call from our Surgeon General to promote physical activity and walk-able communities. Citing several alarming health statistics, such as the fact that nearly 50% of all Americans are living with a chronic disease makes anyone want to spend more time creating a stronger focus on walk-ability and physical activity. One statistic shows us that adults should at least get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week and calling cities to provide this option is a necessary must for our country to take shape. The plan outlines five strategic goals that will help it measure success in the coming years for communities across the country.
Goal One: Make Walking A National Priority.
*Encourage people to promote walking and make their communities walk-able.
*Create a national walking movement to make walking and walk-ability a priority.
Goal Two: The government is asking all planners, designers and communities to create places that make it safe and easy to walk for people of all ages and abilities.
*Design and maintain streets and sidewalks so that walking is safe and easy
*Design communities that support safe and easy places for people to walk
Goal Three: Promote Walking and offer programs and policies to support walking where people live.
*Promote programs and policies that make it easy for students to walk before, during and after school.
*Promote work-site programs and policies that support walking and walk-ability.
*Promote community programming and policies that make it safe and easy for residents to walk rather than commute.
Goal Four: Provide information to encourage walking and improve walk-ability in our communities, no matter the size.
*Educate all communities about the benefits of safe walking and places to walk.
*Develop effective and consistent messages and engage the media to promote walking and walk-ability.
*Educate relevant professionals on how to promote walking and walk-ability through their professions.
Goal Five: Fill surveillance, research, and evaluation gaps related to walking and walk-ability.
*Improve the quality and consistence of surveillance data collected about walking and walk-ability.
*Address research gaps to promote walking and walk-ability.
*Evaluate community interventions to promote walking and walk-ability.
The Surgeon General calls out developments and urban designers in his Step It Up report saying that many communities that are being designed can present barriers to walking, such as everyday destinations being located too far from home. A push for public transit also comes along in the report in saying that people are more likely to walk when they use public transportation and the lack of an adequate system may mean that opportunities are lost. Benefits to creating walk-able communities also can be of economic value. Walk-able communities often are attractive places for businesses to locate which will continue to help drive local economies. Community and street design policies are recommended to aide in the increase of physical activity. The Step It Up report asks that urban designers begin looking at ways to locate residences within short walking distances of stores, work-sites, public transportation, essential services, and schools via connection of sidewalks and paths that are well-connected, safe and attractive. Designers must also look at improving street lighting and enhancing street landscaping to reduce traffic speeds. Complete Street programs will be fast tracked across the country as the report also demands transportation and travel policies that create or enhance pedestrian and bicycle networks, subsidize public transit systems and more.
As an architecture and urban design firm that is committed to improving the quality of life in our communities, we already encourage and look to incorporate the ideas from the Surgeon General’s Step It Up report. Hoch Associates looks from transportation and urban design to streetscape enhancements, healthcare, wellness facilities and more that each one of our projects are designed with walkability in mind. We believe that many of our communities already offer great public parks and fitness centers, but why not increase this momentum and opportunity with expanded walking and biking paths, neighborhood activity areas, pocket parks and recreation zones. If we can take a page from the success of Salt Lake City or nearby DayBreak community and look at this as a way to enhance our own neighborhoods, it can only be a positive outcome. Our goal is to provide better access from schools and neighborhoods to vibrant community centers, creating walk-able campuses in master planning and putting an emphasis in better urban design. The news from the Surgeon General has found a welcoming home and we are excited to create the next generation of cities, ones that people don’t mind taking a walk in.
When you think of urban design and quality of life, what is the first thing that comes to mind? I would be shocked if your first answer was Pope Francis, but if it is…then great! Growing up, my mom would always tell us as we put the utensils on the table, “remember you don’t talk about religion or politics.” Maybe it’s because both of my parents were involved deeply in both religion and politics, but it was something that always stuck with me. While it’s not the dinner table, we do find it appropriate today to discuss the vision of Pope Francis and his call for all of us as architects and urban designers. Of course, if you have been anywhere near the news, the internet or a smart phone you know that Pope Francis has landed stateside and is making a short five day tour of the United States eastern seaboard starting in Washington DC. During his visit, he will make the first-ever address to Congress and plans call for him to hold a multi-religious service at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. We are also certain that during the time he spends with President Barack Obama, he will be sharing some of his priorities and asking what the country plans to do to implement those action items.
Just a few short months ago, Pope Francis called for all architects, urban designers, planners and social developers to “create better cities.” He opened his much-anticipated 2015 encyclical by making an urgent and passionate plea discussing the current state and planned future for cities from rural landscapes to urban centers. He says “We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature.” Calling out more than just the typical toxic emissions, the Pope clearly discusses that we must improve our congestion, social exclusion, violence, noise, poor transportation and most importantly, our loss of identity. He goes on to write “In some places, rural and urban alike, the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people’s access to places of particular beauty.” We have all been guilty of this in the past, not understanding the full impact of the human environment. We want to believe that our design that has been stuck in our heads is the only one that should be constructed, but as the Pope says taking other ideas into consideration are a must in improving the quality of life. It’s exciting to see that one of the most respected leaders in the world has asked us to put an end to our shortsightedness and place an emphasis on creating a better quality of life in all of our designs.
At Hoch Associates, one of our greatest goals in each of our projects is creating #powerfulideas that inspire community. We do more than design a building, we look at the surrounding neighborhood, understand the economic impact, study the market and discuss how the project relates to creating or enhancing a neighborhood. We may have jumped a few years ahead of the industry, but our focus has been to create a better quality of life, no matter the size of the community. We love that Pope Francis said ” Interventions which affect the urban or rural landscape should take into account how various elements combine to form a whole which is perceived by its inhabitants as a coherent and meaningful framework for their lives. Others will then no longer be seen as strangers, but as part of the ‘we’ which all of us are working to create. For the same reason, in both urban and rural settings, it’s helpful to set aside some places which can be preserved and protected from constant changes brought by human intervention.”
From the design of buildings to creation of public transportation, the Pope also discusses how and why it’s important to put a focus on moving people in improved ways. “The quality of life in cities has much to do with systems of transport, which are often a source of much suffering for those who use them.” Public transit needs to be improved in all aspects if we hope to reach the majority. Issues with crowding, location of stops, service, lack of safety are just a few pointed issues made by the Pope, who has been photographed many times taking public transit. Ranging from beauty in design to providing proper services for all, not just select portions, our call is create civic spaces that we are proud of as a community and not just a designer. Sites that are usable and function easily are a must for the next generation of designs. Designing communities that are livable, walkable and intensely personal aren’t just an idea but the new way of life. We have already taken this call into action and have used that in our designs from The Reserve At Hamilton Place to The Ash Skyline Project and more. Designs are about creating an identity and a sense of community, we must remember that our spaces influence emotions and actions. We hope that while the Pope has a few moments with President Obama and a few other civic leaders, he reminds them of this opening statements this year in our job to create better cities.
New York City, just like every other city in the country has seen an increase in bicyclists and pedestrians. The city of over 8 Million residents is struggling to keep up with the demand of better, friendlier pedestrian gateways because city planners several decades ago cut back the wide sidewalks in exchange for an extra travel lane. However, the lack of sidewalks and pedestrian pathways could be changing soon thanks to an innovative property owner and developer that has presented some powerful ideas to city administrators in the form of temporary sidewalk extensions. This spring, a few of the city streets will turn into pedestrian only pathways including the famed Broadway from 47th to 42nd street. Broadway will also be temporarily closed between 32nd and 36th near the world famous Macy’s department store.
The people behind this idea is Real Estate giant Vornado Realty Trust who proposed the car-free zones are only a three-month trial to last through the summer when pedestrian activity is at a natural all time high. The Department of Transportation for the city is using this as a trial in hopes to reduce crashes and injuries while allowing vehicles to travel more smoothly along several city thoroughfares. Vornado owns several premiere property holdings including the Hotel Pennsylvania, Penn Plaza and the Manhattan Mall. They will also be closing a near one block portion of 33rd directly linked to Madison Square Garden and One Penn Plaza on a permanent basis. The goal is to create a pedestrian-friendly open plaza which will reduce the number of accidents on one of New Yorks busiest segments. The plaza will feature tables for dining, a stage for musical performances, space for yoga and other outdoor programmed activities. The development company believes it will also improve the overall quality of life and increase property values.
We have already seen projects like the Indianapolis Cultural Trail and in Cincinnati Temporary Sidewalk Extensions in the forms of pop-up parks. It makes us wonder if this idea is successful and the Department of Transportation in New York City embraces the idea post trail, what other cities could pick up this idea. Vornado who is doing the experiment is paying for the planning, construction and monitoring of the extensions without any tax or cash incentives from the city. With a lot of discussion in place making and road diets, what streets would you like to see this tried on?
In the early 20th century, communities focused on creating vibrant downtowns with wide sidewalks, decorative landscaping and at most two to three lanes of traffic for travel by the locals. It wasn’t until the 1950’s as cities expanded rapidly from once exploding downtowns into fields and outreaches creating the great American suburbs dotted with shopping malls, highways and several one way streets to push traffic from the downtowns to the new extended footprint. This one-way phenomenon wasn’t just focused on large cities, but even the smaller rural communities as the generation of citizens were focused more on car travel and less on walkability. What city planners at the time didn’t foresee was the sociological impact that one way streets would have on the residents and neighborhoods that they were located in.
In 2010 as the first of the millennial generation began taking over city planning and traffic engineering departments nationwide a renewed emphasis was placed on creating great downtowns and the end of one-way streets. This required that we had to re-think the flow of traffic from focusing on neighborhood travel rather than fast outbound traffic. Not only was it a new found passion for the generation, but new statistics began playing a larger role. In the city of Louisville, officials converted two one way streets back to two way traffic and found that traffic collisions dropped by nearly 36 percent on one street and over 60 percent on the other. This was even after traffic increased on the newly traveled two way road. In addition to fewer accidents, the property values on the street increased and businesses saw new revenue and pedestrian traffic. What was more interesting was the amount of crime dropped, by nearly 25 percent while other areas and neighborhoods saw crime on the rise.
We at Hoch have been discussing the idea and importance behind complete streets in our communities. With the city of Fort Wayne recently returning both Ewing and Fairfield to two way travel streets and Indianapolis ranked among the highest in the country for complete street action plans, it’s exciting to see progress being made. Cities that changed the roads in the post-World War II era when they re-engineered around the car are now seeing the importance to cut crime, improve property values and calm traffic. While there is progress, we want to challenge more cities to make the change on their thoroughfares putting an emphasis on creating vibrant downtowns and stronger, safer and healthier neighborhoods.
During Mayor Tom Henry’s neighborhood investment plan announcement, the call for additional road going on a diet including Oxford, Hessen Castle and others were a major part of the 20 Million dollar package for 2015. Earlier this week, we discussed how several cities are looking at declaring an end to one way streets as millennials continue to be focused on urban centers rather than vast suburban outreaches. This news is shocking to many as the previous generations looked at how widening roadways would create efficient travel opportunities to outlying destinations, essentially leaving the center of the city. In the 1950’s and until as recent as ten years ago, cities would spend millions each year on right of way and infrastructure widening projects. The concept of now going back into communities and putting these once wide travel paths on a diet are getting mixed reviews. Some leaders are concerned with the potential public outcry, yet many communities are now seeing the positive impact of complete streets and smaller, safer thoroughfares.
Another city recently made a huge step to reverse wide multi-lane roadways and enhance the neighborhood feel. Akron Ohio announced that a safety upgrade is planned for both Cedar and Exchange streets along a stretch between Portage Path and Broadway. City engineering officials are concerned that with so many lanes of one way traffic, the safety of people traveling continues to diminish as people are having weaving accidents, turning from incorrect lanes. Both Cedar and Exchange run near the urban center of the city and people often get confused with which lane to be in at specific intersections, which also increases the likelihood of pedestrian vs. vehicle accidents. City officials noted that in a three-year span, there were nearly 600 crashes, more than half of which were “categorized as sideswipe-passing.” The city is planning to spend $8.5 million dollars to “right-size” the number of lanes from five to two, adding bike lanes and street parking. It will also include upgrades to 21 intersections with new LED traffic control signals that will be interconnected through the area which will allow traffic to flow more efficiently.
It will be exciting to see additional upcoming street dieting and complete street projects in our cities. This is not just a trend but a new way our cities are being designed and built. The thought of several large open lanes in one direction to funnel residents and businesses out of the center to stronger and more vibrant downtowns and neighborhoods are the new normal. Fort Wayne is currently conducting a safer thoroughfare approach near downtown on Ewing, Main, Jefferson and Fairfield Streets.
Hoch Associates loves to be centered in the heart of Fort Wayne and part of its exciting future. Vocativ, an online Internet blog released the 2014 livability index and Fort Wayne is no stranger to exciting lists regarding the livability for its citizens. The list was designed for the Millennial generation, those under 35. While the entire list is comprised of 35 cities, Fort Wayne was the only one to make the list from the Hoosier State. We are proud that Fort Wayne was singled out for being the real Cinderella story. After years of stagnant growth and even in the 1980’s losing several manufacturing jobs, the city created new programs and focused on diversifying the workforce, transforming neighborhoods and buildings, creating several new acres of beautiful green space, researching and developing its long forgotten riverfront and welcomed exciting new groups such as YLNI (Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana) and Millennial 2020 which work together to create a stronger and more vibrant community for the Millennial citizens.
With the city now being named one of the best for Millennials, this is an opportunity to unleash an exciting new future. Ranking in the top percentile in areas such as cost of living, housing (rent and ownership) and low unemployment, Fort Wayne has quickly ose among the ranks of its piers and now vying for the Regional Cities Initiative which will provide several million dollars in seed funding for future developments if granted. Hoch Associates continues to support the city and is excited to share in its future.
Hoch Associates is excited to announce our official move to the Mozzo complex in Indianapolis. We are now in the heart of the Fountain Square district of downtown Indy and can’t wait to get involved in the community. Located in the old Holy Rosary Italian neighborhood Mozzo, meaning hub in Italian, is an upscale urban complex that projects an energetic and creative vibe which is a perfect fit for our enthusiastic Indy team. We can’t wait to welcome visitors and clients into our new space and show them what Hoch Associates can offer them.
Our focus at Studio Indianapolis is Telecommunications and Data Centers lead by sector manager Brian Hobbs. They are enjoying the openness and community atmosphere of the Mozzo complex and are excited to take part in the Fountain Square activities. The favored Fountain Square activates among the Indy team include the music festivals, art crawls and holiday festivities throughout the year. For more information about Fountain Square please visit their website at http://discoverfountainsquare.com.
The design phase of a project is one of the most exciting parts for both the client and design team, as the reality of ideas and program come together, the first images of what the project might look like are presented. For the sake of keeping this post short, I’ll skip over how the design phase works (at least for now!) and instead share a relatively new method the architectural world is seeing in recent projects throughout the world.
Using Rhino3D & and a plugin known as Grasshopper, this parametrically designed facade explores how design can change with a set number of parameters and quickly adapt depending on the scenario. This exercise (over lunch) explores how one of our favorite pizza places downtown Fort Wayne can change with some basic parameters (the 816 address and depth of a wood fin) to create a new visual interest depending on where you are walking along Calhoun Street. Once the basic shape is created, the plugin can equally divide the surface and create the multiple rib effect that could be sent to a local CNC shop for fabrication. The parameters can quickly be changed with the move of a slider, providing a new option on the fly.
Many more parameters could be used including sun /daylight analysis to help provide shading for the upper level, color effects, or other options the client may request.