Thursday, November 22, 2012

ReThink London limits discussion: Part One

A slide show was shown at a recent ReThink London event with those attending being asked to vote. That slide show is now online and we are again being asked to view the pictures and indicate our preferences. Unfortunately, we are not given the chance to answer: "None of the above."

Ideally this voting activity would have been, at a minimum, a two stage project. First, Londoners should have been encouraged to scour the Internet for images depicting an urban landscape they would like to see emulated here in London. The best images would have been presented for consideration and voting.

Click on the image below to enlarge it and see my improved "ballot."

As I recall image A and image B did not garner many votes. Clearly the audience  preferred the modern townhouses (C) and the apartments located above commercial space (D). Now that we know the preferences, let's give folk some better choices.

The image, second from bottom on left, is the Norwalk Town Center in Norwalk, Connecticut. This $200 million initiative looks rather grand for a town of only 86,000 where the estimated per capital annual income in 2009 was only $39, 695. Still, as best as I could determine, the plan is moving ahead.

The image to the immediate right is an artist's conception of a proposed new town centre in Clayton, Ohio. A new urbanist experiment in suburban planning, some of the proposed buildings have been built already. Below is map with inserted illustration of the development.

Clayton, Ohio
At the bottom left is an example what comes from using form-based code. This is a method of regulating development with the goal of achieving a specific urban look. Since the goal of this ReThink London project is to develop a new urban plan, maybe Londoners could take some inspiration from the Birmingham planning design guide released in late 2006 and available online.

Lastly, on the bottom right is the new apartment/commercial complex on Dundas Street in Old East London. How many votes do you think this image would attract?

Now, to move on to question two of the ReThink London ballot.

It is interesting to look at the apartment buildings shown and then consider the apartment buildings built recently in London. And then to give some thought to how other southern Ontario cities have approached apartment/condominium designs.

Think of Mississauga. Wanting to make a splash internationally, a development company, Fernbrook/Cityzen, sponsored an international design competition in 2005 for the condo towers it planned for the town centre.

The resulting skyscraper was called the “Marilyn Monroe” by locals for its voluptuous curves.

Read what The New York Times had to say about the Absolute Towers:
"People looking for the latest in twisting, gravity-defying architecture might start with the international cities of the Middle East or China, but you wouldn’t expect them to look here, in the suburbs outside Toronto.
. . . designed by the Chinese architect Ma Yansong, assisted by his partner, Qun Dang. Sales were so brisk in the 428-unit “Marilyn” tower that the developers asked the architect to deliver a second, 50-story high-rise with 433 units."
Like to know more? Watch the video. Mississauga and Fernbrook/Cityzen certainly generated buzz.

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