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Derek Henry Bestor Masters of ARCH Kansas State University

Design Canons

are guiding principles that signify certain things are held dear to one, as an architect and as a person. Stepping into this profession represents a contract made with oneself to stand behind dauntless beliefs developed throughout an entire lifespan and to commit to the enhancement and exploration of these elements. In the design realm, this constitutes the creation of physical constructs, the shaping of space, and the use of design canons predicated upon the needs of the future. This future will rely upon cities and new sustainable spatial patterns in order to solve the manifold issues facing the modern world. The task creative people will be charged with in this generation is to the re-imagining, or more precisely resettling of our cities wherein the design community reacts to the need for well-mixed and complete neighborhoods instead of the needs of a solitary home. Urban designers and community planners must lead the way, and do this using the paradigms of smart growth and complete neighborhood design as a way of place-making and as a means to redensify, thus alleviating strained infrastructure while creating resilient places where people are defined as citizens of an exact place and a vital community. It is easy to become complacent with any design medium, but a truly earnest designer believes in being driven with purpose, and I believe in the architect’s role as a resettler of urban America and my purpose as the spatial realizer of the city’s will to make a greater society.

Collection of Collegiate Work Created Spring 2011 Master’s of Architecture Graduate Kansas State University- Spring 2011 Contact: (970) 2 31- 976 8 5 414 Regal Landing Drive Kingwood, T X 77345 Attached: Resume, Letters

Master Planning

Urban Design

Construction Documents

MIT Boathouse

TOD Manhattan

The McGee House

Hand Drawings


Kimball Avenue Eco-Community

Manhattan South

Kunsthalle Chicago


Computer Modeling


Early Work




Field Sketches

The Transit-Oriented Development

Construction Sections



Ink Drawings












ortfolio Contents Urban Theory__Academic Work__Writings








The Kimball Avenue Eco-Community Manhattan, KS 5th Year Master Planning Thesis Project

“ The living being had no need of eyes when there was nothing remaining outside him to be seen; nor of ears when there was nothing to be heard; and there was no surrounding atmosphere to be breathed; nor would there have been any use of organs by the help of which he might receive his food or get rid of what he had already digested, since there was nothing which went from him or came into him: for there was nothing beside him. Of design he was created thus, his own waste providing his own food, and all that he did or suffered taking place in and by himself. For the Creator conceived that a being which was self-sufficient would be far more excellent than one which lacked anything.� -Plato on Ouroboros


New Urbanism 1. Traditional street grid 2. Mixed-use neighborhoods 3. Integration of public places (schools,parks)

Neighborhood Centre (below) Designed as a vibrant meeting place for the community. Crucial community meetings, extracurricular activities, and after-work events. It could all occur in the same area so that the centre becomes the nexus of social activity, much like the hearth of a home.

Agricultural Urbanism 1. Density gradient 2. Pervasive, multi-scaled agriculture 3. Food security & resiliency

Comprehensive Transit Manhattan, KS (right)



Riparian Corridor (below): land-use efficiency and low-impact design can both be achieved by preserving existing watersheds and turning them into greenbelts, recreational trails, and places to grow food. The Pedestrian Boulevard (below right)

Eco-Community 1. Research & development 2. Net zero waste (energy/water systems) 3. social networks (growers, researchers, community) 4. Solar Ecology (comprehensive solar orientation)

01 The Kimball Avenue Eco-Community A Resilient, Self-Sustaining, and Complete Community

Ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a snake devouring its own tail. The themes of self-reflexivity and self-contained cycles within this symbol is an archetypal basis for the new paradigm that must develop in the future world. In addition, looking at our communities with a new sense of complexity and interconnectedness is essential for our future vitality. The goal with this project was to create a system of waste-energy cycles and self-dependence that parallels the idea of a self-sufficient creature.


Top image courtesy second image courtesy “Agricultural Urbanism� DPZ 2009 LLC

The Kimball Avenue Eco-Community is also a new approach to community design that focuses on the integration of all life activities within complete neighborhoods as part of a living community. An approach that makes the claim that the future of American progress will start with re-imagining it spatially- to be more resilient and sustainable. The community was designed to be one of these sustainable and resilient solutions to land use. Specifically at the margins; the interface of the urban and rural fabrics, where future food security will be generated and a new exchange of ideas and resources will grow sustainable communities that are self-reflexive, self-regenerating, and self-reliant; at once a human ecology and a society working to find solutions to future progress. Transit Plan devised by I. Pitts, Image complied by D. Bestor, Underlay courtesy of Riley County GIS


KSU Research Forum (above)

Typical Eco-Community Block w/mid-block lane (above)

Agronomy Camp/ Community Gardens (right)

Kimball Avenue Corridor and density gradient (right)

Current Condition

Grid Organization

Riparian Corridors

Parti Diagram

The quality of life within the community is just as important as the functional aspects. What we lack in our current suburban developments is real tangible community or a deep personal stake in our environment. The bonds to space and to people, or place identity, are important to the preservation of a community.


Strong Horizontal Lots

Figure-Ground w/buildings

Agricultural Plots

The complexity of the design process and the manifold concepts involved in the creation of the Kimball Avenue Eco-Community is contrasted by a simple motive: to design communities that are resilient in the face of current and future tribulation. It has become increasingly important to design the communities where we work, live, and play for a future where climate destabilization, energy scarcity, diminished human health and welfare, and place deprivation could emerge as immediate problems requiring new innovative solutions.

Mews Live-Work District (left) Central Business/Shopping District (below)

Innovation Display Gardens (above) Neighborhood Centre (right)


Riparian Corridors

Agricultural Plots

Composite Green Spaces

Synergies were created between KSU Research Facilities, national research facilities (NBAF) and a mixed-use pedestrian-oriented community. With the criterion of Agricultural Urbanism as a guide, food production was integrated into a compact walkable neighborhood, where a resident could have greater food-security and self-reliance, work close to affordable homes, and link to the rest of the city through public transit systems (TOD).



Pedestrian Passages

Composite Pathways

The project also introduced a new mixture of land use not typically found in residential areas: the research and knowledgebased industries commonly sequestered in business and research parks. The idea transformed this project into a new paradigm that could become a national model for sustainable community design. A new paradigm and a shift away from the current practices of land development leaving our future city with a trail of expensive infrastructural maintenance and auto-dependent “islands”. It makes the proclamation that it is in every party’s best interest to build a new mixed-use, transit-oriented, renewable energy-powered, and “agriculturally urbanized” community in the city of Manhattan, Kansas.


Manhattan (KS) South Development 5th Year Urban Design Charrette

“Convention center expansions, ballparks, grade separated streets, and wide streets never yield the expected returns. Cities that continue down those paths will exacerbate their fiscal conditions. Neighborhood streets, complete streets, walkable neighborhoods have major returns. A street with healthy retail and housing is worth more to the tax base – whether property tax, sales tax, or income tax. Giant roads and shopping centers are losing strategies. Infrastructure must add value, and the time for experimentation is over.” -John Norquist, CNU President

Nolli Plan of Manhattan’s old center (left) 3-D Site Plan (below)


Renderings (left, from top to bottom): 1. A view of the street crossing between shopping area and covered parking/picnic area. 2. Ground view of the plaza and shopping/ dining area. 3. The covered promenade for the park and daily market. Serves as a spill-out area for weekly outdoor market.


Overview from Northwest

The Walkable Plaza (right) Manhattan desperately needs a walkable outdoor shopping district. This charrette proposed a plaza that could mix shopping, dining, housing, and a small movie theatre. The shot is taken from the balcony of second-story movie theatre.

Southeast View

Manhattan (KS) South Development A Mixed-Use and Walkable Urban District

The City of Manhattan, Kansas had assembled land through eminent domain to create an “entertainment district” that would attract city and regional business back to the center of the city. After many failed attempts to attract developers, the city asked our 5th Year Studio to brainstorm, through numerous charrettes, ideas for a mixed-block on the south side of the town that would appeal to the public and win consensus favor.


A view down 3rd Street

Southwest View

Northeast view

The citizens of the city clamored for alternative ideas on how to approach commercial development in a city mired in dysfunctional “big box” shopping centers. The goal of the project was to create a mixed-use district that could serve as a “gateway” to a larger comprehensive corridor that was both walkable and bikeable with a connection to the old center of town- the Poyntz Avenue Corridor. As a small collaborative group of three, we designed a pedestrian-friendly district that incorporates residential, retail, daily market, and work (via second story office space) in a compact form and a low impact design. The nexus of the development is a one-acre park capable of facilitating special events/concerts and a weekly outdoor market that could link directly to the adjacent indoor daily market.


Kunsthalle Chicago

4th Year Construction Documents Process Premise behind the Kunsthalle Chicago: “Artistic expression is far too important to a society to have it tucked behind so many bare white walls. Art perpetually changes, its pretentious connotations undeserved when one considers its powerful role in driving the kinetic creature that is American culture and psyche.�


View from across La Salle Avenue onto front facade (left): The facade is designed to be interactive. Belowgrade is a cafe looking onto the street and an LCD screen projecting visual art installations and films including a stage for musical performances - all of which can be seen from street level.

Map of Chicago (left) Site Plan (above): image showing the high density and large buildings surrounding the site at LaSalle and Chicago Avenue. Street View (right): pedestrians passing can look into the exhibition areas below grade and the scaffolding serves as a billboard advertising pop culture and advertisements for new exhibits. A primary goal for the project was to engage the busy corner in a unique, cultural way.


Kit of Parts: The Process of Modeling the Kunshalle Chicago

Kunsthalle Chicago

The Art Exhibit Becomes a Community Billboard The Kunsthalle (“Art Hall”) was designed for the corner of LaSalle and Chicago Avenue just outside of the Chicago “Loop”. It was intended as a community art gallery for local artists to present temporary exhibits of their work. The design emphasis was upon utilizing the very busy and accessible corner situation of the building in a way that made the Art Hall the place for local community gathering, and to be both visually and physically transparent so as to invoke its daily usage not only as a haven for local artists, but also the local coffee spot and a place frequented by locals.


The ground plane was elevated six feet above the street level so that pedestrians could look down into the primary exhibit space submerged on the site. A little eye candy to entice pedestrians and locals to take a glimpse of the art being created by their community as they go about their daily routines.

Map images courtesy of Bing! Maps, Chicago, IL

Diagrams showing the composition of the buildings: HVAC diagram (below left): brightly-colored HVAC systems follow the transparent walls between the scaffolds. Structural (directly below): Bearing members of the construction

Physical model and CAD drawing of structuralscaffold system and the building’s basic tectonics (above)


Computer and physical models of the Kunsthalle Chicago at the end of the Design Development phase.

Design Development

Kunsthalle Chicago 4th Year_Construction Documentation Process


The site selected was very interesting, as it was a strategic corner site but had been used solely as a lot for giant billboards for a hand-full of years. Building upon the history of the site, the concept worked with was providing a “scaffold-like” structure that could possibly use cranes on the roof to attach giant graphic art and visually arresting billboards to the outside of the building; maintaining its status on its corner lot as a purveyor of pop-art, pop culture, and consumer products. The scaffold also provided structure for the interior art exhibits and the ramps used for primary circulation- placed in the interstitial space within the two layers of structure.

Ground Floor Plan, within drawing set (left)

Examples of detail drawings from construction set: Wall Elevations Details (above left) Section Details (above right, top three) Plan Details (above right, bottom three)


Plans from Construction Documents (left to right): Foundation Plan, Mezzanine Level Materials Plan, and Basement Level Mechanical Plan

Construction Documentation & Details Kunsthalle Chicago 4th Year_Construction Documentation Process


Sections/Elevations from Construction Documents (left to right): Longitudinal Section, Transverse Section, South Elevation



3rd Year Project_Private Institution Boston is synonymous with character and tradition. The people of Boston are the first to tell you that the history and folklore entwined with the physical landscape of the city is inviolable property of the people born and raised there. Within this great context, there are smaller wholes that share the same intensity of pride and passion that the city does. One example of this is the rowing traditions at both Harvard and MIT, which revolve around daily practice and prestigious regattas. The MIT Boathouse is a temple to this tradition and a place that acknowledges the heritage of the city, the university, and the lives that revolve around its traditions.

Patchwork Map of Boston, MA (top) Site Plan (right) Aerial Perspective of the site along the Charles River west of the Harvard Bridge, on the southern edge of the MIT Main Campus


Map images courtesy of Bing! Maps, Boston, MA

Aerial View towards MIT campus (left): The boathouse runs along the side of the Charles River in a strong horizontal line. The building moves with the water with elongated volumes moving in and out of one another.


Entry Bridge

Private sun-space + Ballroom Spill-Out/Roof-top Courtyard


3rd Year-Private Institution Project Located on the Charles River in Boston, MA and with proximity to the park corridor known as the Emerald Necklace, the boathouse was designed as a training facility for the university’s rowing team and as a spectator’s platform for regattas hosted by MIT. As an institutional facility, it was crucial the building possessed a lecture space, training area, and special events hall for the various banquets and sundry university gatherings, which could make use of a pleasant riverside amenity.


Aerial View towards Downtown Boston (right): rendering of the boathouse looking across the Charles River to the famous neighborhoods of Boston, including Beacon Hill and the Back Bay.

Bridge Outlook: View of Charles River

Rowing Shell Storage Space

The facility had the dual function of being accessible to the public, specifically those visiting the campus curious of the university’s rich rowing tradition and the students of MIT using the building daily. Along with its congregational functions, the boathouse had to function as a storage and repair facility for the team’s collection of rowing shells. The dimensions of the shells and the generous radii they required in moving them around dictated a great deal of the spatial considerations and the form of the building.

Metal Parapet Flashing Plaza Deck Pavers

Plywood Sheathing

Clarissimo Channel Glass 30’ Truss

Corrugated Aluminum Roofing

Finished Floor Light Steel Framing Batt Insulation 3 X 8 Wood Joists

Schematic models of both the site’s context within Boston and the tectonic and spatial relationships of the building itself (above)

Rough Concrete Flooring



Aerial view of the dock area and volumetric composition of the MIT Boathouse. Construction Section (above): structure of the “bridge” elements connecting the building to land. The steel frame of the bridges would be clad in channel glass that gave the bridges lightness and could be illuminated at night.


Transverse Section Cut: The Shell Storage Space

Longitudinal Section Cut: Ballroom and Locker Rooms

Two Dimensional-Construction Details MIT_Boathouse 3rd Year_Private Institution Project


Longitudinal Section Cut: Shell Storage Area flanked by the bridge volumes.

Transverse Section Cut: Entry Ramp and Entry Foyer

The concept worked with was using elongated forms that parallel the rivers flow and two “cross bridges” resting upon the storage facility. These bridges did not rest flush with the storage volume, rather it flattened and cut through this volume to allow dynamic glances down into the training facility and up into the congregation areas within the bridges.


Manhattan (KS) Transport Center Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) 3rd Year-Public Institution Project

In the Fall of 2009, the City of Manhattan, KS announced the development of a comprehensive bustransit system for public use. This project was conceived as the multi-modal transit hub to facilitate the needs of the new transit system. This included a bike center, intercity rapid bus stop, and a city-wide bus shuttle service connecting Kansas State University with the commercial nodes of the city.

Three-dimensional diagram and schematic model of the curvilinear Manhattan Transport Center- part of a future comprehensive transit-oriented city.


Floor Plans (above, left to right) Basement Level: with underground parking garage to free open space on the ground for open space and a pedestrian plaza. Ground Level: The transport lobby, cafe, and administration offices would be located in an open floor plan.


Second Level: A bicycle rent-returnstore center would be located on the second floor. Ramps on the inside of the curvilinear walls extending from the body of the building.

The front facade of the building and the bus pick-up zone located underneath administrative offices for the City of Manhattan (KS).

South Elevation and coinciding section (right): shows the bus pick-up and drop-off area. The section reveals the underground parking area.

A rendering of the ramps following the contours of the datum walls of the building, connecting to the bike shop/rental center.


The form of the building was inspired by the long-exposure shots of city highways- a kinetic and sinuous line bleeding through the landscape. The building itself was meant as a fluid machine and an iconic urban statement, with its intentions being physically enforced by the underground parking garage (no ground level parking) and the large public plaza space framed by curvilinear concrete walls filtering people into the central body between the two guiding walls.

3rd Year Public Institution Project


Perspectival Renderings (Above, top to bottom):

A view of the open lobby space of the transport center, illuminated by a frittedglass skylight system.

East Elevation and coinciding section (left)


The McGee House 3rd Year- A Private Residence

Designed as a private escape for a fictitious character of literary fame, the McGee House is designed to be situated in the Louisiana Bayou Country. It is a respite buried in the tidelands accessible solely by fanboat and is the private escape for a reclusive character with very few house guests.


Physical model showing final product and complex roof articulation (directly above) Basic plans, section, and elevation (above left): These drawings illustrate the free plan organized underneath an umbrella roof. The grid of the roof informs the organization of the boxes and porch spaces below. Perspectival Renderings (below): Exploded axonometric showing the elements comprising the design (above) Revit Rendering of the water approach to the residence (below)

The perspectives are a juxtaposition of modeling in Revit (left) and 3ds Max (right). Both show how transparent the interior spaces are. Pivoting glass walls can be pushed up so that the rooms open completely to the porch spaces between boxes.

06 South Development TheManhattan McGee House 5th Year_Urban Design 3rd Year-Private Residence Project



The unique program informed the architectural design of space, as it was developed to be three separate box “entities�: a master suite, a guest suite, and a communal kitchen/living area tied together by a modular roof which trapped and funneled rainwater into a cistern and acted as a brise-soleil encompassing all three boxes. The organization of the boxes over one robust roof system is an abstraction of the southern plantation porch style residence, with breezeways and outdoor perambulatory guiding one between the three distinct units.


Hand Drawings & Sketches

Samples of Early Hand Drafting, Ink and Pencil Drawings, and Field Sketches The Kansas State University curriculum requires the first two years of study and design projects to be conducted through the medium of hand-drafting and rendering. Through this experience, along with subsequent studies in Europe (Italy, France, and Spain) and master’s projects that needed a “human” quality to the graphic representations, the value of hand drawings and sketches has become immeasurable and an indispensable part of the design process.


Study Abroad- Orvieto, Italy

(above and right) Field Sketches done while travelling through Italy for a semester

Early Work: Boston Black-Box Theater

(above) Ink drawing set for a design project involving the creation of the Emerson College Black Box Theater located in the Chinatown area of Boston, MA.

Pencil Drawings- Kimball Av. Eco-Community (right)


These hand drawings were then color-rendered and used as images in a master plan for a sustainable neighborhood in Manhattan, Kansas. See Section 01.

Hand Drawings & Sketches

Early Hand Drafting, Ink and Pencil Drawings, and Field Sketches



The Transit-Oriented Development An Antidote to Complex and Interrelated Ills 5th Year_Thesis Writing

“You won’t see Portland or Vancouver putting its planning staff on furlough. Vancouver has some of the best real estate appreciation in North America, thanks in large part to great planning and transit. During a recent visit, I noticed the ramps to the bridge to the north of the island. They used to be two-lane, but now it’s one-lane for autos and one-lane for bikes and pedestrians. They realized multi-modal transportation adds to land value. Adds to tax base. Adds to livability. The City realizes the street’s value for market and social purposes, not just moving traffic. If you leave the first two out, you get a dead street, and a dead city1.” -excerpt from interview with CNU President John Norquist


The greatest challenge facing urban design is finding the common ground between the New Urbanists’ visions of a reshaped pattern of universal development and the motives driving policy-makers and developers who make a physical reality out of what is envisioned. Typically, there is a language barrier, where urban theorists and designers discuss cities as living organisms- experientially deep, amenity-rich, and increasingly more sustainable. Developers practice in a different parlance, one that uses terminology like return-on-investment, leverage, and “best practices”. Thankfully, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the principles and properties inherent in the development of TODs (transit-oriented developments) is a boon to both sides. For years our untenable system of horizontal expansion was like the proverbial white elephant in the room, where everyone knew it to be a defunct and ineffectual version of the “American dream” promised to the people. The current system has misallocated strained resources, accruing prohibitive miles of bad infrastructure, with the distance separating us from one another contributing to a loss of civility and community pride. “Best practice”, or an inertia-driven system kept alive by a misguided critical mass, has provided us with engineered standards for infrastructure (people, goods, energy, and liquids) that are completely unsustainable and a great hindrance to tax payers. Per dwelling unit costs for replacing and maintaining infrastructure has increased by nearly 400% since 1900, when the antiquated system of sewer conveyance we still use today was adopted1. As James Howard Kunstler describes it in his seminal work “The Geography of Nowhere”, the emerging problem is “we’ve elaborated a road and street system that is so enormous – and we’ve done it incrementally over 90 years – that we will have a very tough time keeping it up as we become a less affluent nation. Without necessary funds for repair, we’re going to keep on deferring maintenance, even though the results are obvious roadway, water, power and infrastructure problems”.2 The solution is a city that contracts, rather than grows horizontally, and becomes more localized. Planning issues will be deferred to local self-organized institutions and infrastructure will become “lighter, greener, cheaper, and smarter”3. With the ever-widening understanding of our fiscal realities, the form of the city and its constituent parts will become denser, compact, and far more flexible.


In this new refocused emphasis on the tight-knit local governance and community, the language of the TOD becomes even more relevant. Urban designer Peter Calthorpe, an important figure in the design of many walkable transit-oriented developments and city policy protocols (i.e. San Diego), has embraced this aspect of the TOD. In his TOD Guide (1992), the transit-oriented development is a well-defined and self-contained district or community with growth boundaries and an indelible link to a transit line4.

1. Borys, Hazel “Let’s Get Small: An Antidote for Shrinking City Budgets”, http://placeshakers. word lets-get-small-placemaking-as-antidote-for-shrinking-city-budgets/#more-1583. Extracted December 12, 2010. 2. Kunstler, James Howard. Geography of Nowhere, Free Press, 1994. Dec. 13th 2010 3. P. Condon, 7 Rules for Sustainable Communities: Design Strategies for the Post-Carbon World. Island Press 2010. Taken November 27th, 2010.


Calthorpe’s TODs in new growth areas (greenfields) must be located on a “designated trunk-line” of a mass transit system (preferably light rail over bus systems) and infill projects should be permeable and interconnected with mass transit and other developments in the area so that a network accessible through walking, bicycling, and light rail can establish itself. Subscribing to this new system of development to solve modern ills facing our cities and their budget crises and deficits (New York $4.4 billion, Toronto $225 million, Washington DC $188 million, Houston $120 million, L.A. $87 million, San Diego $72 million, Cleveland $28 million1) might have repercussions in the form of staunch opposition from conflicting interest groups who would like to see the deleterious expansion of roads, sewers, and power lines continue, but what many cities and private enterprise have begun to realize is these interests have been slowly draining the capital, the means of a city to function effectively, for far too long. The problem has now reached a fever pitch as recession, due in part to rising transportation costs and shrinking budgets for the average American, has hit. The average American living in Suburbia can no longer pay taxes on the property (and the indirect payments for the infrastructure running to that single house) while trying to finagle money to pay for gasoline to drive the many miles of road (a complex hierarchy of dendritic streets) that connect people to the disparate places in the city. The TOD can solve these ills by consolidating these expensive infrastructures and designing neighborhoods where all the things that were once located far away from each other within a short walking distance, and along a Transit Corridor where vibrant street life, shopping and retail, and everyday use exist in harmony. In short, the Transit-Oriented Development solves the ills facing society while providing a new lucrative system of public-private enterprise providing capital and new investment to strengthen municipalities, private enterprise, and the lifestyles of the average citizen. It has been a very long, difficult, and destructive path to reach the point we are at in society. The solutions to our problems directly engendered by the spatial patterning of cities, were ignored, and unequivocally condemned over the past fifty years. The qualities of the vibrant sustainable city, once derided as dangerously subversive, as in the time when Jane Jacobs was advocating dense mixed-use neighborhoods5, might now be seen as the system not so counter-productive. Now her theories have been carried forth by an increasingly substantial group of new urban designers and theorists, like the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) and as the dominant ethos driving policy in cities such as Portland and Vancouver4. Supporting TODs, which gives rise to smart growth boundaries, interconnected street systems, and healthy mixtures of land use has come partly out of the increased demand for them by people desiring alternatives to the stultifying isolation of the suburbs and the increased stress the system has had on their capital. Fuel prices continue to climb and vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) show no signs of declining and this will only intensify as we continue “best practices” in the “age of peak oil”6. This becomes another solid justification for the need to retrofit our cities with more sustainable spatial patterns, new healthier lifestyles, and new energy conserving strategies which can synergize with alternative energies ( i.e. smart grid systems).

4. Congress for New Urbanism. Modified 7 November 2010. Extracted on Nov. 5. Jacobs, Jane, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Modern Library, 1993. Nov. 5th 2010

29th 2010.

Another far more elusive aspect is the perceived alienation and loss of community interaction which has taken place in the sprawling desert of suburbia. This phenomenon of place deprivation has crippled the social systems that once supported people and provided one with a unique sense of belonging. The phenomenon, especially acute with the emerging technological or creative class, is normatively evinced by the self-employed who work out-of-the-house. These self-employed entrepreneurs, artisans, and “plugged-in” computer workers flock to charming traditional neighborhoods and the run-down industrial areas of cities in search of a new congenial spatial form and aesthetic to counter the cold alienation felt in the suburbs. Now they work in coffee shops, public plazas, and co-working facilities where they can form bonds within a vital community. The last part, a smaller faction within the redensification movement, is the spreading realization that TODs, especially the public-private partnerships making use of new public transit arterials or corridors, are the prime breeding grounds for all the good stuff that New Urbanist’s have indoctrinated. The tax revenue and frenzied demand for these corridors, with its subsequent radiating demand out to adjacent neighborhoods, spells out “return-on-investment” as blatantly as a developer can fathom. In a transit-oriented development, the size and scale is perfectly suited for people seeking a sense of community and place identity. The form, usually a gridiron or some modification of the interconnected grid, lends itself to a diverse range of uses and housing types, because not only is the form far more universal (compact square parcels), but the density means more primary uses such as retail, institution, and business will be supported closer to residences. The connection to a good transit system is the true crux of the system. If a resident can walk 5-10 minutes to a transit stop, to hop on and connect to any other area of the city, the neighborhood becomes all the more enticing. In a future where the personal automobile may no longer be feasible, proximity to a convenient mass transit system may become non-negotiable3. Basically, the TOD fulfills the many requirements all parties’ desire, including high property values, new investment, affordable housing, multiple mixed-usage, and a spatial form conducive to new public transit systems which are slowly being integrated into metropolitan areas. The ones that at least that are waking up to the sobering affects of our current systems. Soon, the critical mass precariously leaning towards the current suburban system they are familiar with, will lean towards a new far more sustainable and place-conducive system, giving developers and policy-makers little excuse for continuing in the harmful system used in contemporary practice.


The steps taken in generating a development predicated upon all the principles supported by New Urbanists and developers is a ballet in itself. With the notorious zoning and policy restrictions enacted in many cities rendering mixeduse developments essentially illegal, many TODs rely upon PUD (Planned Unit Developments) as desirable sites becau-

se of their inherent flexibility and less stringent rules. But this leaves so many areas off-limits that desperately need urban infill, new development, and spatial restructuring. In the future, it will be imperative to have regional, city, and local zoning codes and regulations which embrace denser, pedestrian and light-rail oriented transit arterials that are lined with a mixture of uses. Cities like Portland are pioneers in North America of top-down policy championing this new physical form4. It works very well in its multitude of applications. As typically seen, a city will “assemble” land and secure infrastructure (which should become smaller and more efficient in the future) and build the transit lines. The municipality will then either choose to develop the land surrounding the transit corridor or delegate the enterprise of developing the very attractive land to private developers (this is most often the case, as a city rarely has the resources to move into construction phase). Sometimes “air-rights” are doled out to private developers so that they can build around and atop the valuable land created by the transit corridor. Either way, the joint venture, if executed with prudence and with fidelity to the principles of smart growth (espoused by Jacobs, Calthorpe, Duany, Plater, and Zyberk7), will work like a symbiotic relationship. The city will have the infrastructure in place for substantial private investment, increased property values (hence taxes), and a consolidated compact system making optimal use of available resources. The private enterprise will have a truly priceless commodity in the transit line, which will attract great demand and therefore a maximized return on the investment. Maximizing return often means dense, multi-story mixed use buildings where both residential and commercial interests can make-use of the superb location and accessibility not only to local people, but outsiders riding the transit. Multiple-use means the city receives a greater amount of revenue, as they can receive a bevy of different taxes from the multi-faceted enterprise (sales, property, ect.). The most important consequence of this perfect marriage is its natural effect on the physical form of the city on both the global and local scales. In other words, building in the framework of a TOD has manifold benefits, from intangible policy to the finest-grained articulation of facades along a boulevard. This type of development’s invaluable quality is its inherent propensity to be dense and compact as an entity (so that demand for transit is maximized via short walks to transit and as an element in the vastness of an entire metropolitan area). In a linked system, where an entire city is designed as an interrelated whole, a transit system can then justify short headways, or intervals between trains or shuttles (7-minute headway is the “holy grail” of public transit3) and the entire city can inculcate beneficial new qualities into its external and internal language. Understanding what are the most important formal and informal, or intangible, qualities is paramount in the creation of a TOD and the consequent network along the transect. Like in the public-private partnership, the relationship between movement (transportation) and the form weaving around and through this system of movement is symbiotic. As famous urban theorist Bill Hillier (Space Syntax) describes it as, “paths inform buildings and buildings inform paths8.” To ensure unity amongst movement (paths), form (buildings), and intangible qualities (policy, zoning, polity, critical paradigm) the most important elements of the TOD is its interconnected street system, the medium of transportation, and civic nature of society at every scale.

6. Rubin, Jeff. Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization. New York: Random House, 2009. 7. Duany, Plater, Zyberk & Company, LLC. “Agricultural Urbanism”. PDF Extracted January 20th, 2011, copyright 2009.


To ensure unity amongst movement (paths), form (buildings), and intangible qualities (policy, zoning, polity, critical paradigm) the most important elements of the TOD is its interconnected street system, the medium of transportation, and civic nature of society at every scale. In Patrick Condon’s seminal work 7 Rules for Sustainable Design, the interconnected streetcar system is discussed as being integral or a “meta-rule” in the development of a TOD because they are “walking and transit friendly, reduce VMT, and are compatible with community scale “streetcar” city corridors3.” There is an inherent corollary between the gridiron and the good things like mixed-use, short trips, diverse housing types, and greater development density. Levels of land use can as much as double, adding patrons for local retail and services, proximities to new local jobs, and demand for transit, all things the dendritic system can’t do. What the dendritic system can do is cover 60 % of North American landscape in low-density, segregating sprawl3. Driving to work also destroys land-use connection. A grid accompanied by a transit system can locate good jobs close to affordable homes. Affordable homes, embedded into a streetcar-friendly system, means there is not a monoculture, or a single type of housing and thus income group dominating a neighborhood. Different tenement and tenure types can create communities where a varied group of people can mingle, and protect the common interests of the consensus from baneful planning decisions5. A grid dissuades the creation of a hierarchical street system, suburban forms of development, and the “big box” development often created in tandem with behemoth collector streets. Overly large parking lots consume an immense percentage of job sites, and any site for that matter. For every resident in a city there are 10 parking spaces peppered throughout the city, 9 of which are not occupied at a given time. The good news is it can be the lowest hanging fruit for retrofit3. Hundreds of miles of strip commercial arterials can become denser and reinterpreted for future use. Low-density commercial strips are the legacy of the genesis of the interstate highway system and automobile dominance. They are only marginally viable in present market conditions. The antithesis of this system is the “democratic grid”-a road network leading to a more enriched urban physical form and connectivity among all the facets of the city.


Crucial to the paradigm of this district is the concept of permeability and connectivity for pedestrians and autos. Moving through the site should take less than 10 minutes and preferably 5 minutes to a primary use like the corner store, recreation center, grocery, and work (by foot). Moving through the site should also be an enjoyable and exciting experience. Bill Hillier discusses the successful network of axial and convex spaces organized loosely in the European city model, and it is this sort of “beady-ring” structure that gives legibility, complexity, and enrichment to the pedestrianoriented experience8. It generates transient local places and gathering global spaces.

Many New Urbanism developments suffer from an overly rigid grid which gives the site a monotonous, nondescript, and boring milieu. People don’t gather, aren’t compelled to use the path systems as whimsically as when the system is more nuanced, descriptive, and exciting. Give residents a path system which is multi-dimensional and there will be more vibrant convex spaces, more vital axial, and most importantly, a system that promotes daily use and a lifeworld predicated upon interaction with the rest of the community and the delight of a chance encounter with something unexpected. Urban theorists and planners have focused on urban nodes in plans for the revitalization and redensification of America, even though it is the streetcar corridor, a long horizontal linear space which in the defining characteristic of the North American city, is a more ideal spatial form as a central gathering place3. The corridor is the great connector, the artery transporting and connecting vitals in successful, urbane, and more sustainable city design. They allow homes to be located closer to good jobs, allow for a mixture of uses, and are conducive to future mass transit (streetcar) systems. Corridors are a catchment basin for the residential areas within walking distance. Most people are within 5 minutes of a corridor, but very few are located the same distance from a node, dissuading them from using non-vehicular means to arrive at primary and secondary uses. Linear Corridors also engender special places. Unique community gathering places dividing the corridor into sections (quarter-to-half mile in both directions). Basically, there is great intrigue in the concept of walking from the house and turning a corner onto a long vibrant corridor where daily errands can be done and life can be seen extending along the expanse. A main corridor such as this should be present in this development. Therefore, the streetcar arterial, at its essence, is a “dialectic” between freedom of action allowed by the seemingly infinite length of corridor and the unique sense of place and civic pride characterized by the familiarity of the section closest to a residence, which is used every day for basic goods, services, and exchange of ideas. A crucial quality, civic pride, is generated by unique civic spaces like the corridor and is something intangible, thus it is often overlooked. As Jane Jacobs describes, “(it is) a feeling for the public identity of people, a web of public respect and trust, and a resource in time of personal or neighborhood need. A city’s very wholeness in bringing together people with communities of interest is one of its greatest assets…….a city district needs people with access to the political, the administrative, and the special-interest communities of the city as a whole5.” Vitality and civic pride deals in the language of attitude about the environment around you. It is not alienating or isolationist, rather it is about places shared by a large group of people who forge a cohesive identity predicated upon sharing spaces that hold a sacred value to the neighborhood. These places are vital, in actuality crucial, to the people and generate pride and civic responsibility because it is an edifice blessing mutual interest and a sense of belonging to something larger than oneself5. As was aforementioned, one of Suburbia’s greatest shortcomings is its lack of street life, community sympathy, or

8. Hillier, Bill. Space Syntax: “A Different Urban Perspective”, Architects’ Journal, vol. 178, no. 48 (Nov. 30, 1983) pp. 47-63.


daily interaction with neighbors. There is a bubble, following someone through their lifeworld, segregating one person from another. This bubble follows a suburbanite from inside the house, to the car, to work, to lunch, back to work, and on the commute back home. The isolation and feeling of detachment leads to an apathy towards the physical environment, flagrantly exposed by the manner in which we abuse its natural resources. As Jacobs manifests in her writings, the remedy to any feeling of dull greyness is to be implanted into an area where people’s lifeworlds, the palpable layers of life interweaving as resonance and dissonance in a symbolic place ballet. So many lives are interacting in a pleasant walkable environment, like musical notes moving through space. “There is a direct relationship between the mixeduse gridiron residential neighborhood, street vitality, shared civic space, and good security on the street. An increase in lawlessness is observable when neighborhoods are “renewed” with nondescript open spaces, defunct parks, and desolate streets5.” In a place held sacred to someone because it is inscribed with one’s identity and sense of belonging, “people (will) take a modicum of public responsibility for each other even if they have no ties to each other5,” in order to protect and preserve that sacred structure9. Good parks, streetcar arterials, and innovative comprehensive energy programs linked to smart grid systems (homeowners want stable and reasonable energy bills) are undoubtedly the prime attractors of investment in our modern world. The troubling notion contingent upon this belief is that the planning policies and the pervasive urban design ethos driving the creation of the physical environment in response to this investment, has been misguided for decades. As the undeniable benefits of the TOD propagate throughout the international design community, the task at hand becomes facilitating the merging between parties speaking different languages. Perhaps the first step is unveiling the mutual advantages of the TOD to all parties concerned. This might come even before the critical mass has turned enough to see the promise of the future in a new urban model. The undeniable truth is that before any reshaping of the world can take place to ensure a vital and sustainable future, the wheelers-and-dealers who turn visions and design theory into real quantifiable change, require the impetus to move counter to the status quo, and this is political responsibility of architects and urban designers as important as putting the pencil to paper.


9. D. Seamon and C. Nordin “Marketplace as Place Ballet” Landscape (1980) pdf. Photocopy. Oct. 1st 2010.


End Notes 1. Borys, Hazel “Let’s Get Small: An Antidote for Shrinking City Budgets”, http://placeshakers. word Extracted December 12, 2010. 2. Kunstler, James Howard. Geography of Nowhere, Free Press, 1994. Dec. 13th 2010 3. P. Condon, 7 Rules for Sustainable Communities: Design Strategies for the Post-Carbon World. Island Press 2010. Taken November 27th, 2010. 4. Congress for New Urbanism. Modified 7 November 2010. Extracted on Nov. 29th 2010. 5. Jacobs, Jane, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Modern Library, 1993. Nov. 5th 2010 6. Rubin, Jeff. Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization. New York: Random House, 2009. 7. Duany, Plater, Zyberk & Company, LLC. “Agricultural Urbanism”. PDF Extracted January 20th, 2011, copyright 2009. 8. Hillier, Bill. Space Syntax: “A Different Urban Perspective”, Architects’ Journal, vol. 178, no. 48 (Nov. 30, 1983) pp. 47-63. 9. D. Seamon and C. Nordin “Marketplace as Place Ballet” Landscape (1980) pdf. Photocopy. Oct. 1st 2010.

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Derek Bestor's Selection of Collegiate Work