Sunday, April 6, 2014

Suburban Planning

By Alan Kirkwood

Well, given this point in the semester, my master's thesis is all that is on my mind, or at least I would like it to be given all things I have on my plate at the moment. But despite all of that, planning of a suburb has been my primary focus. I am still struggling with the design of the components that will be on the multiple sites focused on, but I do finally have an organization to the suburb and a program of what will be on each site. This is a bit that I wrote explaining how I come to some of my reasoning that helps drive my design for my thesis. These talks with my fiancé really help me in my designs. I appreciate how she challenges me to think further about my projects. She doesn't necessarily know what's going on when it comes to planning and design, but she does give real world input.

In speaking with my fiancé the other day, we spoke on the topic of walkability. I brought up my thesis project and the idea of widening sidewalks which led to her, a true suburban, to say the sidewalks are fine now for walking at their standard 3-5 foot width. She walked a block from Firestone to Burger King while waiting for the people at Firestone to assess something with her car. This of course prompted me to explain to her how wider sidewalks similar to those in a more urban environment cause larger groups of people to walk from place to place instead of only 1 or two at rare occasions. This conversation went on for a bit but led to two more important thoughts, the first on transit and the second regarding business. I told her that wider sidewalks help to encourage more people to walk through suburban centers and to use cars less, but we did come to the conclusion that the transit also needs to be developed further for this to even happen. Urban centers work so well because of their continuous and convenient transit systems available.

The second issue that came up was, as a suburban who is used to large indoor, climate controlled malls, she would hate to walk outdoors shopping and have it start to rain on her. Most people up and decide to go shopping on a day of their convenience and don't plan shopping trips based around ideal weather... I posed the fact that people do it all the time downtown in major cities and they just deal with it. We both came to the conclusion that people often times hale a taxi to return to where they are staying or they typically will "duck into" a cozy coffee shop or decide that is time for them to go into the nearest nice restaurant for a meal to wait out the weather or just to decide what is next. This brings business to these places as well as encourages a different level of engagement and sociability than that of shopping and creates memories of this general area. This situation shows the importance of frequent, regular transit as well as the important relationship restaurants and small food shops have with shopping and outdoor walking life.

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