Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fringe Urbanism

Not a variation of my favorite new FOX series, but a lecture happening tomorrow at University of Oregon Department of Architecture in Portland at the White Stag.

Lecture by Nico Larco, Asst. Professor, UO Department of Architecture

Noon, Wednesday January 20

White Stag Building, 70 NW Couch, Event Room
with Live Broadcast in Eugene, Lawrence Hall, Room 206

There is currently a shift occurring within the peripheries of our cities as social constructs and physical realities collide. The re-development of suburbia holds enormous promise both as an adaptation to changing sociology and in the potential for a more sustainable approach to existing forms of development. Multidisciplinary approaches to architecture and urban design will be critical in how this transformation takes shape.

Professor Larco’s research focuses on the nexus between architecture and urbanism. He is Co- Director of the Sustainable Cities Initiative (SCI), a cross-disciplinary organization that addresses sustainability from the region down to the building. SCI is engaging Architecture and Allied Arts faculty and students in research and design while providing service and technical assistance to a different city each year.


  1. I am always skeptical about claims of redesigning fringe suburbia, and I have heard a lot about it recently. Why even bother? Most of all, how can one redesign something that does not conform even the slightest to promoting sustainability or even simple urbanity? Will a little higher density in one development covering a few acres amidst a sea of auto dependent sprawl (New Urbanism in a nutshell) really help make transit workable and timely? Will it drastically reduce VMT? Will redesigning suburbs increase walking rates discernibly?

    I think there's some things that can be done successfully, especially at the suburban "town center" level and possibly with agriculture. But other than putting in some fresh sidewalks and bike lanes and hoping that a tenant will finally occupy that mixed-use condo that has sat fallow for two years, (when one can experience real urbanism in the city, anyways) then there's not much that I see that can be done.

    I think architects, planners, elected officials, etc. need to address the issues of cities first before it messes with exurban/fringe growth. The only way to stop unsustainable growth is to make city living and inner-ring suburbs the most appealing place of all in a given metro area.

    Or, maybe I should attend the lecture before I comment? ;)

  2. It's definitely some challenging terrain... seems like the area of the moment to discuss (reinventing suburbia) as we have less 'new' building to do and more time to think about opportunities. I think we won't transform every inch of suburbia into something vital, but there are some opportunities to create nodes of activity that are connected in better ways than via car and parking lot.

    We have a unique set of issues in Portland with the need to maintain a compact size - which should require some urbanization of the suburban fringes to accommodate what is projected as pretty massive in-migration - but we also need to do so not just in urban planning - but also in economics and creative job creation and ways of addressing equity issues - or we're going to have more people and helluva lot more problems.

    Definitely check out the lecture if you can... and keep tabs on the work that UofO is doing in Gresham for the Sustainable Cities Initiative - maybe some good things will emerge. Give a shout if you are there tomorrow. JK

  3. Hello, just a technical question:
    how did u design your layout like that (two side columns, small fonts ..)
    I looked for those options and was very dissapointed of not finding them, but I see your blog structured this way - great look!
    Do you pay for that, or is it a plugin You use?

  4. Alex.
    I searched long and hard for a new template, but didn't find anything to my liking. My saving grace was finding http://www.threecolumnblogger.com/ which had steps to convert existing 2 column blogger templates to 3 columns with a few code adjustments. The rest was just fine tuning it. The L+U site uses 3 columns with 2 narrow to the right, whereas there is also code for 3 columns with a narrow one on each side (check out the Vegitecture site (www.vegitecture.net) for an example of that. Not sure what I like better.

  5. Thank's for the kind answer, Jason. Indeed, both sided layout looks great, too. Best wishes!


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