You don’t have to be a genius to become an accomplished urban designer; you only have to have a tape measure and a camera and come to Europe to learn how.
Visit the Algarve (southern Portugal–we are in the small town of Olhão, west of Faro) and you will see thriving, wealthy, walkable, animated, livable, mixed-use communities that are built for pedestrians and cyclists where cars, buses and trucks are guests.[narrow roadways where mom with baby carriage is comfortable sharing with motorcyclist] [active uses at grade with wow–window on world, lots of penetrations, residential above] [homes and stores, pedestrians and motorcycles, cobblestone streets so narrow you can nearly touch both sides with extended arms] [store windows open so you can order a coffee without even going inside] [public art and street cafes everywhere–the public domain is a treasured outdoor room] [you can achieve amazing desnities without having to resort to 65-story buildings–4, 6 or 8 will do fine; flat roof and outdoor patios serve as recreation and entertainment spaces] [markets are a focus for grow local movement] [on-street parking provides buffer for pedestrians and slows traffic, which is the goal–slow not faster; traffic jams result because… cars must stop for pedestrians at all crosswalks] [instead of tearing down historical buildings, preserve and renovate them] [nevertheless, cars are a vital part of the local economy–banning them would crater many businesses and suck life out of the city] [streets like this are thought to be impossible to build in Canada and the US, in part, because traffic engineers and planners have taken over city design from people and architects, and, in part, because of concerns with removal of garbage and snow–but older parts of Boston, Quebec City and Montreal manage–in fact, some of their most valuable real estate looks remarkably like this–it just requires smaller snow plows and garbage trucks… and some imagination] [historic building waiting for its turn to be renovated and brought back to life] [historic building waiting for its turn to be renovated and brought back to life] [streets are one way on each side of this boulevard–look at the width of this pedestrian space and not its active elements–a news kiosk] [ordered tree planting is essential, plus bench seating] [a more mature treescape–every nation that has deforested itself has landed on rocky economic shoals] [rooftop of shopping center is an indoor-outdoor event space] [interior shot of rooftop event space] [stores, offices, studios, cafes at grade with three stories of apartments above–note top floor has outdoor patio and all floors above grade have balconies–outdoor space is essential for humans] [seaside park] [cars subtly separated from pedestrians]
Bruce Firestone looking like Brad Pitt, posing at the harbor…
postscript–more photos from east of Olhão–the town of Tavira; see below.
While you are look through this photo essay, keep this in mind–Portuguese build cities and towns and especially great parks with a ton of live elements like: shops, cafes, amphitheaters, pathways, benches, splash pads, flea markets, w/cs, news kiosks, artist studios, shops, residences and apartments, statues, squares, waterways, complex road patterns and varying lot sizes, nap areas, games areas… the exact opposite of our North American parks, which have grass and nothing else and are hardly ever used.
Interestingly, they integrate cars into their parks–interleaving narrow roadways where cars are guests and pedestrians have right of way.
Here’s the thing though– without those cars, these places would die so pedestrian-only malls and parks are doomed IMHO. They need a combination of lifeforms including human, animal and vehicular… to make them work properly.[the most valuable real estate is not where you might think it is– it’s in places that combine all sorts of uses and different classes of people providing jobs and housing for all; there are no gated communities here and the street pattern is organic, non arbitrary–why not plan your next subdivision like this?] [flea market stalls, not open on the day I visited] [performance spaces are everywhere]
Portugal is aging fast with a population growth rate of just .7 children per female.
Here is a family (seated on bench) who refused to give this impoverished elder any money, but the female head of household made him a sandwich, which you can seein his left hand as he walks away.
What is missing from this park?
Picnic benches so these families can enjoy things without having to use their laps as tables and so Prof Bruce can work without having to do the same…[playland in Lagos]
Here’re a series of photos I took on the most beautiful summer of 2015 weekend of a park in a small township in Ontario Canada:
What’s missing? People.
Why? Because there are no active elements at all.The one shack they had where a kiosk or store could have been leased out was vacant.
Soccer mom with her three daughters might visit these parks, but only once. When she finds out that there’s no place to buy a tea or coffee for herself or get a drink for her children and no place to go other than one sh*tty porta-potty , they ain’t coming back, ever.
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.