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  • 'Second City' First in Environmental Design

    Posted Under: General Area, Parks & Recreation, Property Q&A  |  June 5, 2011 5:20 PM  |  551 views  |  No comments

    Hundreds of urban innovators came together at the Palmer House Hilton last weekend for Chicago's annual Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) conference.

    The EDRA conference was already in full swing when I arrived Thursday afternoon. Dozens of design professionals stood near the entrance of the Palmer House, laughing and talking about industry issues. Many more sat in the lobby, flipping through the various leaflets, pamphlets and scheduling booklets they'd been given—struggling to decide which presentation to visit next.

    And what a struggle it was! There were no less than 47 group presentation sessions at the conference this year. There were also 23 symposium sessions, nine intensive sessions, two plenary sessions, several awards receptions, and one formal banquet—to top it all off.

    Armed only with an EDRA scheduling book and a makeshift map of the hotel, I attempted to find my way, somewhat successfully, from session to session.

    I wandered first into a presentation entitled "The Residential Experience of Rural Immigrants," by Yushu Zhu. A native of China, Zhu was able to provide a firsthand account of life in a rural Chinese community. Her perspective was refreshing, and I enjoyed listening to her take on the rural immigrant experience.

    Next, I made my way over to another floor of the hotel, where I caught two presentations about community gardens. One, by Rutgers professor Seiko Goto, was entitled "The Effects of Garden Design on Quality of Life." The other, by PhD candidate Melissa Surratt, was entitled "Approaching the Community Garden: How Physical Characteristics Effect Impression." Both presenters were well-spoken and well-researched. Both also seemed to stress the importance of aesthetics in urban planning.

    Later in the afternoon, I ventured into a wing of the hotel that had been made into an impromptu poster display center. Titles like "Aesthetic Evaluations of Public Transport Shelters" and "Ethnography as a Design Tool: Reconsidering the Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club" caught my eye, but the posters were all engaging, and I learned a considerable amount about urban planning while reading them.

    After studying a few dozen posters, however, I was a little fatigued. So I took a minute to drain a cup of coffee and devour a sugar cookie before I ventured into the last presentation I would attend that day, a symposium lecture entitled "Environmental Design Research: Bodies, Cities, and the Buildings in Between." The symposium lecture was led by two professors: Professor Eleftherios Pavlides, of Roger Williams University; and Galen Cranz, of U.C. Berkeley. Pavlides and Cranz spoke to those assembled around them about the importance of environmentalism in design education.

    Pavlides and Cranz wrapped up their presentation around 6:30 pm, and when I left them to make my way back home, I was exhausted but still engaged. I had learned more about environmental design and city planning in six hours than I would have thought possible. I was tired, yes. But I had also enjoyed every minute of my EDRA experience, and I would love to go back again.

  • Melissa Surratt Speaks out about Chicago’s Community Gardens

    Posted Under: General Area, Parks & Recreation, Property Q&A  |  June 2, 2011 12:47 PM  |  538 views  |  8 comments

    PhD candidate Melissa Surratt spoke last Thursday at the 2011 Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) conference.

    Surratt spent the better part of a year studying the public opinion of Chicago’s community gardens. Specifically, she spent more than nine months studying nearly two dozen gardens in various locations throughout Chicago. And she was finally able to present her research to an audience of her peers last week at the EDRA conference.

    Surratt’s presentation, which she chose to entitle “Approaching the Community Garden: How Physical Characteristics May Effect Impression” was interesting, as well as informative.

    Surratt began her presentation by telling those assembled around her that “Community gardens provide city dwellers with a buffer against many urban stressors.” She went on to note that they also provide those city dwellers with “access to healthy and inexpensive food.”

    She also noted, however, that “There are many competing land use needs in a city the size of Chicago, and housing projects, libraries, schools, and other government buildings often receive funding before, or at the expense of, community gardens. But government funding—along with public support—is often needed to sustain Chicago’s community gardens, and city planners need to learn how to better obtain this funding and this support.”

    Surratt then spent several minutes outlining a list of ways city planners might go about improving public perception of community gardens. She also talked about how these city planners might go about applying for government grants and funding.

    She suggested, for instance, that city planners consider designing community gardens in open, well-lit areas, to maintain a sense of safety and accessibility. She also suggested that city planners ought to consider designing more formal, elaborate gardens with plenty of trees, because Chicago residents seem to respond most favorably to gardens of this sort.

    Her presentation was succinct and straightforward, and the audience members in attendance left the conference knowing more about city planning and community gardens than they had when they arrived.

    For more information about environment design and city planning, check out this CondoDomain article!

  • Art Institute of Chicago Appoints New Chair of Architecture and Design Department

    Posted Under: Quality of Life, Entertainment & Nightlife, Parks & Recreation  |  May 28, 2011 11:48 AM  |  723 views  |  No comments
    The Art Institute of Chicago has announced its intention to make London-born Zoe Ryan the new chair of its Architecture and Design Department in the coming months.


    Ryan will take over the duties of Joseph Rosa, who left the department last year to run the University of Michigan's art museum.

    Ryan has been serving as the interim chair of the Architecture and Design Department since Rosa left several months ago, but it was not until Monday, May 2nd, that the Art Institute chose to appoint Ryan to the position permanently.

    Effective July 1st, Ryan will begin running a department comprised of approximately 250,000 objects of architectural significance. She will also manage a staff of eight curators and administrative assistants, and she will take on most of Rosa's curatorial duties as well.

    Ryan—who has been living stateside for more than a decade—has worked at the Art Institute of Chicago since 2006. Prior to joining the museum, she worked for five years as the senior curator at the Van Alen Institute, a non-profit architectural group located in New York.

  • Out of the City and into the Country: An Architectural Adventure

    Posted Under: Quality of Life, Parks & Recreation, Property Q&A  |  May 27, 2011 11:00 AM  |  334 views  |  No comments

    Chicagoans interested in art and architecture certainly have plenty to see within the confines of their fair city. The works of architectural iconoclasts like Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe can be found all over the city.

    Wright's Robie House, located on the University of Chicago campus, in Hyde Park, continues to delight and amaze its visitors, for instance. And many of Mies van der Rohe's apartments and skyscrapers can still be found throughout downtown Chicago.

    But architecture enthusiasts ought to be encouraged to venture past Chicago's city limits from time to time.

    The suburb of Oak Park—located only a short distance from the city—is home to more of Wright's handiwork than any other town or city in the country. And Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House, located near Plano, Illinois, is well worth a trip, as well.

    For more information about the works of Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, or about the works of other architects, check out the CondoDomain blogs today.

 
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