Monthly Archives: July 2012

HUNTSVILLE

From an aerial point of view the town is located in what seems to be the middle of nowhere Ontario, the urban boundary is small and the built up area is even smaller.

Huntsville Urban Centre (Watson & Associates Economists Ltd., 2006)

From a pedestrian point of view, density is relatively sparse for the most part and very low-rise.

But something more is happening in Huntsville other than lacking the basics for a typical interesting destination city (like rows of skyscrapers and intricate subway systems). Huntsville is a place to get inspired because it has an incredibly distinct, strong and consistent small-town sense of place. This persona can be sensed immediately from the groups of teenagers walking around and hanging out together, to the representative outdoor Group of Seven paintings and murals plastered in every dull corner or wall in order to bring it to life.

It can also be noticed by taking even a quick glance at the main downtown commercial strip – every shop is a family-run or small business giving the whole space a down-to-earth feel, and most of the shops have heritage facades with detail and effort put into the looks of every sign, entrance and awning – a breeding ground for strolls and window shopping.

The best part about Huntsville is the layering of multimodal connectivity, and the efficient use of unused space within the built-up boundary (even though there is a lot of room available in the outskirts). Facing the river at the swing bridge at almost any given instant, one can observe the following movements all at once:

  • Cars [inconveniently trying to get through]
  • Buses
  • Active and passive Pedestrians almost everywhere including the sidewalks, the public space in front of the river, and on patios
  • Cyclists commuting or cycling for pleasure
  • People passing by on boats
  • Etc

This kind of movement makes people from all levels feel like they are part of something – a community. And where the layers cross, life is bursting!

Neighbourhing the downtown core are several cottage-style resorts such as Hidden Valley Resort (for a more simplistic, natural and low-key, yet still beautiful and relaxing getaway) and Deerhurst Resort (for a more upscale experience). There are cottages and resorts for everyone’s taste, and they are a great place to stay overnight in order to access Huntsville by day or by night. These touristic accomodations are popular summer long-weekend destinations.

This place is like a little world on its own – truly a place to be inspired from and to grow fond of.

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SEATTLE SUPERHEROES

“The average person doesn’t have to walk around, see bad things, and do nothing.”
– Phoenix Jones (Benjamin John Francis Fodor, leader of crime-prevention patrol group in Seattle).

In 1961, writer and activist Jane Jacobs coined the term “eyes on the street” in her most powerful book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which is now officially known as “natural surveillance”; a term used in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). This theory asserts that urban design has a huge influence on the happening of crime-related events. Natural surveillance occurs by designing the placement of physical features, activities and people in such a way as to maximize visibility and foster positive social interaction. This type of design includes many entrances and windows that look out on to the streets and parking areas, pedestrian friendly spaces, porches, and effective lighting.

Source: Livable Streets in Calgary

Natural surveillance is what urban planners and security authorities expect. But unfortunately, a lot of areas in North America are not planned to foster eyes-on-the-street environments. So what happens in that moment when it’s midnight and you’re walking to your car in the middle of a dark, empty parking lot, and someone is hiding, waiting to knock you out and steal your belongings?

Well, if you live in the Emerald City you’re in luck. Apparently, Seattle is home to the Rain City Superhero Crime Fighting Movement, a crime prevention brigade that dresses up in original superhero outfits and searches for trouble in the city to shut down. As we all know crime is supposed to be handled by professionals, which makes the teams’ intentions seem questionable at first. But as it turns out, the brigade have proven themselves to be trustworthy and non-violent, and are far from frowned upon by city residents. Also, their code of ethics includes never breaking the law, calling the police for every incident that they are involved in and sharing any evidence that they have obtained. They even collect historical data that proves where the crime is happening in order to target those areas, they raise awareness and money for crime prevention causes such as domestic violence, and they feed the homeless on the streets.

For more, watch the videos below:

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