Water is a crucial and essential element in any good design for a multitude of reasons. Aside from the very basic fact that is sustains life, people are drawn to it for many more reasons. With its beautiful reflections, calming waves, and relaxing sounds, water provides the perfect backdrop or focal feature for almost any event, program, or space.  From fountains in shopping malls to duck ponds in the metro parks, people can always be found congregating near water. This phenomenon holds true at the scale of the city. Cleveland is fortunate enough to be situated along one of the country’s greatest resources, Lake Erie. However, it is one of the most underutilized features of the city. With the exception of a few parks and attractions, the Cleveland lakefront is vastly underused and disconnected from the rest of the city.

But when did this problem begin, and why did Cleveland turn its back on the lake while other cities where embracing their waterfront properties? In the past 25 years, more than half a dozen plans have been proposed for the lakefront, yet few of them have come to fruition. Many of these plans have been grandiose and unrealistic, “from building a floating hotel shaped like the titanic to reconfiguring miles of shoreline with new islands made of landfill.” But not all of them were totally improbably, and elements of some have come to be.

In 1990’s, the city completed a variety of waterfront attractions along the Lake Erie shoreline, such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Great Lakes Science Center and the Browns Stadium. These attractions are successfully linked together by pedestrian paths and other features of the North Coast Harbor, but the main problem is that they lack a connection to the city itself. The same can be said for many of the waterfront attractions such as Edgewater Park, Whiskey Island, a multitude of yacht clubs, marinas and docks, as well as Gordon Park and Dike 14.

Mainly causing this disconnection was the creation of the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway and other infrastructural elements. Built in the 30’s and 40’s as the largest Works Progress Administration project in the country, the Shoreway closely follows the lakefront and extends from Edgewater park on the west side all the way to E. 152 near Bratenahl on Cleveland’s east side. As pointed out in Mayor Jane Campbell’s 2004 plan for the lakefront, this has caused an enormous disconnection between the city’s neighborhoods and its lakefront. In addition, it has disconnected the city’s lakefront from its downtown center. The 2004 Campbell plan called for connectivity between the neighborhoods and the lakefront and also for the lakefront network to be linked within by public, open space.

Other, non physical forces that have impeded the development of Cleveland’s waterfront are a lack of funding, investment, need, and collaboration. The Campbell plan recognized the need for the collaboration of public, private, institution, and non-profit entities working together toward the united and common goal of waterfront redevelopment. However, a common theme in many of the redevelopment plans is one of unrealistic aspirations. Mayor Jane Campbell’s plan called for the redevelopment of 9 linear miles of shorefront and the constructions of more waterfront property constructed from landfill.

Mayor Jackson’s newest plan, which was recently released, recognizes the fact that the city does not have of millions of dollars to contribute to the project. It also recognizes the improbability of new office development in a city with millions of square feet of vacant office space. Because of this, the plan calls for key framework and infrastructural elements to be completed by the city with federal grants, which will spur on a forward momentum to attract private investors. Other key features of Jackson’s plan include connectivity to Cleveland’s urban fabric by connecting pedestrian loops and by bridging the Cleveland Memorial Shoreway.

This more realistic approach seems to have far more potential for implementation than many of the plans that have come before it. By solving physical problems of connectivity and access with realistic funding and need based solutions, a plan for developing our lakefront may not be too far off. 

For our final project, I will be focusing on the Glenville Neighborhood, and will be developing the Strategic Investment Initiative 2.0 for the area. This plan will focus on the 5 urban systems that we previously studied [transportation, open space, water, ecology, and economy] and will have two components. One will component will work with the existing anchor project and model blocks of the current Strategic Investment Initiative for the neighborhood, and the second component will be an all new initiative. 

Because I already have already researched and documented the conditions of the Glenville neighborhood for our last project, I wanted to explore the areas that lead to and from Glenville. 

I began my site visit in University Circle, directly south of Glenville. University Circle is Cleveland's cultural center, home to the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Natural History Museum, the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, MOCA, and many other institutions. The area is also home to one the nations most prestigious universities, Case Western Reserve University. Among all of this, University circle is also home to the nations leading medical campuses, the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospital Systems. Surprisingly, an area which boasts so many features is surrounded by some of clevelands poorest, and hardest hit neighborhoods, one of them being Glenville directly to the north. 


This recent article, written on Nov. 16, 2011 speaks about how "Cleveland's space strapped University Cirlce district is stretching beyond its borders, reaching for opportunities to spread growth and support to nearby neighborhoods." The area is anchored by hospitals, museums, and schools, and is in prime location to revitalize the surrounding areas.Currently, the thousands of employees working at the Clinic, UH, and the numerous cultural institutions commute from the suburbs and commute approximately 20 minutes to work by car. With no desirable residential area in close proximity, Glenville is in prime location for redevelopment. With most of Cleveland's growth occurring in its cultural center, because of the extreme success of the leading hospital systems, "non profit groups are exploring ways to shore up residential streets, attract investment and push services into Glenville, Fairfax, and Little Italy.

Glenville has a prime commercial corridor [E. 105th] and an extensive network of open space along Martin Luther King Blvd. The problem is that the neighborhood has almost no connection to the open space, and the commercial corridor is beyond failing. Martin Luther King Blvd. provides a direct connection to university circle from Route 90 along the lakefront, and from Cleveland's wealthiest area, Bratenahl. It provides this direct connection by bypassing the dilapidated E. 105h and routes drivers through a scenic byway located in a natural valley. 

In my SII 2.2 I will address these issues, and develop strategies that will connect these 3 areas, helping them all to thrive and grow.
In our last design charette of the semester, the studio focused on economy as an urban system, this time taking a much more analytically and research oriented approach. My partner and I specifically looked at the Cleveland neighborhoods of Hough and Glenville. Both these neighborhoods experienced an immense economic downturn after the civil rights movement and riots of the 1960's and have been struggling to recover ever since.

A once affluent area, adjacent to many of the regions top cultural institutions [Rockefeller Park and Cultural Gardens, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals, and a multitude of nationally recognized museums, orchestras, playhouses] is suffering from events from the past, and has not been able to make an economic recovery. The area has been left with dilapidated houses, vacant lots, and a negative reputation that will be hard to overturn.

With the help of Community Development Corporations [like the Famicos Foundation opperating in Glenville and Hough] and Cleveland's Neighborhood Progress Inc., initiatives such as the Strategic Investment Initiative are put into place to help revitalize and reinvigorate blighted neighborhoods like Glenville and Hough. For this project, my partner and I analyzed and researched the methods that are being used to restore a stable economy in these neighborhoods.

When looking into these two similar areas, it became apparent that there were two distinct methodologies being used to revitalize the neighborhoods. In Hough, where there was far more vacancy and hardship as a result of the fires and rioting in the 60's, a strategy is being utilized that we labeled as "suburban transplantation." Starting with a clean slate, multiple lots have been combined and large, sprawling suburbanesque homes are constructed and transplanted into the urban and historic fabric of the area. This urban "experient" has left the area with a very surreal appearance, and is reminiscent of an episode from the twilight zone. Eerily silent streets are the home to sparkling 3,500 square foot mcmansions sited next to boarded up homes and overgrown vacant lots littered with trash. These suburban homes were sprinkled through the neighborhood with the intention to spark a trend through the perception of 'the good life,' but what has resulted could be the set to a post apocalyptic zombie horror film. 

This is in stark contrast to the revitalization approach being taken in Glenville. "Heritage Lane" in Glenville is seeking to update, refresh, and revitalize what little remains in an attempt to salvage the spirit and feel of the historic and once prestigious area. Glenville has the advantage of being a stones through away from the cultural institutions of University Circle. Coupled with the approach of embracing the the spirit of its historic homes, it seems to be a much more successful revitalization approach. Heritage Lane also had the advantage of being infused with a surplus of investment from the strategic investment initiative. 

For the final five weeks of the semester, I will be looking into the Glenville neighborhood, specifically the anchor project of Heritage Lane as well as a more vacant area within the neighborhood, and will be designing the Strategic Investment Initiative 2.0 using everything we have learned from the urban systems of transportation, open space, hydrology, ecology, and economy. 

I am excited for these last 5 weeks because I have personally gained a level of understanding of urban systems that I had never expected. Through the analytic and research driven approach of the last 5 projects, the studio has been armed with an array of tools to make informed decisions that can be sensitive and responsible for human, ecological, and economical needs. By making design decisions in this manor, truly good design can be achieved.
Taking an ecological approach is crucial in any design process, but in revitalizing a depressed neighborhood, it may be what turns things around. For this two week design charette, The studio was charged with finding an ecological solution for the vacant properties within the lower Doan Brook watershed. Through research and anylsis of the area and of ecological solutions, my group came up with an ecological landholding solution which would increase the value of the lot, as well as the neighborhood around it over time, making the lot and area more vibrant and marketable.
The grow smart bay area plan is an incredible urban strategy for the growth of the San Francisco Bay area.

"We can focus all the region's needed new development in existing urban areas, especially in downtowns and around transportation hubs. We can use land now wasted on vacant lots, parking lots, and other under-used properties to build the homes people need in thriving new neighborhoods." 

Click the image above to visit the Grow Smart Bay Area website to see whats happening in San Francisco, California. Another great resource is the Greenbelt Alliances website, at www.greenbelt.org
"Good ecological design should focus on correct spatial and temporal scales, simplicity, efficient use of resources, a close fit between means and ends, durability, redundancy, and resilience. Design, too, must be place specific. Design should focus on more than one problem at a times to avoid unwanted side effects." -James Karr

Unfortunately, so many of today's 'good designs' do not follow this methodology. With man's insatiable thirst to tame the wild, time and time again we design against nature, instead of with it. By looking for narrow sighted, short term solutions, we have consistently damaged our natural world, and the consequences are quickly catching up to us. Somewhere along the line, man became disconnected from the complex living systems that we so heavily rely on, and we have not been designing with this in mind. 

"Human actions are often directed toward simplifying systems as we strive to concentrate production in those parts and processes we value most. Simplification often produces unexpected consequences. The resultant loss of complexity and diversity may threaten critical processes that provide utilitarian or functional value to humans. Loss of natural system integrity the all to common result."

By designing with nature, and using Karr's method of ecological thinking, we can restore our space in the complex network of ecology, and work to undo some of the damage to the natural environment that has already been done. By working with natural systems instead of against them, we, as well as all things living, will greatly benefit.

This unit of urban systems focuses on ecological design in Northeast Ohio, specifically the Doan Brook Watershed. My partner and I set out to map and document the site today, and thanks to the recent rainy weather, we were able to follow the water from headwaters in Beachwood, all the way to Lake Erie. It was remarkable to watch the path of water, and to note what situations and circumstances it encounters on its way down stream. As we followed the water, we were able to make many interesting connections and understandings. The path of water is something that is so overlooked, but it of such importance.  My next blog post will highlight our findings through mappings and diagrams, and I will further discuss everything that we discovered. 
In this design charrette, the objective was to locate and solve a problem within the West Creek watershed. The studio decided to divide the watershed by land use, and my partner and I specifically looked at issues within the industrial area.

We chose a site that was already a part of the West Creek Restoration Project, and saw the opportunity to further their design for a more comprehensive solution.

 A number of issues stood out within this area, and among the largest was the condition of the creek bed, the high amounts of runoff due to impervious surfaces [warehouse roofs and vast parking lots], and the speed at which water rushed across the site without natural filtration, picking up pollutants and delivering them directly into the Cuyahoga, and resultantly, Lake Erie. 

Our main goals were to slow the water down, and provide it with a more natural path before entering the Cuyahoga River. To do this, we proposed a divergent stream that would be used to handle excess water during times of heavy rain. This would allow water to be slowed down, and also to be filtered naturally before reaching the main river body. We also proposed effective solutions that could be implemented by businesses, such as porous parking lots, and bioretention. We addressed the issue of parking lot runoff feeding directly into the creek by proposing rain gardens at the edges of these lots, providing an area for water to be slowed and stored before entering the creek.

What we found is that there aren't many new ideas when working with water, it is simply knowing and applying concepts that work. This is something that can be done in any project. With knowledge of how to handle water on site, the amount of storm water runoff entering streams, creeks, and tributaries can be greatly reduced. Until now, it seems that the trend has been to get water off the site as quickly as possible, and into a storm sewer to be sent directly to the main water body. However, we are seeing the devastating effects of these practices, and with simple strategies, we must begin to design with water in mind. 
Watershed:  the area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes into the same place. 

John Wesley Powell, scientist geographer, put it best when he said that a watershed is: "that area of land, a bounded hydrologic system, within which all living things are inextricably linked by their common water sourse and where, as humans settled, simple logic demanded that they become part of a community."

Water is our world's most precious resource. Being made of almost 80% water, human beings rely on this molecular collection of elements more than any other in the world. Unfortunately, with urbanization and densification, natural watersheds in urban areas are being heavily damaged, and destroyed. Areas that were once natively vegetated, and filtered water naturally and gradually, have been replaced by impervious materials [roads, parking lots, buildings] and mechanized replacements [sewer and storm water drainage systems.] By stripping the land of its natural processes, we fast track the water cycle. What this means is that the rain water that rushes over a polluted industrial park winds up back in the lake, and ultimately in our tap water much much faster, and dirtier, than it ever would have. The effects of urbanization and the disruption of watersheds is not easily reversible, but good design practices can help slow the velocity of destruction which is currently taking place. 

Our studio will be looking at the West Creek Watershed, and will be coming up with design solutions that can help to slow the disruption to natural watersheds. The West Creek Preservation Committee is dedicated to doing just this, and we will be studying some of the projects and techniques they have been employing to help save our most precious resource. 

This committee has put together an excellent resource, the Watershed Action Plan.

On a much smaller scale, The University of Maryland has designed a model project that demonstrates ways that human settlements can be designed to help protect the watershed ecosystem. With designs like this making up the urban fabric of cities, our worlds watersheds could be in much better shape.
Discussion in our intro to urban design class has recently shifted to issues of technology, mechanization, and the  "synthetic reality" that seems to be a result of this recent leap forward in technology and industrialization since the turn of the 20th century. People in cities have become so far removed from their rural roots that,  according to a recent study, many inner city children are unable to make the connection between a McDonald's hamburger and the actual animal it is produced from. 

The capitalistic society that created this industrial, and mechanized way of producing food seems to be at work again; but this time, by going back to the start.

As soon as it looked like all hope may have been lost for the future of our pigs, chickens and cows, it seems that we may be on the edge of a cultural turning point. People are taking note, and it is having a huge effect. With people's will to actually know what they are eating, and to be confident in the food they purchase, the demands of a capitalistic economy have large corporations like Walmart and Chipotle listening. And with "edible education" initiatives popping up all over our nation's schools, it seems that a glimmer of hope may be emerging from what seemed like a future of chemically altered and industrialized food. 

One major company leading the way is Chipotle (and their food with integrity initiative), whose dedication to a responsible world is evident in almost every aspect of their company. Recently, they have produced this great little short film, which I believe, sums up the cultural revolution that is making its way across the country.