Wednesday, January 17, 2007

'Design City': The Common Denominator

'Cleveland Design City' has a new web presence for the community of architecture, design, and urban webloggers in Cleveland, (also, click on the sidebar logo to be directed to the webpage). The new page is the result of the input and efforts (and continued refinement) of its community members. Its ultimate intent is to provide a common link among like-visioned individuals and to establish a physical home for the written contributions to Cleveland design commentary and criticism.

From the "Cleveland Design City" weblog home:
"While Cleveland's history of embracing progress and opportunity inspires visionaries of the present day, the recent establishment has stifled the advancement of independent thought that challenges the status quo.

The Design City is an open forum for comment and criticism. The Design City promotes the spirit of competition and innovation. The Design City is a groundswell of creative thought... Only through the continued perseverance of idea-minded individuals to meet these goals will Cleveland become the next Design City.

To have your voice heard, contribute your architecture, design, or urbanities weblog to the 'Cleveland Design City' online community. Contact any of the contributing blogs for information about joining."


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Cleveland Design Competition Weblog

Note a new addition to the "Designblog Network" sidebar - the Cleveland Design Competition Weblog.

From the the blog home for the annual ideas competition in Cleveland:
"Webpage updates, news releases, and press coverage for the upcoming 2007 Cleveland Design Competition will be posted on the weblog throughout the competition timeline - from launch to closing exhibition and reception."

Stay tuned.


Monday, January 08, 2007

New Noblism in Architecture - Universal Design

At last, after years of dominent "movements" exposed for ridiculous theories to guise an empty formalism, a large body of designers have begun to embrace philosophies ground in social, ecological, and economic concepts to create design that strives to meet a virtuous AND beautiful result. Precepts of "green" design, New Urbanism, and landscape urbanism have been incorporated into design solutions with a greater intensity than architecture magazines would have you believe "post-modernism" and "deconstructivism" ever did. Above all, with little exception, these new socially-conscious, systems-integrated, material-sensitive design solutions have created better buildings and better towns and cities.

Among these "noble" design philosophies is the seldom-applied concept of "universal design." Much misunderstood as an application of American with Disabilities Act guidelines, "universal design" as first-prescribed by principles published by late-architect Ron Mace, strives for simple and intuitive uses that are accessible to person's of many disabilities and more comfortable for fully-able individuals.

An article in today's New York Times, illustrates "universal design" with the nation's first large-scale residential building to apply the concept to each unit. From Lisa Chamberlain's article:

"While building codes set a minimum standard regarding accessibility, universal design is a relatively new concept that seeks to go beyond those codes to make the built environment usable by all people without the need for adaptation. This might include kitchen islands with adjustable-height countertops, front-loading washers and dryers, roll-in showers, and no-step entrances, eliminating the need for ramps.

But the important point, according to universal design advocates, is that it looks and feels like a normal apartment building. Rather than relying on designs that can segregate people according to their disability (impaired vision versus low mobility, for example), the intent of universal design is to create products and environments usable by as many people as possible, including people with no disabilities at all."

Universal design, while a seemingly common sense consideration, mostly defers to defunct standards and antiquated design paradigms. "Universal" is as simple as reconsidering bathroom design, such as human-comfort dimensions of bathroom stalls, the use of grab bars, and roll-in showers. In a broader sense, at-grade entry sequences, multi-sensory experiences, intuitive layouts, and considered path of travel (vertical and horizontal) of ALL building participants could change the way the core of everyday buildings function - in much the same way that environmental design and systems integration are making better buildings and cities for PEOPLE.

Below: Typical Habitat for Humanity house in Greater Cleveland (at left). Are four steps necessary - or simply the prescribed standard for basic residential design? Could the porch surface be at the lawn elevation (right)? From the moment of completion, the at-grade house will already avoid the sometimes necessary addition of a hideous front-door wheelchair ramp.


Monday, January 01, 2007

2007: The Year of Design in Cleveland

As illustrated at Blog on the City, The Design Rag looks forward to the new year as an opportunity to make 2007 a memorable "design" year. Among the 2007 highlights:

1st Annual Cleveland Design Competition and gallery exhibition in May

Grand opening of the Akron Art Museum expansion design by Coop Himmelblau

Unveiling of FOA's design for Cleveland MOCA

Nationally-touring (as-of-yet unannounced) architecture exhibition at Cleveland MOCA

Cleveland Museum of Natural History develops plans for a landmark expansion project on Wade Oval (among innumerable developments in University Circle)

Beginnings of a Design Annual (publication and exhibition have each been discussed) of NEO architectural design

Continued refinement of existing and addition of new design+urban weblogs in Cleveland

Master planning and design of Northcoast Harbor

Realization of the Cleveland Design District on the Near East Side

The fate of the Cleveland Trust Tower will be determined (see for updates)

KSU CAED plans for the relocation of its graduate program to Cleveland

Among these and other events and initiatives, The Design Rag will have much to write about in the coming months. Bear with us in the next couple of weeks as we continue to refine the layout and design of the blog interface to best deliver our commentary and illustrations.

Here's to the emergence of the "Design City" in 2007!