Sunday, September 29, 2013

The recent opening of the new Walmart Supercenter has altered the Fulton County landscape, both literally and figuratively. It employs a design language that relies on showcasing its size and power while simultaneously trying to introduce new elements to its brand. In this month's Design Matters article in the Leader Herald I take a stab at examining the design elements of this new object on our landscape.

An Acropolis on the Arterial

To better understand some of what I am writing about I am providing some photos for your viewing pleasure.

 The main entrance offers something more than a box and attempts a new formal language that signals a more modern aesthetic. Unfortunately the colors are too neutral and the forms nothing but a pastiche on the box.
 They should have done more with this formal language. But it would be better if there was more transparency (windows) into the building. The faux window openings try to create texture and rythm but it gives way to a long expanse of blank wall. This was the opportune place to create an outdoor public zone.
 A sea of asphalt as much as 2-3 city blocks could separate you from your car and the entrance.
 Higher roof with skylights offers some natural light and longer views. Notice the introduction of the yellow wall color surrounding the grocery section of the store.
 Higher space, with more natural light is much better.
 Wider aisles are great, but Walmart merchandising still narrows them a bit too much especially along the back aisle.
 That band of yellow helps to distinguish the food from the rest. Use of color to distinguish departments is a good strategy. More visual, less verbal.
 Wide front aisle is much appreciated. Introduction to front end "stores" starts to create a "main street" concept. It would be better if this could translate to the exterior.
 The Rt 30A intersection. There is no sidewalk from Kingsboro Ave. to connect to Walmart even though many Walmart shoppers are within walking distance. This sets up a dangerous circumstance for walkers and bicyclists.
  The sidewalk points to the entrance until the parking lot guard rail.
 The traffic circle is easy to navigate for cars, not so much for pedestrians and cyclists.
The extension road from Kingsboro is a good attempt to connect to the city, the lack of a sidewalk on the other side of 30A and no landscaping along the sidewalk make this an unfriendly stretch with little utility for a pedestrian friendly experience.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Maps are so cool

I am continually amazed by the many and varied ways humans can find to map their environments. has a good series of articles that illustrate this point perfectly.

Today they featured a map produced by the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University at Virginia. Amazingly, they have identified the place of residence for each resident of the United States as recorded in the national census data. Each resident is represented by a colored pixel with the color corresponding to the individual's race or ethnicity.

I am not going to attempt to drawn any conclusions about this from a social policy perspective. But I do think it is important to point out the importance such mapping can have in developing policy. I for one find it wholly fascinating to see our perceptions and understanding of racial integration change as you drill into the local or neighborhood level. One policy initiative likely to be scrutinized on the basis of this map is the gerrymandering of congressional voting districts.

This map is also a great demonstration of the spatial inferences of policy making and human activity across a broad range of scales. If knowledge is power, then this map is lightning in a bottle for the person that wants to leverage its data to our benefit or detriment.

On another level it makes for an awesome piece of artwork.

Slate Map of the Week

Monday, August 12, 2013

Summer Tidings

Well time seems to be flying this summer. Has it really been since May since I last posted? I think maybe I need to be a bit more diligent with this.

In any event, I have managed to get a couple more articles published. This one is focused on the significance of our parks offering a critique of a prominent park on Main St. in Johnstown, NY, my hometown.

In the most recent essay I am very much trying to grapple with the issue of authenticity in design. It is a theme that will surface with many of the articles I write as it is a part of how I see the problems of our local small towns. The chicken wing analogy may be a stretch for some but it rings true with me.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The last two months have afforded me the opportunity to witness the changing of the seasons. It has been a good opportunity to reflect on the changes that are churning beneath the surface, but which require a little help to let them happen.

Aprils article focused on the personal responsibility we each have to make something happen that will add value to the whole community. There is no one magic bullet or super hero that will kill what ailes us and allow us to grow in new ways. We all have a stake in that game.


May's article starts to explore how planning is a process that will transcend parochial interests and allow us to make advancements for the benefit of all. But to do that we need to be ready, willing and able to get help from professionals especially for complex problems that will affect people and communities across the region.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Well, in spite of the snow, it is now spring. Time to turn the page and purge old notions and clutter. With this in mind I offer my recent article in the Leader Herald. With all the discussion about revitalizing Main Streets I think it is important to get some historical perspective on how we ended up here. Enjoy!
Urban Renewal Led to Misery on Main Street

Monday, February 25, 2013

I am finding that building a web presence for the business is a bit more labor intensive than I previously imagined. Finding the right combination of words to be picked up by search engines to drive traffic to a website is such a laborious process of trial and error I am getting lost in all the profile iterations and phrasing and test searches. It may be time to head out and shake some real hands.

Friday, February 22, 2013

For those that may not know, I have started a monthly column in our local newspaper, The Leader Herald. The column is titled Design Matters and will cover design issues related to life in our three largest local communities Johnstown, Gloversville and Amsterdam. More generally I will cover ideas and concepts applicable to the wider Capital District Region, Mohawk Valley and Adirondacks. The goal is to elevate the awareness of architecture and design in our communities and advocate for the role the design and planning process has in the quality of our lives and the places we make. Please read and join the discussion.

Time for a meaningful discussion