Aside from the revelation that the downtown fro-yo shops are delicious, I had a second big discovery today: I was (and I think the rest of the PLACE group were, too) amazed to discover how much brainpower goes into designing or re-designing even a tiny section of a bustling city like Portland. We got a little taste of it yesterday when we attempted to plan out 5×5 block neighborhoods in small groups yesterday. As each group brainstormed a flurry of ideas, it was easy to just let important side considerations and obstacles go by the wayside and create a dream neighborhood — but one that likely was not even close to feasible and left a lot of practicality, logic, and detail to be desired. Now, as we prepare to start defining the opportunity and verifying primer ideas for out client’s greenway project around NW Johnson St, it’s imperative that we do consider all of those factors so we can create the most all-inclusive, comprehensive final product.
One way we started exploring today was to meet with our primary client, Mark Raggett from the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. He led us on a tour of the Pearl District and we sat down with him to talk about what we need to take into account. Once he started in, a torrent of important considerations spewed out. Who is going to use the greenway? Bikers, pedestrians, children, adults, cars? What will be someone’s intuition when they enter the space? Will the desired overall feel and experience of the greenway be apparent and consistent with everyone? What about different kids of bikers — “confident enthusiasts” or “interested but concerned”? Auto access or not? Lighting? Security? Noise level? Functionality differences between day and night? How will it connect to the various parks and the surrounding neighborhood? And the list goes on… Certainly, once we have our feet on the ground and we start running, these factors will morph from intimidating obstacles into opportunities that hopefully let the creative design process bloom and prosper.
In the meantime, we’re trying to come up with a sort of “project thesis” that we’ll send to Mark soon to see if we’re on the right track. Can we synthesize the goal of our project into one or two compact sentences? Just for kicks, I’ll take a stab at it on the blog:
“Our goal is to enhance a city corridor between Jamison Square and the North Park Blocks by transforming it into a greenway with a greatly increased ratio of non-motorized to motorized transportation, environmentally sustainable features, and is an intuitively community- and citizen-oriented, safe, versatile, connected space in relation to its neighborhood.”