July 27, 2007

All Future Cities Will Be Green?

I'm fascinated by the built environment; I blame my father's many architecture books scattered across our shelves when I was a kid (my personal favorite was an Adolph Loos "picture book" that I never got tired of flipping through). The shape of our cities, suburbs, countryside, and so forth have all changed—and continue to change—dramatically as our behaviors and expectations change. This is obvious, but the resulting environment is not so obvious; we are so often oblivious to what we see around us, to how we interact to our environment, and to how our environment actually marks us.

Developers, planners and real estate professionals are starting to recognize this. Some of them are actually taking deliberate steps towards making communities more sustainable and more conducive to human interaction. From folks like Eric Fredericks from the Walkable Neighborhoods blog (he's got an incredible series right now of brief photo-essays as he tours various walkable, and not-so-walkable, neighborhoods around the country), and LJ Urban (who are producing some fascinating community-based developments), are taking risks and challenging our concepts of the typical American city.

Califia ecocityThere is another project that I just caught wind of, and it's a doozy. The Green Century Institute is planning a new city, known as Califia, to house 7,000-10,000 residents within 30 miles of the San Francisco Bay Area. Califia is being called an ecocity: "a living example of an ecologically and economically sustainable urban development that leverages the evolutionary culture of Northern California in a real estate development integrating advanced green design features, network-facilitated community development, and forward thinking partnerships with private, non-profit, commercial, and civic institutions."

And Califia needs you. GCI is asking anyone interested in helping to visualize this new concept city to submit a single sketchbook page to the project depicting your own slice-of-life interpretation. It's a great idea, but what will it look like once it's built and inhabited? Perhaps you can help determine that. Read more about the Califia project and the design competition's submission requirements at GCI's Califia site.

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