Kristina Virro’s coverage in the Globe of a RyeHigh student architectural competition describes the entry from Krystyna Ng and her group. Oddly, it attempts to solve a problem I know doesn’t exist – the area in front of Christie subway station. But my point of interest is this:
In keeping with the theme, the group proposed using different textures of pavement to differentiate between the street and sidewalk, rather than curbs. The result: A flat, wheelchair-friendly space.
In other words, a woonerf, the Dutch-inspired “shared surface” about which two facts can be stated:
They’re trendy among architects who want to score points by coming off au courant and European.
I don’t expect architecture students to actually know the latter fact. I also don’t expect them to fall prey to the former. In both cases I expect students’ ostensibly qualified architecture professors to steer them away from an urban design that is potentially lethal to a known user group.
The only team member I could find did not answer my question on the Facebook, but I did run this by the professor involved, George Kapelos. All he told me is “I will certainly discuss your concerns with the students.” (I don’t believe him for a minute.) He would not answer an even-more-direct question about why he, as an architecture professor, was unaware of the lethal danger of woonerfs in the first place.
I also read these students’ giant PDF presentation of their work, which was singularly uninformative and written the way architects write (in American spellings, no less). It states: “Different paving textures and orientations of the canopies are used to organize human movement through the site and harmonize the relationship between bike and pedestrian traffic.” In other words, to force pedestrians to dodge cyclists, something blind people cannot remotely do. Rendered illustrations do not manage to show actual paving treatments.
It’s even more galling that this entire enterprise is dressed up in terms of “civility” and “universal design.”