Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sprawl from Above

Some time ago on Reddit someone posted google maps links to a variety of suburban developments all over the world.  Although the post has gotten buried by now, it was great for getting a feeling of how suburban communities feel depending on minor changes to setbacks, road widths, and sidewalks.  It is fascinating that you can now "click" down a street in Copenhagen, Johannesburg, or Tokyo without leaving your desk (and it definitely helps that google cameras seem to be taking much higher quality pictures).  Another way to experience a bit of the world is through Geo Guessr, which shows you random google maps shots from which you have to guess the location.  The maps and pictures below are sort of a combination of those two ideas.  Try this: Go to google maps, and pick your favorite city in the US.  Then, zoom in a bit and look for the curviest streets.  Then call someone nearby and see if they can identify what you are looking at.  Or try to guess from the below:
Google Maps

Street view:

Google Maps

 This is Highlands Ranch, south of Denver, CO, the type of development that often shows up in pictures of any article about sprawl.  How does it look as a community--inviting?

Google Maps
Here's somewhere a bit further East:
Google Maps

This is outside of Atlanta.  What would it be like to walk around in this place?

Now zoom out and try any city on another continent.  What looks different? What's the most noticeable change?

Google Maps

Google Maps
This is outside of Glasgow, Scotland.

Last one:

Google Maps

Google Maps
This last one is Matamoros, Mexico, Mexico, right over the border from Brownsville, Texas:

Google Maps

Google Maps

Special thanks to the Old Urbanist for a post that inspired the Matamoros/Brownsville comparison.

One of our classmates commented that any of the examples of sprawl above, when compared to slums of the world, are really not that bad.  That's true, there is plenty of space, the roads are maintained, and houses are in a normal state.  However, comparing these places to the most dire living areas in the world is a bit like comparing apples to oranges--this, in general, is not slum development, but rather the development of choice for most Americans--with many long lasting effects not only on the land and the environment, but on society as well. (Finally, admittedly these comparisons are based on a naked-eye assessment, and not any demographic or economic data)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


  The semester-long New York program sits at AAP's campus in Manhattan and focuses on design, and real-world practice in the city.  Fall of 2013 marked the first time that planning graduate students participated in the program, and returnees have given it rave reviews.   Applications for fall 2013 are due February 28th. A map of Cornell's other campuses in NY can be found here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The New OCP Logo

Gabriel Halili MRP '15 talks about designing our new Organization of Cornell Planners (OCP) logo:

"At the OCP Board Retreat we all agreed that the OCP's three main purposes were to support CRP students in terms of professional development, social events, and external student relations (AAP, faculty, APA, GPSA etc). So I wanted to do something that came in threes. This was the first design I came up with:

I personally did not like this one---It wasn't enough, it looks like I just messed with the copyright symbol. But I liked the circles, so I tried this:

But this one is too flashy and looks forced and unnatural. So I tried to think of something that was away from the concept of threes and circles. I thought, what symbolizes CRP students the most? How about Sibley itself? Most of our classes are here, and we're here most of our time anyway. So I sketched Sibley Dome, scanned it and came up with this:

I was planning to make a CAD drawing of the dome, but it was too much work. So I scratched this and tried designing another one, apart from the concept of 3s and circles:

I really liked this one a lot. I even had a whole design concept related to this. I showed these designs to the board initially--a lot of people liked the one with Sibley dome, but that was too much work. Others liked the concentric one, my first design. A couple of comments produced the current one we have now. Here is my first draft of the logo:

So these final two logos were the ones that I presented to the OCP board. When we all decided that this vertical logo should be the OCP logo, I did some final tweaks using the golden ratio to make sure that things are perfectly in place. Also, the kind of red used for the letter P in the logo is the official kind of red for the Cornell branding and logo."

All images are property of Gabriel Halili

Monday, February 3, 2014

Ithaca's Drinking Water

Photo from the City of Ithaca

One bitingly cold day last week a few aspiring planners from CRP headed out to the Six Mile Creek Watershed for a tour of Ithaca's water intake infrastructure.  Leading our tour was the very friendly and helpful Roxy Johnston, the City of Ithaca's Water Treatment Plant lab director.  On our hour-long walk we saw the lower reservoir, the original water intake pipe from the early 20th century, the recreation area, and the actual treatment plant itself.  In many places along the trail, Ithaca's original 20 inch diameter pipe from 1902 is visible (and still in use!), although the city is continually updating its infrastructure (and last year voted to rehab the current facility completely).  Amazingly, the line we saw was originally put in using human labor, mules, and dynamite. Most of the interesting details about the whole process are covered on the city's website.  This was a great trip not only because it was nice to explore a bit of Ithaca many of us had never seen before; but also because it really illuminated how widely spread a city's needs really are.

Map from the Cayuga Lake Watershed Network: http://www.cayugalake.org/

Artifact pipe uncovered.  This section is no longer in use.

Dan O., former engineer and current planning student: "Not a good idea to stand on the pipe!"

Below us is a 20ft-deep tank filled with water and a coagulating agent which is the first stage in collecting impurities.  

One of the filtration tanks.  Water is pumped into here and then filters out through a mass of fine sand and charcoal.  In the near future the plant will be switching to a new type of more advanced filtration which is easier to maintain and filters out even smaller particles.
Periodically the filtration tanks get blasted with air to upset the sediment that has collected, then drained.
Remember--every time you pour something out, put fertilizer on your lawn, or wash your car in the driveway--someone else is downstream.