Trend Watch September 2021

Cities for “small men” gender and urban planning:

In The City for “Small men” mode, median or just plain mean? Claire Martin, landscape architect and Associate Director of OCULUS’ Melbourne studio, outlines gender sensitive thinking concepts and methodologies for urban planning.

In the world of medicine, until relatively recently the World Bank reports that “medication doses [were] typically adjusted for patient size with women considered ‘small men’” – Martin writes that “despite women, girls, and sexual and gender diverse people making up over 50% of the world’s population, it seems Western planning, like medicine, has had a similarly blinkered view of men as the locus for the universal model.”

“While gender inequality impacts people of all ages and backgrounds looking at the person specifically, not typically, is paramount because people experience public spaces differently based on their gender, sex and sexuality and in an intersectional way through overlapping identities of age, race, culture, gender, location and religion which in turn can increase inequity, vulnerability and discrimination. Therefore, averaging in the context of how we design the city is unhelpful. “

By designing cities based on a mean, diversity is flattened. It is imperative that cities are designed in a way that doesn’t over-simplify diversity.

Martin highlights consideration of distance between centres of activity as one central pillar of gender sensitive urban design. In practice this can look like increasing accessibility to local centres, decreasing distance between public hubs, and building spaces that encourage interaction. 

Read more ideas and techniques on how to integrate gender sensitive thinking into planning and place design in the full article, published on Cities People Love.

Image by Molly Coulter, graduate landscape architect at OCULUS and AILA Fresh Co-Chair.

The mist garden, and urban heat:

In In A Warming World, Consider the Mist Garden, Alexandra Lange highlights the resurgence of mist gardens as a “more sustainable and accessible option for keeping hotter cities cool.”

Fog and mist installations are proving to be effective and versatile, as they are a low-maintenance way to cool off hot spaces, making them accessible in the summer heat, she writes. Fog doesn’t require the upkeep of a water body, and can embody a space and then be taken away without creating an area that is lacking without it, a seasonal problem for pools that are empty in winter.

“Fog is an atmospheric effect that has shown itself to be environmentally responsible, ephemerally beautiful and large-scale spectacular in artists’ hands many times before,” Lange writes.

In New York City, a ‘mist garden’ designed by landscape architects Quennell Rothschild & Partners has been installed to complement the giant ‘Unisphere’ sculpture at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, with great success.

“The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation was looking for a water feature designed for cooling off, rather than decoration, that would also conform to the city’s new usage restrictions … A water feature that would delight, but also be visually strong enough to stand up to the 140-foot-tall Unisphere.”

The design of the feature references the plaza’s Art Deco history, and creates an accessible,  ephemeral reprieve from the summer heat, in the middle of the neighbourhood’s largest park. 

Fog, Lange says, could be an effective and sustainable mechanism to increase the liveability of city spaces in the face of climate change.

Read the full article on Bloomberg CityLab.

Image: The Unisphere in Flushing Meadows, Corona Park, New York City, US by Flapane, WikiMedia Commons.

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