Urban Labs focus on city neighborhood
ROBERT STEUTEVILLE    MAR. 1, 2007
CNU’s Urban Laboratory sessions were a successful introduction of the Providence Congress. Giving participants an opportunity to work side-by-side with expert new urbanists on local challenges such as customizing a form-based code to the local fabric, they yielded benefits both for CNU members and the host city. In Philadelphia, the Urban Labs will be back in full force, with an expanded set of sessions focusing on a single distressed Philadelphia neighborhood, moderate-income Francisville, which is just experiencing the earliest stages of gentrification. The labs will include a charrette-style studio session on “Coding for Neighborhood Evolution” led by Sandy Sorlien and coding consultants such as Gonzalo Echeverria and Susan Henderson. Laura Hall and partner Lois Fisher, two California-based urban designers with deserved reputations for winning public backing for good design, will collect and facilitate input from local residents and businesspersons in addressing a local problem in Francisville. Urban retail consultant Bob Gibbs and Urban Partners co-founder Jim Hartling will lead a session on Francisville’s Ridge Avenue that will resonate with anyone seeking to bring retail life back to a neighborhood commercial corridor. Israeli academic Yodan Rofé and architects such as Michael Mehaffy, Eileen Tumlin, and Susan Ingham will use Christopher Alexander’s techniques to show how the life and order of urban spaces can be pulled out from the wholeness of the site, and the life of the people who inhabit it. Through mapping feeling, poetic visioning, sketching and full-scale mock-ups, they will create a vision of neighborhood spaces in Francisville and design one of them in some detail. Urban Laboratories require special registration and space may be limited so early registration is recommended.