From Park and Ken Greenberg  comes the video by Garrick Mason  “Something New from Something Old”  describing some unique and some familiar concepts in making great public spaces. Using conversations with urbanists in New York City and in Toronto, the film explores how low density streets can give up much space for the car, but space for humans walking and biking is still a street fight. Opportunities for more green space has come with the “glacial recedence of industrial uses that have revealed new opportunities. Eric Landau with the Brooklyn Trust describes how the area under DUMBO (Down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) has been transformed from industrial to park space. With ten per cent of the area being developed to cover the operational and maintenance costs of the new Brooklyn Park, former five acre industrial docking piers have been transformed into park experiences, each with their own unique purpose and use.
Opening up with music that was first performed by singers on New York City’s Highline, the film discusses the importance of public/private financing, noting that redeveloping green space as amenities creates real estate value for surrounding properties.
As the film maker observes: ” I decided to ask experts, designers, and planners involved in some of the highest profile conversion projects in Toronto and New York City about the rationale behind these conversions, the challenges involved in designing under such novel constraints, and the difficult issues — like funding, accessibility, benefit sharing — that come with them. Their answers were both fascinating and encouraging, pointing to a world in which the development of cities will have more to do with gracefully evolving in place than with spreading outwards to infinity. ”
You can watch the video on Vimeo by clicking on the  blue tab on the “Sorry” link below.



  1. New public spaces and parks are very important to urban areas as they grow and evolve. However, the narrative that industrial spaces are “old” and should be replaced reinforces the stigma around that activity/land use. Industrial lands remain vitally important to providing jobs and the economic success of cities. If we don’t plan for new industrial spaces, our cities will suffer.

    1. I agree. We need multiple things going on.
      One of the cool things about Granville Island was that art school students walked by welding shops and a concrete plant every day so (maybe) had a balance to only aesthetic things.

  2. Ken Greenberg is an extraordinary urban designer. He’s not a theorist or an academic swept up with with preconceptions, but has over 30 years of practical experience in public and private practice on a plethora of projects, large and small. His book ‘Walking Home’ is a gentle but powerful antidote to what past sins ails our cities today. I hope he writes another one someday. I think he and Jan Gehl offer the best wisdom in the realm of published urbanist thought and practical accounts.
    It’s also great to see former Toronto Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat offer her views alongside NYC practioners and professionals.
    From the hardcover:
    One of the world’s foremost urban designers shares his passion and methods for rejuvenating neglected cities and argues passionately for the importance and possibilities of their renewal.
    From a youth spent in the boroughs of New York City and other great cities of the world, to his beginnings as an architect in Toronto, Ken Greenberg has long recognized that cities at their best provide much of what we seek in a place to call home. Community, places of culture and business that we can walk to, mass transit and a wealth of amenities that couldn’t be supported without a city’s density: the mid-century drive to suburbanization deprived us of these inherent advantages of urban living. The realization of this loss, in tandem with pressing recent concerns about energy scarcity and global warming, has made us see cities with fresh eyes and a growing understanding that they can provide us with an unparalleled measure of sustainability.
    Ken Greenberg has not only advocated for the renewal of downtown cores, he has for thirty years designed the very means by which that renewal can happen. Walking Home is both Ken’s story and a lesson in turning the world’s urban spaces back into places that can give us not only a platform to face the challenges of the future, but also a place we can call, with pride and satisfaction, home.

    1. ……….. Toronto, Ken Greenberg has long recognized that cities at their best provide much of what we seek in a place to call home. Community, places of culture and business that we can walk to, mass transit and a wealth of amenities that couldn’t be supported without a city’s density: the mid-century drive to suburbanization deprived us of these inherent advantages of urban living. (Ken Greenburg) …………….
      Community: undefined
      Places of culture: what does that mean?
      Business that we can walk to: no advantage
      Mass transit: is a function of intensive nodal land use (which is a form of development within an ecological zone, on a perfect plane an architectural node takes the shape of a bell curve)
      A wealth of amenities: what and for whom and who cares anyway?
      Home is where the heart is as they say and this can be anywhere from intense urban places to barren tundra. We ought to understand our place in the universe from a perspective advantageous to our future survival. We need to describe the shape of the future in terms that are harmonious with the environment. We need to design our cities to fit the physical realities of the air and the water. This has implications for land use planning and transportation systems. Our challenge is to apply our scientific knowledge as a transformational tool to existing environments. This is a matter of education and public discourse. I see little in the words of Ken Greenberg that would help us in these matters which in my view are far more important when it comes to city building.

    2. On the contrary, Greenberg’s book, which is based on real world experience, and as the title plainly and simply espouses, is about human beings walking first and foremost, and basing urban form around it.
      This dovetails extremely well with decades of relevant science, research and planning to preserve ecosystems while also building human habitation at a more compact scale, and in many cases rehabilitating damaged ecosystems such as Riparian environments within city boundaries.
      A walkable neighbourhood produces the smallest ecological footprint. Yes, that footprint is extended with transit, but even here you have two forms of development, not just one: nodal (rapid / regional / limited stop) and linear (slower / denser stop spacing). Continuous retail on our arterials is not nodal and originated with the streetcar routes a century ago. Both nodal and linear forms bring work, home, school, amenities and services closer together. Town planning for the 21st Century is all about compactness, having a lighter touch on the land, rehabilitation and healing, respecting the limitations of public and family finances, and mixing the uses.
      The comparator is the Almighty Car which extends an individual’s range the farthest and most thinly, and has fostered vast swaths of separated land uses that perpetuates the never-ending cycle of expanded personal transport. It is egregiously inefficient and expensive and has wreaked grievous harm on the planet.
      Most of us call cities and towns our home. By following more humane principles of urbanism and consumerism where we live will help preserve the wilderness for future generations.

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