Oculus - Spring 2016 Institutional Shifts - (Page 19)
The Intersection of
Technology and Walkability
B Y L A U R A H E E RY P R O ZES
've been "waiting for the world to change," to quote an Athens, Georgia, band. In fact,
Athens illustrates a recent critical trend: technology and research that thrive in urban, walkable places rather than the isolated, auto-focused office parks. Athens was founded with the
University of Georgia in the 1780s as a traditional grid of high-density streets, with walking as
a primary means of mobility. Yet, like most urban districts and "Main Streets" across the U.S.,
auto-centric zoning, road design, and growth in the 1960s-70s left a moribund Main Street
behind. Slowly, local grassroots reseeded, and local shops, restaurants, and housing regrew
a thriving street life, reconnected with the university life. A surprisingly large market has
emerged for lively mixed-use, walkable districts. Are large institutions making the shift?
"Arts and cultural institutions were the first to shift away from walled, island campuses to
integrate into urban neighborhoods," notes Will Herbig, formerly with the National Capital
Planning Commission in Washington, D.C., now program director of the Congress for the
New Urbanism. Suburban and small-town universities have moved departments and established institutes in urban cores across the country to harvest the energy of the street and build
interaction with neighborhoods, constituencies, and partner institutions.
"Educational institutions are partners in 'Regional Innovation Clusters,'" adds Herbig.
These are geographic concentrations of industries, he explains, like Stanford and California's
Silicon Valley, North Carolina's Research Triangle Park (with the University of North Carolina
and Duke University nearby), and local university-business culture seeding incubators, such
as the EcoDistricts at the Portland Sustainability Institute in Oregon. Universities are involved
in "Innovation Districts," where government incentives spur the development and deployment of new products, processes, and industries in partnership with local businesses. The
Association of University Research Parks studies practices that cluster education, research,
technology transfer, and resources to grow jobs and innovation. An example is Buffalo
Niagara, a medical university research district with street networks, transit, and mixed uses.
An unlikely institution to plan an urban district is the Department of Homeland Security.
Herbig notes: "The Homeland Security Regional Innovation Cluster is a $3.4-billion project
designed to transform the West Campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital and bring 14,000 jobs to
one of Washington's most disinvested neighborhoods." Moreover, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), in its 2013 Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC), shifted away from "auto-oriented
development toward a more sustainable, compact, walkable, urbanist model," says Mark Gillen, professor at the University of Oregon and DOD's consultant for the UFC.
Healthcare giants and insurers are moving from large, isolated suburban campuses, chasing the patient closer to home by establishing small-scale clinics or urgent-care "docs in a
box" in high-traffic retail locations and urban districts.
Public-health experts (the U.S. Surgeon General's office and the U.S. Center for Disease
Control and Prevention) increasingly promote live/work/walk districts. "Sitting is the New
Smoking" is their rallying cry. New York City's Active Design Guidelines have gone national,
as officials seek to make healthy choices (exercise, connection to nature, and healthy food)
part of everyday life, rather than a chore that must be squeezed into busy days.
With many campuses already embedded in neighborhoods (among them, New York University, Parsons The New School, and Pratt Institute) rather than set off in discrete campuses,
there's plenty of opportunity to extend their presence into larger districts by partnering with
economic-development agencies, foundations, and other institutions and private entities.
Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates/
Flad Architects,, page 26
20 The Challenges
24 A Win-Win at
26 Course Requirements
28 1,087 Windows
(and a Unique Focus)
on the City
30 Tech Time
31 Playing a New Tune
32 A More Perfect Union
34 Social Innovation
Laura Heery Prozes recently joined a development team for walkable senior housing for
creatives and innovators. At Brookwood Group, she was design architect for projects
for The Coca-Cola Company, Time Warner, Georgia Tech, and the Peachtree Corridor
redesign. Since 2010, she has served on the Congress for the New Urbanism's board.
Spring 2016 Oculus
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Oculus - Spring 2016 Institutional Shifts
Letter from the President
Letter from the Editor
Center for Architecture
One Block Over
Opener: The Intersection of Technology and Walkability
The Challenges of Expansion
A Win-Win at Rockefeller University
1,087 Windows (and a Unique Focus) on the City
Playing a New Tune
A More Perfect Union
Social Innovation by Design
Index to Advertisers
Oculus - Spring 2016 Institutional Shifts