October 9, 2015

In Search of Stairs: From Edmonton to New York

Here was my choice of a good example of urban design in Edmonton:


Edmonton 1

Edmonton 2


Yes, stairs – just two of the flights among many that descend from the north bank of the South Saskatchewan River to the valley floor.  (And you can see the LRT crossing the river on the top image.)

This is the City as Workout, of course – fun for even those who don’t take the challenge of sprinting up the steps, since they can enjoy the best views in the region as they watch the athletic people who do.   The stairs also connect to trails and bike routes along the river, and to an expanding network in the city – even if there’s lots more to do.  The City has a plan to replace many of these wooden staircases with others than include more platforms and promenades.

It’s extraordinary how much Edmonton commits to improving the public realm in its parks and community centres.  Some of the new park pavilions and centres are amazing – and, yes, can put Vancouver to shame.  (Stay tuned for announcements of winners of the Edmonton Urban Design Awards in November.)

Now I’m off to search for similar examples in New York.  (It’s not just the High Line anymore.  There’s also this.)

Which means not much blogging for another week.  See you later.

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  1. Have a wonderful time in New York, Gordon! Thanks for another fascinating, thought-provoking call! And I hope you get to see William H. Whyte’s two favorite parks in Manhattan! 🙂 One is Paley Park, and I can’t recall the name of the other small park at the moment, but I’ll think of it!

  2. No stairs here in flat Chicago, but I was excited to check out the 606, Chicago’s own example of old railway turned into multiuse park-way http://www.the606.org/.
    As a runner, I was super excited to see that they included rubberized “track” surfaces on either side of the concrete path!

  3. I’m all for recreation, but seriously whats so fun about running up stairs? Basketball courts, outdoor Hockey Rinks, tennis….

      1. I agree, Antje! Public stairways are the BEST! Sure, some people apparently find them boring (or bad for knee joints), but they make an INCREDIBLE neighborhood amenity! In fact, I bought my Portland condo largely because it has access to several long public stairways, each one being super different from the others and each having amazing views at the top! Just think: a short workout is rewarded each time with great views! Plus, the air feels and smells so good in the forest on the way up.
        All these other options can be a pain: hockey rinks (all that equipment to carry all over the place!), tennis (often VERY expensive), basketball courts (what if it’s too cold and wet to play–or if there’s no net, which is the case most of the time? And it’s not easy to run or bake with a basketball for a long ways), and all these other “court”-style sports have drawbacks.
        But a public stairway is a beautiful, wonderful amenity that automatically makes a neighborhood a healthier and FAR more interesting place to call home! Berkeley (California) has an *incredible* network of staircases, and they’re beautiful gems that are often semi-hidden in plain sight!
        Many people have written entire books about public stairways in various cities. To me, where there’s a sizable hill climbing up a community, there should be at least one public set of stairs!
        I already know the reaction that FAR too many would have to such a statement. Well, they need to rest assured that public stairways will NOT add “crime” to the area; that’s typical annoying NIMBY reaction. If people stopped being NIMBYs and instead accepted diversity and said Hello to strangers, this world would be a much safer, happier, richer (in experience) and more *interesting* place!

          1. Riverside bike paths are WONDERFUL amenities, as well! I use them ALL the time. I fully understand that not everyone loves public stairways like I do (and I also love basketball courts and many other amenities and forms of exercise and play). That’s enough negativity about them, Ron–the world has enough negativity as it is. 🙂

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