The Magazine of AIA Minnesota
November - December 2006
Vol. 32 No. 6
WORDS and Actions
Livable. As used to describe communities, the word has always struck me as a little underwhelming, on par with habitable, or passable. Thriving, active, vibrant—these are words that are more likely to get the heart pumping. But I’m coming around on livable. There simply is no better way to describe a community that promotes conservation and the long-term physical and social wellbeing of its people.
This past September, AIA Minnesota held a rousing “town hall” forum on livable communities at the University of Minnesota’s McNamara Alumni Center as a kickoff to the American Institute of Architects’ sesquicentennial in 2007 (the organization was founded in 1857 in New York). The event gathered 300 civic leaders, architects, and other design professionals from around the state and featured a keynote presentation by Ben Lee, FAIA, former managing director of the City and County of Honolulu, on his city’s ongoing renaissance. In 2004, Honolulu was named the most livable large city in the world by the United Nations–endorsed International Awards for Livable Communities, thanks in large part to the appointment of Lee and other architects to influential city-planning posts. "It’s amazing what an architect and an enlightened mayor can achieve over a 10- or 20-year period," enthused former AIA Minnesota president Howard Goltz, AIA, who introduced Lee.
The forum also included St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman, Burnsville mayor Elizabeth Kautz, and Rochester city council member Bob Nowicki, each of whom connected his or her city’s revitalization efforts to three of AIA’s Ten Principles for Livable Communities. Rounding out the speakers were former Metropolitan Council chair Ted Mondale, who addressed livability from a regional perspective, and Willmar and Redwood Falls civic leaders, who reported on livability improvements their towns have made in the wake of Minnesota Design Team visits in 2005 and 2006, respectively.
But the best is yet to come. In 2007, AIA Minnesota and its three local chapters will launch coordinated efforts to make the Ten Principles for Livable Communities household ideas in Minnesota. Volunteer AIA St. Paul architects will facilitate design charrettes in neighborhoods along the proposed University Avenue LRT route, helping residents and business owners explore ways to maximize the benefits of light rail to their blocks. AIA Minneapolis, meanwhile, has committed 150 volunteer architects to Mayor R.T. Rybak’s multidisciplinary Great City Design Teams, an initiative that will offer planning and visioning resources to underserved neighborhoods across the city. And in Duluth, AIA Northern Minnesota is staging a lecture series and community charrette designed to reconnect the city’s neighborhoods and commercial districts to its natural waterways, particularly Chester Creek.
The coming year will be a memorable one for the American Institute of Architects on the national, state, and grassroots levels. Be on the lookout for us in your community.
AIA’s Ten Principles for Livable Communities
1. Design on a human scale.
2. Provide choices.
3. Encourage mixed-use development.
4. Preserve urban centers.
5. Vary transportation options.
6. Build vibrant public spaces.
7. Create a neighborhood identity.
8. Protect environmental resources.
9. Conserve landscapes.
10. Design matters.