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That's the question Rich Franko, a principal at the Seattle design firm Mithun, Architects+Designers+Planners, would like to answer. "As things drive to denser, more urban, more city development," Franko says, "Making them great places to live, bringing nature into the city is going to be important." "Just density alone is not good," he says. "You have to find out how natural systems work into it as well. That's a cutting edge." Take for example, one of Franko's projects in Seattle -- Higher Points, a lower density project that has, as part of its integrated design, a restoration of a salmon watershed within the neighborhood. Or, in Portland, Oregon, Franko is working on finding ways to reincorporate elements of a conifer forest into a high-density neighborhood. Both are examples of weighing a balance between nature and the urban landscape. Part of the challenge, Franko says, is exploring "what are the limits to that? What makes for clean water and ecosystems while still having that urbane sense of community?" The communities of the future -- urban or rural -- Franko says, will have to address the natural environment in which they are built, especially as energy, transportation and water become bigger and bigger issues.

As Demand for Dense Communities Rises, How Does Nature Fit In?

That’s the question Rich Franko, a principal at Mithun, Architects+Designers+Planners, an integrated design firm in Seattle, would like to answer.

“As things drive to denser, more urban, more city development, making them great places to live, bringing nature into the city is going to be important,” Franko says. “Just density alone is not good. You have to find out how natural systems work into it as well. That’s a cutting edge.”

Take for example, one of Franko’s projects in Seattle — Higher Points, a lower density project that has, as part of its integrated design, a restoration of a salmon watershed within the neighborhood. Or, in Portland, Oregon, Franko is working on finding ways to reincorporate elements of a conifer forest into a high-density neighborhood. Both are examples of weighing a balance between nature and the urban landscape.

Part of the challenge, Franko says, is exploring “what are the limits to that? What makes for clean water and ecosystems while still having that urbane sense of community?”

The communities of the future — urban or rural — Franko says, will have to address the natural environment in which they are built, especially as energy, transportation and water become more and more scarce.

“Zoning and land use will have to be more in line with the sun and wind. The history of the West is laying down a big grid everywhere,” he says. “The 20th Century response wasn’t always working well with natural systems. With climate change, everybody needs to take a step back and take a bigger picture look.”

Rich Franko will be discussing several of his projects in Boise next week, June 17-18, at NewWest.Net’s Planning in the West conference at Boise State University. Click here for more information or here to register.

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2 comments

  1. Most of the “demand” for dense communities is in the minds of “smart growth” planners.

  2. There isnt a demand for anything in the entire west housing wise now or in the future.

    Growth in the west is over as the whole thing comes down and you cant afford to leave where you are at.

    If your not out of where you want to be out of its almost too late.

    Growth in the west is a thing of the past.