Day 4: Brighton Boulevard

By Andrew Irvine, UDLA

Bringing the public back into the public realm.

RNL has been working to help the City and County of Denver transform Brighton Boulevard from a post-industrial corridor into a vibrant and eclectic street which includes new residential areas, pioneering retail and commercial uses such as The Source and Industry. Improvements within the street include attractive and functional pedestrian elements including: generous tree plantings, sidewalks, arts oriented furniture, dedicated bicycle path, transit stops and safe intersection crossings.

Improvements include: landscaping with 400+ trees, bike lanes and 2.6 miles of added sidewalk.  - City & County of Denver

Improvements include: landscaping with 400+ trees, bike lanes and 2.6 miles of added sidewalk. - City & County of Denver

Integrated within this framework will be a state of the art stormwater management and filtration system. RNL has worked with Urban Drainage and Denver Forestry to pioneer new design solutions to be integrated into the urban streetscape that will now be adopted broadly across the City and County of Denver.

The design process included extensive stakeholder consultation. By working with the neighborhood and community members, the team found a strong desire to accommodate a multi-modal street with dedicated bike paths, controlled turn lanes and better pedestrian thoroughfares.

“Brighton Boulevard Corridor Redevelopment is a transformational project that provides an opportunity to create an inviting gateway to and from downtown Denver. It encourages innovative development that mixes the new with the old, and offers a genuinely unique experience for all.” - Mayor Michael Hancock

RNL is proud to be involved in projects that have such a significant impact on our cities and create people oriented places.


The only power we ever have as designers: To Advocate

Foster's Droneport in Rawanda (Rendering: Foster+Partners)

Foster's Droneport in Rawanda (Rendering: Foster+Partners)

Norman Foster stepped into the fray of politics in the UK to combat what he called a short-sighted approach to airport expansion near London.  His message was specific, but also geared toward a much grander scale of thought - the design and investment in infrastructure is critical to our future chances of living better.  "Infrastructure," Foster says, "is not to solve the problems of today, but to anticipate the issues of future generations."  

Foster's recent work, dealing with anything from droneports in Africa to development on Mars, may sound far-fetched, but as described by Rowan Moore in his article for The Guardian UK, they begin to anticipate a new thinking on infrastructure's role in the livelihood and sustainability of our cities. Even though Foster see's his only power as an architect being as an advocate for change,  these explorations into solving the future's problems are perhaps among the best uses of the design community's creative energies.  

Bees & The City

Who would have thought…Honey bees in urban environments have a 12.5% higher survival rate, are healthier, and produce 56% more honey than bees in rural environments. This is thought to be due to access to greater bio-diversity, and less widespread use of insecticides containing neonicotinoids, in urban areas. We all know how important bees are to our food chain with 50-80% of the world’s food supply directly or indirectly pollinated by honey bees. How can we incorporate bees into our urban projects? Head over to our UDLA folks and talk pollinator plants for any landscaped areas, or green roofs. If you have a client that is interested in on-site food production, add some on-site beekeeping! 

photo credit: Lance Cheung

photo credit: Lance Cheung


Chicago may favor deep-dish for its pizza, but a company is going thin crust for its green roofs and living walls. The Omni Ecosystems Green Roof technology grows more plant options in half the weight of conventional green roof systems. With installations in Chicago the system is clearly being tested under some of the harsher conditions in the U.S (hot summers, cold winters, high winds). The benefit of the lighter weight and more concentrated plant diversity is wider applicability on existing buildings where significant structural upgrades to the roof may not be possible. The same technology is applied to their living walls, with equally appealing financial benefits:

“Whereas most living wall products require constant plant replacement - as much as 100 percent every six months - our system has required less than six percent in the 18 months since installation”

Whether these claims bear the test of time, their next partnership is exciting in that it sets up a PPA-like relationship between roof owners and a group called Roof Crop:

“Building owners meet their green roof obligations for sustainable development in the City of Chicago, receive rent from The Roof Crop as the “roof tenant,” and have a reliably maintained green roof. The net effect is a green roof that pays for itself and is truly maintenance-free for the building owner”

Their first leased rooftop farm was recently installed in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood.

And their Omni Tapestry living wall wins Biophilia of the Week Award…

photo courtesy of Omni Ecosystems

photo courtesy of Omni Ecosystems

Sustainable Apparel Brands

For those of you who would like to reduce your personal foot print even more…

The average American throws away 68 lbs of clothing every year, yet 99% of used clothing is recyclable. It takes 700 gallons of water to produce one cotton t-shirt, the same amount of water the average person uses per day including household uses like dish washing and laundry. A whole day’s worth of water, for one t-shirt.  We all have some clothing items that should never see the light of day again for various reasons, whether we accept to believe it or not, but there will always be some thrift store shopper who can rock any retro fashion mistakes. Reuse is one thing, but smarter purchasing is another. So next time you need feel the need to go shopping for clothes that aren’t covered by Patagonia’s catalogue, consider a brand that is committed to sustainable materials and practices:

7 Sustainable Apparel Brands

Image Courtesy of Victor Athletics


An interesting article on how place-making, and establishing community pride and connections, is as important, if not more so, to resiliency as robust energy infrastructure and disaster-planning.

“Thriving places have a direct impact on our ability to address major societal challenges.”

photo courtesy of  Project for Public Spaces

photo courtesy of Project for Public Spaces