The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

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    27 civic leaders from Knight communities to visit Scandinavia on study tour

    Aug. 26, 2016, 2:15 p.m., Posted by Benjamin de la Peña

    Copenhagen, Denmark, during a 2015 Knight cities tour. Photo by Kyle Kutuchief.

    This October teams from nine Knight communities will join an annual study tour of Copenhagen, Denmark, supported by Knight Foundation. For five days, 27 civic leaders and innovators will visit the Danish capital, a city that consistently ranks in the top five of the most livable cities in the world.

    Study tour participants will experience how Copenhagen designs and programs its parks and other public spaces to attract residents and will explore how well the city accommodates both pedestrians and bicyclists.

    The study tour is an annual event organized by 8 80 Cities, a nonprofit that focuses on creating more vibrant, healthy, and equitable communities.” Since 2014 more than 50 civic leaders from Knight communities have visited Copenhagen and Malmo, Sweden, through the program. Many participants have reported that that experience inspired specific changes in their home cities. 

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    Designing a better future: Detroit’s history as a center of design reinvigorates its renewal

    Aug. 25, 2016, 10:22 a.m., Posted by Amy Haimerl

    Art Deco design figures prominently in the skyline of downtown Detroit. Photo by Anthony Barchock.

    Detroit is the cradle of American design. 

    The region started as the place for cast iron stoves, railcars and bicycles at the turn of the 19th century, and then became the hotbed of the automobile, industrial design and midcentury modern furniture. That’s right: Eero Saarinen and Charles and Ray Eames, designers of such icons as the Tulip Chair and molded plywood lounge chair, met at Cranbrook Academy of Art in the suburbs of Detroit.

    “This isn’t a backwater that we just decided to be a design capital,” said Olga Stella, executive director of the Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3), an accelerator and advocate for Detroit’s creative economy. “From the beginning, we’ve influenced the future choices of people around the world.”

    And design is about to influence the future of Detroit. 

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    Center for Active Design introduces Assembly, a new design movement to support civic life

    Aug. 23, 2016, 10 a.m., Posted by Suzanne Nienaber

    Suzanne Nienaber is partnerships director at the Center for Active Design. Photo courtesy of Center for Active Design.

    Across the U.S. our communities are facing disturbing trends related to civic engagement, from low voter turnout to growing social and economic divides. Civic leaders and community residents alike are interested in rebuilding trust, revitalizing neighborhoods and supporting interaction among diverse groups. Meanwhile, promising innovations are emerging across the country. Citizen-led initiatives such as Better Block and Walk Your City are bolstering vibrant street life. Many city leaders and public-private partnerships are working to transform underused infrastructure into dynamic public spaces. Researchers are uncovering new connections between neighborhood design and levels of civic trust.

    In light of these significant trends, the Center for Active Design (CfAD) is launching “Assembly: Shaping Space for Civic Life,” a pioneering initiative to leverage place-based design as a tool to enhance civic engagement. Assembly incorporates research as well as practitioner input to develop a set of practical, cost-effective design guidelines to support civic life. With support from Knight Foundation, Assembly also benefits from the guidance of a diverse, multidisciplinary advisory committee.

    This summer, we are releasing the Assembly Project Orientation to create a common vocabulary and serve as a resource for partners involved in developing the guidelines. The Project Orientation is available for free download. According to Joanna Frank, our executive director, “This publication will be used to recruit potential collaborators, spark dialogue, and identify real-world projects to illustrate the upcoming design guidelines, which are scheduled for publication in 2018.”

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