Five Fantastic Urban Planning Websites
Every year, Planetizen, the urban planning, development and design network, recognizes ten websites (and a few runners-up) as some of the best resources for its readers. This list is based on nominations by Planetizen readers and staff, and judged against a common set of criteria, including content, design, and usability.
As a sneak preview provided specially to readers of the Urban Insight Blog, below are five of this year's selections, in no particular order. Later this month the full list of selected websites will be published on Planetizen.
One of the big Internet stories of the past year has been the dramatic rise in the crowdfunding site Kickstarter, on which “more than 2 million people have shelled a combined $200 million to back 22,000 projects running the gamut from smartwatches and tin-can microphones to videogames and feature films.” The past year has also seen the birth of Spacehive and ioby, sites that take the Kickstarter crowdfunding ethos and apply it to improvements to the physical environment.
The British-based Spacehive bills itself as the “world's first funding platform for neighbourhood improvement projects.“ In March of this year, the site completed its first successful fundraising drive, gathering £792,000 for the construction of a new multi-purpose community centre in Glyncoch, Wales.
Ioby, an acronym for “in our backyard”, funds similar projects (with donations of money or sweat) in the United States. Originally focused only on projects in New York City, ioby has since gone national and has raised a combined $262,640 for 123 successfully funded projects. Their biggest project to date is the Root For Trees Street Tree Signage Campaign, an effort to raise environmental consciousness by illustrating “important facts about trees and the numerous ways they support our lives.”
Part of the Atlantic Media Company family of publications, home to the venerable The Atlantic (formerly Atlantic Monthly) magazine, Atlantic Cities “explores the most innovative ideas and pressing issues facing today’s global cities and neighborhoods.” Launched in September 2011, and featuring regular contributors such as Richard Florida and former Planetizen contributing editor Nate Berg, the site has quickly become one of the prime sources for planning and development related reporting on the web.
While Google's mostly free mapping service is hugely popular and widely used, OpenStreetMap is offering stiff competition. Unlike commercial mapping services which have cost, legal or technical restrictions on how you use it, OpenStreetMap is a completely free worldwide map, created by a huge audience of contributors. It offers many of the same features as Google Maps, and in some cases, the quality of OpenStreetMap's crowdsourced map data can far exceed the quality of commercial mapping services, especially for maps outside the US. On just one day in April, we counted over 280 user-submitted "Public GPS traces", or background edits to the map that are later used to revise and refine the map. Already some big companies -- Wikipedia, Apple, and Microsoft -- have started favoring OpenStreetMap.
While we’re on the subject of maps, the Big Map Blog has amazingly detailed digital reproductions of historic maps from around the world, and they’re available for download, for free. Curated by “59King,” the focus of the site is straightforward “A.) enormous maps, and B.) access to the full-resolution file.” New Maps are added to the site five days a week, so check back often for new additions. Personal favorites include the Hollywood Star Map of 1937, a map of the WWI American Expeditionary Force (1932), and Dutton’s Panorama of the Grand Canyon (1882)
Long a favorite of the digerati (see our 2010 honorable mentions list), the speed at which Fast Company retools its services to meet emerging trends lives up to the publication’s name. Case in point, the recently re-diversified website, of which the Co.Exist and Co.Design subsidiaries are of specific import to those in planning and development fields. Co.Design is “a daily exploration of the intersection of business and design, from architecture to electronics, consumer products to fashion.” Co.Exist is “a daily tour of the latest world changing ideas and innovations in transportation, energy, education, food, and health.” The perfect afternoon sugary snack, these concise posts are high on fantastic images, bold web design, and plentiful hyperlinks.