Does DESIGN MATTER in our Downtown? Volume 1

Posted On: July 28, 2012
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It seems very relevant, that with the passing of Apple Founder and Master Genius Steve Jobs, that potentially everyone who has ever purchased an Apple product has been exposed to a commitment to Design Excellence. Congruently, the hardware, software interface and the packaging of the Apple product exemplified the finite detailing that makes an object beautiful. Steve Jobs forever changed how technology impacts our lives yet he never relented his passion for creating well DESIGNED Products.

Can “Place Making” Architecture create the same impact? Boca Raton’s Downtown has already proven that Design Matters. Mizner Park, achieving its 20th anniversary has been identified by the New Urbanism as one of the best planned and constructed Urban Spaces in America for the last 25 years. We have all been there to shop, dine, get a Starbucks fix or see a concert. These utilitarian functions are necessary adjuncts to our daily routine. However, have you ever truly noticed how many visitors go there to stroll along the loggias and plaza? These momentary gatherings at the fountain or gazebos to watch live entertainment are what energize the “Space”. The scale of the trees overhead, the texture and multi color pattern of the pavers gently dissolving into velvet feeling grass. It is also the introduction of water in the artistically tiled fountains that serves as both an audible and reflective sensory forces.

Why do “Special Spaces” evoke the emotional and haptic sensory feelings that draw us there? For thousands of years, architects, artists, builders, owners and governmental entities have been Collaborating to create such spaces for their citizens to enjoy. Piazza San Marco, Times Square, St Peter’s Square and on and on…. The leadership of any City realizes that to create a Community, there must be opportunities for the residents to gather, enjoy each other’s company, participate in activities and of course engage in commerce. The City of Boca Raton has been promoting this initiative since the early 80’s when the Community Redevelopment Agency was formed. Since then, many passionate “Urbanites”(City Planners, Architects, Lawyers & Private Citizens) who tirelessly wrote the downtown code, lobbied for its funding, cultivated the “Mizneresque” Architectural guidelines and then created the momentum of ACTION to build. Mizner Park is now a 25 year legacy project recognized throughout the world as a model in Remarkable Urban Space Creation. This place is in our Downtown.

Yes, we have a Downtown. It is full of local businesses, retail stores, incredible restaurants, art studios, civic venues, parks, cinema and live theaters, all within a 10 minute walk. The recent improvements for the “Promenade” continues to thread  the necessary fabric together, that with time, will become a metaphoric quilt of Boca Raton. Come experience this important addition to our Community  on October 21st & 22nd. I am certain you will see and experience the essence of  why creative Urban Planning is enhancing the Downtown.

There will more specific Case Studies in the near future where the “Back-Story” on what creates the special urban/pedestrian spaces in our downtown will be explored and continue to demonstrate why DESIGN MATTERS……

Douglas A. Mummaw, AIA, NCARB
President – Mummaw and Associates, Inc.
President – The Rotary Club of Boca Raton, 2011-2012
Adjunct Professor – Palm Beach State College – Architecture Department