Sustainable Environment Design

The theory developed by Halprin centers on the concept of RSVP Cycles, which reflect a multidisciplinary approach to undertaking creative processes. Halprin has built large environments from private gardens through the integration of ideas of ecology, Bauhaus, avant-garde dance and participatory art practice (Raby 94-97). Based on the theory, the artistic process is important, as well as the final product, hence the assessment of works must concentrate on both the process, as well as product.

Facilitating a collaborative approach to work, and promoting the presence of interactive spaces, Halprin managed to add action to architectural practice. The approach enhances paying attention to both creative and architectural processes, creating the opportunity for the development of action architecture.

Haprin has worked on a multiplicity of projects spanning almost half a century. The wide range of projects he handled demonstrates his vision regarding open spaces or gardens as a stage. The theorist recognized that the garden nearest to a person was the most important. Perceiving gardens as parts of a seamless whole, Halprin thought that wild areas allowed individuals to be alone in order to sense the significance of nature as a primal source of life (Rainey, 54-61). Such perspectives became the basis for the projects undertaken that encompassed plazas, urban parks, cultural and commercial centers and other places where people congregate.

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The RSVP term comprises of four concepts that are useful in architectural designing (Raby 94-97). R stands for resources which are necessary for work. Reference is made to both human and physical resources, as well as motivation and aims of developers. S captures the aspect of scores which describes processes preceding performance. The third letter is V, which covers valuation. The concept relates to the analysis of action and results. Valuation also reflects on the action-orientation and decision-orientation of the V part of the cycle. The final letter, P, stands for performance. The latter concept comprises the sum of scores, as well as the style of the entire process. The four concepts are viewed as reflective of the creative process.

Role of Connection

The establishment of the Freeway Park in Seattle was largely contested (Hirsch 69-103). However, throughout history the park has not been renovated just like many other parks, which continue to suffer from negligence. Acting ahead of time would be the best way towards preserving and enhancing sustainability, since negligence leads to devastating.

The twelve-lane freeway was completed in 1966 with the view to serving residential neighborhoods east of the central business district (Hirsch 69-103). The building of the freeway was to play the primary role of connecting First Hill to the central business district.

The provision for recreation as envisaged by Halpri’s theory is witnessed, since the development of a modern lake facilitates the exploration of leisure opportunities (Hirsch 69-103). Besides, the river/lake encourages the emergence of businesses and other productive activities. The construction of dams and the plaza, planting of trees along banks, carrying out of bicycle trails and annual celebrations along the river are all indicative of the recreational opportunities that are realized from the construction of the park.

The lighting, which differs from that found in other regions, is also a source of attraction for visitors to the park. The fountains at the park have 54 submerged lights that illuminate the sculptural forms and water (Hirsch 69-103). The park has other accessories including the 19 trash containers which were transformed into concrete forms. In addition, a schematically designed pedestrian canopy to protect pedestrians was considered, although the proposal failed.

The construction of highways, roads, railroads or parks is expected to accord local citizens with an opportunity to derive some benefits such as social or economic gains. Despite the anticipated benefits, sometimes, the development of roads might lead communal segmentation or the destruction of the urban social fabric. However, through improvements or the construction of additional facilities, it is possible to reduce the level of damage that emerges. By providing a link within a neighborhood, the expressway enhances human interaction leading to peaceful coexistence among city dwellers. The attempts to address pollution concerns resulting from the activities in the region may spur progress as such efforts contribute towards the creation of a good working environment.

Environmental Protection

The construction of the Freeway Park is a manifestation of the optimism by Halprin that underscores the significance of creativity in controlling the widespread destruction occasioned by the construction of the freeway following the enactment of the Federal Highway Act of 1956 (Hirsch 69-103). Halprin observed that constructing freeways was destructive not only to the fabric of the city, but also to the scale of pedestrians. In order to address the problems posed by the freeway, Halprin envisaged that taming the design could bring better results than raising complaints.

The conditions at the site meant that plants remained vulnerable to the harsh winds, as well as high levels of pollution (Hirsch 69-103). However, to mitigate the problem, plants were selected based on their levels of tolerance to pollution. Protective plants were planted. In particular, the plants offer protection against the wind and pollution to visitors. Besides, structural aspects and landforms were altered in order to enhance the safety of visitors from harsh conditions. For instance, beams blocking fumes’ penetration were used in designing the walls. The elements are also composed in a way that allows fresh breeze emanating from the waterfront to enter the Freeway Park. To reduce the noise levels within the park, walls are configured in forming a multi-plane sound resistance.

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In order to protect the environment, load restrictions were adopted. The limits ranged from one hundred to seven hundred pounds for a square foot (LeBrasseur 138-140). The limitation ensured that soil depths were between 12 and 72 inches. The deck slab had cylindrical concrete tree planters, which were visible to drivers. Fine sand and peat moss were used in making the drainage system. Similarly, implementers of the project employed an automatic system of irrigation to inject fertilizer to ensure that the level of nutrients remained constant. The larger drainage network involved an underground system comprised of pricked underground drain lines. In order to facilitate good drainage, the walkway through the park was built over a layer made of sand rather than of structural slab. Green spaces networks show consistency with initial plans for the city. The network of park spaces connected by parkways and boulevards were the primary hallmarks of the plan.


Securing funds for the project was a difficult task, since the amount required was huge. However, in 1965, the federal government availed money for the construction of the freeway (Hirsch 12-16). When the road was constructed, there were no intentions of including creative easements. It is noted that by 1977 the way had become extremely busy as it carried an average of 133 290 automobiles a day. During peak hours, over thirteen thousand cars would pass through the way within an hour.

Following the development, a civic group called Forward Thrust suggested making civic improvements worth two billion US dollars (Hirsch 12-16). Of the money, eight hundred million dollars had to be raised locally. The proposal, in terms of money presented the biggest outlay ever experienced for a single project within a metropolis in the US. King County voters endorsed three hundred thirty-four million US dollars to cater for the improvement of the way. Out of the money, sixty-five million was set aside for parks in Seattle. Eventually, the budget would reduce inconveniences caused by the twelve-lane road. Although the city lacked the expertise to implement the park project, it managed to construct a small plaza at Seneca Street in 1967. Floyd Naramore from Naramore Bain Brady Johanson Architects (NBBJ) donated seventy-five thousand US dollars towards the construction of the park (Project for Public Spaces, Inc.). A proposal to fund the extension of the park to a block besides the freeway and Seneca, 6th, University did not materialize immediately due to lack of funds. Later the Forward Thrust secured 2.8 billion US dollars to fund the park.

The funds for the entire park can be summarized as shown below. It is noted that the federal government, city and state agencies contributed to the project. The Forward Thrust contributed 2.8 million dollars, 340 000 was given by the department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Federal Aid Municipal parted with $ 60 000, the public transit body gave $ 19 000, the federal interstate highway funds donated $ 18 000, HUD open-space grants gave $ 209 000, the State Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation contributed State Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation $ 424 000, while the American Legion gave $ 35 000 for the project (Hirsch 69-103).

Histogram of Contributions to the Project

The above graph is generated based on the above data on contributions towards the project. From the histogram, seven of the eight contributors gave between 0.018 and 0.818 million US dollars, while only one donor, the Forward Thrust contributed over one million US dollars, having given 2.4million. Although the construction of the park cost much money, it is held that the benefits gained are more compared to the costs. For instance, the park contributes to the reduction of pollution, provides a recreational site and a connection path.

Brooklyn-Queens Expressway

The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway was built following a recommendation by the Regional Plan Association to construct a link between the Triborough Bridge and Gowanus Parkway. The proposal was an alternative to the construction of Brooklyn-Battery Bridge, which was opened later as a tunnel. The expressway was built using the city, state and federal funding. The way bypasses through residential, commercial and heavily built industrial areas. The primary intention was to offer a connection between Brooklyn and the points of Queens, East of the River crossings.

The building of the way resulted in many advantages. It should be noted that the way goes through a congested area. Given the high volumes of activities and traffic, the construction was well-intended as it reduced congestion besides facilitating the movement of people and products. The construction of the way led to a direct link between Brooklyn and the Triborough Bridge, World’s Fair through Horace Harding Boulevard and Queens Boulevard and to the 38th Street Tunnel (Queens-Midtown) via the Borden Avenue and Meeker Avenue Bridge (Klingle 23).

At the time of its construction, the way was expected to cater for improvements on the industrial and residential prosperity within Brooklyn and Queens. It especially influenced the sections located favorably in reference to the Triborough Bridge, rapid transit lines and existing parkways.

Under the “Citizen Alternative Plan”, the promenade and park had to be open to the public. The eight-block length cantilevered part opened in 1954 presented motorists an opportunity to have a panoramic view of the lower Manhattan skyline, as well as that of the New York Harbor (Topousis 21). Residents also had the chance to enjoy free park space, which was above the promenade and the expressway.

The highway is in a dilapidated condition with intense traffic (Topousis 23). Nevertheless, the way has a number of unique features such as the brick walls, the overhead arches and other varied characteristics from one section to another. Although the expressway was built with a view to easing congestion issues, it did not achieve the objective. The position is held, since observers contend that the way is always under construction. The area is filled with several trucks and on-ramps that pose a danger to drivers.


The cantilevered part of the way was opened at Brooklyn Heights later in 1954 (Klingle 19). The section, which was built in order to conserve space and limit the intrusion to the surrounding neighborhood, is one of the most distinctive features of the expressway. Known as the Promenade, it is critical in mitigating any adverse effects on the local communities that emanate from the expressway. The idea of erecting the Promenade (Brooklyn Esplanade) arose earlier with the intention of rivaling Manhattan’s Battery.

The construction of the 0.5-mile stretch under the cantilevered canopy was accepted, although a proposal to make it above private gardens was rejected (Klingle 19). The Brooklyn Esplanade was a spectacular piece of art that offered recreational opportunities, since the view was captivate. It is noted that forty-six parks were built along the Brooklyn expressway.

Initially, the structures built at the way had gaps between railroads to allow for the penetration of sunlight. However, the construction of the ninety feet wide Gowanus path did not provide for the same gaps, an aspect that led to blockage for sunlight penetration (Klingle 23). Besides, the increased traffic below the lanes formed a physical barrier, as people were scared of crossing there. The bad state of the areas below the lanes coincided with the exit of the stores, which operated there. Drug trafficking, gang violence, prostitution became common as the quality of life dwindled within the neighborhood.

Whenever construction works are carried out, levels of pollution increase unless mitigating measures are taken to reduce them. The site conditions characterized by unending operations present a concern for area residents given the negative effects that emerge due to air pollution that continues impacting their health. However, to mitigate the problem, plants have been planted to protect residents from the adverse effects. Plants with the capacity to offer protection against noise and dust adorn the area.


In order to serve a large area and many roles, the freeway was improved at a sizable cost. The through arteries were constructed in order to allow for the decreasing of the traffic intensity as already indicated. Through the arteries, some traffic was redirected to Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. The artery build would contain six lanes specifically set aside for express traffic. The malls would separate the lanes from general service roads. The estimates put the constructions costs at $5, 100, 000. Besides, land acquisition valued at $ 7,000,000, was deemed necessary. In addition, the city would contribute roughly $ 345,000 worth of assets towards the project (Klingle 23).

When costing projects, looking at the overall impact is also informative. However, it is very challenging to count the entire cost given the impractical nature of envisioning all the costs. For instance, it is not easy to assign costs for the negative externalities or direct adverse consequences such as death. While under construction a tragedy occurred as dirt at the Williamsburg site trapped nine children leading to the death of six.

Upon the designation of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway interstate in 1958, it became eligible for federal funding (Moesel 12). The funding would cover to ninety percent of the costs. The budget would cover the building of new sections and renovating those in need of repairs.

Apparently, the final part of the expressway was completed in 1960 at the point of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. After four years, the section was open to traffic. Based on figures, the approximately 10.4 miles mainline part of the way and the 1.2 miles in the eastern part (initially known as “Boody Street Connection”) were built at a combined cost of one hundred thirty-seven million US dollars (Topousis 21).

In 1966, the expressway was under massive reconstruction again as the LIE-BQE interchanged needed upgrading (Topousis 21). With valuations indicating the cost at thirty million dollars, the LIE-BQE interchange renovation was one of the largest undertakings of such kind in the highway system. As part of the interchange project, temporary traffic lights were fitted at the both the entrance and exit.

Based on the above graph, when carrying out a project, prospects of gaining more or less than invested remain. For a project that has the elimination of pollution as one of its objectives, then benefits are said to have been realized when the overall level of pollution comes down. In case of Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the social cost associated with heavy traffic and the huge financial outlay required to execute the project seemed enormous. However, the reduction in the levels of pollution and provision of a link between regions are beneficial outcomes of the project. Overall, it seems that the costs of constructing and maintaining the expressway outweigh the benefits.


Creating an Ecological Urban Highway

Urban planning is a critical component that influences the usefulness of a region. For instance, planning ensures that an area provides space for every activity or engagement that is important within everyday living. Focusing on current cases, it is apparent that the Freeway Park in Seattle and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway were major constructions intended to ease life within the areas they were established. The use of the Halparin method in designing the projects seems a significant approach to the development of urban highways. In this regard, it is suggested that urban planners, designers and departments should remember about the role of physical features in improving life and protecting the environment in a way that the overall benefits outweigh the costs.

Additional Green Spaces and the Environment

Designing highways to connect people requires planners to understand the regions that require linkage. After establishing which areas to connect, the designers should explore all alternatives that are available in connecting the neighborhoods. Using approaches such as the one suggested by Halparin, including creating gardens, planting trees and setting up attractive spots would help in enhancing the profitability of highways to a society.

Community Togetherness and Cost-Effectiveness

The two projects are helpful in understanding how communities can work together towards improving connectivity, environmental conservation and overall social gain from the construction of highways. Technically developing a highway that brings members of society together requires seeking opinion or allowing residents an opportunity to contribute towards the project at the time of drawing the designs. Moreover, allowing the community to consult experts before presenting proposals would help. Briefly, allowing the community to participate is central to the idea of developing a design that brings communities together. Cost effectiveness can only be enhanced by utilizing the highways, while minimizing the adverse effects.

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