The Urban Center Plaza, Portland, Oregon

The Urban Center Plaza, Portland, Oregon

Observing public space can be invaluable for understanding human behavior and urban design. For my master's thesis, I conducted a "spatial ethnography" of the Urban Center Plaza in Portland, Oregon. I used the methods of William H. Whyte, Jan Gehl, and Setha Low, including randomized video observation, ethnographic "being in the plaza", and behavior mapping, to create a comprehensive overview of how people use this space and interact with the b. The way in which this space came together, the history of the place, and how people use it now, told the story of the plaza in the hopes that it can continue to be improved through an iterative process. 


TWU Working Logo

A new podcast that aims to talk about urban issues in an open way, as told by Kristen Jeffers and Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman. Coming from the perspective we like to call "third wave urbanism", this is the new normal of human-scale urban thinking from a female point of view. In this the third wave we don’t see livable cities as a fight – we see this as normal, expected, and the future of our cities – and if it isn’t that way already, it should be. We expect our cities to be walkable and bikable, to offer equitable choices in public transportation, and for public spaces to be safe environments in our diverse communities. Listen on all major platforms. 


Occupy Portland site, October 2011

Occupy Portland site, October 2011

The Occupy Wall Street movement began suddenly as a socio-political movement and quickly spread to other cities across the United States and globally. The Occupy Portland camps at Chapman and Lownsdale Square parks in Portland, Oregon, like other occupations, grew rapidly through bottom-up processes and provided a unique and fleeting opportunity to observe this socio-spatial situation in the heart of a metropolitan region. My goals were to discover what sort of organizational behaviors took place there, how they organized the space from an urban planning perspective, and add to the surveys and polls conducted in other occupations regarding demographic information and personal beliefs held by the occupiers and supporters. An ethnography was conducted and summarized in a project report.


World Class Bicycle Infrastructure: GOOD Ideas for Cities Portland

Participated in the GOOD Magazine Ideas for Cities Event in Portland. Our team was one of six, which included Wieden+Kennedy, Ziba, Sincerely Interested, OMFGco, and ADXPortland, all tackling tough ideas facing the city. The THINK.urban concepts were developed working alongside our appointed leader, BikePortland.org founder Jonathan Maus, who presented the challenge: “Now it’s time to do the big projects that present a challenge to politicians and the status quo, but that also present an exciting opportunity for the health of our city. But what we’re missing is a a truly game-changing bikeway that connects a Portland neighborhood to the city center. How might we create a major new bikeway that helps make bicycling as visible, safe, convenient, and pleasant for as many people as possible?”  We gave a presentation on our preferred solution - a major protected bicycle network leading from the neighborhoods to downtown - in February 2012.


Photo by Jonathan Maus of BikePortland.org

Photo by Jonathan Maus of BikePortland.org

In September 2013 a small group of urbanists decided to reclaim a block-long stretch of street under the premise of Park(ing) Day - a one-day tactical urbanism event held annually nationwide. In order to assess the impact of the placemaking activations - including movable chairs and tables, park benches, an outdoor "living room" set up, ping-pong tables, a bus bike-rack demonstration, a bike corral, a children's play area, and a hammock - we completed 142 surveys of participants to present to the city. The results were overwhelmingly positive and were presented to the Pedestrian Advisory Committee, including the Director of Transportation Leah Treat, in order to advocate for more "parklets" like this. The group went on to form Better Block Portland to continue the conversation - and tactical urbanism - beyond just one day of activism.