Colleen R Dunning

Reading List

A selection of interesting articles, posts, books, and projects that have crossed my desk. Join the conversation!

The Times takes a look at the economics of modular housing. An approach to construction that has struggled to take off, it might finally be cost and labor-critical to invest in this methodology. The article discusses techniques and potential advantages that modular construction has in speed and risk control, but there are additional advantages to be explored in waste reduction and improved worker safety (the construction industry represented three of the top ten occupations with the highest fatal work injury rate in 2016 per the Bureau of Labor Statistics).


Writing for a general audience can be challenging. Thankfully, there are great resources available to help you deliver your information and arguments in a clear, concise way. The Plain Language Guidelines from the federal government are part of the movement to make our democracy more understandable and accessible - but the lessons they offer can be applied to any field. Take a look at the tips for designing digital and print materials as well.


I'm so proud to have worked on this report with TransitMatters, laying out a vision for comprehensive Regional Rail in Metropolitain Boston. With a few critical components we can have a system that works better for everyone, unlocking enormous potential across the region. I encourage you to download the full report, which has even more information in the technical appendices for the railfans out there.


Do you ever find articles that bring together your interests in surprising ways? Jerrold McGrath's piece in Quartz Ideas touches on culture in translation, our perception of space/location/relation, and an appreciation of emptiness. 


Allison Arieff (@aarieff) has written a lot of great pieces this year on architecture and design, and I was glad to see her byline on this review of the Cooper Hewitt Museum's new exhibit on design for accessibility. "Access + Ability" runs through September at the New York museum with prototypes and off-the-shelf objects dealing with our bodies and abilities. 


While Geoff Manaugh's book A Burglar's Guide to the City came out last year, the points it raises about looking at buildings and systems from the perspective of a law-breaker seem especially relevant in today's hack-filled world. Manaugh uses crime as a way to approach construction and urban planning, introducing rouge users in environments dictated by code and custom.


There have been a few great articles lately about the ubiquity of sand as a building material, and the impact its harvest, use, and scarcity has on our world. David Owen's piece for the New Yorker "The World Is Running Out of Sand" focuses on the US, but I'll also recommend "How Singapore is Creating More Land for Itself" by Samanth Subramanian and "How to Steal a River" by Rollo Romig, both in the New York Times, for a global perspective.


Living in New York City, I developed a crush on water towers. They're everywhere in the city, and serve a really clever function from their unassuming perch - using gravity to increase water pressure for NYC residents. We've been using this efficient system for over 100 years.


Michael Kimmelman's continuing series [1, 2, 3] on cities grappling with climate change sets its latest piece in the Netherlands. "[T]he Dutch are pioneering a singular way forward. It is, in essence, to let water in, where possible, not hope to subdue Mother Nature: to live with the water, rather than struggle to defeat it." 


Microsoft has assembled an Inclusive Design Toolkit, as well as Activity Cards and resources to spur developers and designers of all types to reframe their work with the diversity of the human experience in mind. I'm especially impressed by their attention to situational disability (ex. a loud party makes it difficult to hear) as well as permanent/temporary challenges.


The Brookings Institution's Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Initiative on Innovation and Placemaking has put together some research to back up what designers have been perceiving for the past several years: collaboration and proximity are supporting the new innovation economy. The practices and results they highlight would be good backup at your next client meeting. 


Sheela Maini Sogaard, BIG - Bjarke Ingels Group's sole woman principal, breaks down her role as the business mind behind the fast-growing firm for Design Intelligence. Her 8 points for growth stress partnership across disciplines and a flexibility often missing from professional service firms.


The culmination of The Heroic Project, and a labor of love from three dedicated Boston designers Mark Pasnik, Michael Kubo, and Chris Grimley of over,under, this book is a look at the motivations and means behind the movement also known as Brutalism. If you don't love it by the end, you'll at least understand why others hold the style in such regard.


Alexandra Lange writes for the New Yorker about play, parks, and the politics of urban space. A profile of the work of Dutch landscape architect Adriaan Geuze of West 8. I'm also looking forward to Lange's upcoming book about architecture and childhood.