Along with six others, last night I worked to clear and flood our neighborhood's outdoor ice rink. Shovel in hand, hat muffling the sound of the others working, my thoughts drifted to a trip to Barcelona, Spain in 2002, taken to participate in a good friend's wedding in the fair capital of Catalonia. Perhaps my partners noticed that my shoveling slowed – I was smelling the Mediterranean, tasting the seafood paella, losing my way (as I did repeatedly and memorably while there) in the streets of the old city.

I've returned to my desk along University Avenue this morning. I do love a snowy, honest Minnesota winter. Still, I'm spending the last day of 2008 in Barcelona!

Award-winning urban designer Peter Musty of Minneapolis, teaming with brother Mike, founded and coordinates a project called StreetSections. The online project established a space for travelers and urbanists to post photos of streets, avenues and passageways to a searchable database. In addition, participants measure the height of adjacent buildings, width of the right of way, and features such as trees, and use StreetSections to build a picture model of the street in cross section.

Designers and planners use street sections to represent how a configuration of elements – sidewalks for pedestrians, rail for trains and streetcars, roadway for cars and bicycles, boulevards with plantings – will operate together in a given space. They are also visual tools to communicate how these various uses can operate together most effectively. As a consultant, I am interested in how these sketches describe the ways a local economy might function or fail.

It's a wonder to see how we move people, cars, bicycles and oxen around in cities. Says Musty, "Great photography, dimensions and details give a sense of the scale of some the most wonderful spots in some great cities." And the true marvel of the StreetSections tool is that a user can start with a template (for example, the Passatge de Maiol in Barcelona, pictured with street section above) and tinker with other elements.

How would Broadway work with a streetcar and much larger sidewalks? How will University Avenue appear after light rail service commences in 2014? What can we learn from street examples in Brugge or Bankok? If you have a moment of quiet as you cross the threshold into 2009, sign up for free and walk the streets.