Remember that Fisher Price toy – “Baby's First Blocks”? It was supposed to teach us one of life's first lessons: Place a square shape in a square hole, and a round shape in a round hole. We're supposed to understand this idea before we learn to say our first words, or to walk. Yet in the development of our neighborhoods, we have put that square shape into every hole, no matter what the shape of that hole. read more »
Free markets are out of vogue. The unfortunate lesson that policymakers have learned over the past two years is that a big, brainy government that supposedly creates jobs is superior to irrational, faceless markets that just create catastrophic errors. So Washington has seized on the financial and economic crises to enlarge its role in managing the economy—controlling the insurance giant AIG, for example, and trying to maintain high housing prices through tax credits and “mortgage modification” programs. read more »
We have recently assembled a special issue of the journal Cities with the title “The Suburban Question”, and we assume that many readers will assume the answer is “who cares”? The term ‘sub-urbs’ connotes a lesser form of urban life, and for decades it has been used dismissively to denote anything plastic, even hypocritical. Novelist Anthony Powell described one of his unsympathetic characters possessing a ‘‘face like Hampstead Garden Suburb”; the New York Times recently described architect Robert Stern as ‘‘a suede-loafered sultan of suburban retrotecture”. In the old days, record stores had ‘urban’ bins full of gangsta, but nothing marked ‘suburban’, although it is always easy to use the suburbs as a backdrop for duplicity, as in American Beauty, or the first series of Weeds (set in a gated community, a double score!). read more »
In this era of tea-partying revolutionary-era dress-ups, one usually associates secessionism with the far right. But if things turn sour for the present majority in Washington, you should expect a whole new wave of separatism to emerge on the greenish left coast.
In 1975 Ernest Callenbach, an author based in Berkeley, Calif., published a sci-fi novel about enviro-secessionists called Ecotopia; a prequel, Ecotopia Rising, came out in 1981. These two books, which have acquired something of a cult following, chronicle--largely approvingly--the emergence of a future green nation along the country's northwest coast. read more »
The University of Washington Study: Economist Theo Eicher of the University of Washington has published research indicating that regulation has added $200,000 to house prices in Seattle between 1989 and 2006. Eicher told the Seattle Times that “Seattle is one of the most regulated cities and a city whose housing prices are profoundly influenced by regulations.” read more »
Technological advances allow Civil Engineering and Land Surveying professionals to perform, in minutes, tasks that would have taken days or weeks before computer usage became widespread. I have been fortunate to have been part of the technology industry from its humble beginnings. In the 1960s, working for a Land Planning firm, I began inventing devices to reduce the time it took to draft plans. These contraptions would hang on the wall, jokingly labeled Rickometer1, Rickometer2, etc. My systems allowed me to get the plans out faster, but the designs were no better because of these devices.
Fast forward four decades and nothing has changed. read more »
Say the words “cable car” and most people think of trolleys being towed up and down San Francisco’s hilly terrain. Most view them as a charmingly antiquated heritage system for the tourists, not as modern mass transit. But cable cars are making a comeback.
Today, cable cars are one of a family of technologies collectively called Cable Propelled Transit (CPT). New generations of CPT not only include cable cars, but aerial trams, gondolas and funiculars as well. read more »
The Atlanta area has much to be proud of, though it might not be obvious from the attitudes exhibited by many of its most prominent citizens. For years, local planners and business leaders have regularly trekked to planning’s Holy City (Portland) in hopes of replicating its principles in Atlanta. They would be better saving their air fares. read more »
Green jobs? Great. Gray jobs? Maybe an even better bet for the new jobs bill. If there is a single graphic that everyone concerned with the nation’s future should have tattooed on their eyeballs, my vote goes to the one on your left. Here is its central message:
Forty years from now, one out of four Americans will be 65 or older.
Twenty million will be over 85.
One million will be over 100. read more »
‘How shall we live?’ is a question that naturally concerns architects, planners, community representatives and all of us. It is a question that turns on the density of human settlements, the use of resources and the growing division of labour. read more »