Planetizen


Water Planning After the Age of Infrastructure

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December 14, 2009
Despite geologic barriers and in the face of scientific advice, huge infrastructure projects of the 20th century brought water to the arid Southwest and fueled the growth of a megaregion. But now that era of infrastructure-enabled growth is over, leaving planners, developers and policymakers looking for new ways to sustain growth and rising demand amid diminishing resources.

With the one arm he had left after fighting for the Union during the Civil War, John Wesley Powell led a team of 10 men and four boats on what was likely the most extreme and adventurous fact-finding mission since Lewis and Clark stumbled upon the West Coast of North America. It was 1869, and this was neither the first nor the last river voyage Powell would command.

Walkability and the City Beauty Quotient

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February 22, 2009
There's no shortage of writing and conjecture on New York City when it comes to urban and city issues. But one subject that has been neglected in the urban academic discourse is the city's incredible concentration of beautiful women.

It's amazing. It's like you can't avoid them, not that you'd want to. Walking down the street in New York City is like walking down a fashion runway. With cross traffic. And no security guards trying to tackle you.

'Death Wish' and the Life of Great American Cities

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October 23, 2008
City streets need only few things to make them safe, according to the famous urbanist Jane Jacobs. She says safe streets need people walking around, places for them to go, things for them to do and other people for them to interact with. Simple as that. But Jane forgot one more thing: a sock full of quarters.

This final piece is a critical element in maintaining the safety of a street or neighborhood. The antidote to crime and the fear it inspires is a community that asserts its own security. The social livelihood of streets and neighborhoods is what maintains safety and security. But in the absence of this social interaction, crime prevails. The fear of crime kills the street.

Walkable Cities, Walkable Neighborhoods

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December 6, 2010
New neighborhood-level data from the walkability rating website Walk Score has broadened the view of what it means to live in a walkable city. This comparison of neighborhood-level data across the U.S. offers a more specific look at which cities are really the most walkable.

Over the past few years, the website Walk Score has gained a lot of popularity amongst urban planners, developers and, maybe most especially, real estate agents. It's a mapping tool that quantifies the walkability of street addresses with a simple 0-100 score, based on proximity to a variety of amenities. It's an easy way to find a new place to live, or to navel-gaze and see just how well your address measures up.

Why Hosting a World Cup Doesn't Matter for Cities, and How it Can

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December 2, 2010
Two major international decisions are being made today: which countries will host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The selected hosts will undoubtedly celebrate their victories, and look forward to the soft and hard benefits of hosting this most watched of sporting events. The host countries should also take care to prepare for negative impacts – short- and long-term effects that play out in physical, social and economic ways. Who gets selected is surely important in some ways, but when considering these mega-events in terms of their potential impact on the places in which they're held, who hosts the World Cup doesn't really matter.

It should, though. But because of the minimal requirements made of the cities hosting World Cup matches, how cities prepare for the event is hardly a concern to FIFA, soccer's international governing body. Whether hosting the World Cup makes a city exponentially better or terrifyingly less efficient is irrelevant to FIFA, based on how it guides the cities intending to host this event. The long-term impact of the event is hardly considered, and its potential to create the sort of vast civic improvement projects often resulting from such international event hosting is ignored.

Halloween Costumes for Urban Planners - 3rd Edition

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October 25, 2010
It's Halloween time again, the day when dressing up in silly costumes is required of every conscionable person. Some opt for the scary ghost or the sexy nurse, but others, more thoughtful others, make more of this opportunity. Others like you, my clearly intelligent and attractive reader, who use this opportunity to spread a message with their costumes. Costumes that make an impact. Costumes that enlighten. Costumes that are, uh, related to urban planning concepts. What better way to celebrate this annual day of costuming than with an outfit that tells the world that you are interested in urban planning?

Obviously there could be no better way. And so, it is with only a small amount of shame and embarrassment that I present this third edition list of Halloween costume ideas for urban planners.

Urbanist Thinking at the Temporary Metropolis of Burning Man

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September 6, 2010
It's already disappearing. The temporary city that forms during the annual Burning Man event is fading away, as the tens of thousands of people who traveled out to live in the desert of northwestern Nevada for the past week have filed out of the void and returned back to the rest of the world.

The event's organizers and volunteers are still erasing the traces of the event, from demolishing structures to removing fencing to picking up trash. Within another week or so, the entire city will have disappeared.

Benefits and Burdens in Post-World Cup South Africa

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August 2, 2010
The 2010 World Cup has ended in South Africa. What's left behind are a number of physical and cultural legacies that will be both landmark developments and potential economic hazards.

There are no vuvuzelas. The plastic horns had been blaring at random throughout the city of Johannesburg for the entire month of the 2010 World Cup, which has just finished here in South Africa. They were even blaring the month before the Cup started -- in the middle of the morning, out of car windows on the freeway, inside the city's endless shopping malls. But now that it's over, the loud honk that had become a part of the city's background static has faded out.

Johannesburg's Auto-Orientation and the Persecution of the Pedestrian Majority

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May 31, 2010
You really need to almost get hit by a car to feel like a true Johannesburg pedestrian. That's the way it goes here. A huge, sprawling greater metropolitan area of about 10 million people covering more than 600 square miles, the city is built for the car. And if you're not in one, good luck.

I've been here for a few weeks and I'll be here for a while longer. My main exposure to the city has been on foot. And I'm not alone. The World Cup is going on in South Africa, so there's a lot of excitement. There's also generally a ton of activity in this city, which is the economic heart of the country, and by extension the continent. These two situations combine to make the urban realm a bit hectic. And for those getting around on foot, that hectic atmosphere is often dangerous as well. But don't blame the World Cup, or Johannesburg's economic power. Blame the city's physical form.

The Infrastructural Benefit of South Africa's World Cup

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May 10, 2010
Next month's World Cup in South Africa will bring a lot of attention to the country, and a lot of opportunity. Though many hope the country will see an economic benefit, the biggest impact is likely to be the creation of urban infrastructure.

In one month, the world's most popular sporting event will begin, drawing billions of spectators to screens all over the planet. In another month, it'll all be over.