A couple weeks back I went out to visit one of the strangest places I've ever been. It's a pocket of the Southwest that's become notorious in the world of recreational vehicle drivers. A million or more of them visit every year, creating a temporary metropolis of RVs out in the desert. They park in RV lots, on streets, and -- in vast quantities -- out in the desert on open land provided by the Bureau of Land Management. It's not just numbers that makes this place unique. It's the community that forms.
I've written a profile of this place, Quartzsite, Arizona, for the latest issue of High Country News. You can read the piece and view a related photo gallery (with infographics).
The Winter Olympics will begin later this week in Vancouver, British Columbia. Like other hosts of such large-scale sporting events, the city has been getting ready for the international spotlight for many years. To hear more about what's been going on in the city in terms of urban planning, I interviewed Vancouver Planning Director Brent Toderian, and you can read a transcript of that Q&A on Places.
Toderian, as many Planetizen readers will already know, is also an active contributor to Interchange, where he writes about some of the city's most forward-thinking moves to help create the dense urban environment that has become the model for North American urbanism.
Our discussion focused mainly on the Olympics and how they will impact the city's urbanism. Toderian tells us about the years leading up to the Olympics, what it was like to take over as planning director halfway through the city's preparations for the event, and what sort of legacy the Games will leave on Vancouver.
Recent earthquake response efforts in Haiti showed how comparing satellite imagery could help to identify physical changes in the damaged country and assist rescue workers. That same sort of imagery could play a similar role for urban planners.
January 11: buildings and roads. January 12: rubble.
The massive earthquake that struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti last week toppled buildings and littered the capital city of Port-au-Prince with the crumbled concrete and shattered glass of a broken metropolis. The images beamed across the Internet show the grisly result of the devastating earthquake.
But then, a different kind of image popped up. Google Maps released a series of satellite images of different parts of the city, showing in the same scale Haiti's urban landscape shortly before and immediately after the earthquake.
Population growth slows in the U.S., air quality rules challenge density in California, and farmers look at Detroit as a new agricultural center -- all on this week's Planetizen News Brief, produced for Smart City Radio.
Full Transcript (Audio available as .mp3 at Planetizen)
Hey, Las Vegas. Good to see you! Tough break about all those foreclosures... But, hey, I hear you've got a new mega project opening up. That's cool! I bet those other broke cities are super jealous. Yeah, this new project's gonna bring you back to glory, eh? Oh, what's that? What did you just call it? CityCenter? The Capital of the New World? An urban community? Let me stop you right there.
I'm not sure if you've been to a real city before, Las Vegas, or if you know the definitions of the words "urban" and "community", but what you've got on your hands with the recent opening of MGM Mirage's CityCenter is neither a city, urban, nor a community.
A recent event organized by Good Magazine, Sheridan/Hawkes Collaborative and The Public Studio brought together about 30 civic-minded designers, planners and architects to come up with some ways to improve the urban environment of Los Angeles. It was a big question to tackle in one afternoon, with a huge array of possible solutions. The crowd was split up into five separate groups and surprisingly, each came up with a similar answer: taco trucks. OK, not taco trucks specifically, but the essence of taco trucks and what they bring to the city.
They're informal, they're impermanent-yet-reliable, they're small local business, and they activate the street. Overall they represent a unique blend of private business and public space that puts dollars in the local economy and eyes on the streets.
That's how taco trucks came to be a central element of the ideas in each of the plans devised by these five groups of civic-minded people to improve the city of Los Angeles.
A fast train from France to Spain, U.S. city folk get rural, and officials hope to pull people to cities by funding urban parks -- all on this week's Planetizen News Brief, produced for Smart City Radio.
Full Transcript (Audio available as .mp3 at Planetizen):