To Re-Imagine Cities, Re-Imagine Urban Design

November 13, 2008
Oil is running out and the climate is changing. How this impacts cities will largely be determined by how the urban design field reacts.

By name, the field of urban design is only about 50 years old. It was born at the 1958 "Conference on Urban Design Criticism" held at the University of Pennsylvania, attended by such legendary urban thinkers as Jane Jacobs, Kevin Lynch, Lewis Mumford, Ian McHarg and Louis Khan – each before publishing the seminal works that cemented their places in the history of urban planning practice and theory. They gathered together to discuss a new vision for American cities, one in response to the wide-scale urban renewal focus that was destroying communities across the country. But the field this historic conference created was nothing especially new. Many of the principles it endorsed -- from the importance of public space to the need for equitable housing -- were already being considered by planners, architects and designers, albeit from outside the encompassing shadow of that which we now call urban design...