There has been a lot written about Detroit lately. Some of it has been overly negative, some of it overly positive. Projects such as Detroit Works seek to rethink the land use patterns of the entire city while organizations such as D-Hive strive to connect energetic young entrepreneurs determined to make a difference in the city. This is the second in a series of posts exposing you to our understanding of the city from the inside (the first post here). Through these posts we hope to bring to you a critical look at the history, current conditions, future potential, and legacy of the post-industrial city.
There has been extensive dialogue about the way that the built environment has been created since the end of the Second World War in 1945. That was a seminal point in global history, where cities of the world started to build and rebuild themselves after severe disruption and destruction resulting in a fifteen-year chasm and a jolting double hit of the Great Depression followed by World War II. There was a clear change in emphasis from 1929 to 1946, where the focus of building cities, towns and villages moved away from being structured around people and the way environments had been built for centuries. A new emphasis was toward the development of a different world where accommodating technological advancements, and mass production was to be the driver of decision making. Fundamentally, this move eventually leads to deemphasizing the needs of the user (people) within the built environment toward tools (Automobiles).
Blank walls of a retail building – Pedestrian scale is not considered
People enjoy when the pavement is given over to pedestrians. A simple way to make the street a public space.
The study of urban spaces has a long established history. Urban cultural critic, Louis Mumford studied spaces as they related to the function of urban life. Renowned urban researcher William Whyte studied the way the design of spaces affected human behavior. Whyte’s approach harkened back to the days of the environmental design movement, typified by the late 60s/ early 70s teachings at such schools as the University of California Berkley and the University of Michigan. Continue Reading
I had the opportunity, this past week, to spend a couple of days in Long Island, NY where I gave a talk at a Smart Growth Conference put together by an important local group, Vision Long Island. It was an especially interesting experience, given the recent tragedy that occurred there in recent weeks from Super Storm Sandy. When Vision Long Island Executive Director, Eric Alexander, asked me to come to the conference to speak about mixed-use developments and enhancing urban and suburban areas by incorporating more efficient design concepts, he had no idea that the scope of the conference would have to be altered because of Sandy. Continue Reading
Must we shop? Our capitalistic society is based on consumption. When the economy gets tough we are given tax breaks and told to “go out and spend” to revitalize the economy. Shouldn’t we be saving? Continue Reading
Question: Why did the pedestrian cross the street?
Answer: To enjoy a positive, walkable built environment Continue Reading
Globalization and Its Effect on Urban Design- Part 2
An auto-dominated economic and social strategy has had profound effects on our built environment.
This post examines the relationship between the city and the car. We will examine the historical influence that automobile ownership has had on urban form and how we can capitalize on the positives and reform the negatives. When the car was first introduced it was seen as the instrument to take us back to the country; a surefire death knell for cities. Continue Reading