Urbanists Know TED

While TED launched its City 2.0 prize last week to crowd-source tools for the next version of the city, I’ve been enjoying TED talks of several fellow urbanists who have been putting forth tools and ideas for making better places. The City 2.0 wish is stated as:

THE WISH

I am the crucible of the future.
I am where humanity will either flourish or fade.
I am being built and rebuilt every day.
I am inevitable. But I am not yet determined.
I wish to be inclusive, innovative, healthy, soulful, thriving. But my potential can only be reached through you.

You can forge a new urban outlook. Begin by connecting. Imagine a platform that brings you together, locally and globally. Combine the reach of the cloud with the power of the crowd. Connect leaders, experts, companies, organizations and citizens. Share your tools, data, designs, successes, and ideas. Turn them into action.

We hope you’ll find some of these ideas and arguments useful in your local work, as you build a more enjoyable, equitable, and affluent city at home. And we hope you’ll share your own in the comments below.

Hazel Borys
PlaceShakers blogger
Confessions of a Former Sprawl Addict

“Autonomy is fostered by the form of the built environment – by the character of the neighborhood. Many of the details that make walkable neighbourhoods so healthy – for kids, grown ups, and elders – are actually illegal today. And as a result our society, economy, and environment have been getting sick.”

I had a particularly great time putting together this talk a few weeks ago! I start by taking a walk through my own century-old neighborhood, and photograph what isn’t legal to build in most places on North America today. Form-based codes are a tool to legalize the ability to build beloved places, and reap significant benefits.

           

Howard Blackson
PlaceShakers blogger
Coding for Community Character

“What’s happened is that we’ve paved the roads – to Kona, Taos, Sedona – with junk. We’ve spent a lot of time, money, and resources to create cultural wastelands: office parks, strip malls, super centers. In order to repurpose these places and make them work, we have to come up with leaps in redevelopment ideas.”

Howard talks through formal and informal architecture and urbanism, and how they might be applied to repurpose places. Taking inspiration from Leon Krier, he looks at how certain pairings make for exceptional experiences, just like getting the right dinner / wining pairings make for magical evenings.

           

Jason Roberts
Arts activist and IT consultant
Build a Better Block

“We always talk about building great streets, and great places for our kids. There was some frustration on my part, because we talk a lot, but nobody in my Dallas neighborhood seemed to know how to do it. So I thought maybe I could expedite the process, get involved, and see if I could make a change.”

How one guy’s tactical urbanism turned into a streetcar. The ultimate do-it-yourselfer talks about how floating an idea can make for reality. Whether it’s dreaming for streetcars, or creating a cycling community, or breaking the bad urban rules for a weekend to see what would happen, Jason tells some great stories of his own urbanism in action.

           

James Howard Kunstler
Writer
James H. Kunstler Dissects Suburbia

“The immersive ugliness of our everyday environments in America is entropy made visible. We can’t overestimate the amount of despair we are generating with places like this. Mostly, I want to persuade you that we have to do better, if we’re going to continue the project of civilization in America.”

Jim talks about the national automobile slum, suburban sprawl, which he characterizes as the “biggest misallocation of resources in history.” Defining the public realm and what makes for walkability, he laments the decline of the “Culture of Civic Design,” and what steps we can take to get it back.

           

Ellen Dunham-Jones
Georgia Tech professor
Retrofitting Suburbia

“The last 50 years, we’ve been building the suburbs with a lot of unintended consequences. I’m going to present a whole bunch of interesting projects that I think give us tremendous reasons to be really optimistic that the big design and development project of the next 50 years is redeveloping suburbia.”

Ellen talks about how to redirect growth into existing communities instead of eating up our remaining farms and wilderness. She addresses the major reasons why this matters – from an economic perspective as well as health and lifestyle reasons – then goes on to lay out design interventions for turning things around.

           

Charles Marohn
Strong Towns advocate
The Important Difference Between a Road and a Street

“In the US in the 1930’s we developed a plan about how we would exploit the great new invention of the automobile to bring prosperity across the country. While this vision was grand, it pales in comparison to the enormity we built. We’ve spent the last 60 years reconfiguring basically every space to accommodate automobile traffic.”

Chuck explains the difference between a road (connection between two places) and a street (a network of activity). He stresses the importance of streets that serve as a framework for capturing value, and for reconnecting people. Innovation is driven by our ability to collaborate with and connect to each other.

           

Don Carter
Remaking Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon
2.4 Million

“Let’s talk about the power of cities, because the world is rapidly urbanizing. What you see here is the City of Shen Jen in southern China: 30,000 people in 1979 and 10 million today. The UN predicts that by 2050, the world will grow by a third of today’s population, fueled by an unprecedented movement from rural to urban areas.”

Unfortunately, many of those people may be faced with situations similar to the slums of today’s mega cities, without access to clean water, sanitary facilities, or electricity. Don discusses the power of the post industrial city, and how the Sun Belt may become the Drought Belt and the Rust Belt may become the Water Belt.

           

Jaime Lerner
City evangelist
Jaime Lerner Sings the City

“The city is not a problem, it’s the solution. Not only a solution for a country, but also a solution for the problem of climate change. We have a very pessimistic attitude to the city. From the experience I have, every city in the world can be improved in less than three years, regardless of scale and financial resources. It requires co-responsibility and design.”

Jaime Lerner comes up with eccentric solutions to vexing urban problems. He talks about reconnecting the city to itself in organic, humanized terms. Hailing from Curitiba, Brazil, he articulates interesting possibilities in urban landscapes. Connections, mobility, and resilience are pivotal to his ideas.

           

The City 2.0 Wish ends with the very outcomes that these speakers celebrate and document:

Together you can:

Bridge the gap between poor and rich communities.
Spectacularly reduce your carbon footprint.
Make nature part of daily life.
Empower entrepreneurship.
Re-imagine education.
Nurture health.

I am the City 2.0. Dream me. Build me. Make me real.

So here’s to City 2.0 ideas in advance. What are yours?

–Hazel Borys

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Comments

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