Planners frequently use the place type framework to identify different issues, challenges, and assets throughout a municipality or a region. While there isn’t a standard used across the profession, it is generally accepted that the broadest range of places includes the hamlet, village, town and city. Historically we intuitively understood how to build these places without regulation. Commerce and public spaces were located where the majority of residents could access them, and housing was both diverse and compact. This permitted the preservation of the landscape for agriculture and natural systems.
Steve Jobs ended one of his most memorable speeches with the encouragement, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” He was quoting the message on the final page of the final publication of The Whole Earth Catalog, Stewart Brand’s version of pre-Google, assembled with typewriters, polaroid’s and scissors. Jobs’ point for me was to realize that the hunger for knowledge is not neediness, powerlessness, or weakness, but rather is a transformational driver of change and growth. An essential part of wellbeing.
Call me naive.
When I was first exposed to the New Urbanism in the 1990s, it was as a 9 to 5 brand marketer with an appreciation for music and art. Killing time one day in my dentist’s waiting room, I stumbled upon “Bye-Bye Suburban Dream,” the cover story of the latest Newsweek magazine.
I still remember the feeling I had as I read it. Unbelievable, I thought. This is a movement pursuing places where people, community, beauty and culture are once again prioritized. Where the interconnected everyday human experiences that color our lives are valued. Where commerce and art can both thrive.
We’ve talked extensively here on PlaceShakers about how to integrate industrial uses into walkable neighborhoods. And the sorts of land use modifications, often via form-based codes, that are necessary to enable these uses within safe parameters. This week in Berlin, I was particularly inspired by the example set by Hackeschen Höfe, for mixing artisanal manufacturing with residential in mid-rise mixed-use. And they’ve been doing so successfully since 1906.
I’m big on local. Not because I hate Walmart and 3,000 mile Caesar salads but because, as I see it, communities built on human-scaled, interdependent systems are better suited to taking on the challenges and opportunities presented by time.
That’s why, when it comes to the decisions that most directly impact day-to-day quality of life, I tend to advocate for smaller, more local, more responsive increments of control. Things like neighborhoods, NPUs, districts, and towns.
The world around us, whatever form it takes, comes to reflect the priorities of the people setting policy, making rules, and allocating funds. The more those people understand the nuances of context and maintain a shared stake in the outcome, the better things tend to be.
You know what the payment is for crowdsourcing? By asking other people to step up and think through solutions to some collective problem, I must commit to making a difference myself.
Every time I’ve asked you to share information with me, you have. Then I feel the need to compile it, analyze it, and organize it into a useful tool. I often get behind in answering all of your individual emails – thanks for all you send – but the power of your collective comments comes through loud and clear.
Get right with God. Fix your zoning.
That’s not something you hear regularly from the pulpit, maybe. But it’s gospel nonetheless. Here’s why:
If there’s one common thread woven through the world’s most enduring religions, it’s the call to connectivity: Self to others to everything.
If the attendees list of Placemaking@Work, my monthly webinar series, is any indicator, we’re increasingly united in our desire to improve the places we call home, wherever those places might be. Over time, I’ve had participants from Hawaii to Russia, from British Columbia to Saudi Arabia, and many points in between.
The common thread among these seekers is their search for tools and tactics that have proven effective. And increasingly dominating these conversations are form-based codes.