The Future of Municipal Planning: Is John Nolen rolling over in his grave?

This is not the planning profession John Nolen built. A century later, our great recession has sparked a full re-evaluation of what a city’s urban planning department should be ‘doing’ for its citizens. As witnessed in Los Angeles and San Diego, the planning profession is being measured by its eternal conundrum between Forward Planning Departments that plan for future development projects and Current Planning Services that process today’s development applications.

And, it appears that a few radical devolutions are taking place.

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We’re All Connected: Too bad more is not necessarily the same as better

Roughly two hundred years ago, working in a little Bavarian workshop, Samuel Soemmering created a crude device that, refined by others, would revolutionize communications for the emerging industrial age: the telegraph.

A hundred years thereafter, post-Victorians began to ponder its evolution — wireless telegraphy — in which individuals would receive telegraph messages, printed out on ticker tape, via personal antenna.

And what was their take on such innovation? Did they savor the prospect of a new age of enlightenment, empowered by ever-improving access to information and to each other?

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The Social Network: Community Edition

Likes. Friends. Followers. We’ve got hundreds of ‘em. Plus, LinkedIN for professionals and Google+ for, uhhhh, well, for someone and then all kinds of iPhone texting, FaceTime, email, and Skype-ing. Who has time to make a phone call anymore?

In trying to understanding and leverage the power of our wired social networks, I’ve been thinking about how our new handheld technology will reshape our built environment in the 21st century. The obvious technological advances of the past (trains/trolleys/cars) led us to connect and build the places we now live in. Are we responding correctly to the contemporary human condition with the mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods we design and code for today?

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