The Future of Planning: Going meta

“In a world where the peddlers of invention dominate progressive discourse, a willingness to acknowledge–let alone heed–the lessons of history and tradition is a truly radical act.” –Scott Doyon

Check the wiki-hip Urban Dictionary (or watch an episode of Community on NBC) and you’ll find the term meta’s common usage on the street is “to characterize something that is characteristically self-referential.” Consult a more conventional dictionary and you’ll see this derived from its earlier (as well as current) use as a prefix meaning “beyond, about.” That is, taking a subject to a higher level.

As a stand-alone term now, it’s typically applied to works of culture — television, music, film and art. But I suggest we expand that usage because, to me, it’s also the best means of expressing the challenge facing anyone concerned about our urban future.

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An App for That (And that and that…)

One of the greatest selling points of the SmartCode, the DPZ-created version of a form-based unified development ordinance, has always been its customize-ability. First of all, it’s Transect-based, which immediately separates it from conventional codes that stamp out the same rules for development everywhere in the landscape. And since DPZ made it a free, open-source code, practitioners from everywhere can correct, refine, and amend it as conditions demand.

The latest, still-evolving version of the SmartCode, v10, takes flexibility to a new level with add-on modules that address everything from storm-water management to sprawl repair to aging in place. Comparisons to Apple’s iPhone applications strategy are inevitable. In fact, Arizona State grad student Dan Bartman (email: dbartman(at)asu.edu) is already doing SmartCode explainers in PowerPoint using an iPhone face and modules as app icons.

Andres Duany, founding principal of DPZ and author of the SmartCode calls the latest version “the single biggest change since the beginning.” Here’s how he explains it:

SmartCode v10 is still a work in progress, directed by the non-profit Center for Applied Transect Studies. Sandy Sorlien, CATS’ director of technical research, says v10 will be ready for its debut at the SmartCode Intensive workshop on Wednesday, May 19, the opening day of the annual conference of the Congress for the New Urbanism.

You can find out more about the modules for v10 here. And read all about the 18th annual CNU Congress here and in our previous blogs here and here.

– Ben Brown