Res Civitas non-Gratis: 21st century public realm

Having worked in communities big and small across the continent, we’ve had ample opportunity to test ideas and find approaches that work best. Urban design details. Outreach tactics. Implementation tricks. Many of these lessons are transferable, which is why we’ve created “Back of the Envelope,” a weekly feature where we jot ‘em down for your consideration.

The rise of 21st century social technology, in combination with the loss of our 20th century economy, has contributed to the closing of many neighborhood civic buildings — libraries and post offices — and to the private development that inevitably replaces them.

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(Public) Space: The final frontier

Having worked in communities big and small across the continent, we’ve had ample opportunity to test ideas and find approaches that work best. Urban design details. Outreach tactics. Implementation tricks. Many of these lessons are transferable, which is why we’ve created “Back of the Envelope,” a weekly feature where we jot ‘em down for your consideration.

Today I offer a quick study relating cities of the US West to Leon Krier’s decidedly European Public Space Quantity Ratio.

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City Neighborhoods: Livin’ large

Empirical observation is a key to unlocking secrets of great urban design. As Jane Jacobs wrote in Death and Life, “The way to get at what goes on in the seemingly mysterious and perverse behavior of cities is, I think, to look closely, and with as little previous expectation as possible, at the most ordinary scenes and events, and attempt to see what they mean and whether any threads or principle emerge among them.” In my case, proof is in the pudding.

The most notable observation I’ve had since I sold my sports car in January, leaving me walking or biking ’round the neighborhood every day, pretty much everywhere, is that I haven’t lost a pound.

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Urban Renaissance Gone to the Dogs

Downtown San Diego has gone to the dogs.

Having grown up in San Diego, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed experiencing our downtown’s renaissance. Its revitalization has altered our cultural patterns and social connectivity. Today’s downtown is host to vibrant new neighborhoods, monthly cultural events, and the Gaslamp District’s rise (or demise) to Bourbon Street-esque nuttiness, as well as a baseball park, convention center, new library, and new city hall, the usual suspects of downtown revitalization over the past twenty years.

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Redevelop this, California!

How California will redevelop its existing communities in the future is up for debate. And, it’s about time.

The role of redevelopment in shaping our built environment came to its crescendo in the halcyon days of 2005 over Kelo vs. New London. Today, Susette Kelo’s home sits as a vacant scar on business-as-usual redevelopment practices.

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Dancing with Urban Agriculture

My lovely wife of eight years enjoys really bad television. For better or worse, last night she tricked me into watching a segment of ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ Coyly, she asked me to name the movies in which the dancing ‘star’ had ‘starred’.

Having no idea and starting my way back upstairs, I heard her mimicking quietly, “Bueller… Bueller…?

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