1. Thinking in a binary either-or manner hobbles progress. Choosing between experts and “the people” solves nothing. A car free, integral way of living is a consensus waiting to be implemented. Building car-free cyber-communities requires a pilot. People need to see what it’s like to live car-free. People need to experience lego-like construction that is modular. We are talking about a social revolution when we talk car-free. A car free future requires a visionary entrepreneur. A car-free future requires attention to the ethics and aesthetics of existence. Car-free is a future with a vital, local economy at its core.

    • Car free is exactly the kind of a 180 degree turn the blog post talks about. We do need to plan for happy people and happy communities over happy cars, but that doesn’t mean cars are banned. Cars are useful enough that they still remain useful when not overridingly planned for.

      • In my proposal outlined in Triadic Philosophy, cars are not eliminated. They are at the periphery or underground just as they have been at malls. All I am proposing is a high tech-pattern language iteration of a community dense enough to enable a viable local economy, designed for safety, and where one can live, work go to school and otherwise lead a full life. It is so obvious that it is one of those just under our nose reality that we ignore until we go aha, so that is what we could do.

  2. After 20 years in New Orleans, I still can’t explain what makes it exquisitely special, yet it’s that fact that makes it so cool to live here, even when it’s 2pm In August.
    Y’all can go up/down, on the 180 degree semantics of bottoms up cars on malls- your the experts- I’m not.
    But I get a wee bit PDST testy on this and similar topics, when it comes to the arrogance/ignorance of the status-qua, as I have seen the “best of times and worst of times” and still have to put up with the Cradle to Ladle bs- of the Exploit Us Right Crowd here in NOLA.
    If that’s the 180 your referring to, then run (no- SPRINT!!!!) backwards to move all forward…
    Use us (Freret Street Uptown NOLA) as an example-
    We went from hell and high water-
    US New and World Report 2006
    To Freret Fest 2013
    We learned, we did, we do, despite what we were told, sold, and promised by highly paid experts.
    That said, “your only as good as your research”, so we listened to Expert #1 in your own damn field- Jane Jacobs and “listened”
    Sometimes old ideas need new people…
    Best from Freret Street NOLA,
    Andy Brott

  3. I think I know this colleague of yours. He can be kind of a petty populist at times, especially on social media. I’m heartened that you call him a “friend” — I believe he feels likewise — because I think you are a good influence.

  4. bettybarcode says

    Perhaps what the article fails to tease out is suspicion of the imposition of *outside* experts. I live in a Rust Belt city that has fallen on hard times but is now making great strides.

    We also have an architecture & planning school in town. Because i work in a history capacity, it is frustrating to repeatedly have to orient visiting or aspiring consultants/bidders to our city’s history and context when we have well-trained experts right here who can’t get no respect. Because whatever the out-of-town expert says always has more truth-value.

    • PlaceMakers says

      Betty, this is a great point and one that seems very much tied to the culture of a place. I’ve experienced places that were adamant about home-grown expertise and others, such as what you mention, that seemed fixated on the allure of the outsider.

      What’s important is to maintain the tool analogy. A community’s goal should be employing the right tools for the task, and that includes expertise. If that expertise is available locally then that’s preferable because it’s typically expertise wedded with the wisdom that comes with contextual experience. That can often save time which saves money which allows you to allocate what you have in more productive and engaging ways. But, to be fair, local talent can also carry some level of baggage, depending on the nature of its affiliations and alliances.

      Now, if the task at hand is beyond the expertise available locally, or if that expertise proves inadvisable, outside involvement can still be employed in productive ways so long as the process recognizes as a fundamental truth that the community are the experts in, among other things, local context. Hired talent may be there because they can design or write legally defensible code or provide a neutral voice of facilitation or help make information clear and accessible but the community is ultimately who should be wielding these tools. They’re the ones who can, so long as they take ownership of the process, leverage available expertise to their advantage.

      To be clear, expertise (in whatever form) is *a* tool, not *the* tool. Placemaking, thankfully, has moved beyond silver bullet thinking. It’s returned to what it should be: a partnership between people and resources. But how that partnership plays out on a local basis is a variable, a big variable, that comes down to vision, conviction and leadership.

    • you nailed it-
      Had the same in NOLA post-Katrina with our trained and schooled locals skipped over and ignored-
      Call them what they are- Carpetbaggers
      Selling their brand of Ivy League Tonics
      And it gets worse the more you are deemed in need f
      Best from Freret,

  5. Expertise is properly suspect when it makes hidden value judgments that it imposes on its clients. See my brief piece here:

    My book Human Transit is really all about separating knowledge from values so as to create a more transparent relationship between community and outside expert. The trick is to ask the community the real questions, which are hard choices about competing goals that the community values.

  6. I have always felt and in fact absolutely know that the “community is the expert”. I also know emphatically that Placemaking is a sacred community process. But I also know without hesitation that “experts” as they have been called (meaning professionals) have a critical role in supporting and helping to implement projects working with communities. The skills required to make a project work with a strong community program are many and varied…far more than a design statement done by a famous designer. For us (we have worked in over 3000 communities on placemaking projects and training) we too often get designers who come in after we have done a really good program and disregard what the community wanted. Hargraves, Van Walkenberg, Peter Walker, West 8 are firms that think they know more than the community and distort expected outcomes to implement their own brand. That gets us pretty upset and maybe it is right to go 180 degrees to get back to where the community is in charge.


  1. […] here to say that you should read this piece from the Place Makers website that brings up an important point so often forgotten: a 180-degree […]

  2. […] Slow and steady progress is built on an ongoing series of course corrections. Subtle variations in direction based on new variables, new challenges, and new innovations. As times and circumstances …  […]

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