All posts filed under: plans and policies

plans and policies are discussions of macro-level implementations that can create more interesting happenings and sightings.

What is the story of a place? Thoughts on field research.

A lecture I gave to the Qualitative Research for Urban Planners course at Harvard’s GSD.  The talk was based on my Master’s thesis, which I have just now (finally) published online. * I came across this headline in the Onion yesterday – about a planner who got through his whole urban design before all of a sudden he realized, oh my god, he was recreating a city that already exists, in a totally different place.  This is funny of course because this is what people imagine planners kinda actually do.  So today, I want to talk about how not to be that guy.  How to ensure with your research process that you are intervening in a place on its own terms, based on a good understanding of what is already there,­ and not imagining that DesMoines is Philadelphia. Here’s the guiding question of what I’m going to be talking about: “What is a place’s story?” Questions are important because they’re the basis for entering a research problem with an open mind, and also to focus …

2011 taught us to learn in public.

When I wrote this post back in October about living in public, I had no idea how apt it would be!  In the following weeks, the #Occupy movement made living in public a national issue and a powerful strategy for protest.  Urbanists like the folks at #whOWNSpace made the public space itself an issue, shedding light on the politics of ownership and use.  Saskia Sassen’s summer op-ed on open-source urbanism turned out to be prophetic, using the metaphor of technological open-source practices, where users and creators share, collaborate, and experiment in creating knowledge, to describe how our cities of the future will work.  Occupy looked like a complete manifestation of this practice. And pop-up democracy even started to enter the broader vocabulary, as Occupy gave thinkers the platform to start talking more broadly about the importance of citizen-generated political action and civic discourse in public space.  And with all this civic action, people started teaching and learning in public, too, in all kinds of exciting ways. First, we saw the rise of Occupy libraries, giving …

citysumption and the search for urban cool.

As I’ve already told you, I recently got back from a trip to Europe.  As always, the return to Boston was a bit of a shock, as I lamented, “Boston just isn’t cool.”  Barcelona, where I had just been, just had this effortless excitement to it, a laid back sense of style and innovation, sporting incredibly innovative architecture from Gaudi to contemporary, from tapas on the street to dancing in the squares. What does Boston have?  A food-truck inferiority complex and a half-working waterfront park?  Where’s the beach and the outdoor bars til 5am?  And why, oh, why don’t we turn our incredible seafood into conservas for me to nibble while drinking cava in the sun, or in a packed bar of people drinking vermouth and nibbling on salty, briny snacks? So, in order to try to snap myself out of this malaise, I proceeded to do the “cool” things in Boston.  Most notably, I head to the SoWA open market, “Boston’s original art and indie design market.”  If you know where this is going, …

on austerity, violence, and what it takes to be a citizen.

Today I want to try to bring together a couple of narrative threads that I’ve been picking up and mulling over lately.  I don’t always talk about current events here, but it just seems too important to ignore at this moment.  *NB* this is an edited version, after some comments and suggestions I’ve received.  Thanks for contributing, always, and making me think twice!  That’s my favorite thing about blogs. First of all, I can’t not mention the recent Congressional showdown over the budget ceiling, its lamentable end result, and the subsequent downgrading of the US credit rating and continuing stock market collapse.  You know the details already, and are probably sick of the play-by-play.  But if not, I like this article by Krugman from this morning’s Times, and this analysis by the paper’s Editorial board.  But I think there’s an urban, spatial aspect to this issue that isn’t sufficiently discussed in the analysis.  Okay, maybe it’s just how I always look at things.  But you can’t deny that something more is going on here than …

entropy + institutions = pop-up democracy

I’ve been really excited and pleased by how much attention and conversation my post on the entropic city  has generated.  Since then I’ve found a lot of interesting thinking that folks have been doing, primarily in Europe, about this issue.  There’s this group of papers from a conference in Paris in 2008, this traveling exhibition from Spain, from around the same time, and this series of studies in Germany.  Of course, in America people are thinking about temporality too.  The Festival of Ideas for the New City last weekend in New York, which I regretfully could not attend, included a panel on The Heterogeneous City, for example, and included all kinds of exhibitions, interventions, and celebrations of the unexpected, the in-between, the temporary and the engaging.  The AIA in New York is also showing this exhibition on “Jugaad Urbanism” — resourceful, dynamic, innovative — in India. This is urbanism, but maybe it’s not planning.  There’s something profoundly anti-planning about all of this, in fact: an admission that economies, communities, and narratives cannot be predicted in …

good jobs.

If you follow my twitter feed, you know that I’ve been thinking about jobs lately.  Well, okay, everyone’s thinking about jobs lately.  The president’s talking about it, the media’s dancing around it, my job is all about it, Richard Florida as usual is writing  about it.  But lately I’ve been thinking about not just what we’re saying about jobs, but, more importantly, what kind of jobs we’re talking about. Last semester, I did a design studio project about economic development in Boston’s Innovation District.  I argued that creative and innovation economy strategies, which focus on highly skilled jobs and highly educated workforces, drive a wedge between the rich and the poor, a wedge that is growing faster in New England than anywhere else.  New England, and in particular New England cities, are  one of the most highly educated regions of the country, most equipped to take advantage of the innovation economy.  And that’s what everyone’s talking about…the rise of cities as a hub of economic generation, the emergence of technology as a key for American …

an anti-logic of streets: getting lost in Rome and at home (and thoughts on arts-experiments in planning)

Long title, lots of ideas here.  Stick with me. I spent last week in Rome, which is actually where la flaneuse first was born, six years ago.  I didn’t yet know then that I would be wandering around cities as my profession, but as a writer for Let’s Go: Italy, I learned to love the solitude and spontaneity of exploring cities on foot, watching roads and residents as I went.  Though I got to know Rome very well, especially as I tirelessly visited every restaurant, mapped every vicolo, and scouted every sightseeing deal, returning was a whole different ballgame.  I was struck by the city’s layers, its character, the way it has grown haphazardly over time and then lurched under massive redesign campaigns by powerful leaders seeking to make their mark.  I saw Rome with new eyes, and I want to share some of my observations with you. First, though, I want to give credit for these new eyes to the ladies of Platform 2, an incredible conceptual art/performance/social engagement collective here in Boston.  A …