Detroit’s been in a tough spot for what seems like forever. But a fleet of progressive officials, led by Mayor Dave Bing, is working hard to reimagine the city as a less populous, but no less important, major American city. To help guide the transition, Bing has assembled a team of planners and thinkers who are tasked over the next 12 to 18 months with drafting a strategic framework plan for Detroit, intended to guide near-term investments that stabilize the city and its neighborhoods and position the city for larger economic opportunity in the long term.
At the head of this effort is Toni Griffin, a prominent urban planner best known for her work in Harlem and Washington, D.C. Lured to the city through a grant from the Kresge Foundation, Griffin works closely with Marja Winters, deputy director of Detroit’s Planning and Development Department and a member of the Next American Vanguard. Nate Berg spoke with Griffin and Winters about their efforts to reinvent the city.
This sounds like a pretty big challenge. Are you intimidated by the scope?
The road to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup has been long for the 32 national teams that have made the final cut of the world’s most-watched international sporting event. But that road has been longer, rougher, and much more expensive for the Republic of South Africa, which was chosen as the host of the 2010 event back in 2004. In the intervening six years, South Africa has laid out a strategy for using the multi-city soccer tournament as a catalyst for local economic development and countrywide infrastructure investments.
Those preparations are underway, and the country has made broad physical and institutional improvements since being chosen to host the tournament. But with less than three months until kickoff on June 11, South Africa still faces many challenges and unanswered questions – not the least of which is what happens after the World Cup is over.
Buildings and cities need to be energy efficient. Can they be beautiful at the same time?
It’s almost a given that everything we build from now on is going to need to be energy efficient. As the problems of climate change and limited energy resources become more evident, building with energy in mind is increasingly accepted by the design community. There’s ideological buy-in, and the costs of designing and building for energy efficiency are starting to slide. But even the greenest building can’t be completely green when the lights stay on all night...
Urban design, urban planning and architecture interrelate—except in the classroom.
The three fields of urban design, urban planning and architecture are semi-amorphous. They overlap a great deal and aim towards many of the same goals. But by looking at the skill sets of most practitioners, you wouldn’t even realize that overlap exists. There is a striking lack of understanding between these silos of thought and practice—a problem that starts in the classroom...
This symposium focuses on cities as they prepare to move beyond the age of oil. But the age of oil is really more of a state of mind.
Peak oil is the idea that we have passed the point of maximum extraction of oil from the world. Some say this day is coming soon. Others say it has already come. Both agree that oil will not be around forever. The point of this symposium is to figure out a way for cities to react as it runs out. But the problem is not the time frame, its the mindframe.
This is an interesting way to digest the oil issue, and it was mentioned briefly during a presentation by architect Lance Hosey...
Without comparable scales for mapping, development and design, cities can’t truly communicate.
For cities to operate well, city functions need to operate at the same scale. Mismatching scales create broad problems for the “system” of a city, and especially for those trying to manage the city form.
James Higgins, a regional manager at the mapping software firm ESRI cites the example of Doha, Qatar. This is a middle-eastern city that is undergoing a huge wave of growth. He showed a picture of downtown Doha, with dozens of high-rises under construction. The problem is that the infrastructure for each of these buildings was constructed at different scales...
When addressing urban problems and climate change impacts, some officials say city management may be even more important than city design, which is interesting to hear at a conference about urban design.
This isn’t something you’d expect to hear from a group of urban designers, but the message is important. Unless there is a framework for redefining city form, any significant progress is unlikely to happen.
PlaNYC, New York City’s sustainability plan, is one example. With a clear and segmented shopping list of goals and programs, PlaNYC takes a very exacted approach to defining how the city should go about becoming sustainable...
If one were to step back and take a look at the world as a whole, without international borders, the health and efficiency of this one entity would appear very poor. It’s a dismal view, but might this be a better way to approach the challenge of climate change?
This is the hypothetical view of Adil Najam, of Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future. “In some ways I don’t think you can understand the city if you’re too close too it,” he says at a morning plenary session of the Urban Design After Oil symposium at the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s kind of like forests.” ...
Live blog from the Re-imagining Cities: Urban Design After Oil symposium at the University of Pennsylvania.