In this column, APA Executive Director Paul Farmer expounds on the other professions that are inappropriately making planning decisions, and discusses how New Urbanists are close to repeating the mistakes of other modernist movements.
"Architects cannot claim to be planners on the basis of their architectural knowledge and competencies. The systems of human settlement, from neighborhoods to cities and regions, are far different from building systems. Traffic engineering, to take another example, has some overlap with transportation planning, but it also requires vastly different abilities. Traffic engineers are not transportation planners, and transportation planners are not traffic engineers. We need to respect the core competencies of allied professions, just as we expect them to respect ours.
The planning profession has its own mistakes to account for. Early in my planning career, wetlands were considered a development opportunity. The plan for the Hackensack Meadowlands in New Jersey won numerous awards. Would we honor it today, given the haphazard building that has taken place where natural systems should have been protected?
In New Orleans, developing wetlands had disastrous results in the Lakeview neighborhood, where greedy developers and politicians joined to give the city its share of suburban sprawl. Engineers were of little help, and local planners knew too little about the land itself - or about the results of dewatering. In fact, planning as a profession in Louisiana was for many decades embryonic at best.
Today, new urbanism is dangerously close to repeating the mistakes of the earlier modernists. Its advocates in the post-Katrina Gulf South have often been irresponsible in neglecting environmental factors in their promotion of replacement housing in vulnerable areas. And Seaside, the movement's icon, should never have been built in its high-hazard location."
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