Urban Planning Trends are Bad Medicine

In a provocative essay, Mitchell Sutika Sipus examines the dangers of subscribing to conventions such as style or planning trends, and argues why planners must forgo ideologies to create better solutions for community problems.

Says Sipus: "Smokestack chasing. Garden cities. Tactical Urbanism. New Urbanism. Creative cities. What do all these have in common? They all reveal the greatest weakness of urban planning as a discipline. The reliance upon urban development trends, which shift every few years, has ruined neighborhoods, devastated communities, and undermined economies. Yet we keep doing it.

What we as urban planners believe to be true and good in ideology can just as likely wield a terribly destructive power. Certainly urban planning trends are drawn from observable social processes, and many of the ideas, such as sustainability, are not bad things on first review. But urban planners who measure and respond with a customized solution will forever create better solutions for community problems than those who apply preconceived notions of community or development.

Measurement is the core of urban planning. The ability to fuse social, economic, spatial, environmental, and cultural data into an observable model provides planners the ability to determine structural weaknesses in a community. These structural weaknesses may be offset through direct internal realignment, manipulation of broader legal frameworks, or offset by outside interventions. But the application of broad concepts as a cure-all is not a solution, it simply is a waste of resources, or at worst, an act of imperialism."

Thanks to Mitchell Sutika Sipus

Full Story: Urban Planning Trends are Bad Medicine



Urban Planning Trends and Traditions

"Smokestack chasing. Garden cities. Tactical Urbanism. New Urbanism. Creative cities."

New Urbanism is a return to traditional principles of urban design. It is just the opposite of a trend.

"But an urban planner is trained to measure problems so as to determine solutions, not just impose preconceived ideologies upon a space or population."
"But when New York city planner Robert Moses proposed putting a highway through East Village, he was simply subscribing to the values of the day."

When Robert Moses built his highways, he was measuring problems and determining solutions, just as this article says planners should do. The planning was based on studies that projected growth of automobile use, and the highways were the solution to the problem of accommodating this traffic.

Robert Moses is an early example of the technocratic approach that this article advocates.

I trust urban designs that have proven themselves over time more than I trust any planner's ability to "to fuse social, economic, spatial, environmental, and cultural data into an observable model."

The idea of a computer model that captures all the relevant "cultural data" is mind-boggling in itself.

Charles Siegel

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