It was also kind of like looking in the mirror.
I’m just more than halfway through a planning school studio project working on the beautiful (no, really) Lower Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. They’ve teamed up about 15 planner/urban designers with about 45 landscape architects, who, as I mentioned last time, are reasonably bonkers. That was about a month and a half ago; since then, I’ve begun to think maybe I’m the one needing a room with padded walls.
Forgive me Olmsted, for I have sinned. I have strayed. I have coveted. I have had doubts.
I have thought about kicking urban design to the curb like a mangy puppy.
My graduate school education left me with a lot of general ideas and a handful of specific ones. One that stuck with me is a concept from landscape architecture: the desire path. Technically, the term means a path where there isn't supposed to be one, a trail of wear and tear that wasn't planned.
We’ve been conducting public meetings for years. And it used to be easier. Present the plan. Discuss the plan. Talk about how your plan is better for the neighborhood/community/city/region and provide the conclusion. But things have changed.
We all saw it on the Internet—the fellow at a public meeting being hauled away from the microphone before getting wrestled to the floor and tasered during a Q&A with John Kerry. Fortunately, silencing argumentative speakers with a taser is not a common occurrence at most public meetings. While I might confess that there have been meetings where, in retrospect, one might have secretly wished one was armed with a stun gun, facilitators generally try to avoid confrontation. Yet there’s no denying that sometimes people show up at public meetings looking for a fight, begging for outrage, and hoping to irritate and inflame.
Some people choose to work in planning because they see it as a relatively interesting and stable job. Others have dreams of being the equivalent of an all-powerful SimCity-style mayor. However, many choose planning as a career because they want to make a difference in the world. They want to do good and to help those who are the least advantaged. They are attracted by the potential, if limited, for planning to foster environmental justice and social equity.