Scott Page's blog

Crowdsourcing Plans

Many thanks to Wired’s Jeff Howe who’s 2006 article “The Rise of Crowdsourcing” put an effective label at what the internet was doing to business.  Building from Web 2.0 applications focused on social media like Facebook and on-line communities, it’s become a popular and controversial term in tech circles.  For those not as familiar with the idea, let’s consult the most often used example of crowdsourcing – Wikipedia.   “Crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving and production model. Problems are broadcast to an unknown group of solvers in the form of an open call for solutions.

Fleeting Design

If you’ve ever worked in distressed communities, you’ve faced the dilemma that there simply is no private market for what you want to see built.  You can chip away at the problem of vacant land with thoughtful affordable housing developments or, if you’re lucky, a new recreation center but by and large, large amounts of vacancy remain and impact the psyche of those that live nearby.  So working closely with residents, and really listening, has sparked a whole new sub-discipline in our world of urban planning and design - temporary use. 

The shrinking cities movement shined a light on the potential of ad-hoc reuse and programming some time ago but so too has groups like the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society

Design our industrial future

I previously lamented the apparent death of industrial use in our cities by the widespread application of terms like “post-industrial” and “rust-belt.”  While semantics is an issue, let’s not forget that design matters and, in terms of industrial use, it hasn’t seemed to matter enough in recent years.    

In times past, industrial use was often a form of pride.  Many of the hulking, multi-story industrial buildings in older cities are (still) beautiful additions to our cityscapes.  In some cities, those that went vacant have spawned a new form of urban scavenge hunting by those seeking to fuel their appreciation for our industrial past through photography and exploration.  Think as well of the WPA posters, many of which used stylized industrial themes to promote our “American” identity. 

Vacancy, It's Not Just For Cities Anymore

Thanks to the National Vacant Properties Campaign for another important conference on vacant properties - this time in Louisville.  I was duly impressed with the first conference on the subject a year and a half ago but what struck me this time was the growing diversity of voices concerned with the issue.

At the last conference, I (and I assume many others) had the feeling that it was a therapy session of sorts for like-minded spirits.  "Older industrial" cities were sharing information and ideas because, while all cities are unique, we share a lot of the same challenges.  

Post Industrial?

I never put much thought into the term “post-industrial.”  In my college and grad years, the phrase seemed to be used like candy – a ubiquitous summary of the current state of cities in the US.  The phrase implies a kind of death in our cities, an inability to retain the industries that spurred their very growth. 

All Hail Paterson (and other overlooked mid-size cities)

Paterson?  Yeah Paterson, the City 13 miles to the west of NYC.  Birthplace of American industry, the “Silk City” founded by Alexander Hamilton and designed by Washington DC’s master planner Pierre Charles L’Enfant.  Besides textiles, Paterson was home to the first repeating revolver, first submarine and the Rogers Locomotive Works that, at one time, manufactured 80% of the Country’s locomotives.  Paterson is also home to the second largest waterfall in the northern hemisphere (Niagra Falls taking top honors of course) and a collection of foreign born residents so lar

Stuart Smalley was a planner!

One of the perks of my job is getting to know new cities and neighborhoods.  We research, create a lot of graphics and talk with a lot of people.  In the course of those discussions, while people often exhibit pride in where they live, there is also an underlying concern that frequently goes something like this:
  • “We feel like a last place team – the one that can never get out of the cellar.”
  • “There is a real self-image problem here.”
  • “You can’t do that in [insert name of place here] because we

'Reality's' Reveal

With the Olympics nicely coinciding with my vacation, I think I’ve watched more coverage of the games than the average human should. Prior to the start of the games, I followed with interest the story of how Beijing was re-fashioning itself to host the games. Much has been written on this subject from the loss of the city’s “hutongs” to the “distorted” messages conveyed by the starchitecture. Some have referred to Beijing as a “Houston on steroids.”

A Journalistic View of Cities

I was reading the New York Times Magazine special architecture issue a few weeks ago when something jumped out at me. On the intro page to the issue of the “Mega-Megalopolis” one of the by-line says “How does an architect plan for a city with no history? Or a city that just keeps growing?” Interesting questions particularly given the fact that to charge architects with the task of planning our cities is affording too much power to a profession that simply doesn’t have it.

End Powerpoint Abuse

We’ve all been subject to them – the endless powerpoint presentations that extol the worst aspects of animated text and mind-numbing bullet points. While Edward Tufte has written about the horrors of powerpoint, I see it as just a tool and like any tool it can be used wisely or poorly. After all, David Byrne, the former Talking Heads front man, makes art with powerpoint so it can’t be all bad. But one thing struck me at the American Planning Association’s (APA) conference two weeks ago: some sessions would have been much better if the powerpoint presentation (or abuse thereof) didn’t get in the way. In actuality, some of the best presentations I attended didn’t use powerpoint at all.