During these harsh economic times I’ve read about some of the most creative and inspiring planning and design projects in my career. Whether they are the product of the underemployed looking for a creative outlet or a resetting of our values and goals, something magical is happening in the world of planning. Below are 5 things that have inspired my inner planner.
Be a better person; be a better planner. Musings from a planner who wants to improve our profession for 2011. Here’s how:
Planners are taught to be analytical thinkers who use quantitative data, but also qualitative research. Remember the Myers Briggs personality test? It assesses an individual’s personality based on four preferences: A focus on the outer world (extraversion) or inner world (introversion); basic information (sensing) or interpretation and meaning (intuition); making decision based on logic (thinking) or people and special circumstances (feeling); dealing with the outside world with clear decisions (judging) or staying open to new information and options (perceiving). As planners, we are constantly in conflict with these preferences as we straddle the world of technician and analyst.
I have to admit, listening to Peter Lovenheim talk about his book “In the Neighborhood, The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time”, spiked my planner’s radar. In his novel, the journalist, quite intentionally, well, the title is self-explanatory isn’t it? It sounded a bit hokey and contrived at first, as did the interview. Lovenheim explained that the only way to truly get to know someone and develop a real sense of intimacy and bond was to sleep in their home and shadow them for the day. But the real story is about the loss of intimacy and comfort among neighbors.
As planners, we try to live the urban lifestyle, minimize our carbon footprint, and even grow our own vegetables. I once saw a colleague wearing a button which read “Riding transit is sexy.” Lose the car, bike or walk to work. Hey, if you’re adventurous, you can even take the bus. But this is easier said than done. I’ve lived in New Haven, Boston, Philadelphia, and now Miami. And as every year passes, I find it more and more challenging to cling to my planning ideals.
Let’s face it, we all get into planning ruts. A public meeting gone awry, a discontented client, a community that just doesn’t get it. I like to call it planning fatigue, and up until a month ago, I was headed down that path. But a meeting of the minds which converged in my hometown, Miami, brought me a little closer to god, the planning god, that is. Joe Riley, the mild mannered and poignant mayor of Charleston brought me to planning euphoria. If you’ve heard him speak, then you know what I mean. If you haven’t, well let me bring you up to speed.