Redesigning City Design

President Obama has promised to give cities a new image, one as the engines that drive the economy and whose issues are intertwined with those of the suburbs. This article looks at some of the big ideas shaping the new city.
March 18, 2009, 1pm PDT | Judy Chang
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"[Peter] Zellner coordinates the Southern California Institute for Future Initiatives (SCIFI) program at the Southern California Institute of Architecture. The research-based graduate program is co-sponsoring (with The Architect's Newspaper) an open ideas competition titled 'A New Infrastructure: Innovative Transit Solutions for Los Angeles.' SCIFI's mission is to train graduate students not just in design, but in policy and planning-the very tools needed to rebuild and reframe the city from an economic, social, and environmental perspective.

Looking at the infrastructure of Los Angeles, a car city if there ever was one, means understanding that highway-driven sprawl is no longer feasible. The metropolis, having filled the L.A. basin to the point of overflow, has begun to turn back in on itself. The subprime mortgage bust reminds us that cities just can't support ever-more-attenuated subdivisions and strip malls. New Urbanist literature recognizes the need to redevelop urban cores, replacing them with walkable streets and transit hubs. And while the practice is laudable, it makes use of an urban language drawn from a cultural imagination of Main Street as seen in film and television-a unified, comfortable vision that is hard to argue against. 'Based on the neotraditionalism that it is peddling and the fact that it works best on green-field sites, the paradigm New Urbanism promotes is actually, ironically, anti-city,' maintains Santa Monica–based architect and urban planner Roger Sherman."

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Published on Sunday, March 1, 2009 in Architect Magazine
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