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.

October 20, 2012, 5:00 AM PDT

By Mitchell Sutik…


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

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 in Humanitarian Space

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