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.

Read Time: 1 minute

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

Books

The Top Urban Planning Books of 2022

An annual list of the must-read books related to urban planning and its intersecting fields.

November 28, 2022 - James Brasuell

The  Rue Sainte-Catherine in Bordeaux is crowded with pedestrians in a lively European scene.

European Cities Act on Density

The sprawling mass of suburbia has been a disaster for the environment. But now smaller, denser cities herald a renaissance in city living.

November 20, 2022 - Wired Magazine

Victorian two-story buildings with retail shops in downtown Nashvile, Tennessee

Nashville Sets Downtown Parking Maximums

Nashville is the latest city to enact a substantive change to the parking requirements set by the city’s zoning code—doing away with parking minimums and setting parking maximums in the city’s Urban Zoning Overlay.

November 20, 2022 - The Tennessean

Dark parking garage, empty except for one car covered with a red tarp

Advice for a Post-Parking Mandate World

After abolishing parking requirements, what can cities do to make the most of new space and revenue and avoid backlash?

November 29 - Next City

View of park ranger with tan hat from behind, ranger looking out at Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Western Voters: Yes to Conservation, No to Extremism

Voters in Western states generally favored candidates who support public land conservation in this November’s election and rejected extremist rhetoric.

November 29 - High Country News

The Boring Company

Detailing the Boring Company’s Poor Track Record

Elon Musk’s promised solution for congestion—the Boring Co.—has proven most successful at disappearing on the governments that trusted them.

November 29 - The Wall Street Journal

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.