Debating the Future of Baltimore: New Urbanism vs. Global Starchitecture

Pritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne and leading New Urbanist planner Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk squared off in a debate about the future of Baltimore.
April 7, 2016, 6am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Jared Green reports from a debate that pitted contemporary architect Thom Mayne and New Urbanist planner Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk about the future of Baltimore. According to Green, "[t]heir visions for Baltimore contrast, but the answer to its many economic and social woes may be a little bit of both."

Green summarizes Plater-Zyberk's vision as preserving Baltimore's history at all costs. Plater-Zyberk listed the city's waterfront location, its highly connected street grid, and its historic stock of beautiful buildings as unique assets that could leverage the city revitalization.

Mayne's vision, however, would integrate Baltimore into the global economy. Fans of neighborhoods, new uerbanist or not, might be surprised to hear the crux of Mayne's argument. In his own words: "the precinct, district, township, or neighborhood — the idea of this — is dead. Kids no longer play stick ball in the streets." According to Mayne, there is no on eversion of beauty, as an adherence to the architectural styles of the past might suggest, so Baltimore and other cities like it must pursue a "radical heterogeneity or pluralism."

Green offers his own assessment of the debate, noting a problem "with leading design-thinkers helicoptering in for the day to lay out a city’s future." Green looks around and also sees a lot of efforts already underway to revitalize and redefine Baltimore. 

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Published on Thursday, March 31, 2016 in ASLA The Dirt
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