Category Archives: Response Pieces

Does New Orleans Have an Identity Crisis?

And if so, how many other cities do as well? I spent five weeks in New Orleans in May/June of this year…it is a truly fascinating city, a completely unique place, yet for the most part it denies the fact that it is a delta city. With large tracts of the city below sea level, it would seem reasonable to expect water to be an omnipresent characteristic. But the built environment of New Orleans denies water, walls it off, instead of embracing it.

There’s a line from Jurassic Park that I’ve quoted a bazillion times: “[The scientists] were so concerned with whether they could, they never stopped to consider whether they should.” Wherever technology allows one to ignore nature, this seems to be too often what happens. Modern New Orleans was built wrongly (where it is built wrongly) because it could be. Continue reading

Posted in architecture, Climate Change, Culture, Josh Grigsby, Placemaking, Response Pieces, Sustainability, technology, thinking, urban design, urban planning, vernacular architecture, What if? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Impressive GDP, Quality of Life, and Sustainability: Pick Two out of Three?

In the most simplistic statistical reading—higher GDP per capita means higher tax revenue means better funded schools means better education—there seems to be some legitimacy to the story’s thesis. I don’t think real life is so simple, however. Unqualified as I am to provide an in-depth critique of the significance of GDP or the relative educational histories of Caribbean nations, I won’t attempt to here. Besides, those things aren’t what interest me. Without questioning the intelligence, honesty, or diligence of the author, I was struck by what I perceived to be a fine example of stuck-in-system thinking.
Continue reading

Posted in Climate Change, Culture, Josh Grigsby, Rants, Response Pieces, Sustainability, thinking, Uncategorized, urban design, urban planning, What if? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thoughts on Private Property: Or, Have I Got a Bridge in Brooklyn to Sell You

Yesterday’s post got me thinking—how has the American notion of private property shaped our culture? How has it shaped our cities? Our transportation networks? Our communities? Our ability to respond to climate change and environmental concerns? I remember reading a caption on a wall mural while waiting in line at Ikea that said Sweden doesn’t view land as private property, so one can walk anywhere one desires in Sweden and not worry about trespassing. The outdoor world most Americans experience is mostly limited to roads, sidewalks, parks, and a small number of backyards. Do away with private land ownership and the way we interact with the land changes fundamentally. I don’t know how true the Ikea caption is or how absolutely it is practiced, but I don’t imagine the Swedes have an epidemic of peeping toms or home invasions.
Continue reading

Posted in Culture, Josh Grigsby, Livability, Neighbors, Placemaking, Rants, Response Pieces, Sustainability, What if? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Negative Capability is Relevant to Planologie

Poet John Keats defined negative capability as the ability to be “in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.” If this doesn’t sound especially profound or relevant to planologie, well, it is both. In yesterday’s post, Santi Tafarella linked negative capability with empathy, with attentive listening, and with the ability to sublimate one’s existential angst into larger mysteries of being. All admirable qualities. But what might it mean for an urban planner to practice negative capability? Or for the general populous? Or the city itself?
Continue reading

Posted in architecture, Culture, Josh Grigsby, Placemaking, Rants, Response Pieces, Sustainability, Uncategorized, urban design, urban planning, What if? | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brad Pitt, Andres Duany, and Aesthetic Diversity: Why There’s Room for Everyone in the New N’awlins

The New Orleans that was swept away when the levees broke cannot be restored. A new New Orleans is rising—it cannot be otherwise. Isn’t it possible that in this new New Orleans there is room for Frank Gehry and Andres Duany? For the experimental and the traditional? For the future and the past? Can’t this new New Orleans be a city that retells the stories of its forebears while crafting new tales of its own? It has been a long time since New Orleans had anything new to add to the larger discussion of American urbanism. A long time since the national spotlight shone on it for reasons other than crime, poverty, catastrophe, or the musical achievements of the past.

History should never be forgotten, but neither should it be made into a golden calf. Cities need to breathe, they need to periodically remake themselves. As long as the people remaking New Orleans remain in service to the city’s most vulnerable residents, New Orleans wins. Architects win. Design wins. Creativity wins. Experimentation wins. A new vernacular arises alongside the old. Continue reading

Posted in Culture, History, human scale, Josh Grigsby, Livability, Neighbors, Placemaking, Response Pieces, Sustainability, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment