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Urban Planning Today: A Harvard Design Magazine Reader

Introduction by Alexander Garvin
William S. Saunders Editor
Volume: 3
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 160
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  • Book Info
    Urban Planning Today
    Book Description:

    Urban Planning Today reports on projects in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York, and Portland, bringing perspectives of urban design, city planning, criticism, and law to bear on the mixed bag of results observed in these cities. Contributors: Jonathan Barnett, Lynn Becker, Peter Calthorpe, Susan Fainstein, Bent Flyvbjerg, John Kaliski, Jerold Kayden, Matthew J. Kiefer, Hubert Murray, Richard Plunz, Leonie Sandercock, Michael Sheridan.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9820-2
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
    William S. Saunders
  4. Introduction: Planning Now for the Twenty-first Century
    (pp. xi-xx)
    Alexander Garvin

    At the beginning ofThe Death and Life of Great American Cities,Jane Jacobs writes: “Cities are an immense laboratory of trial and error, failure and success, in city building and city design. This is the laboratory in which city planning should have been learning and forming and testing theories. Instead the practitioners and teachers of this discipline (if such it can be called) have ignored the study of success and failure in real life, have been incurious about the reasons for unexpected success, and are guided instead by principles . . . and imaginary dream cities—from anything but...

  5. 1 The Return of Urban Renewal: Dan Doctoroff’s Grand Plans for New York City
    (pp. 1-13)
    Susan S. Fainstein

    For many years, New York City refrained from any semblance of comprehensive planning. Even the four megaprojects of the 1980s and 1990s—Battery Park City, the Javits Convention Center, and Times Square redevelopment, all in Manhattan, and MetroTech in central Brooklyn—represented isolated endeavors rather than parts of an overriding vision. Suddenly, however, the current mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, and his deputy mayor for economic development, Daniel L. Doctoroff, have ambitions for remaking much of the city on a scale comparable to the remaking overseen by Robert Moses in the 1940s and 1950s. Indeed, the map showing “selected planning and...

  6. 2 Deadlock Plus 50: On Public Housing in New York
    (pp. 14-23)
    Richard Plunz and Michael Sheridan

    The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is by far the city’s largest landlord, presiding over 180,000 apartments with at least 600,000 tenants; its 1997 budget was $1.7 billion. NYCHA occupies a central position within the socioeconomic framework of the city; thus a grim outlook for public housing has dire implications for the entire city. The fate of New York’s public housing remains tenuous, due partly to shifting federal policy and partly to shifting demographics. Today, fifty years after the Federal Housing Act of 1949, which set the standards for government housing, public housing in New York faces an uncertain...

  7. 3 Democracy Takes Command: The New Community Planning and the Challenge to Urban Design
    (pp. 24-37)
    John Kaliski

    When Alexis de Tocqueville, author ofDemocracy in America,traveled through the United States in the 1830s, he was struck by the high level of citizen participation in local decision making. He also noted a “vast number of inconsiderable productions [buildings]” that populated the landscape of this democracy, a few monuments, and what he called the “blank” between these two extremes.¹ This could also be a description of Los Angeles today: City Hall, Moneo’s cathedral, Gehry’s Disney Hall, Mayne’s Caltrans building, a visible suburban landscape, and in between a vast but swarming void. Exploring this void, however, reveals that democracy,...

  8. 4 Can Planning Be a Means to Better Architecture? Chicago’s Building Boom and Design Quality
    (pp. 38-47)
    Lynn Becker

    In Chicago, planning and superior design are on parallel paths that seldom converge. Regional planning has largely lost interest in the quality of the built environment, and municipal regulation of new construction, by its charge, is less a force for extending Chicago’s legacy of architectural innovation than a machine for maximizing development while merely taming the most egregious design failings offered up by the market economy. As a result, seldom in Chicago’s history has the will to create superior architecture been as marginalized as it is today. Let me explain.

    Daniel Burnham placed architectural design at the center of his...

  9. 5 An Anatomy of Civic Ambition in Vancouver: Toward Humane Density
    (pp. 48-62)
    Leonie Sandercock

    In their devastating 2003 critique of transportation megaprojects, subtitledAn Anatomy of Ambition,Bent Flyvbjerg, Nils Bruzelius, and Werner Rothengatter demonstrate (as does Flyvbjerg alone in his essay in this volume) the systematic overemphasis of public benefits and underestimation of costs, the lies and deceptions designed to thwart the public interest, that typically characterize such projects.¹ In contrast to their noir exposé, the story I am about to unfold about Vancouver’s downtown residential megaprojects since the late 1980s is one of stunning success, a demonstration of how and why “good” is possible in planning, and how the regulation of urban...

  10. 6 Paved with Good Intentions: Boston’s Central Artery Project and a Failure of City Building
    (pp. 63-82)
    Hubert Murray

    Nationally notorious, Boston’s Big Dig has over the past fifteen years invested $14.5 billion in the new Central Artery Tunnel. Visionary in concept, the underground highway has spawned new development and urban parks that are falling markedly short of their promise. Why?

    A generation ago, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Boston was a place of pilgrimage for anybody interested in cities. Architecturally, the new City Hall and the New England Aquarium were star attractions, and the imaginative refurbishment of Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market showed cities worldwide what could be done with historic fabric. The Boston Redevelopment Authority...

  11. 7 Public Planning and Private Initiative: The South Boston Waterfront
    (pp. 83-92)
    Matthew J. Kiefer

    Public places have in recent decades been increasingly created by private developers through exactions imposed by government bodies. This strange brew of profit motive and public benefit is fraught with complications. Not only may such public amenities be inadequately designed, built, and maintained to truly serve the public, but their imposition may also hinder development that would be good for civic life. This essay explores these complexities and proposes steps to address current problems through a close look at a major development site in Boston.

    As responsibility for conceiving and constructing public streets, sidewalks, sewers, and parks—the armature of...

  12. 8 Omaha by Design—All of It: New Prospects in Urban Planning and Design
    (pp. 93-105)
    Jonathan Barnett

    Over breakfast in Omaha, we were talking about design guidelines. The architect for a proposed Wal-Mart had been asked at a public hearing why his building looked so much less appealing than a Wal-Mart in Fort Collins. His reply struck a nerve: “Fort Collins has design guidelines, and you don’t.” Omaha’s political and business leaders had been committed for years to improving downtown. Now they became aware that the image of the city could be shaped by decisions on prominent sites along peripheral highways. But then they decided that Omaha needed design guidelines, not just for big-box stores but for...

  13. 9 Is Eminent Domain for Economic Development Constitutional?
    (pp. 106-116)
    Jerold S. Kayden

    Urban planners employ a carefully guarded arsenal of treasured techniques to implement their planning ideas. The most well-known mechanism is zoning, through which publicly prepared ideas for land use and built form are imposed on private property owners whether they like it or not. Another longstanding implementation technique is eminent domain, the power of government to take private property against the will of the owner, as long as the taking is for a public use and just compensation is paid. Both zoning and eminent domain infringe on an individual’s private property interest, yet courts routinely sided with urban planners for...

  14. 10 From New Regionalism to the Urban Network: Changing the Paradigm of Growth
    (pp. 117-130)
    Peter Calthorpe

    For many Americans, the everyday environment of freeways, subdivisions, malls, and office parks is a given—an inescapable reality that covertly structures their time, associations, and opportunities. This landscape is so familiar that it is practically unseen and often goes unquestioned. But when questioned, it is framed as the inevitable consequence of market forces and cultural desires—a destiny in which public policy plays merely a supporting role. For many, it is an unassailable expression of the American Dream.

    But this landscape is the product not just of free market forces but also of a distinct planning paradigm supported by...

  15. 11 Design by Deception: The Politics of Megaproject Approval
    (pp. 131-148)
    Bent Flyvbjerg

    Some years ago, I was threatened by a high-ranking government official as I was beginning research on cost overruns in large construction projects. He told me in no uncertain terms that if I came up with results that reflected badly on his government and its projects, he would personally make sure my research funds dried up. I told him that he had just demonstrated that the research must be done and was likely to produce interesting results. The results are now being published, and if the official walks his talk, I am not likely to receive another research grant from...

  16. Contributors
    (pp. 149-151)