Monday, January 09, 2006

Beware The Blank Slate

Architects and Urban Planners have a tendency to design cities with their own preconcieved notions of what a city should be. Unfourtunately their ideals often differ from those of the people who accually have to live in the city. They also like to ignore most of the less glamorous infrastructure that cities are required to provide to make a city function such as:

  • Water and sewer treatment and distribution
  • Power production and distribution
  • Wharehouses and storage
  • Airports and associated services
  • Ports
  • Railroads
  • Interstates
  • Auto repair
  • Fuel Distribution
  • Parking Garages and Parking Lots
  • Parking and Maintenance for Mass Transit
  • Lumber Yards
  • Utilities Maintenance Facilities
  • Wholesale Grocery Distribution Centers
  • An Many Many More...
Though the list is far from complete, you get the idea of what is required to create a functioning city (strictly from an infrastructure stand point). You'll often find that it's these fuctions that are lacking from most urban plans. They are usually ugly, inconvient and misunderstood by planners so are omitted. This is like building a human and leaving out the small intestine, spleen, pitutary gland, sweat glands and gall bladder.

Planners like to point to Seaside as a success in urban planning, but that is like creating a single-cell organism and claiming to be able to build a mouse. Not quite.

Planners can offer some insight on a limited bases such as how to improve transportation or zoning ordinances but don't think that they can come to New Orleans and solve all our ills if we just listen the them.

Architecture and Morality has more thoughts.

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