February 10, 2009 at 11:00 pm #176020
LEED certification doesn’t mean much for landscape architects, especially entry levels.February 11, 2009 at 5:01 am #176019
I have a sense of where you’re coming from because I just spent a year in an office almost identical to the one you’re in. I know what it’s like to work side-by-side with civils who don’t care much for trees, curvy sidewalks, or street walls and clients who are looking for a cost-effective (cheap), comprehensive and sensible planning package they can bring to the city.
I could see how working in places like this for ten years could make you a bit cynical, no offense. Still, I can’t tell you why your “transportation hub” sits quiet. Is it in the right place? Is it surrounded by roads and parking? Does it have 3 foot sidewalks and no windows? Does it even look like a “transit hub’?
I don’t understand the argument. Are you saying it’s better to build large parking lots because it’s better for our business? In that case, this seems antithetical to you argument regarding the stimulus package in the other thread.
I just plain don’t understand where your last statement is coming from. I don’t think people who live downtown don’t eat. It would just be more efficient if they could live in a dwelling that suits their needs without being excessive in size or anti-social and have a place to buy food a few blocks away. What’s so bad about that?February 11, 2009 at 5:53 am #176018
I am interpreting the point that Nick and Gil were trying to make is that our economy is in a transitional mode. The US economy has been one based on easy access to cheap energy where goods and services are mass-produced or standardized and perpetual growth is required for the economic engine to keep moving. Some believe that the US and other large-scale economies will eventually adjust to more local scales where people do utilize public transportation and community gardens. The Pacific Northwest, for example, is much further down this path than my hometown of Atlanta.
Some landscape architects and other design professionals are expecting this transition because, as this summer showed, access to cheap energy is not guaranteed in either the short or the long term. It may not seem practical to build the empty transit hub or downtown hotel as you described, but if the US dedicates itself to modernizing its mass transit systems, you might see the transit hub thriving in as soon as five to ten years. Likewise, you may lament the fact that the hotel doesn’t get built, but you didn’t ask the question of whether it should be built in the first place. If the planners allow hotel developers to build outside of the downtown zone, that may be a short-term benefit to the local economy, but what if the recession runs the hotel out of business anyway? Why are you valuing the needs of the hotel developers over the requirements of the town planners? You are correct in that landscape architects have profited from accommodating the auto, but I would argue that strip malls, not the community farmer or public transit are more likely to be viewed as absurd by future historians given the transitional phase the US is experiencing.
I am not prepared to make the argument that strip malls and cars are the reason for the current downturn, but I will argue that this recession is showing how vulnerable the public is to shocks in the economic system because of our land use and transportation patterns. By creating landscapes/economies dependent on cars and cheap oil, we limit people’s options. The high gas prices this summer forced already-struggling people into difficult choices. In Metro Atlanta, you are out of luck if you don’t have a functioning car to get to work. Imagine if gas prices rose to $4 or $5 a gallon during this recession because of a new Middle Eastern war or an attack on a major pipeline. Consumer spending makes up 70% of the US economy, and it makes sense to make our communities as efficient and flexible as possible over the long haul. To me, an efficient and flexible community is one where you don’t necessarily have to get in your car to make local trips, where buying local food or growing your own is an option (illegal in many neighborhoods thanks to HOAs), and where smart growth gives people a chance to use these options.
So I don’t think that planners or LA’s are trying to force communities to choose between grocery stores with parking or green spaces. We are not telling people that they should stop using strip malls or ride the bus, but they are trying to give people the necessary options to function in their communities in both good and bad times. All the examples you mentioned (the downtown hotel, the empty transit hub) are first steps in a movement toward more resilient cities that will make for a healthier economy in the long term. I think many LA’s and planners recognize that if we lead the way in this direction, we will be well-positioned to take advantage of the “big business” that will come our way in transforming our communities to places that accommodate people and the environment.February 11, 2009 at 6:15 am #176017
Thank you for your eloquent interprietation Eric. You have touched upon a several of the ideas behind my comments and presented them respectfully. KudosFebruary 11, 2009 at 8:26 am #176016
Thanks Eric for clarifying the argument. I think I can agree with most, if not all, of what you wrote.
One (of many) thing that is confusing to me is how the real estate and land development market is commonly regarded in this country as such a crucial component to our nations economic (and social) viatlity, though when brought into question in terms of design and planning most people consider land development and the economy irrespective of one another. I think the patterns in which we develop land in this country have further reaching implications than socio-cultural, but quantifiable real-world values which we often choose to ignore or are too numb from driving the interstate everyday to realize.February 11, 2009 at 2:37 pm #176015
This is a fantastic discussion and I think I can boil it down to a simpler explanation which I will call THE REEDUCATION OF AMERICA. We have lived in excess for far to long. When my grandparents where growing up they saved the string from the bakery to tie up the chicken, that they raised, and where going to roast for dinner. As we all know we have become a society of waste and for lack of a better word laziness. For the most part people are tossing the string and buying the chicken, which was shipped from Texas, pre-roasted at the supermarket with a 24 pack of individual bottles of water.
This is not a sustainable way to live and we cannot all just consume more or continue the same lifestyles to get ourselves out of this economic slump. People wanted the big house and SUV and in recent history they have gotten them. Look where that got us. We are in this mess because of our own over consumption and the only way to really fix the problem is for society as a whole to realize that the way we where doing things is to costly to the pocket book and the environment. After this “reeducation” occurs the rest of the problems will fix themselves.February 11, 2009 at 2:45 pm #176014
My argument is that, sooner or later, the rest of the economy will be forced to move in a direction that is more efficient and practical for a healthy economy. You say that our economy uses the power of what people ‘want’ as the driving force behind it. I’m saying that we’re seeing evidence that the economy and landscapes we’ve built are inherently vulnerable, and the things people ‘want’ are changing because of the way our economy is changing. When gas prices rose this summer, transit ridership soared and has since stayed fairly high, though the spike in riders strained the capacity in many cities. I advocate investment in mass transit not because I think it is cool, but because I think this will soon be a necessary part of a functioning economy.
I disagree with the choices presented above: between harnessing the mechanism of reality or pretending idealism is reality. Granted there are many pie-in-the-sky people out there, but I think that investing in mass transit is entirely pragmatic and necessary if we are going to meet the needs of businesses and people in the near future. I don’t understand how that could be a one-time pay out with no return unless you are viewing things in the extreme short term.
Let me clarify that I’m not saying that government spending on mass transit or community gardens or community-supported agriculture is what will get the economy moving again. I don’t think that’s what this discussion is about. I am saying that in light of the economic crisis, investment in mass transit is something that does provide a tangible benefit both in the short and long term, it is to the benefit of landscape architecture to be involved and support such investment, and there is a benefit to planning ahead for such projects, given that transit projects take a very long time to complete. We can clearly anticipate that need now, so I argue that the reality of our situation dictates that we plan, invest, and implement transit projects now. I don’t view that as idealism.February 11, 2009 at 6:19 pm #176013
Where there is crisis, there is opportunity. I see this as a pivotal point in the future development of our nation. The way we have been using land for the last 50-75 years is obviously not working, economically or socially. I believe the nature of this type of reasoning stems from the way our educational system and culture teaches us to think quantitatively. We are a nation of consumers who will always have a perceived need (want) so long as there is a product being sold promising long life, happiness, wealth, success, and a two-car garage which embodies this desire to ultimately win. It’s just a slight stretch to say that if there was a more efficient working model of things we are already familiar with like the two-car garage, mass-transit line, and town center the percieved need would take on new form. I don’t think it’s beyond the bounds of pragmatic thinking to say if we’re all in a greement that strip malls are models of inefficiency in terms of fuel consumption, commercial viability, wastewater management, etc, not to mention human safety and sociocultural well-being why not offer the developer new models? I truly believe, from what I’ve seen in an office environment, that what holds us back from building New Urbanistic (one example) models is many engineers fear of taking the liabilty on of doing something out of the ordinary. Furthermore, there are only a handful of working examples of true New Urbanism and they haven’t been around long enough to validate their success (or failure). I think what you end up with, in Andrews case of the transit center, is half-cocked, timid approaches which started out with good intentions but got stripped to pieces by the fear of liability or political decision-making leaving a single transit hub, but neglecting to build the rest of the components to make it work socially and economically. I don’t want it to seem like New Urbanism is the answer, but it’s the most accessible for me (us). The point is that there is a sea of regulation, liability, and backwards thinking making it very difficult for the developer to justify investment in new project types. I know there is a perception that the developer want to build strip malls and parking lots surrounded by low density suburban housing, but I do’t think this is necessarily true and I think everyone would agree that the developer only care, ultimately, about getting a return on his/her investment. That said, if more efficient models of development could be shown to be not only marketable, but even economically savvy with the added bonus of doing something good for the environmnt and the human psyche I don’t see any reason the developer/investors would balk. It seems to simply be a matter of education and putting people in the drivers seat who know how to make these places. But first, we may need to slowly begin accepting that big parking lots are not necessarily good things in any sense, and the environment (neighborhood, city, park) we live in function well on an inherently subjective, human level, and should not be judged in quality solely based on how quickly the rainwater flows to the river from the parking lot or the number of landscaping islands we crammed into the parking lot. LA’s are in a particularly good position actually to help lead a new charge.February 11, 2009 at 8:14 pm #176012
I agree. I didn’t intend to suggest LA’s have the political pull of a congressperson, but somewhere along the line the designer may play a role in the education of the client and public with regard to the pattern of development. I absolutely agree that you can’t paint the whole complex picture with a broad brush, but this also rings true with regard to suburban development in places like the Colorado Front Range. Here, all suburban development looks nearly identical and it consumes massive tracts of land, seemingly irrespective of it’s proximity to resources.
It’s obvious you’re experienced with land planning. Are you familiar with some of the Duany-Zyrbek (sp) projects around the country and their level of success? I’ve been reading about communities like Seaside and Kentlands. Right here in Colorado we have a small project in longmont called Prospect and Holiday neighborhood in Boulder. Both projects here I believe have been overwhelmingly popular, though I couldn’t say if they’ve accomplished their objectives of providing truly mixed communiteis with mixed demographics or if they’ve become havens for the middle-upper class.
Thanks for helping the discussion along..
-nFebruary 11, 2009 at 8:59 pm #176011
I’d love to see a short list of critical reads from you if you get a chance. I am interested in pursuing urban/town planning in the future. I’d be interested in learning more about the economics of land development and community planning as well as regulation and design.February 12, 2009 at 5:35 am #176010
Think you could distill that? 😉
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