David Byrne noted in last Sunday’s NY Times that people get hooked on cycling because of pleasure, not health, money, or carbon footprint. “Emotional gratification trumps reason.”
Ben Brown agrees, using Byrne’s “Stop Making Sense” as a blog title on the subject of community engagement and how special interest groups often talk past each other. “Intuition comes first, strategic reasoning second.”
Having worked in communities big and small across the continent, we’ve had ample opportunity to test ideas and find approaches that work best. Urban design details. Outreach tactics. Implementation tricks. Many of these lessons are transferable, which is why we’ve created “Back of the Envelope,” a weekly feature where we jot ’em down for your consideration.
A number of recent conversations with Stefanos Polyzoides, Howard Blackson, and Matt Lambert regarding density and residential types has me thinking about building typology as one solution to visualizing and embracing density.
The corporate culture of our government has been a carte blanche to keep doing what we’ve been doing. This culture implies that what we’ve been doing works.
In business, last year’s income statement is a major driver in this year’s action plan. If a product or service was profitable, then it’s nurtured and grown this year. If a deliverable creates a loss, then change is made as quickly as possible.
Because governments are focused on GDP and jobs instead of ROI, the reasons behind decisions often get muddy. Return on Investment (ROI) is quite simple. It’s just the gain from investment less the cost of investment all divided by the cost of investment. How many times over your money will be returned to you.
And yet our governments aren’t geared to think this way unless it has to do with a change from business as usual.
Getting ready for a TEDx talk in a few weeks, I’ve once again been noticing how the places that I love the most usually break the law. The contemporary development codes and bylaws, that is, which are geared to the car, not to the pedestrian and cyclist.
Then last week’s urban retail SmartCode tweetchat with Bob Gibbs sparked a debate about the rules of thumb that govern the success or failure of the most risky development of all: retail. And when those rules might be bent by certain special circumstances.
Ready to geek out with me for a moment?
Recently there’ve been rumblings of a very interesting trend among cities that have adopted form-based codes to guide the character of their neighbourhoods. That is, once a city begins to think urbanistically, they start to solve some really hard problems. And those problems lately have been to do with industrial uses, and how to reconnect industry to the walkable portions of the city.
Over the last month, I’ve lost count of how many emails and phone calls I’ve gotten asking for exemplary plans under form-based codes that incorporate industrial uses. I got one while I was writing this, in fact. Heavy industry is one primary thing zoning initially sought to separate. I am reminded of one of my favorite T.S. Eliot excerpts, from Little Gidding:
“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started. And know the place for the first time.”
Not that anyone’s adding back in noxious uses to the ‘hood, but it is a very interesting turn of events.
Given the means, most of us who work with communities to design and implement form-based codes would opt for a full-blown process, one that involves lots of community outreach, education and hands-on idea-testing in a charrette. But every situation is unique and sometimes you need something a bit more immediate.
Sometimes the process you use is the one the situation imposes. Kind of like sports, where, if you want to win, you’d better adapt to the way the game unfolds before you, as opposed to insisting on imposing a plan you carefully worked out the night before. And since I’m headquartered in Canada, where hockey is the game, let’s talk hockey strategy.
If the attendees list of Placemaking@Work, my monthly webinar series, is any indicator, we’re increasingly united in our desire to improve the places we call home, wherever those places might be. Last month, I had participants from Hawaii to Russia, from British Columbia to Saudi Arabia, and many points in between.
The common thread among these seekers is their search for tools and tactics that have proven effective. And increasingly dominating these conversations are form-based codes.