Daniel Burnham is famous for saying,
"Make no little plans - they have no magic to stir men’s blood"
But on the next page of the Plan of Chicago, he also said this,
"It should be understood, however, that such radical changes as are proposed herein cannot possibly be realized immediately. Indeed, the aim has been to anticipate the needs of the future as well as to provide for the necessities of the present; in short, to direct the development of the city towards an end that must seem ideal, but is practical."
Too often in the world of urban design, architecture and planning we forget to balance those two critical elements - the yin and yang of place-making: idealistic visions and practical realities; the human need for big plans and dreams and the individual's need to be able to contribute with small actions. One cannot exist without the other.
At times my remarks can get a little wordy. Life is full of nuance, and I think it's important to explore the nuance. As a result, most of my thoughts don’t fit neatly into a 500 word essay. Simple, declarative statements of right and wrong rub me the wrong way. As HL Mencken once said,
For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong.
I believe that change comes through action. Ambition and great plans are important, but equally as important are experimental attitudes and a sense of urgency.
Our world is experiencing a profound shift in its attitudes towards cities and socializing. The 20th century was marked by a global attitude towards embracing the new, modern era and casting out the old. The 21st century is quickly becoming a time to reclaim our lost traditions, connect better with each other and use our advanced technologies in ways that are much more, well, human.
But we need positive action, not hand-wringing or complaining.
For twenty-five years I've worked in this changing world as an urban designer, using the various skills of design, planning and form-based coding to create walkable communities. I've worked for developers, cities, not-for-profits and public agencies to create environments that are sustainable and sociable. From big picture master-plans to development regulations to building design, I've done it all. I've been blogging about these issues and more since the early days of blogging, and wrote a book called "Why I Walk" published in 2014.
Today, I live in Savannah, GA, and for the last three and a half years I have been the Executive Director of the Savannah Development and Renewal Authority. The organization's mission is to lead a coordinated effort of planning and economic development for greater downtown Savannah. In 2018, I plan to return to consulting with my company K2 Urban Design.
Since so much is written about the ten cities that every planner loves in the US, this site will focus elsewhere. That's not to say I won't talk about Portland or Boston or Washington, DC here. It's that I'm more interested in how we improve the other 19,000+ cities and towns across the US.
With all of my efforts, I look for ways to use urban design and development to make people's lives healthier, wealthier and happier. That may sound lofty, but I'm a firm believer in the pragmatic.
Please connect with me here if share these interests, or if you want to talk with me about consulting or speaking.
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"Get off this, get on with it
If you wanna change the world
Shut your mouth and start this minute"
Cracker, Get off this