Walking the Walk

Urban design from the front lines

Kevin Klinkenberg

Using urban design to make our lives more enjoyable and create wealth

This site is for all those interested in the making of cities and towns, and especially the lives of the humans that inhabit them. Kevin Klinkenberg is an architect and urban designer who's practiced from coast-to-coast. 

Who will star in the urban design film version of "Moneyball"?

Chuck Marohn plays off of the popular book and movie (admittedly I'm also a baseball fan and huge admirer of the Moneyball/Sabremetrics approach to the game):


What do you do when conventional wisdom is wrong? Obviously wrong? And you have the data to prove it?

You change conventional wisdom, of course. But what happens when people are trapped in a system defined by conventional wisdom, where the risks and rewards are tilted in favor of those who hold to convention and against those who upset the status quo?


I used to be one of those professional experts. As an engineer, I recommended all the conventional investments to the cities I worked for. As a city planner, I deployed all the conventional approaches in the places I served. I was always confident knowing that my advice lay within the accepted approaches developed by my professional peers and associates. And if there ever was a doubt, I had the important initials from credentialing behind my name to secure my credibility.

But I was wrong, a fact I came to understand as time revealed many of the flaws in my own (conventional) thinking. Good fortune had placed me in a position professionally where I had the freedom of thought to explore these insights when I became aware of them.

Last year, Michael Hathorne also used Moneyball as a jumping-off point:

I believe there are parallels to how our built environment is measured. I believe there are “Sabermetric” standards by which urbanism can and should be measured. I believe there is a fear of the shift that will come as these metrics are identified because it means an end to how many have done things and a potential end to their livelihood unless they accept the paradigm shift that we are in the midst of.


Urbanism isn’t a recipe that can simply be followed in order to create great places. Urbanism is much more complex than that. The metrics of urbanism aren’t going to directly correlate like a recipe for German Chocolate Cake. Rather, urbanism and the way it is measured must be thought of more as a living entity than an inanimate object. There are a multitude of conditions related to land that will determine the appropriateness of certain measures over others. Measuring inappropriately could potentially lead to measuring the wrong things, the wrong way, and/or with incorrect reasoning. While some principles may work generally for all (i.e. connectivity), other principles may contain higher degrees of sensitivity due to specifics relative to location (i.e. how connectivity is achieved).

Both pieces are very much worth the read, and look forward to Chuck's book Money Hall.