In November of 2004, a reconstituted APA Metro Urban Design Committee (APA:UDC) began a discussion to differentiate how APA would view urban design from that of the AIA. In this era of a the so-called “signature-buildings” the tendency there is a tendancy to loose useful forms of community knowledge. Without this data the profession is missing an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding for the underlying opportunity. It may be political, economic, environmental, or technical and simply lost.
The lack of depth has contributed to the failure of some high-profile projects in the New York Region, such as the building of a new Jets Stadium on the west side of Manhattan and the delay in rebuilding of the World Trade Center Site. Consequently, the committee seeks a way to energize confidence in a design process that is something less of a "con", or "speedy" or "superficial". There is a real need to recognize urban design in the planning realm as a thing more sensitive to long term planning concerns.
In addition, hundreds of New York metro urban and planning design initiatives are breaking though this quagmire. The New York metropolitan region is unique. The region holds a two hundred year physical development heritage. Its redevelopment, renewal, and preservation is a primary asset. The planning of new development projects on expansive “green-fields” builds on this foundation.
Some of the most exciting planning and urban design projects in the nation are taking place in the New York City-Westchester-Long Island metro area. This unique geography captures an incredibly diverse range of urban and suburban landscapes. Nowhere is there as rich a tradition of civic involvement in community planning and design as here, nor as much creative professional talent. And yet, each community rarely understands what even their most proximate neighbors have accomplished, let alone the value that this work would have to a national audience.
The Public Place Public Process sought answers to questions about how well the planning and design community engages the community to build a “public space”. The Committee’s 2005 call for submissions garnered 23 submissions. In March 2006. a full day workshop at the Regional Plan Association’s (RPA) offices yielded unique insight into the impact of civic engagement practices on the products of planning and design. This paper reflects on these events at the close of 2006 with a summary of findings to date and an outline of plans for a workshop about launching the Committee’s next steps.At the start of the April 2006 presentation of our findings at the APA conference we brought a quote from the legendary New York Yankee Baseball Manager and Urban Planner, Yogi Berra, “You got to be careful if you don’t know where your going, because you might not get there”. This is not only an amusing turn of phrase; it is a timely thought for New Yorkers.
Our review, comment, criticism, and contribution to the growing list of major planning and construction events in New York City are daunting challenges. As a result, examining the quality of the public processes in defining the public space in all of its dimensions remains a significant interest of the APA Planning and Urban Design Committee. To date it continues to be a viable mechanism for defining the central question. Is it possible for us to acquire some assurances in the conduct of these events that we are building better communities?
Best Practices revitalization, growth, legacy, brownfields
The committee settled on a process of soliciting best practice case studies from around the region. Metro APA and AIA mailing/ e-mail lists, as well as those of several other organizations were used for the outreach effort. The call for submissions stressed The APA is especially interested in projects that demonstrate a strong connection between a robust public process and a physical plan or design. These are projects where a specific design solution, as illustrated in plans, renderings and models, was arrived at through a public process and where design was used to communicate to the public the consequences of the goals and polices which the stakeholders adopted.
For 2005, categories in which the public’s engagement was considered paramount were listed as: 1) brownfields, 2) community revitalization, 3) smart growth, and 4) legacy programs. Following is a brief discussion of entries and how each contributed to the discussion best practices.
community revitalization – The community has a comprehensive strategy for revitalizing a neighborhood, or perhaps the commercial or cultural center of the neighborhood. The design studies may illustrate how new housing is designed to reinforce existing neighborhoods, how a commercial corridor is revitalized through a streetscape or façade restoration initiative, or how a new public space is landscaped and programmed.
brownfields or greyfield redevelopment – The community has reclaimed a strategic property that was abandoned or underutilized, perhaps a former industrial site. The design studies illustrate how environmental restoration is accomplished in the course of finding a new use for the property.
growth initiative – The community has found a way to capture development that would otherwise have “sprawled out” to some undeveloped area. The design studies illustrate how new context-appropriate development completes the existing neighborhoods or town centers, or how new development is oriented towards transit such as a subway or commuter rail station.
legacy – The community has created a plan that celebrates the history or cultural heritage of the community. The design studies illustrate how historic buildings have been re-used or how new spaces are created around buildings, monuments or parks that have significance for the neighborhood.
While impressed by the quality of responses, we felt compelled to put the idea of 'best' aside to focus on ‘practice’. Our interest in the ongoing potential of this project held higher ground, so we began to mine the all of submissions for insights regarding the meaning of the term public process as it was described in each submission. Participants presented the interplay between public processes and design very differently. It was used as a tool to protect, defend and inform the public, as well as, a means to discover and affirm community values and culture.
Who is in Charge?
Professionally Driven Model
Citizen/client driven model
Main contribution of professional
Professional provides answers
Professional is resource for discovery
Focus of problem solving
Added capacity is drawn from public interaction
Problem solving process
Problems are diagnosed for cause with steps to "cure" or "market"
Prolems have overlapping causes resolved by seeking ongoing change with multiple pariticipants in many roles
Problem centered: step by step
Unproblemantic: step, to turn, to leap
What is valued?
Collaborative and reciprocal
Limited to fee for service
Includes and recognizes mutual benefits
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