Can Good Design Advance Urban Development? Design? Urban development... in what direction exactly?
The following article by Tim Love entitled "Can Design Improve Life in Cities? The cases of Los Angeles, London and Chicago" was published in Harvard Design Magazine. The article discusses some insights from a conference held in November 2007.
While the discussion is Anglo-USA centric, the questions may still be relevant to the ‘majority world’. For example, does design (by itself) have the power to ‘advance urban development’ and in what direction? Are citizens and ‘shareholders’ (as described by Dana Cuff) the same thing? What are the implications of these two notions? Should city planning be part of a regional planning so to ensure coordination, or should it be locally and independently planned and administered?
The last point may be particularly topical for countries that have followed the Anglo-USA lead in regards to decentralisation--not only for planning, but also political administrative boundaries, and of course the economy. These are indeed socio-political questions that in a way reflect our historical moment. Other interesting reflections involve the role of architecture (including signature architecture) within city planning.
Below I have copied some extracts from the article and it would be interesting to read your views on these issues.
The primary insights the conference offered came in the comparison of the relative roles that different constituencies play in the city-building initiatives of the three cities. London, for example, is a city where public agencies are playing a lead role in the revitalization of large tracts, provoked partly by needs for the 2012 Olympic Games. At the same time, London's metropolitan government, despite the fact that this city is made of village-like boroughs, is centralized enough to do planning at a regional scale.
Regional planning in Los Angeles, in contrast, is crippled by an ill-defined overlap of jurisdictional boundaries between municipal governments and the County of Los Angeles. Urban redevelopment is therefore focused on block-by-block initiatives. The Grand Avenue Project, an ambitious development proposed adjacent to the Disney Concert Hall, served as an example of the way that philanthropic efforts can spur private real estate development.
But what is the replationship between signature design projects, politics, and sophisticated public relations strategies?
Dana Cuff, Professor at UCLA, characterized the citizens of greater LA as “shareholders” in their relationship to downtown, a clever turn of phrase since Broad is the Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Grand Avenue Committee. Cuff suggested that like shareholders of a corporation, the citizens of LA want a “return on investment”…
Find this article at: Harvard Design Magazine, No.28, Spring/Summer 2008