1. Several people including Lydia DePillis, Charlie Gardner, and Steve Stofka have discussed the emergent order that we can see in the Occupy settlements. Similarly this video shows a beautiful illustration of the spontaneous urban development at Burning Man.
2. The Atlantic Cities features the work of Boston cartographers at Bostonography. They have produced some very fun and informative visualizations of data on the city.
3. An environmentally friendly house is going up in a DC neighborhood, and it doesn’t “fit in” at all with the surrounding row houses. A commenter at Prince of Petworth said, “Its different, quirky. Its not like they tore down a historic house to build it. I say build more weird houses. In 50 years people will thank you.” Although this house is really ugly, I tend to agree.
4. The New Republic reports that Mitt Romney used to be a supporter of Smart Growth for Massachusetts. Ezra Klein says that Romney has shied away from this issue in the national spotlight since the median voter has a vested interest in sprawl. Anyone think this change means that Romney has seen the error of central planning? Anyone?
S M Stofka saysNovember 11, 2011 at 2:36 pm
Emily: Sprawl may have been “unplanned” (i.e. not handed down from on high e.g. in Europe) but it was certainly centrally regulated, via setback and density rules, street network rules, investment in autocentric transport and disinvestment in non-automotive transport systems, investment in utilities out to the sprawl and disinvestment in central utility networks (causing e.g. those entertaining geysers when a main breaks in the city), guaranteed in the form of FHA legalese, etc. etc. By ca. 1980 the system had become self-perpetuating, so long as the debt for it was available; when it ceased to be available, the system collapsed. (This is very simplistic, but the full explanation fills several books’ worth of paper. Books like Foreclosed.) The political aim of emergent urbanism would be primarily an unwinding of density- and use-based land regulation, thereby removing the regulatory bias for sprawl in its current context. Romney’s stance’s shift is due in no small part to the need of his constituency to continue the sprawl system at all costs; unfortunately for them, the long-term unwinding of sprawl will debase their current homes’ value just as surely as the initial sprawl buy-in debased their great-grandparents’ rowhomes’ value.
Emily Washington saysNovember 11, 2011 at 2:56 pm
Oh I certainly agree that sprawl has been enforced by all manner of government programs at the federal, state, and local levels. And I agree that the solution lies in lifting the regulations that mandate sprawl in many parts of the country. My problem with Smart Growth is that it typically exchanges one top-down plan for another. Stephen did a good post on this here a while back: http://bit.ly/sE3thm.
Miles Bader saysNovember 11, 2011 at 5:35 pm
You can’t always rely on just “hands off” to correct things though—sometimes systems get stuck in a local minima, even when that’s quite far from a global minimum, and need a good kick to get them out.
I’m not defending “smart growth” in particular, as I have no idea what it is. I’m just making the general point that even when you strongly favor less intervention, sometimes it’s called for. I know that “temporary corrective measures” have a way of living way past their sell-by date, but nonetheless…