I recently watched this talk on TED.com, one of my favorite websites, and really wanted to talk about it, but was busy with my big regions project, so I put it off and I’m finally getting around to it. This talk comes from Ellen Dunham-Jones, one of the founding members of the Congress for the New Urbanism. Her talk is fairly fast-paced and covers a lot, mostly focusing on the problems with the suburbs and how they can be addressed by urbanising the suburbs. The information here is great.
This is one of two TED talks that is strictly focused on New Urbanism. The other is much less academic and much more bombastic. James Howard Kunstler explains why the suburbs are ugly, and why if we keep building them, we will have a country not worth defending. Very funny and highly entertaining. Although I will warn the Mormon folks, there is some harsh language.
There are many, many more talks on TED that relate to cities that aren’t strictly related to New Urbanism, but are still very much worth your time. You can find all these other talks here. I would highly recommend the talks by Majora Carter, Jaime Lerner and William McDonough, although they are all great. I would also recommend watching whatever new talk is on TED every day regardless of topic, like I do.
This op-ed from Luisiana’s The Advocate points out a fact that in the coming years will be a real issue for American cities: we’re getting old. People are beginning to outlive their ability to drive. Some suburbs, such as Fayetteville, GA, are trying to retrofit themselves so that they can maintain an aging society that may not be able to drive in a few years. Among some of their strategies are a new street grid, denser housing, and a system of public parks instead of private yards (for those who can’t mow for themselves anymore). Baton Rouge, LA, is also taking measures to try and become more walkable with Plan Baton Rouge. Although greenfield development is often less than ideal from a planning perspective, it can turn out well, such as at Lafayette‘s River Ranch. But current Baton Rouge is not very pedestrian friendly, and the author remarks, “If you don’t have a car, or someone to drive you, this is not a very good place to live.” Not only is it hard in this atmosphere for people who can’t drive to get to the places they need to go, it is also hard for them to get together, and many begin to feel isolated. As good of an idea as it is to try and fix the suburbs, there aren’t many politicians who have the political will (read: cajones) to make the change. But Louisiana has great examples in New Orleans and downtown Baton Rouge, and hopefully they can make that transition.