Housing and Community Development

Mariposa 1038 (Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects)

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The AIA Housing and Community Development Knowledge Community (HCD) tracks housing issues and develops relationships with industry stakeholders to encourage and promote safe, attractive, accessible, and affordable housing for all Americans.

Technology cannot replace urban planning

  • 1.  Technology cannot replace urban planning

    Posted 12-11-2017 17:09


    We have to really figure out how to build cities, not just buildings.(Martha Schwartz, landscape architect)
    Nothing has disfigured the modern city more than the automobile. Unfortunately, the 21st century of city of the future concepts are still fixated on the automobile, except that the debate is now wrapped into technology. There is little evidence that a city shaped by high tech mobility would be any more inviting than the one we already have.
    Downtown Denver urban renewal for the automobile (Denverite)

    What the auto fixated build-more-roads-politicians of old lacked in fantasy is compensated by the  futuristic ideas of techies like Elon Musk's who truly brings the auto to the mobile through autonomous electric cars and tractor trailers. The tech enthusiasts believe that they can do better than the old concrete and pavement guard because extra highway lanes would become superfluous with automated trucks and cars making existing roadways at least twice as efficient. But the past and future transportation visions share one common flaw: They are fixated on hardware, i.e. on vehicles and their needs, not on people and quality spaces. But cities are spaces, foremost which should people not vehicles. This may sound trite until one realizes that cities were actually never designed with  people as the central focus. Before the automobile-centric city there was the production and shipping-centric city, and before that the city was foremost about the locus of real estate development, markets or defense. The art of architecture was mostly about buildings and an expression of power and much less about the city as a whole, i.e. about the spaces between buildings. In spite of nostalgia for old times life in cities was pretty miserable for most most of the time.
    Autonomous electric GM Bolt in Michigan (Wired)

    That is not to say that architects never thought about cities (ten urban diagrams can be found here) but only a few put the human into the center (such as Christopher Alexander). Recently the city has been the target for more sustainable and more resilient solutions. Certainly new technologies such as the autonomous vehicle will...READ FULL STORY

    Nikolaus Philipsen FAIA
    Archplan Inc. Philipsen Architects
    Baltimore MD
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