No solid ground – a good or a bad thing? Power from below and above.

Urban Studies

Urban centres, and the communities within them, are built over time through the interplay between a range of actors, from individuals, to organizations, to governments.  The roles of the national and state (provincial) levels of government in both Canada and the United States in mitigating, directing, and participating in these interactions are formally and constitutionally entrenched.  However, at the city, or sub-regional level, the role of government does not have the same constitutional status and is, at times, blurred.  This presents an opportunity for different groups to exert power and influence in different ways in shaping the environment at the urban scale.  The ‘blurry’ urban scale is an opportunity to leverage power from below (grassroots/community) as well as from above (nation/state).

On day 2 of a visit to Seattle, students from Simon Fraser University’s Urban Studies program met with representatives from four very different organizations, all of whom had a…

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What Can Design Schools Offer Cities?


What is the role of the design academy in dealing with today’s challenges — urbanization, climate change, biodiversity loss, and population growth? Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) Dean Mohsen Mostafavi said the academy plays a unique role in a keynote speech at the Innovative Metropolis conference organized by the Brookings Institution and Washington University in St. Louis, arguing that design schools “construct knowledge, conduct research, and disseminate information,” but also “advance alternative possibilities, new ideas.” In a review of how urban design and planning have evolved over the years, Mostafavi also outlined the new directions GSD is proposing for cities, with its drive towards new theories of landscape urbanism and now ecological urbanism.

According to Mostafavi, there’s still debate as to whether “urban design is a true discipline” like architecture or landscape architecture or simply a “practice.” At GSD, where the first urban design program was founded more than…

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Apple City and other company towns

desktop explorer

Apple City was an idea for a walkable urban center in the heart of Cupertino, CA – the city that houses Apple’s headquarters. It was designed after Steve Jobs proposed his own Apple City in 2011, but Jobs’ idea centered around a huge building designed to house 12,000 employees. Critics compared it to the Pentagon, and many people decried it as furthering the suburban sprawl problem.

So in response to Jobs’ idea, architect Hillel Schocken proposed to Jobs himself via email the idea of an urban center that focused on the individual. He wrote:

It is odd because even in the USA people are beginning to realize the ills of suburbia and urban sprawl, both concepts belonging to the middle of the last Century. A project the size of yours could mark the beginning of a new era in American urbanism, an era that puts human beings before the…

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