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Friday, February 10, 2012

Zoning Problems & Potential

Eric Rawlings, AIA has been kind enough to respond to my essay entitled “A Common Imperative” on the AIAKnowledgeNet at the Committee on Environment. His response focused on zoning and stimulated me to simply express what has been a long journey through confusing detail.  

Eric, I speak from a lifetime of frustration when I agree with you about zoning. I also speak from a lifetime of experience when I tell you it’s the only legal foundation for more consistent improvement in the context, capacity and intensity of our built environment. 

I have implied the need for zoning improvement by contrasting The Built Domain to The Natural Domain. In my opinion, The Built Environment cannot expand beyond the limits of a Built Domain (that is yet to be defined) if we are going to protect its source of life – The Natural Domain. Individual design efforts will not be equal to the goal until they are led by adequate design regulation. Current zoning is not the answer, but it is an opportunity. 

The building code is a perfect analogy. Public health and safety could not be protected without regulation because design has little power beyond persuasion, and persuasion is poorly taught. Many designers still stand on the sidelines complaining about abuse of their prerogatives. The public does not agree and designers need to improve the game by simplifying the process. I’ll have more to say about this later. 

The same is true for zoning but the stakes are even higher -- because the risk is not internal. Outstanding architecture depends on a foundation of excellent context, capacity and intensity like a soloist depends on a symphony.  

I have attempted to contribute a language of intensity that can be used to write the music1. The future will need composers -- and a conductor called zoning. We can write music on a score that others can perform with the vocabulary of intensity. It’s time for some to leave the audience and begin the research required to lead an incredible number of instruments.

See "The Disorganized Zoning Ordinance" for more detail

1 Hosack, Walter M., Land Development Calculations, ed. 2, and attached forecasting software, Development Capacity Evaluation, v2.0 published by The McGraw-Hill Companies, 2009.

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