Wednesday, September 28, 2016

SHAPING the FUTURE WITH OPINION

Too much opinion and too little knowledge can easily produce the wrong conviction. This is true in both the legislature and the judiciary. It is true in city councils and appointed commissions. It is true in all walks of life. Opinion has been debated since observation, emotion, and imagination began. It has produced hubris and humility. It has been misled by coincidence and abused with ignorance. It has been executed, burned at the stake, and subjected to politically correct intimidation. It has saved lives, produced destruction, and resulted in death. It has condemned the innocent and acquitted the guilty. It has stimulated debate and been a substitute for answers. It is a combination of intelligence and logic seasoned with wisdom and ignited by emotion. It has been our formula for choice in the absence of knowledge. It is a fork in the road chosen with logic that can lead to adaptation or extinction. It is a friend that can lead us in the wrong direction. It has been our salvation and our ruin. It is our hope for a better life.
When decisions are based on observation, assumption, measurement, evaluation, logic, and conclusion, the knowledge gained improves future policy, strategy, and action based on opinion. (For instance, mercury was once believed to be a cure for syphilis based on deficient knowledge and hopeful opinion.) Opinion is where we have been and where we will always be. The future is unpredictable. The consequences of decisions can only be anticipated. The repetition of success and avoidance of failure is a goal. Knowledge simply improves anticipation and our odds of survival. Little knowledge produces poor anticipation, inadequate logic, intimidation, and poor direction. Popular opinion in these circumstances simply adds to the confusion. It focuses on special interest without the homework or accumulated knowledge required to form policy direction, strategic plans, and tactical projects for common benefit.
We live in a tactile world. It’s not hard to understand why abstract strategy and policy are rarely distinguished from action. In fact, it’s my guess that policy and strategy remain largely intuitive components of daily decisions, even though they are the foundation for every choice we make. For instance, a policy of being home on time can be pursued with a number of alternate strategies until the action taken produces the desired outcome.
Each of us is driven by the anticipation of consequences to greater and lesser degrees. City planning and design are forced to anticipate with little proof of consequences and must rely on the logic of debatable anticipation. This erodes the credibility of their arguments, but the opposition is in the same boat. Decisions become unstable, uncertain choices that survive the conflict of logic, interest, manipulation, and emotion when knowledge remains unconvincing.
In city planning, this stalemate can produce an over-reliance on deficient zoning regulation that has never been able to consistently duplicate success and avoid failure. These regulations conflict with each other because they have never been accurately correlated. The consequences have been confusion, random decisions, and carcinogenic sprawl. We could solve climate change and still suffocate the planet with a blanket of pavement. It will slowly consume our source of life without geographic limits as we build the shelter, movement, open space, and life support we need to survive.
I’m afraid this opinion will continue to be challenged until there is an adequate vocabulary and language of measurement, evaluation, and prediction that can build the knowledge needed to support this conviction. Proof can only be provided with extinction. Choices will always be required, but we must be able to express them in a language that can be used to explain, design, enforce, and repeat success that enhances the credibility of opinion based on knowledge.
I have written The Science of City Design to contribute a language that is capable of correlating the social, psychological, environmental and economic work of others with the physical design decisions needed to shelter growing activities within a limited Built Domain that protects our quality and source of life – The Natural Domain. The book introduces a vocabulary and language that will permit you to measure, assemble, correlate, and evaluate relevant data in a search for answers to what has become a symbiotic question. The goal is to improve the credibility of opinion and its rate of success during the search. It can be found in e-book and paperback versions on Amazon.com.
In my opinion, we must use the fundamental gifts we have been given to anticipate what must be avoided. Our formula for survival has always been observation, correlation, anticipation, and adaptation with instinct, intuition, insight, and invention based on improvements in vocabulary, language, and education.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Pop-up Urban Projects


I began reading “Human-friendly Cities and Pop-up Urban Projects” in the Urban Planning group of Linked-In to understand what the author, Krzysztof Bilinski, meant by “pop-up”. I found myself underlining the text and making notes in the margin. The following presents each underlined passage and associated margin note. Words in parentheses are my attempts to clarify the brevity.

Bilinski (B): “What…makes those places special and what do they have in common?”

Hosack (H): Research is required to answer the question, but research topics and a common, comparative measurement language have been missing.



B: “…the 20th century modernism paradigm (planning), which aimed at dividing a city by its functions, failed.

H: I wouldn’t claim that planning failed to achieve an objective, but it needs to redefine its goal, strategy, tactics, measurement, and correlation ability before it can begin to build knowledge capable of consistently improving the results produced by practitioners around the globe.



B: “According to Jan Gehl…using a human scale can resolve problems our cities struggle with…”

H: The term “human scale” sounds great, but there has been no quantitative measurement system capable of defining the term with relevant measurements of shelter capacity, intensity, intrusion, and dominance at the project, neighborhood, district, city, and regional levels of The Built Domain.



B: “We have a wide range of tools at our disposal whose purpose is to make redevelopment of the cities easier.”

H: We don’t. I have previously written two editions of “Land Development Calculations: Interactive Tools and Techniques for Site Planning, Analysis, and Design” and have recently published “The Science of City Design: Architectural Algorithms for City Planning and Design Leadership” to contribute some of the comprehensive, quantitative tools, language, and knowledge needed.



B: There has to be a bridge between city planners, real estate companies, and city residents”.

H: The bridge must extend further. Chapter 14 of “The Science of City Design” discusses the topic. Correlation among isolated public and private specialties is a key concept, but it requires a focus on relevant, measureable, and correlated Big Data.



B: Ghent, Belgium example of pop-up project: “After (a) few summer weeks urban furniture and plants are removed and streets go back to the way they were….”

H: It is creative, but appears to be a desperate solution to resolve inadequate open space. Its primary contribution is the growing awareness of the need for open space and change.



B: Wroclaw, Poland has introduced a cargo container bandstand for 3 months on a recently renovated public square to increase its popularity. Blue seats have been placed at the stairs of one of the boulevards to increase their usefulness. "Before, this place was uninviting..." 

H: Not all open space is equal in popularity, but its presence is an asset that is invaluable.



B: “Pop-up initiatives…stand for simple, creative, and significantly improving urban space solutions.”

H: Some of the examples I’ve read here, and in other articles, represent creative but partial attempts to modify impossible open space deficiencies. They illustrate the need for a permanent revision to the goals, strategy, and tactics adopted to define our cities and their four divisions: Shelter, Movement, Open Space, and Life Support. Hope is preserved when a network of open space is woven through the urban pattern to coexist with its source of life - The Natural Domain and its cosmic parent.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

JANE JACOBS & URBAN RENEWAL


I was moved to write this after reading a book review by John Buntin concerning the life of Jane Jacobs in the September 22, 2016 issue of The Wall Street Journal. Ms. Jacob’s book, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”, made the term “urban renewal” politically indefensible. I never thought I would challenge her polemic position because the urban renewal results involved were deplorable, but it’s time for a fresh breeze to clear the air.

A city is no different from a forest or a farm. All must renew themselves to survive. The new term for the effort is “economic development”. It is a more sophisticated term because it implies that urban decline is a function of far more than visually blighted and deteriorating physical conditions. Blight is only a symptom of disease. We addressed these physical symptoms in the past, and Jane Jacobs recognized that this was not a cure for the modern equivalent of a plague. We killed the patient with our attempted remedies. It was another failure in our long history of deficient cures created in an effort to survive.

The problem has become worse because we have given up on the policy of urban renewal and adopted a policy of sprawl. It threatens to consume our source of life and suffocate the planet with a blanket of pavement as populations grow. Sprawl is nothing less than a carcinogenic disease. It must be cured with a policy of urban renewal that can shelter growing populations within a limited Built Domain that protects their quality and source of life – The Natural Domain.

This is not the final goal, however. Urban renewal cannot succeed over generations until it is guided by the knowledge required to correlate our presence with our source of life. Correlated answers will represent symbiotic solutions for survival that protect our physical, social, psychological, environmental, and economic quality of life. In other words, the goal can only be equitable urban renewal that contributes to symbiotic solutions for survival on a planet that is not a world without end. This will require an ability to correlate Big Data.

At the time of the Black Plague it was impossible to treat the illness effectively. The visible symptoms gave no hint of the cure required. The language, tools, data, and scientific concepts of the time did not permit the population to visualize the cause of the disease, or to pursue knowledge that would contribute to potential remedies. It has taken centuries to build the language, knowledge, and awareness required to diagnose the medieval problem.

Sprawl is the modern equivalent of a plague on the planet with no apparent cure. It is widely recognized as a problem but not a disease. Urban renewal is not recognized as a potential cure because the term has become synonymous with failure. The term is not the problem, however. It represents a goal symbolized by the term “renew”. The remedies created to achieve the goal were the problem. They were proposed because language, data, knowledge, and awareness were inadequate. The mistakes made have increased our knowledge along the torturous path we call progress.

I have attempted to improve the awareness and language required to correlate physical results with scientific urban imperatives in my book, “The Science of City Design: Architectural Algorithms for City Planning and Design Leadership”. It is my attempt to make a contribution after a lifetime of experience and contemplation. I have self-published the book and made it available on Amazon.com in both e-book and paperback versions at a price I limited to make it affordable. Reading the book represents homework. Completing the book will yield the awareness, language, and correlation potential needed to reconcile the physical, social, psychological, environmental, and economic issues related to the goal: Symbiotic shelter for growing populations within a limited Built Domain that protects their quality and source of life – The Natural Domain.