Friday, November 14, 2008

Links o' the Day

John Massengale Supports and Expands on the idea I suggested here to overhaul Detroit to factories that build something of value and utility for the 21st century, in Roger Rabbit Does Detroit. The money quote that I've been harping on with all of these misguided Keynesianisms:
Isn't it better to leverage other funds and include Detroit in the plans to reduce auto dependency than to simply bail them out?
Neil Pierce on Obama (representative of Millenial values) vs. Hyper-Individualism (Boomers). Out with the old, in with the new, I say. He says:
What’s hyper-individualism? Like pornography, you can recognize it when you see it. Lifestyle choices such as picking a gas-guzzling SUV to reach a suburban McMansion so big you rarely visit all the rooms. Headphones and solo video games in place of group activities. Disdaining civic life or responsibilities. Chronically shopping ’til you drop. Needlessly running up credit card balances. And economically, consistently wanting more, more, more.
In the category of 'never woulda guessed' category with the competence (or perhaps they are just exceedingly competent at incompetence?), the Denver Post: Oversight of Bailout "a mess."

The think tank, Center for American Progress, has published a book, Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President with all ten chapters available online here and the chapter on Urban Policy here...well, apparently that chapter is no longer up, but fortunately I have a print version. So there. This is an important document because many of these policy wonks are the wonks that Obama listens to.

Bruce Katz, who co-wrote the Urban Policy document mentioned above with Henry Cisneros, also penned this brief for Brookings, Memo to the President: Invest in Long-Term Prosperity.

Anthony Flint in Citiwire essentially asks "What's a Prez to do with no loot?" referencing a recent conference at UPenn regarding the future of Urban Design in the Post-Oil age. I must be ahead of my time, because I proposed this travel fellowship about five years ago:
“…planners think in two dimensions, architects think in three, but urban designers must think in four.”

It is only natural for designers (of any medium) to contemplate the future, and in particular, the future of that thing we call design. However, most, if not all, efforts are pure speculation based on little more than conjecture. There is inherently a certain amount of unpredictability in world events that drive culture, and in turn, design. This proposal for Kagan Fellowship will take an increasingly accepted geological truism, the Hubbert Peak Oil Theory, and apply it to urban design and city building.

M. King Hubbert was a geophysicist through the middle of the 20th century and the first to propose that oil production and supply existed on a bell curve. Once production “peaked,” essentially at the midpoint of supply, the remaining half of the oil reserves would become increasingly difficult and costly to extract. At first dismissed as nonsense, Hubbert accurately predicted the peak of production within all U.S. oil fields collectively in the early seventies.

Today, modern geophysicists are predicting worldwide oil peak somewhere between 2004 and 2020. Mounting evidence reveals that two of the world’s largest oil fields may have already peaked, suggesting the possibility that we are witnessing critical events that will affect every aspect of society, including the way we live in and build our cities.

It is important to remember that this does not mean oil will just dry up and vanish. Quite likely rather, the planet may never truly run out of oil. However, it does mean that sometime potentially in the near future, that it will make little economic sense to use the energy equivalent of 3 barrels of oil to extract 2 barrels from the ground.

The Hubbert Peak theory offers us a certain amount of predictability for an industrial society based on resource extraction and consumption. It is logical to conclude that these events will alter the world so drastically that society will transition from today’s modern industrial economy into something entirely different.

For the last 70 years, most development in American cities has been centered upon accessibility from an automobile, leaving other options for circulation difficult at best. This relatively new pattern of development is most strikingly evident in the Sun Belt. While there may be a number of reasons that auto-dependence begins to wane, from purely an economic standpoint to health and well-being, we are proposing that a decline in oil production based on Hubbert’s Peak will gradually wean Americans off their car dependence. This will have drastic effects on American Cities. Importantly, this will not be an overnight phenomenon; rather it will be a continual transition period as availability of cheap oil declines.

Driven by a similar pathology as the modern industrial economy, Sun Belt cities have been built disposably. The majority of structures have a life span of twenty or so years. Interestingly (and ironically), those uses that may have the most limited usefulness on into the future have been built with the greatest amount of permanence. To narrow the focus of this incredibly broad topic, we are proposing to limit study to the adaptation of typical conditions relating downtown highways, large arterials, parking structures, and potentially others as they become evident. Our purpose is to ensure that these structures and their associated land can be utilized in a strategy for the gradual densification of the city center as their original purpose of accommodating the automobile gradually becomes irrelevant.

Certain assumptions will be made in order to maintain the focus of this study, such as that there will be no “magic bullet” that adequately replaces oil as a cheap energy source able to operate the country’s fleet of cars as they are today. Also, the decline will be gradual, allowing for phasing strategies of the semi-permanent structures. However, we will assume some measure of electricity is still available through the scaling up in production of wind and solar energy sources. Further still, we chose these particular structures because of their vast nature and expense (of original construction and potential demolition), which we will assume is of too great in magnitude to be merely, and once again, “disposed.”

We are proposing travel to Denmark to study Stroget, the large car-free area in center city Copenhagen for purposes of examining the functioning of spaces and how uses interact with spaces sans automobile with particular attention to scale, proportion, use patterns, and circulation to better understand how that could translate to the evolution of downtown Sun Belt cities. In addition, we have selected Los Angeles (iconographic of American auto-dependent culture) to serve as lab rat, where we will identify selected highways, arterials, and parking garages as typ0ical case studies for car-free design evolution. In addition, we intend to focus on how these elements could be phased, or their negative effects minimized – if not adapted into a positive, over time as the automobile becomes an unrealistic and unviable transportation alternative.