Wednesday, July 28, 2010

PARKING REFORM: Prescriptive Codes vs. Proscriptive

Draft part 3 of infinity...

The need to “overwrite” prescription with proscription.

The lesson is that we also must allow for flexibility during changing times, needs, and technologies driving future city form that we cannot comprehend or predict with any accuracy. In any living system, complexity is a necessity to ensure its survival. More heterogeneous means more resilience. Cities are no different. In many ways, we squelched complexity in favor of uniformity, which was merely a direct response to codes that ensured uniformity and lack of innovation. We are now feeling the pain of those decisions.

In order to climb out of recessionary lulls, like any business, our City needs to best embody the spirit of the times. We need to unleash creativity of the millions of Dallas residents, in order to shape the future of the city toward one common goal of a more livable, more vital, more empowering city for all.

Most of the cities we love from around the world were and continue to be defined by simple patterns. For example, Portofino, Italy had no more complex building codes than certain established priorities such as views to the water. Siena was defined and arranged by physical capabilities of human movement at the time of its development. This led to winding and curving forms in response to geography. Another example is DC, which was designed to preserve the prominence of the democratic institutions housed there. The resulting form is of streets and view corridors organized around the primary monuments and seats of government, as well as height limitations that maintain a pedestrian scale.

The majority of contemporary building and zoning codes are overly prescriptive, in that they predetermine what the end result will be. While to some measure a few of these may be useful still for health and human safety, many should be scrapped in favor of proscription. A prescription is “a rule that defines in detail what to do in a given situation”, a proscription is “a template for defining prescriptive rules, a pattern for a rule,” meaning it is in favor of things, but how to get to that result is up to the determination of the designers, builders, owners in direct response to variable site issues, opportunities, and constraints.