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Re-Imagining Cities: Urban Design After the Age of Oil


A number of great journalists were covering last weekend's Re-Imagining Cities: Urban Design After the Age of Oil symposium in Philadelphia. The University of Pennsylvania School of Design and Penn Institute for Urban Research hosted this conference, which was organized with support from the Rockefeller Foundation to address the need to re-imagine and rethink how cities are designed and organized in a future without oil. Our own Alex Steffen gave a mainstage talk at the international event, which featured a number of thinkers whose work we've written about before here, like Bull Dunster, Elizabeth Kolbert, Robert Socolow, Andy Revkin, William J. Mitchell, David Orr, Neal Pierce, Bill Rees, Thomas Campanella, Harrison Fraker, and ARUP's Sir Peter Head.

From brief recaps of plenaries and workshops to lengthier discussions of the theories presented (and their presenters), the pieces posted to the Next American City liveblog offer a taste of what was seen and heard at this innovative gathering of great minds:

What do we talk about when we talk about cities?

The future of automobility

Can an Ideal World be a Real World?

Systems Thinking

Green Cities at Work: Sustainability plans in NYC and Philadelphia

“Now what about the social?”

Problems With Scale

Are we seriously facing up to the issue of a world without oil?

What is it you don’t understand about the title “Urban design after oil?”

Find more coverage here.

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Went to a session today on "Sustainable Design and (un) Development in Cities by Justin Hollander of Tufts at Harvard. As a student of the Professors Popper from Rutgers who first proposed the Buffalo Commons, Hollander has been examining the cities that have lost population in the last 50 years or so, asking how people are planning for decline rather than growth. He is part of a small movement called "smart decline."

It was a rudimentary presentation mostly dealing with Hollander's studies of the Rust Belt and Flint, MI. It seems that some of the loss in housing has been replaced by urban agriculture but Hollander didn't really get that agriculture can be both economically transformative and necessary for survival in a sustainable future. Hollander spoke with favor about the transition now happening in Youngstown, OH and the work of the Shrinking Cities Institute at UC Berkeley.

Planning for decline as well as growth is a wise move but politically difficult. Nobody talked about the present housing and mortgage crisis and how it might relate to these issues, a lapse I thought was interesting. I brought up resource issues and Peak Oil, especially as one cause mentioned for population decline was the transition away from rail transport and we may soon be transitioning back from trucks. Lots of blinders here, smart people with extremely narrow vision.

Posted by: gmoke on 10 Nov 08



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