Yearly Archives: 2007

Planning a Fake City

Fake Omaha DetailsOur novels, films, and urban planning textbooks are filled with imaginary cities. Whether utopias or dystopias, most of these fictional cities imagine what a city could be at its best — or worst. However, few describe an average city, let alone map out a typical yet entirely fake 1,011 square mile American city in excruciating detail, complete with a named streets and an imaginary history. That’s precisely what my friend Neil Greenberg set out to do with his Fake Omaha project. Read more to find out how he keeps track of 11,000 street names and how imaginary transit systems and mayors transform the fake backwards city into a fake dynamic metropolis, and what we in the real world can learn from it.

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Talking Billboards Installed in Chinatown

Chinatown GateDespite a recent growth in new digital signs, the sky is still visible in D.C.’s Chinatown neighborhood—for now. Find out just how many pedestrians it takes to entice advertisers to install huge talking video billboards, and where a California company hopes to add even billboards, sidewalk signs, and temporary event banners.

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Urban Recycling the Capitalist Way

Fueled by record high prices, thieves from Chevy Chase, Maryland to Mumbai, India are causing headaches for authorities by stealing copper wires, aluminum bleachers, and iron manhole covers. Meanwhile, in Detroit, the problem of metal theft has driven energy company executives to confront directly those who would cut down copper wiring to sell at a profit. The trend could transform our cities, and also perhaps our architecture.

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Reforming the Presidential Primary System

The frantic jockeying between states to secure early dates for presidential primaries and caucuses has fueled interest in plans reform the entire primary system. In this post I review the major proposals and describe why I think an “interregional” plan developed by a Michigan congressman holds the most promise.

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Counting Metro’s Riders

Average Daily Ridership, Washington D.C. MetroWe all know the D.C. Metro is busy. But do you know how many people use your station, or how use has changed since the system opened? Take a look at some of the trends and look up your station using my data on a new social networking site.

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The Smartphone Refined: Palm’s Centro

Sick of reading about urbanism here? You’re in luck. I recently upgraded from an ancient Treo 650 cell phone to the slick new Palm Centro. Find out what refinements it offers over the Treo phones, what I think the only drawbacks are, and why no matter what Steve Jobs hopes I’m not switching to an iPhone anytime soon.

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The Relevance and Irrelevance of Richard Sennett

If a contemporary economist views the city as “an absence of distance between people and firms,” Richard Sennett thinks the contrasts and conflict cities produce inspire innovation and drive their economies. Unfortunately, for too long urban planners have been stifling such conflict through their idealistic plans and heavy-handed regulations. But just what would it look like to create an “architecture of justice” that enriches urban life and convinces urban residents to live with less? And what are planners to do without their beloved regulations?

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