Everyday Urbanism: Why We are All Urbanists

By Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman
Published: July 30, 2013
Sustainable Cities Collective

I call myself an urbanist, but what does that really mean? Being an urbanist is not something that requires a rigidly defined body of knowledge. There is no degree for urbanism, no certificate or qualifying test. Urbanists come from a myriad of disciplines: sociologists, anthropologists, geographers, economists, city planners (and other such “-ists” and “-ers” I’m sure I’ve missed). While these degrees are good for other things of course, they are by no means necessary to be an urbanist. It seems then the people who decide to call themselves urbanists are simply those that are united by a passion for urban environments and have some sort of urban-related knowledge – which therefore could technically be anyone. In a world where more than half of all people now live in cities, and with no degree for it, I wonder – where are all the urbanists?

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Picturing 10 Urban Qualities Every City Should Have

By Charles R. Wolffe
Published: January 28, 2013

In recent months, architect friends have explained how several post-Recesssion projects focus sustainability goals on the end-user experience, rather than simply pursue  flagship “green” designations. It seems there is a commendable and renewed emphasis on the particular needs of building use, and, significantly,  the specifics of  a building user’s relationship to the surrounding urban area.

I see this as a tilt to the qualitative aspects of the urban experience—an approach I believe should stay as a lynchpin of evolving urbanism.

I find that when writing outside of the confines of my day job as a lawyer, I usually pursue these qualitative aspects. I like to emphasize the impressionistic and, essentially more ethereal, emotional “bookmarks” of experiences in cities around the world. By and large, these bookmarks recall modern expressions of traditional urban life. Together, they are a useful summary of evolving human experience in the city.

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Parks and Re-Creation: The Revitalizing Power of Parks in Cities

By Ucce Agada
Published: September 13, 2012
Sustainable Cities Collective

Amidst the automobile infested concrete space of most modern cities (and if, like me, you’re in Chicago, the uncivil pigeon population) are spaces which allow for community to really happen. I’m talking about parks. Parks are awesome! With access to open space, parks not only provide an outlet from our fast-paced society; they serve our neighborhoods through design, providing a natural habitat, serene experiences, and opportunities for community engagement.

There are many benefits from investing in green space; much of which can only happen through creating and maintaining parks in cities. Parks generate economic, physical and social benefits, creating stronger community ties and transforming cities by awakening vital senses of city dwellers. Many cities, in efforts to revitalize themselves, incorporate a park as part of that revitalization. This is because community leaders, city planners and architects understand the positive effects that parks and open green space have on people.

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Cities

By Kaid Benfield
Published: September 5, 2012

I’ve been clean and sober for 20 months now and still counting. Lest you think that I am about to take you down a path of Too Much Information, please join me in lifting a beverage of choice to celebrate that it has been at least that long since I last used the word “vibrant” in my writing. I won’t speak for everyone, but for me the word had become so overused in expressing what smart growth and urban advocates seek in communities that it had become annoying at best, lazy and hackneyed at worst, stripped of fresh meaning by repetition. Enough already.

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The Key To A Thriving Creative Class? Give Artists Their Own Real Estate Developers

By Emily Badger
Published: August 9, 2012

The process whereby artists cycle through the rundown neighborhoods of American cities has become so entrenched it even has a dirty name: the SoHo effect. Artists venture into an area where no else will. They help make it desirable, chic even. Then, as rents go up, they’re forced to move out. Neighborhoods appreciate over time. But artist income seldom does.

“I remember that very deeply in my soul back in 1986, we felt that was unfair,” says Kelley Lindquist, who became the president of a nonprofit called Artspace in 1987. “It was insulting for people to sometimes say, ‘Oh, artists like to move, they’re bohemians!’ Who likes to be on the street and renegotiate a lease and carry all their equipment and try to create a new community and basically start all over?”

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Virginia Developer Is on a Mission to Revive His Town

By Melena Rysik
Published: July 24, 2012
NY Times

The Kirk Avenue Music Hall, a four-year-old club named for its downtown block here, offers an unexpected perk to its performers: an apartment. For a night or so, before or after gracing the stage, artists stay at no charge in a loft a block away, signing the guest book with notes of gratitude.

“We don’t have money, we don’t have fame, so hospitality is really critical,” said Ed Walker, the club’s landlord and a founder.

It is hard to miss Mr. Walker’s brand of hospitality on Kirk Avenue. He owns nine of its storefronts, turning what was a forlorn block not long ago into a social destination. The music hall doubles as a microcinema and event space. There is Lucky, a restaurant run by a touring rock band that decided to stay put, and Freckles, a cafe and vintage shop with monthly craft nights, whose owner called Mr. Walker the town’s Jimmy Stewart, a favorite son and guiding light.

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Filling In New Orleans’ Future, One Blank At A Time

By Debbie Elliott
Published: July 2, 2012

New Orleans became a blank slate after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. And ever since, entrepreneurs have rushed in to experiment with new ideas for building and running a city.

Among them is a startup called Neighborland.com, a social media tool for sharing ideas to make your neighborhood better. After signing in to Neighborland, you can find your neighborhood and post your idea. The posts all start with “I want,” and you fill in the rest.

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