LANDSCAPE URBANISM, NEW URBANISM OR THE THIRD WAY

THE SEARCH FOR A COMPREHENSIVE SETTLEMENT PATTERN CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK THAT PROVIDES A BASIS FOR RATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE DECISIONS

The vast majority agree that there is a desperate need to build and rebuild infrastructure to support functional and sustainable human settlement patterns in the United States.

The unsustainable trajectory of Business-As-Usual has put citizens, their Organizations and their civilization on the roadway to dysfunction and collapse.

The current settlement pattern is not working. Therefore, building more ‘INFRASTRUCTURE’ to support the dysfunctional settlement ‘STRUCTURE’ would be suicidal.

In spite of the widely acknowledged need for infrastructure investment, there are not even funds available to keep the existing infrastructure repaired. There are many reasons why there is not a critical mass of citizen support for infrastructure investment. However, a prime reason is that citizens have seen trillions of dollars poured down the ‘more of the same’ rat hole for three decades with no relief in sight.

As documented in THE SHAPE OF THE FUTURE transport is the canary in the minefield of settlement pattern dysfunction. ‘Traffic congestion’ is the bellwether and traffic congestion gets worse every year regardless of how much money federal and state DOTs pour into asphalt to support Autonomobiles. There are science-based physical and economic reasons for this reality. See THE PROBLEM WITH CARS – PART THREE of TRILO-G and the resources cited in the prior sections of this Perspective.

In this context, where do citizens and their leaders look for guidance to evolve new strategies and functional settlement patterns that can be supported by intelligent infrastructure investments?

Over 95 percent of the US Households are Urban Households so it is reasonable to ask: What are the parameters of the Urban template that can achieve a sustainable future for human civilization?

There are two competing philosophies / paradigms that are being intensely debated at this time:

● New Urbanism (and the related consumption-centric Smart Growth Ideal), and

● Landscape Urbanism (which some link with the econ-centric Green Infrastructure Ideal)

There IS a third paradigm about which few yet understand.

The question is should the Urban template be:

A. Landscape Urbanism?

B. New Urbanism?

C. Or, a Third Way based on the New Urban Region Conceptual Framework and economic / social / physical reality?

This section of the INFRASTRUCTURE Perspective addresses this question.

[NB: This is the fourth, and next-to-final BaconsRebellion Blog post by EMR on the topic of INFRASTRUCTURE. This Perspective is a rough second draft and informed comments are always welcome. The Vocabulary used in this Perspective – including the phrases ‘Landscape Urbanism,’ ‘New Urbanism’ and ‘New Urban Region Conceptual Framework’ have been carefully defined by their proponents. While THE LITMUS TEST has not yet been published, if the reader is NOT conversant with the Vocabulary used and what these words and phrases mean, they would be well advised to not bother posting random thoughts in an attempt to contradict or discredit the Perspective when, by definition, the commentors do not know what they are talking about. For words that may appear to have irregular Capitalization, see the GLOSSARY that accompanies this Blog and which is accessible from the RESOURCES page at www.emrisse.com As has been often noted on this Blog, ‘New Urban Region,’ ‘Urban Support Region,’ ‘SubRegion,’ ‘MegaRegion’ and the components of the New Urban Region Conceptual Framework are not terms currently used by advocates of New Urbanism or Landscape Urbanism.]

THE SPOILS OF WAR

The conflict between Landscape Urbanism and New Urbanism is a HOT topic among some with professional interest in human settlement patterns. This conflict has the potential to impact the provision of infrastructure to support function and sustainable settlement patterns.

The question arises:

Which of these ‘Urbanisms’ makes the most sense upon which to base decisions related to the infrastructure needed to support functional and sustainable human settlement patterns – especially Urban settlement patterns which must support 95 percent of the US Households?

It turns out the answer is NEITHER.

Some may be unfamiliar with, or confused about, the two hot topic Urbanisms – ‘New’ and ‘Landscape’ – and how they differ. New Urbanism is the more broadly articulated Urbanism. See Peter Katz’s 1994 book The New Urbanism and other resources cited below. Landscape Urbanism Reader assembled by Charles Waldheim in 2006 is credited with being the founding document of Landscape Urbanism.

For a summary of the conflict between the two Urbanisms – described by Planetizen as “… the war for the future of our built environment” – see the recent summary by Leon Neyfakh in The Boston Globe at

http://www.boston.com/yourtown/cambridge/articles/2011/01/30/green_building/

[NB: If you are required to sign in at the Globe web site to view the article (the sign in requirement seems to be random) and you do not want to do that, you can find a frustrating 8 mini-page version of the material by Googleing “Leon Neyfakh Green Building.”]

Neyfakh presents an Enterprise Media ‘he said, he said’ overview of the ‘war’ between the two Urbanisms.

EMR would advise not trusting the details too far. For example, Neyfakh says Landscape Urbanism ‘started’ at the University of Pennsylvania in the late 1980s. It is clear that the origins of these ideas at Penn go back to at least the 60s and the work of Ian McHarg. Discussion of the topic prompted EMR to review his 1969 copy of McHarg’s well regarded Design With Nature.

This book contains many of the insights that distinguish Landscape Urbanism as articulated by Waldheim via Neyfakh. McHarg’s book also exhibits several of the key shortcomings that afflict Landscape Urbanism and prevent it from being an overarching Conceptual Framework that could guide the evolution of human settlement patterns.

It appears that one can trust the general outlines of the “war” as depicted by Neyfakh but be careful of the details.

FIRST, IS THIS A WAR WORTH FIGHTING?

If you believe writers like Neyfakh, the WAR between Landscape Urbanism and New Urbanism is VERY serious business. (As noted below, there ARE INDEED significant implications.)

However, there are threshold questions:

Is this conflict any more than an Ivy League squabble with Princeton / Yale (Duany and Plater-Zyberk) on one side and Harvard / Penn (McHarg and Waldheim) on the other?

And:

Are these two ‘Urbanisms’ just separate refutations of the culture of Starchitects who suffer from ego-centric edifice complexes? Are the acolytes of these two Urbanisms simply design students and practitioners that in an earlier day found solace and refuge in Chris Alexander’s ‘timeless way of building’?

It is very clear that both Landscape Urbanists and New Urbanists HATE ‘modern’ architecture and egocentric Starchitects. That is UNLESS these Starchitects are card carrying supporters of one of the Urbanism. It is also clear that both Urbanisms have champions who are striving for Starchitect status.

Back to the question of war worthiness:

The important reality is that if either of these flavors of Urbanism ‘wins’ it will have a controlling impact on the type, location and cost of the infrastructure to support humans Urban activity.

With the advent of Peak Resources to support the contemporary brand of high-t
echnology civilization, humans cannot afford to toss another generation of resources down the rat hole of dysfunction settlement patterns.

So the answer is yes, who wins this war IS important.

As outlined below, it is in citizen’s and their Organization’s best interest that neither New Urbanism or Landscape Urbanism ‘win’ but that selected core values of each emerge in an overarching Third Way strategy.

The conflict opens the door, not for a ‘compromise’ but for an overarching, comprehensive Conceptual Framework.

This brief Perspective is not intended to provide the details on any particular position but rather to suggest that there exists a clearly articulated exit strategy from the current dysfunctional trajectory.

WHO IS ON FIRST?

At the present, New Urbanism has a big head start but Landscape Urbanism is said to be catching up.

On what basis is New Urbanism ahead of Landscape Urbanism?

Well, for starters: Market, Allies and Agencies.

Market. New Urbanism has proven market acceptance at the Unit, Dooryard, Cluster and Neighborhood scales even after the 2006 built-environment downturn.

While the call for ‘a new urbanism’ came from Grady Clay in the July 1959 issue of Horizon, there were few examples beyond the Unit, Dooryard and Cluster scales until Seaside, FL, was launched in 1981. This Village scale vacation / leisure Urban enclave on the Gulf of Mexico has become the poster child of New Urbanism.

There is a poster child project for Landscape Urbanism as well. It is a Planned New Community of about 60,000 citizens. It was started in the early-70s and is nearing ‘completion’ but apparently most of the advocates of Landscape Urbanism do not yet understand that fact – or perhaps they do not want to confront the conclusions that can be drawn from this Community which is the subject of a section later in this Perspective.

As to New Urbanist projects:

Who would NOT rather vacation in Seaside, FL and live in Celebration, FL or Kentlands, MD as opposed to vacationing in Panama City, FL and living in Kissimmee, FL or Glen Burnie, MD?

The Creative Class, that is who.

The citizens who are drawn to New Urbanist projects are the citizens with the skills and ambition to get jobs even in a ‘bad economy.’ Consider at a map of New Urbanist projects. It is a location-sort of attractive places for the Creative Class to seek Jobs / Housing / Services / Recreation / Amenity – The Research Triangle, Austin, Silicone Valley and in other desirable locations in the Boston, Washington-Baltimore, et. al New Urban Regions. Peter Katz’s book The New Urbanism noted earlier provides a mid-90s tour of projects and New Urban News provides regular updates and summaries in its newsletter and now on line at www.newurbannetwork.com

Allies. As for allies, the New Urbanists are cohabiting with the Smart Growth and the Smarter Growth cohorts who are the champions of comfortable, ‘settled’ places and Transit Oriented Development. As anyone at the Urban Land Institute will tell you, THAT IS WHERE THE ACTION IS, down at the Light Rail Station.

New Urbanists have also formed alliances with the “Conservation NGOs and their Enterprise Partners” – the Institutions and Enterprises with owners, leaders and members that argue that ‘growth’ will raise all boats.

It is clear that the ideals of New Urbanism have influenced plans and programs even for places and projects that have NOTHING to do with the ‘real’ New Urbanism – or with functional human settlement pattern. Tysons Corner, VA and the National Capital SubRegion METRO Silver Line is a good example. See columns “All Aboard” Column # 96 and “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Lies” Column # 131 and the resources cited in these columns. The columns are accessible from the RESOURCES Page at www.emrisse.com

Agencies. Look no farther than the amount of Agency money funneled to New Urbanist projects by HUD and EPA at the federal level and by states and municipalities as well. Without a backfire to rob fuel from New Urbanism’s momentum, the recent past is prologue to what would happen with infrastructure resources if New Urbanism ‘wins.’

In spite of this, as quoted by Neyfakh, Andrus Duany (the leader of New Urbanism) said after projecting a lecture by Charles Waldheim (the leader of Landscape Urbanism) for a summit of New Urbanists:

“OK, but is there one kid in that room who isn’t a convert?”

Duany is referring to the underlying appeal of Waldheim’s abstract ecological based argument.

Landscape Urbanism’s hook is ecology, science, climate change and – surprisingly – the endorsement of some important parameters of Business-As-Usual such as continued dominance of Large, Private Vehicles to provide mobility and Access. Landscape Urbanism may be the backfire needed to turn New Urbanism from dysfunction to function – and visa versa.

HEAD TO HEAD: APPLES AND KUMQUATS

In a side by side comparison, there are profound differences between the two Urbanisms but each has a core strength.

First the strengths:

For New Urbanism the strength is that at the Unit, Dooryard, Cluster and Neighborhood scale New Urbanists champion and deliver places that citizen love to live, work and play. You can take that to the bank.

For Landscape Urbanism it is that they claim an ecological (existing landscape) base for their ideas. This attracts those concerned about survival of the ecosystem upon which all life, including human life depends. You can take that to the global bank.

Now the weaknesses:

The New Urbanists

As readers of THE SHAPE OF THE FUTURE, TRILO-G and the resources accessible at www.emrisse.com know, EMR has long supported many of the objectives of New Urbanism and many projects designed and implemented by New Urbanists.

But there are reservations as documented in the Section titled “The New Urbanism: Light at the End of a Tunnel, or Just Another Train?” in Chapter 18 (“Sources of Inspiration– Planned New Communities, The New Urbanism and other Prospects for Guidance on the Future”) in THE SHAPE OF THE FUTURE. While some of the shortcomings listed in this 2000 book have been addressed and the market for New Urbanist projects has grown, other concerns remain.

Among those that remain the two big ones are:

● Lack of a robust and consistent Vocabulary, and

● Absence of the comprehensive, overarching Conceptual Framework for human settlement pattern.

One aspect of the Vocabulary issue is addressed in the following section and the lack of an overarching Conceptual Framework in the section that follows.

An issue that helps cloud the two overarching issues is a reverence for – bordering on an obsession – the grid. This topic is discussed in the chapter of THE SHAPE OF THE FUTURE noted above.

The long and short of it is that a grid is not a viable settlement pattern beyond the scale of the Cluster and then only when the Cluster has landscape / natural feature Boundaries.

The grid is not an armature for organic settlement patterns because it fails to provide a tangible boundaries between components of human settlement. It is no more ‘real’ than the ‘transect’ which is used as a lame substitute for a comprehensive Conceptual Framework.

There are locations in every New Urban Region that match the illustration of the ‘stations of the transect’ but no New Urban Region that is composed of sequential segments of these stations.

New Urbanism does not recognize that human settlement pattern are organic systems and does not follow the ‘timeless way of building’ beyond the Unit, Dooryard and Cluster scales and
perhaps Neighborhoods in some cases. That cannot be done without a robust Vocabulary to articulate a comprehensive Conceptual Framework

It is not that the advocates of New Urbanism have not thought about the issue of larger (and smaller) scales and the role of New Urbanism in the forces that shape the human settlement pattern, they have. Perhaps the problem is that too many New Urbanists have thought too much about these issues and have reached no consensus beyond the simplistic Transect and a non-specific Vocabulary. See New Urbanism and American Planning: The Conflict of Cultures, Emily Talen (2005), New Urbanism and Beyond, Tigran Hass, Editor (2008) and The Language of Towns and Cities, Dhiru Thadani (2010)

The Landscape Urbanists

While there is an assumption’ that Landscape Urbanism is based on ecological principles that is not clear from Landscape Urbanism Reader. ‘Abstract academic principles’ might come closer to the mark. Landscape Urbanism could vastly improve its level of acceptance by embracing more of McHarg’s emotional attachment to the environment and downplay most of the hyper-intellectual (pseudo-intellectual?) abstractionism.

In spite of stated reverence for the ‘organic’ and ‘ecological’ systems, Landscape Urbanists do not understand that human settlement patterns ARE an organic system

Further, they are TOTALLY obliviousness to scale and amount of land needed for functional human settlement patterns.

In other words, while repulsed by what Urbanization has done to ‘The Landscape’ – as McHarg was about what happened outside Glasgow after World War II – Landscape Urbanists have no clue of functional patterns of human settlement OR the amount of land needed for functional human settlement patterns.

Those who read section on ‘Green Infrastructure’ in INFRASTRUCTURE MANIA – the first chapter of this Perspective –will know where this critique is going.

As documented by the work of SYNERGY, there is already FAR too much land devote to Urban development and that does not include the vast amount of land speculatively held for FUTURE urban development.

This is a tragic flaw because Landscape Urbanist assume that the future will see far more land converted from NonUrban to Urban land uses and thus the need to use the natural configuration (‘landscape’) or not yet Urbanized land as the armature for future Urban land uses.

This may be a blind spot inherited from McHarg. His work identified far more land suitable for future Urban development than was (or is) needed. This work has encouraged speculation and scatteration. The root cause may be in the gross exaggerations of the extent of metropolitan ‘growth’ that resulted from extrapolating the trajectories from the 1950 to 1960 census.

If Loren Eiseley is right that humans are a planetary disease (McHarg used Eiseley’s analogy over and over in his lectures) then it would seem wise to fit humans into the LEAST CONSUMPTIVE, functional configurations possible. Do not spread out the disease.

As suggested below, that turns out good idea. More compact Urban fabric DOES NOT mean ‘Manhattan Urban’ for most Urban citizens, but rather ‘Georgetown Urban’ and ‘Louisburg Square Urban’ – Urbane. What do you know!! That is just what New Urbanist do well.

To compound the problem, Landscape Urbanists try to curry favor of Enterprises (and supposedly citizens) by genuflexing to ‘what citizens want’ in order to sell their abstractions. “Consumers want cars? We will give them cars.” However, in the process they cause them to drive even farther as documented in the section below devoted to The Woodlands.

WHY VOCABULARY (AND A COMPREHENSIVE CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK) IS SO IMPORTANT.

Vocabulary is the focus of PRIMER (forthcoming). This Perspective examines the failure to communicate useful information about human settlement patterns and focuses on strategies to avoid Core Confusing Words. This section addresses the topic of Vocabulary only to the extent necessary to explore the key shortcomings of New Urbanism (and Landscape Urbanism) highlighted in the last section.

First, the problem is NOT that Vocabulary has not been considered by New Urbanists. Dhiru Thadani’s 2010 book The Language of Towns and Cities runs to 781 pages with 2,500 color images. The problem is New Urbanists have no comprehensive Conceptual Framework to apply a Vocabulary. As will be made clear in PRIMER, the first step is to just avoid Core Confusing Words.

Vincent Scully (“one of the United States’ most brilliant architectural historians”), a long time professor at Yale and mentor to many New Urbanists is the author of American Architecture and Urbanism published in 1969. That is the same year McHarg’s Design With Nature was published. In the Afterword of Peter Katz’s 1994 book The New Urbanism, Scully suggests that perhaps New Urbanism should be called “the New SubUrbanism” citing the work of John Nolan in the 1920s. Nolan’s projects in Florida are in many respects, identical at the Unit, Dooryard and Cluster scales to contemporary New Urbanist.

When Scully was writing his book on Urbanism, the word ‘Urban’ implied ‘highrise’ buildings and ‘modern’ architectural design. There is a place for nodes of high density Neighborhoods and Villages but it turns out the majority of citizens do not find higher intensity settlement patterns such as mid-Town Manhattan as attractive a place to work – and especially to live, work and seek Services – as ‘The Village – be that Greenwich or Greater Warrenton. There may always be a place for highrise components in the Zentra of the Cores of New Urban Regions but it is not for everyone, in fact these patterns and densities are not attractive to the great majority.

Contemporary Urban citizens make use of a wide range of patterns and densities, but highrise / Manhattan is not often the optimum economic, social and physical choice for the vast majority.

The Cost of Service Curve (The Second Natural Law of Human Settlement) articulated in THE SHAPE OF THE FUTURE documents that, it is a VERY GOOD THING that only a small percent of the population of any New Urban Region find the most desirable place to live, work and play to be in a very high intensity setting.

Scully puts his finger on why ‘suburban’ is a Core Confusing Word, why Vocabulary is so important and why Quantification is essential to establish Balance and Critical Mass at all scales of the organic components of human settlement pattern.

There is a vast difference between an Urban environments at the Dooryard, Cluster, Neighborhood and Village scales which make up Alpha Communities at 25 persons per acre – and ones that comprise Communities at 250 persons per acre. In the context of this Perspective, there is a VAST difference in the infrastructure needed to achieve Balance and Critical Mass at those two scales.

While there are Neighborhoods and Villages at 250 persons per acre in the Zentrum of large New Urban Regions, most of the Core of those New Urban Regions – where 70 to 85 percent of the citizens of the New Urban Region live, work and play – are FAR lower. Outside R=3 to R=6 from the Centroid, most Beta Communities are only about 5 persons per acre. These topics are explored in both THE SHAPE OF THE FUTURE and in TRILO-G, and the Vocabulary used in this paragraph is explained in detail in the PowerPoint “New Urban Region Conceptual Framework” found in Chapter 49 of TRILO-G.

As noted in THE SHAPE OF THE FUTURE Planned New Comminutes built during the 60s, 70s and 80s have densities of 10 person per acre at the Alpha Community Scale. It turns out that 10 persons per acre at the Alpha Community scale WAS the lower bound of sweet spot on the Cost of Services Curve for Autonomobile served settlement
patterns based on the land actually developed between 1970 and 2000.

Ten persons per acre at the Alpha Community scale was a convenient benchmark for the MINIMUM density for functional settlement patterns WHEN ENERGY WAS CHEAP.

With decline in the dominance of the Autonomobile, and growing reliance on pedestrian movement, small vehicles and shared vehicles to achieve Mobility and Access, the Sweet Spot will move up to from 15 to 25 persons per acre at the Alpha Community scale. But it will not migrate to 250 persons per acres. See review of David Oven’s Green Metropolis in Chapter 50 of TRILO-G.

Most or the economies of scale and support for pedestrian movement, the use of small vehicles and the use shared vehicles to achieve Mobility and Access can be achieved at 15 to 25 persons per acre at the Alpha Community scale. In other words ‘MANHATTAN’ is a the reddest of red herrings.

LOST IN SCALE

Not every New Urbanist is lost in scale, but as a class New Urbanists – and their Smart / Smarter Growth compatriots ARE lost in scale.

The vast majority are obsessed with Neighborhoods. Neighborhoods are FINE. They are WONDERFUL. (‘Neighborhoods’ are the scale that New Urbanists get the many commissions to design and land use control permission to build. See THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM, below.)

But Neighborhoods are NOT the only scale / level of ORGANIC COMPONENTS of human settlement pattern.

The Cluster scale components are important and in fact many of the New Urbanist projects that actually get built are CLUSTER SCALE. The Dooryard scale is also critical. In other words,
Neighborhoods are NOT just collections of Units in a gridded street configuration. In fact over application of grids means that the Cluster and Dooryard components are hard to identify – where does one end and other start?

As important as the Dooryard, the Cluster and the Neighborhood are, it is the larger scale components that are the most important. For example the Village is the native scale of a station area for a single line, ‘heavy rail’ shared vehicle system. (A station area serving a multi-line station of several closely associated stations would be of Community scale.)

Beyond the Village scale, the Community scale components are obviously critical: The terms Community College, Community Hospital, Community Theater and many others are Community ******* for a reason.

But then, the New Urban Region is important too. The New Urban Region is the basic building block of contemporary Urban civilization as documented in THE SHAPE OF THE FUTURE.

In addition there are important roles for SubRegions and MegaRegions in functional and sustainable human settlement patterns.

While the Neighborhood is important, what is more important is to understand the organic structure and the scalar components of functional human settlement patterns.

This reality of organic components of human settlement patterns is lost on many New Urbanists. While some New Urbanists leaders such as Peter Calthorpe have been involved with notable ‘regional’ plans – that is not their forte and they focus on the scales of settlement pattern components with which they are comfortable. For example, Calthorpe has written books with titles such as The Next American Metropolis (1993) and The Region City (2001) but the process relied on in these books exhibits prominent use of municipal and state borders rather that natural features.

The ‘regional’ conceptualizations of New Urbanists provide little evidence of specific overarching, regional-wide strategies. There is no defined role for the Countryside, no component composition within the Urbanside and almost never a Clear Edge between Urbanside and Countryside. (See PowerPoint “New Urban Region Conceptual Framework” in Chapter 49 of TRILO-G.)

More on the topic of regional reality, Regional Metrics and New Urban Regions below but first, what about Landscape Urbanists?

LANDSCAPE URBANISTS

Landscape Urbanists are not REALLY “urbanists” much less Urbanists.

One gets the impression that the founders of Landscape Urbanism heard half the world’s population was now Urban and that large Urban areas in some parts of the planet were becoming more populous at an alarming rate and figured that they needed to have ‘urban’ in their name to be relevant.

The credo of Landscape Urbanism as spelled out in a dramatic double truck dark image in big white letters in Landscape Urbanism Reader is:

Landscape urbanism describes a disciplinary realignment currently underway in which landscape replaces architecture as the basic building block of contemporary urbanism. For many, across a range of disciplines, landscape has become both the lens through which the contemporary city is represented and the medium through which it is constructed.

The first sentence completely ignores pattern and density of sustainable Urban fabric.

In the second sentence by use of the word ‘city’ (without Capitalization) telegraphs that fact that, like New Urbanist, Landscape Urbanist are lost in scale AND they are lost in time. As documented in THE SHAPE FO THE FUTURE, a valid use of the word ‘city’ (Uncapitalized) to describe Urban fabric became meaningless in the US not long after the end of the Civil War and specifically during The Long Depression from 1870s to the 1890s.

Most importantly, the credo reflects a failure to understand that in the First World (now known as ‘more developed nation-states’) and especially in the US more urban citizens does NOT mean that more urban land is needed or that the area of Urban activity needs to or should expand.

In fact, and this is critical from an infrastructure perspective, the amount of land devoted to Urban land use must shrink to achieve a sustainable, functional settlement pattern for the 95 percent of the Households that are Urban.

See above re the density of at Alpha Community scale and the following section on Regional issues. As an aside, Landscape Urbanism would not be much help in the Third World (now known as ‘less developed nation-states’) where the issue of Urban area expansion is critical because of the failure to understand the function and components of Urban fabric.

If Landscape Urbanism Reader is the bible of Landscape Urbanism as Neyfakh suggests, they have a long ways to go before they can compete with New Urbanism.

Those who have been tenure track professors in an earnest and technologically competent university program of architecture, urban design, landscape architecture and planning – and especially those who have served on administrative committees – can understand how Landscape Urbanism could be a hot topic in dean selection, chairperson selection and tenure decisions, but as a popular movement? Never happen in its current state.

One can see citizens waving a book on New Urbanism at a public hearing or being passionate about the results of the latest charrette. But waving Landscape Urbanism Reader with its black and white horror show images? The only color in the entire book is the astroturf that adorns the cover.

If boarding passenger grabbed this book in an airport bookshop so they would have something to read on the flight and thumbed through the photographs they would be sure they had stumbled onto a mother lode of Landscape pornography. Landscape Urbanism might be written off as just a joke except that many seem to be concerned about its impact. Here is a plausible scenario:

Landscape urbanism has been created by intelligent, sensitive scholars who ended up in landscape architecture because they were attracted to the idea of creating landscapes as places for warm fuzzy animals to live in peace and harmony.

Upon getting into the classroom these sensitive students were intimidate
d by Starchitects and frightened out of their wits by ugly aerial photographs of what industrialization / urbanization (small ‘u’) has done to the landscape. Hoping to avoid being tossed out into the cruel world they stayed in school, got a PhD and now have to find SOMETHING to do with their time. Every academic department on every campus has professors who are variations on this scenario.

There is an especially frightening picture of Single Household Detached (REALLY DETACHED FROM REALITY) Urban Dwellings along the south side of Phoenix South Mountain Park in Landscape Urbanism Reader. The editor was so impressed with the graphic that it is reproduced in two locations in the book. However, it is not clear from the text if Landscape Urbanists consider this is a good example or a bad example. (It could be a strategy to avoid steep slopes for ecological rather than economic reasons or the protect the habitat of kangaroo crickets for example, who knows?)

Clearly it is a dysfunctional settlement pattern for Urban Households. If the full location-variable costs were fairly allocated these Units would have never been built.

Just to make sure it was not a visual joke, Google Earth was consulted. This settlement pattern does exists on the ground just as it is pictured. It is North of Pecos Road and West of I-10 in the southern part of the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix) New Urban Region. The camera angle was selected to make the picture look as unworldly as possible.

There is a significant problem understanding and interpreting what can be seen from an airplane window. Images in books such The American Aesthetic (1969) by Starchitect Nat Owings helped launch the ecological movement. But it is hard to translate from gross images to intelligent action without an overarching Conceptual Framework for human settlement patters and an appreciation of scale.

Based on the bible of Landscape Urbanism, the ‘movement’ could be could be an intellectual joke but for the fact that citizens nation-state-wide NEED Landscape Urbanism to become mainstream so that the it is a real competitor for New Urbanism if there is to be a Transformation to a d functional human settlement pattern for Urban Households.

That could happen if there is:

● A broader understanding of the natural system heritage inherent in the work of Ian McHarg,

● An intelligent Quantification of the land area actually needed to support the existing and potential Urban population,

● A better grasp of functional and sustainable patterns and densities to achieve Balance at the Alpha Community scale and below,

● An understanding of the existence, role and function of New Urban Regions – or some other science-based, comprehensive Conceptual Framework for human settlement, and

● A Balance between the settlement pattern and the infrastructure to support that settlement pattern that reflects the limited role that Large, Private Vehicles can play in proving Mobility and Access.

THE REGION

As pointed out in THE SHAPE OF THE FUTURE, the ‘region’ and specifically the New Urban Region is the basic building block of contemporary civilization

Three regional plans impacted the evolution of the New Urban Region Conceptual Framework and the evolution of Regional Metrics.

One. A 1968 plan for a SubRegion in the Mohawk Valley that created functional settlement patterns by taking the existing Urban enclaves that supported agricultural and industrial activities and adding to those enclaves the elements of Jobs / Housing / Services / Recreation / Amenity that would result in Balance and Critical Mass at the Village, Community, SubRegional and Regional scales.

Two. The land use control system that now covers the 5,000,000 acre Adirondack Park in New York State. This system allocates the scope / scale of land use controls to the appropriate SubRegion, Community and Village scale component of Urban settlement within Clear Edges and protects the Countryside.

(Note: These first two plans provide the Urban fabric specifics and implementation details for the 1926 plan for the State of New York by Henry Wright and others.)

Three. The ‘Wedges and Corridors’ Plan(s) for the National Capital SubRegion developed between 1958 and 1965. The genius of the Wedges and Corridors plans is not the Wedges and Corridors but that the Corridors (Linear SubRegions) are composed of Communities. AND more important, the Communities are composed of Villages, AND still more important, the Villages are composed of Neighborhoods.

(Note: It was not until Burke Centre (planned and built between 1972 to 1982) that the importance of the fact that the Neighborhoods are composed of Clusters became clear. It was a decade later at Fairfax Center (North Lake Cluster of Fair Lakes Neighborhood) that the importance of the fact that Clusters are composed of Dooryards became clear.)

Some of the highlights of the New Urban Region Conceptual Framework are:

● Functional and sustainable Urban fabric is composed of multiple scaled components as is every organic system

● Function and sustainable Urban fabric requires appropriate Balance and Critical Mass at all scales for the Unit and Dooryard to the New Urban Region and MegaRegion.

● Neighborhoods are not just ‘arrangements’ of Units.

(For a graphic exploration of The New Urban Region Conceptual Framework, see the PowerPoint of that title in Chapter 49 of TRILO-G.)

The abstract concept of “region”, ‘regionalism’ and Regional Metrics is hard for citizens to get excited about until they realize that their economic, social and physical well being depends on functional and sustainable New Urban Regions. There will not be support for Fundamental Transformation of human settlement patterns until there is Fundamental Transformation of governance structure.

A ROOT CAUSE OF THE WAR BETWEEN LANDSCAPE URBANISM AND NEW URBANISM – WHO PAYS THE BILLS.

As point out in THE SHAPE OF THE FUTURE when it comes to dysfunctional human settlement patterns, there are no villains. One reason that New Urbanism and Landscape Urbanism have not found common ground is who pays the bills.

McHarg sagely points out in Design With Nature, – at the start of two separate chapters for emphasis:

Professional practitioners in architecture, landscape architecture and planning must focus on the contexts that clients bring to them.

As Andrus Duany told EMR in a private conversation when questioned about specifics of a canned helping of New Urbanist Rhetoric that Duany had just presented to a gathering of municipal officials, citizens and project promoters in a jurisdiction where Duany had never (and still has not) designed a project:

“All that is to first get the commission and then to get the zoning. THEN you do the best you can with the opportunity presented.”

This has caused New Urbanist to scatter cute New Urban Dooryards, Clusters and Neighborhoods in inappropriate places. This is the most widely noted ‘problem’ with New Urbanism.

On the other hand as McHarg also points out those in academia have no opportunity to test their ideas in the marketplace. McHarg suggests that because he had a foot in each camp and so was able to consider a wide range of real world challenges that clients were willing to pay for AND when there was no client turn them into student projects.

The shortcomings in McHarg’s work – e.g. failure to understand the amount of land needed for functional human settlements at a Regional scale for example – show up in the student work and are apparent in the work of Landscape Urbanists.

THERE IS A LANDSCAPE URBANISM PROVING GROUNDS

Neyfakn makes the point in his review of the war – and he apparently is reflecting the view of
Waldheim here – is that there is no large scale application to test Landscape Urbanism as there with New Urbanism – Seaside, Celebration, Kentlands and a thousand other, mostly smaller projects at the Dooryard- Cluster- and Neighborhood- scales. This is not correct.

There IS an application of how Landscape Urbanism would work at the Alpha Community scale (and by extension at SubRegional and New Urban Region scales) with McHarg’s fingerprints all over it.

The Woodlands TX was conceived in the mid-60s by the humanist, visionary and Texas oil man – not an often encountered combination – George Mitchell. Mitchell personally hired both Ian McHarg (Partner at Wallace, McHarg, Roberts and Todd) and Richard P. Browne (Partner at Richard P. Browne Associates – Engineers, Architects, Planners and Landscape Architects, later RBA) to design The Woodlands, a Planned New Community on about 20,000 acres of pumped out and logged over oil fields along I-45 north of Houston. By the time the planning for The Woodlands was designed, nature had largely erased past damage and the tract really is an attractive “woodland.”

Mitchell’s goal for The Woodlands was to meet the economic and social goals for a Balanced Planned New Community that were articulated by Jim Rouse (Columbia, MD) and Bob Simon (Reston, VA) AND to go far beyond them in ecological sensitivity. Although ecology was an important element in the plans for both of these Planned New Communities and there are thousands of acres of OpenSpace in both, The Woodlands present significant ecological challenges.

(For a summary of EMR’s relationship with Richard P. Browne Associates (RBA) and to Columbia, MD, Reston, VA, Burke Centre, VA, Fairfax Center, VA, The Woodlands, TX, and Peachtree City, GA and other Planned New Communities, see the BIO / CV page at www.emrisse.com .)

Unlike Columbia and Reston which are located in ‘the uplands,’ The Woodlands is in ‘the lowlands’ and not far from the extensive Gulf flood zones. Much of The Woodlands site was and is subject to flooding.

The eco-plumbing planned by McHarg and designed and implemented by Browne and others over the past 40 years ‘works.’

The Woodlands has turned out to be a magnificent place to live, to work and to seek Services. It is the perfect place for a Households with 2.5 kids, 2 dogs and Suburban (the state car of Texas) and a Corvette, Eldorado or Land Rover. There are great Recreation facilities and fabulous Amenity IF the Household one has a lot of money and two or more Large, Private Vehicles.

In most of the Census Tracts that make up The Woodlands over 60 percent of Households have incomes over $100,000, some tracks have over a third of the Households with incomes of over $200,000. Several census tracks have over 25 percent of citizens with masters degree or more.

And the downside?

The space to drive and park Autonomobiles AND the space required for the Green Infrastructure make for long drives within the Community.

In other words the attractive use of landscaping – the wildflowers are magnificent – and hiding the Urban fabric behind generous OpenSpace buffers is attractive but when the Urban fabric is further disaggregated by the Green Infrastructure the result is not functional, unless one can afford Large, Private Vehicles, extensive use of school buses, etc. The magnificent pathway system is used for recreation, not a substitute for reliance on Large, Private Vehicles.
See THE PROBLEM WITH CARS – PART THREE of TRILO-G.

AN ALTERNATIVE TO MORE WAR

Landscape Urbanists claim to have a reverence to organic systems but do not understand that human settlement patterns, especially Urban fabric IS AN ORGANIC SYSTEM and that there must be an overarching and comprehensive Conceptual Framework for understanding human settlement patterns.

New Urbanist build great components of human settlement at the Cluster and Neighborhood scales but have no overarching Conceptual Framework and no robust Vocabulary with which to articulate that Framework.

The path forward requires both sensitive design reflecting human needs at the Cluster and Neighborhood scale AND understanding of the ecological context at all scales.

One way to achieve that goal is The Third Way outlined in HANDBOOK: Three Step Process to Create Balanced Communities and Sustainable New Urban Regions – PART TWELVE of TRILO-G.

EMR


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Comments

34 responses to “LANDSCAPE URBANISM, NEW URBANISM OR THE THIRD WAY”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Having reviewed a draft of this material, there is a lot to learn here.

    Unfortunately, Prof Risse attacks both New Urbanists and Landscape Urbanist which is not a what to build support in either camp for The Third Way.

    AZA

  2. I had no idea that there was a "war" going on with these things!

    We're still trying to meet the Va Law that requires us to designate UDAs by Summer 2011.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Thanks to Professor Risse for removing the irrelevant posts.

    Apparently those who post do not know that if they do not know what they are talking about it only makes these nasty posters look even more stupid.

  4. E M Risse Avatar

    Anon 11:20 AM:

    Actually EMR does not remove them. That is the role of a volunteer committee.

    Like all volunteer groups it sometimes takes a while for them to decide and take action.

    In point of fact, EMR has not read most of the posts that have been deleted. We have learned to recognize Idea Spam and Intentional Information Sabotage and leave it up to others to decide what to remove.

    EMR

  5. E M Risse Avatar

    Larry:

    UDA’s have nothing to do with LU or NU. They should, that would be a step forward.

    Now if they took the GIANT Step to THE THIRD WAY…

    EMR

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    I found of interest the story “Infrastructure is a priority, survey shows, but paying for it isn’t: Americans say yes to private investment, no to higher taxes and tolls” WaPo 14 Feb 2011.

    The money quote in the article was:

    “Uncertainty in the poll more reflects a frustration with bridges to nowhere from Congress.”

    That is NOT SO, the invisible hand is far ahead of the politicians, the Enterprise Media and the lap dog Institutions. Citizens are sick and tired of seeing their money spent on ‘improvements’ that do not result in improvement in ‘TRAFFIC CONGESTION.’

    Interesting post.

    First Time Visitor

    PS: By the way why is this called a ‘righty’ blog by aggregators?

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    The commentor and tormentor that goes by the name ‘hydra’ long ago gave up his ‘right’ to participate in rational discussions of human settlement pattern by his abusive, personal attacks and his demonstration of a complete unwillingness to try to understand what is being said.

    He understands so little that the quotes he finds the web almost never support his position.

    He twists and distorts statements, makes fun of innocent inquiries but most egregious he uses a hatchet on any statement that might lead to a threat of his interest to place Urban land uses in dysfunctional location.

    What also infuriates those of us on the committee is the pseudo personal tone of comments that imply that the poster knows Dr. Risse or has any idea of who he is or what he writes about. Those of us who have known him for years find this especially offensive.

    This comment will be removed when ‘hydra’ stops spamming posts of Dr. Risse.

  8. One of the posts that was deleted, simply asked the question, if we ever get to 95% urbanism on 5% of the land, what do we do with the other 95%?

    How is that a rude and stupid post?

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    I saw that too and wondered the same thing.

    Perhaps it was sandwiched between rude and / or stupid posts?

    Anyway, first on the use of 5 percent of the land for functional and sustainable Urban land uses:

    Check out page 390 of Joel Garreau’s book Edge City (1988) for the first best seller appearance of Dr. Risse’s calculations. (End Note on page 528 acknowledges the source of the calculations.)

    As to what is the other 95 percent used for? Garreau says ‘farm and wilderness.’ Risse says “NonUrban land uses.”

    Keep a civil tongue in your head and pay more attention and you will learn a lot.

    I was skeptical when I first read Risse’s stuff, but no more.

    MGM

  10. In the past thirty years loudoun county has created billions more in personal wealth than fauquier. County has in the same period. On a per person basis loudoun has done much better, while allowing far more persons.

    How is fauquiers conservation policy better for her citizens?

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    If Hydra spent a tenth of the time just reading Dr. Risse’s first book, The Shape of the Future, as he has wasted looking for ways to refute what he does not understand he would be miles ahead.

    Several of us have been telling him that for years.

    For example he would know the answer to his question about Loudoun vs Fauquier.

    This is typical of his read herrings. We hope it is not deleted so everyone can see how little he understands.

    CJC

  12. E M Risse Avatar

    EMR was quite hard on Peter Calthorpe in this Perspective.

    Just finished reading an interview of Peter in Dirt (ASLA) from ten days ago. He has a lot of good things to say in his new book “Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change.”

    http://dirt.asla.org/2011/02/08/interview-with-peter-calthorpe-author-of-urbanism-in-the-age-of-climate-change/

    Still nothing about an overarching and comprehensive Conceptual Framework and a robust Vocabulary to articulate the Framework but nothing that would not fit into the New Urban Region Conceptual Framework.

    EMR

  13. One would think it would be reasonably quiet this far from any kind of urbanism, but the farm is a beehive of activity this time of year.

    Now, if I just got support equivalent and proportional to, what the developers in Tyson's are being handed, then this place might make enough money that someone would want to keep it, instead of turning it into an industrial park or truck stop.

  14. Anonymous is a blithering idiot and a liar who knows nothing about my interests. He would do well to keep his malattributed statements about my desire for urban development to himself.

    However it is true that I believe the current conservation driven policies in this county are unsustainable once people realize that the cost so far has been on the order of 14 billion dollars in lost wealth. A good, sustainable conservation plan needs a flow of cash from those that benefit to those that do the work and forego other benefits.

    People who think the way anonymous apparently does are simply advocating outright theft.

    Sooner or later these policies will come home to roost. When property is not fairly protected, no one is safe from highwaymen, whether they wear green or not.

    Rh

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Interesting article in sundays Post onhow the enforced brevity of the legislative session limits citizen participation.

    RH

  16. I saw that article and it's true.

    Anyone who has been to a GA "hearing" knows how cruel they are for those who spent hours and days on what they were going to say only to get up and be told to sit down within seconds of beginning.

    And what they did not mention is that in many cases, if you are just an ordinary citizen and not connected with a group.. you won't even get the chance to stand up at all.

    However, I have also sat through enough hearings to see what a bunch of blowhards people can be …making redundant points and blather in general who basically think quite a bit more highly of their own spoken words than those listening to them do.

    But the process does stink..

    It's way too fast….way too concentrated… and way, way too much access to lobby folks such that the average person has no chance of understanding much less participating on a meaningful level.

  17. Ed:

    Very interesting article. I read it over once or twice and I kind of, sort of "get it".

    Landscape urbanism seems unreal to me. More like religion than science. Lots of theory. Limited practicality. New urbanism is great – if you have enough money to live in a new urban locale. Seaside? Beautiful. Bring a bag with $1M in it if you want to buy a place there. I know a few people who live in Seaside. They all trade commodities. Great place to live as long as you don't have to physically show up for work. Kentlands? Great. However, be very careful about where Gaithersburg ends and where Kentlands begins before declaring that there is much in the way of affordable housing there.

    Your "third way" holds some hope. I just wonder whether any model would be good enough to plan it. the interactions among dooryard, cluster, neighborhood, village, community and NUR are very complicated. Kind of like a human body with cells, organs, skeleton, etc. Thousands of years of medicine, trillions of dollars of research and no computer can really model any person's actual body. Is it possible to model the human settlement pattern for a whole nation-state? And don't you have to model it before you can build it? Isn't this why the new urbanists are obsessed with neighborhoods? It's the biggest unit of organic settlement that can be modeled and planned with today's methods, practices and technology. Isn't that why they love grids? If you get the model wrong, you can expand or contract the neighborhood just by adding or removing a few nodes from the grid.

    Your "Third Way" would require an hour by hour model of every person in a nation state over a period of many years. Even then, you'd have to consider outside factors like world industrial competition. For example, who (in 1950) could have forseen Detroit losing one half of its population as the American car industry lost out to foreign manufacturers. Japan and Germany were in ruins and Korea had as much money as Ghana. What model would have predicted the 2011 jobs imbalance in Detroit back in 1950? From German, Japanese and Korean competition.

    I think you have a great conceptual overview. I just wonder if it can ever be reduced to mathmatical practice. An IBM computer may beat the best human Jeopardy players but people still die of cancer every day. Some problems are just too complex for quantification. When that happens, usually the "invisible hand" of economics comes the closest to a solution. Any chance of that happening with human settlement patterns? Let me guess … only when all the location variable costs are properly allocated. But that, in itself, is a model too.

    When I was in college I took linear programming. The basic idea was to find maximum and minimum points from a series of lines in space. Only, sometimes, the lines were skew. They didn't come to a maximum or minimum point.

    Maybe that's what we have here. The complexity of doing it right is beyond the possibility of doing it at all.

  18. I see Blogger has seen fit to start using my given name rather than my family name. It has also seen fit to force the expiration of my guest invite to BaconsRebellion under two different GMail accounts.

    Ah, the miracles of technology.

    Groovy G. Groveton

  19. James A. Bacon Avatar
    James A. Bacon

    Groovey Groveton, How long must we wait for the great unmasking? Aren't you getting perilously close to retirement? Or has your employer prevailed upon you to work longer?

  20. well I hate to say it but I miss Groovey's perspective and hope we can get back on track.

    and I really don't care who he really is any more or less than I know that much about the others because I know them through their writings… anyhow.

  21. Minimum of 4 more months, maximum of 10. Travel is a real pain. In Toronto today, southwest US the next two days. LA, SF and Chicago next week. I must sadly report to Ed that all of these places seem to have the same human settlement patterns. Dysfunction is epidemic.

    Given that I've worked for the same company for 30 years I am trying to be flexible. However, I have taken advantage of the real estate market to buy a retirement home. Lots of nice neighbors – mostly corn stalks and soybeans. You urbanists will be begging me for food once Boomergeddon fully unfolds.

  22. E M Risse Avatar

    Groovey Groveton:

    Thank you for the thoughtful observations.

    I will try to get to some thoughts on this later today.

    This is just a first draft and is part of the series on INFRASTRUCTURE so thoughtful comments on the topic are always welcome.

    EMR

  23. I think you have a great conceptual overview. I just wonder if it can ever be reduced to mathmatical practice. An IBM computer may beat the best human Jeopardy players but people still die of cancer every day. Some problems are just too complex for quantification.
    ………
    When I was in college I took linear programming. The basic idea was to find maximum and minimum points from a series of lines in space. Only, sometimes, the lines were skew. They didn't come to a maximum or minimum point.
    Maybe that's what we have here. The complexity of doing it right is beyond the possibility of doing it at all.

    =================================

    OK. Groveton said in a much more civilized pretty much what my complaints have been since day one.
    I do think the conceptual overview is flawed from square one, because the real agenda has little to do with settlement patterns and everything to do with preserving open space. But that is just pushed to the background as if it is an inevitable result of proper urbanism, of whatever stripe. Better to address that and all the complications it brings as part of the plan.

    Linear programming is one technique, usually used for finding the optimal solution given a set of constraints, which can be described as linear equations. Linear equations can be solved mechanically, so you put a huge list of constraints in a big matrix, and out pops the best answer.

    A machine shop has a lathe a brake and a mill, and certain products it manufactures using those operations. There is (usually) one mix of products that maximizes the use of the machines, or maximizes profits, whether the machines are fully utilized or not.

    But urban areas have a lot of variables that are non linear, and probablilistic. The Schroedinger wave equation is like that. It can be solved exactly for the Helium atom, but when three or more bodies are involved, the answer is only a statistical one. An urban area is clearly a many body problem.

    Usually, the solution(s) to such a thing are visualized as hills or hollows in a surface, except the "surface" in this case can be in more than three dimensions. Where these fall apart is when you assume the functions that describe different variable are related, and they are in fact independent, like the lines that don’t cross.

    I was involved in testing a model that would predict the behavior of toxic plumes in an urban canyon environment (think biological terror atttack). And lo and behold, as complicated as this thing was, it could pretty much predict the actual measured concentration of our tracer gas at a particular corner or intersection. So, Unlike Groveton, I believe you can get useful answers, or as one person put it, "All models ae wrong, some are useful."

    The model I worked on was simple by comparison to what Groveton describes, and that is because my model did not have to simulate human behavior, or changes in the city canyons over decades of time.And decades of time is what it would take to validate the model, instead of hours.

    In the end, it is probably cheaper just to build what you think you want, and then see if it works. otherwise known as speculating. Portland is doing that, and what the results are depends on who you ask.

    Nevertheless, there are partial models that can be done which would give good partial solutions. but there is no point in doing them as long as some people will dismiss the answers out of hand, when they don't get the answer they want.

    We have plenty of estimates for transit ridership, in support of new systems, and almost all of them turned out wrong.
    By now we should be able to fix those models, based on history., but if unacceptable answers are politically excluded, there is no point.

    First,we need to agree on new methods for finding such solutions, and then agree to abide by the results, wherever the chips fall.

  24. Groovy: sounds like we are about on the same schedule. with prices like this, I may be planting corn this year.

  25. Man, one company for thirty years. thats unusual. I only managed 20, but I was disabled for three years, and had to reinvent myself.

    I suppose with your travel schedule, your commuting distance was pretty much a moot point in your environmental signature.

  26. Hydra:

    I've got nothing against models. I use them all the time. And I certainly have nothing against linear programming. There were times when I felt like calling my college gilfriend IDA because I spent more time with UVA's Interactive Data Array than I did with her.

    I just wonder about the limits of model building. I am unconvinced that anybody can effectively model intererst rates over a five year period.

    Ed's ideas about a Third Way at scale seems like a massive modeling exercise. And without very sophisticated models I wonder how you could design functional human settlement patterns up to (and including) the Super Regional level.

    I've seen a lot of models of the Chesapeake Bay. They are all very interesting and educational. They are also consistently wrong. A predicted good year for blue crabs turns into a bad year for blue crabs and visa versa. The interplay of thousands (millions?) of variables just seems to be beyond the state of the art in model building. Is human settlement beyond the neighborhood level in the same category? I don't know.

    As for my carbon footprint – yeah, airplane trips are really bad. You can burn a lot of killowatt hours for the carbon emissions in one round trip to California. However, I have been cutting back on the air travel a bit. I have some very sophisticated telecommunications gear from my friends at Cisco in both my home and my office in Reston. Both locations have the bandwidth to make it work at 1080i. Stunning technology.

    In fact, I see parallels between the videoconferencing / collaboration kit now available and human settlement patterns. Changing jobs and two income households always seemed like an Achilles Heel in the theory of functional human settlement patterns. Let's say you are working in the same neighborhood where you live. Then, you get a better job in a deifferent neighborhood 20 miles away. Do you move or do you commute? Most people would commute. But that could take a long time in shared vehicle systems. So, people figure they'll just drive their car 40 miles a day.

    What if you could just log in? Sit right in your home office with the video on and work away. Somebody wants to ask you a question – they just click on your video box on their unit and speak. At 1080i or 1080p levels, it's like walking up to someone in their office or cube.

    Maybe there's a Fourth Way. A technology turbo-charged Third Way.

  27. Anonymous Avatar

    Like the man said, all models are wrong, some are useful.

    Today, FAA is working on Nextgen, the next generation of air traffic control. By the time all the software is written, it will be the biggest piece of code, ever.

    As I understand it, it will work very much like the aerodynamic flow models (and the pollution model I worked on).

    The idea is that every plane will fly direct from its origin to its destination without having to enter (and obey the rules for) the present skyways.

    Each plan will negotiate the most efficient anticllision path with each of its six nearest neighbors. Any proposed change for one of them will have to be renegoatiated with each of its nearest neighbors, and so on, until the required changes are insignificant.

    Airlane wings are modeled tis way. The flow across each square inch is modeled and the reslts of that are part of the input for the next square inch, along with the angle of attack, windspeed, temeperature, crosswind veloity, etc etc.

    The pollution model I worded on did the same ting by cubic inches, You know where the release is and you calculate the flow, cubic inch by cubic inch, until you know what will happen on the far side of the city.

    Assuming you have a calculation that works, there is no such thing as too many of them: it should work every time, and now all you need is either enough time or enough calculators to figure it out.

    Next you have layer after layer of such calculations, and sometimes they interact. So, you have a traffic model, and gasoline usage model, sooner or later someone is going to stop for gas, and that vehicle is going to affect its four nearest neighbors. And you have a gas price model that will predict how far someone will go to get a cheaper price.

    The model does not know the exact tank capacity of every vehicle in the real world, or what the fear factor for running out of gas is: those have to be stochastic in the model. Then you run the model many many times to figure out what the average of those stochastic effects are, if any.

    I do this with program plans, I go through the plan and ask, what are the odds this task will screw up, and therefore cost more? You know this from the history of having done similar tasks. You put all those odds on each task and run the model of the program over and over. The result is a range of projected costs.

    Now, management has a tool it can use to construct a bid. The range of end results tells us the program risk, and where we choose to bid within that range tells us our probability of profit.

    If we have a model for our competitors, we can figure their range of prices, and therefore our probability of win.

    RH

  28. Anonymous Avatar

    I agree that modeling human settlement patterns is probably impossible, right now. and maybe, forever.

    As I see it there are two problems, One is verification. As you point out, you make a prediction of the Bay, and then wait to see what happens, if it is wrong, your model has one bad data point. It might be right 20 times out of a hundred, but it will take you fifty rears to figure that out. Then you know, youcan only make your guess with 20% confidence.

    It does not mean the model is "wrong" just that it is only 20% correct and has limited confidence interval.

    But with settlement patterns, each iteration might be ten or twenty years. if it takes two hundred years to begin to calibrate the model and make improvements, well, it is outside my event horizon.

    But, assume you had a model that was halfway believable, and you managed to calibrate / validate it by comparing it against many cities in various stages of their life cycle.

    As soon as you made a prediction, the politicians would step in to start creating regulations to modify the projected result. It is like trying to measure a photon: you can't measure it without disturbing what it is you are trying to measure. Its like trying to measure and predict the shape of clay.

    So, a general field theory of human habitation may be theoretically possible, and still be uneconomic and unfeasible. That doesn't mean we can't have partial models that are useful on a shorter time frame. Surely, we can do better, for example, on predicting ridership of public transit. But not as long as the answer is perceived as interfering with the preferred result of building transit, regardless.

    RH

  29. I think you are right about the achilles heel, and it is a good example.

    I believe, and studies have shown that people DO make rational choices about the cost of housing and changing housing and the cost of commuting.

    That is not good enough for Larry and EMR, because they focus on the fact that some people are making bad choices, by the calculations of Larry and EMR.

    But there is a temporal part of that calculation they ignore. People may drive for a period of time while looking / saving for a better location. With millions of people, tens of thousands may be stuck with a bad situation for quite some time.

    There are probably some that could flat out swap houses (or jobs), but how would they know?

    Then, there is disruptive technology, like videoconferencing. It has already reduced air travel at my company.

    As you point out, a fourth way would make EMRs idea, which he thinks is the ONLY way, obsolete. If that happens, he is going to need a different argument for preserving open space.

  30. Anonymous Avatar

    An issue that is being discussed is the very likely increase in crime in urban areas. While rural, exurban and suburban areas are far from crime free, urban areas tend to have more crime.

    Interestingly, the Tysons task force pushed strongly for urban standards except for police.

    TMT

  31. Suppose that you went the same route as the finite element analysis guys use: Break it down to inch squares, figure out what happens in each inch, and how that affects each neighboring inch.

    Only now, what you are examining is individual people. Given certain inputs (Salary) you expect them to act in a rational way, so every event, ev ery thing they do is driven by an economic decision model, and maybe by a personal energy model.

    I used a personal energy model in a dismounted infantry simulator: when they got tired or overheated, they did not shoot as accurately.

    And every action by an individual, affectsteh action of individuals they trade money with.

    So, sometimes they go to the supermarket, and sometimes to the corner store. So you have a rational decision model that is populated by a bunch of Dr Spocks, and the stochastic part of it is the probability that a decsion will be made irrationally.

    Looked at that way, there is a relatively small set of decisions you make every day, that would need to be modeled. But the interaactions mean the numer of decision in total has a lot of possible, but not usual variation.

  32. Anyone who can afford to live there will have private security.

  33. Anonymous Avatar

    "To neurophysiologists, who research cognitive functions, the emotionally driven appear to suffer from cognitive deficits that mimic certain types of brain injuries. … Anyone with an intense emotional interest in a subject loses the ability to observe it objectively: You selectively perceive events. You ignore data and facts that disagree with your main philosophy. Even your memory works to fool you, as you selectively retain what you believe in, and subtly mask any memories that might conflict.”

  34. more than 200 missing while giving a grim prognosis for the city's downtown.

    Engineers and planners said the city's decimated central area may be completely unusable for months to come and that at least a third of the buildings must be razed and rebuilt after last Tuesday's 6.3-magnitude quake.

    ==================================

    That is one kind of landscape urbanism, and it shows the problem with putttng all your eggs in one basket as hyperengineered urban human production sites.

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