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Posts Tagged ‘global trends’

Search online for “sprawl is dead” or “end of sprawl,” and, not surprisingly I think, you’ll find a lot of articles and blog posts (e.g., How History Killed the Suburb and Beyond the Requiem for Sprawl). The Great Recession has decimated sprawl for the foreseeable future according to a growing consensus. But talk to a group of die-hard sprawl warriors, and you’ll find them still engrossed in battle planning or, at a minimum, on guard for sprawl’s return. It’s understandable, I suppose, given the amount of passion that some people devoted to the anti-sprawl effort, but it is now time to redirect those passions. Dan Bertolet of the Citytank blog provides a handy list of “well-documented and intensifying megatrends” that suggest it’s reasonable to redirect energy.

And now there’s speculation that we’ve even reached “peak car use” in cities all across the developed world. Eric Jaffe of The Infrastructurist makes this argument yesterday, giving us 6 reasons why driving has peaked in the U.S. Can you wrap your head around that idea? It’s more amazing than the collapse of the homebuilding industry. I think these megatrends mean that we can stop railing against the bubble-fueled Growth Machine, which was a monstrous force, no doubt, and now focus on another set of forces that are also beyond our control – the ones listed in the Citytank and Infrastructurist blogs. These forces are much more in line with what planners and designers have been hoping for. Perhaps now is the time to act on those dreams, limited budgets notwithstanding.

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I say broadly! Several posts in this blog are directed at new graduates and job seekers (check the Recession Watch category to the right). This one follows in that vein. It is common for landscape architecture education to be narrowly tailored and made to conform to accreditation standards. This means that the end goal of landscape architecture education has been traditional design practice, even if that goal is unstated (there have always been alternative career paths). Curricula are developed to facilitate this outcome and maintain accreditation. What happens if the likely outcomes for graduates are something other than traditional design practice, as is happening now? What does that mean for the value of LA design education? If traditional LA practice were the only use for a LA education, we’d be doomed. As a pragmatic type, I’ve struggled with this question. But I’ve decided that a design education, and a landscape architecture design education in particular, is a tremendous opportunity for students these days – even if the slim job offerings say otherwise. Why would I say that? (more…)

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There’s the New Normal Economy and the New Normal Climate, and perhaps others too. Shaping up to be the environmental news of the week – NOAA’s report on 30-year climate averages – just what you’ve been waiting for! The big news is that, yes, the U.S. is getting warmer, in the day and at night. Averaged over 30 years, from 1981-2010, the change is .5 degree Celsius and serves as a baseline for future comparisons. The last 10 years have had the record temps, but this is muted when averaged over 30 years. The distribution of change is interesting.

Statewide changes in annual "normal temperatures" (1981-2010 compared to 1971-2000)

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And this is good news. Next summer, twenty years will have passed since the Rio Summit and the Climate Change Convention, precursor to the Kyoto Protocol. Victories in the fight to address climate change have been few and far between ever since. The strategy to address climate has been top-down and international, with the highest hopes pinned on international treaties. These efforts are tremendously important, but frustratingly slow, and, in the meanwhile, climate change is underway. Cities are experiencing the impacts firsthand, and they are now beginning to act on their own behalf, not waiting for anyone else to save them. Perhaps they can drag their states and nations along with them. As momentum builds for climate action (mitigation and adaptation) in cities, opportunities for architects, landscape architects, and planners will grow too.

At the beginning of June, the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit was held in Sao Paulo. Leaders from the 40 largest cities in the world met to seek information and share strategies for dealing with climate. (Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, is the current chair of the C40.) Action by cities is critical – they will be the locus of most implementation efforts, they will be the place where most change-on-the-ground happens, and they are the home of most of the people on the planet. Cities matter. And much of the change-on-the-ground will involve the built environment and urban ecological systems.

For another perspective, listen to this Seattle Public Radio interview with Grist’s David Roberts, who discusses why city leadership on climate is so promising. It is called Can Cities Solve the Climate Problem?

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In February 2011, Fast Company featured a blog post by entrepreneurship educator, Steve Blank, titled College and Business Will Never Be the Same.  The essence of the post: interdisciplinary education that includes design thinking is urgently needed in a “volatile, complex, and ambiguous world,” and most current educational models are inadequate for the task. His examples of better approaches were from design education – Stanford’s D-School (a graduate program) and Philadelphia University’s new undergraduate degree in Design, Engineering, and Commerce.

Blank’s post was a reaction to a question that has been in educators’ minds for some time now – a question perhaps best articulated by Colorado educator, Karl Fisch in a 2006 ppt-gone-viral video called Did You Know? Shift Happens. Originally prepared for fellow teachers in his Colorado high school, Fisch identifies some of the rapid changes occurring in the world. In the video, Fisch states “We  are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, [where they will use] technologies that haven’t yet been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.” How do we do that? What should education in a period of rapid change look like?

The Silo Model

In the Fast Company article, Blank suggests we think about the model presented by the Philadelphia University program as one response. The graphics used by Blank depict the old silo model and the new, interdisciplinary model. The business world has a lot of things to say about all of this, by the way, including talk of the need for T-shaped people, or perhaps I-shaped people, to spur innovation in companies.

The Philadelphia Model

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As described in a previous post, I sent messages to a variety of landscape architects and recent grads to get feedback on their experiences as influenced by the national economy. The most global (in more ways than one) response I received was from Nick Onody, MLA 2009, who is employed in a multidisciplinary firm in Toronto. The breadth of his comments suggests that I start with his take on professional trends and follow-up in later posts with other people’s stories of personal experience. I think each view can teach us something about what is happening now and how those both “in the field” (currently employed in the profession) and “on the fence” (seeking employment in the profession) see the world. Nick’s view is strongly influenced by landscape urbanism and its spinoffs.

Thank you for the message. I think this is quite an interesting endeavor on your part and timed perfectly at such a critical time in the design professions. The ‘Great Recession’ has led to a variety of trends and forces that have sent the profession in fundamentally different directions. Over the past decade, we have witnessed landscape come into vogue. Sustainability and the rise of LEED. Landscape as ‘scene’ to landscape as urbanism. Terrorism and natural disasters. The rise of megacities and the influx of city migrants globally. Population decline and suburban foreclosures locally. What does this all mean? What has changed and what is to come? (more…)

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