Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Urban Planning (do renderings tell the truth?)

As most urban planners, designers, and architects usually utilize some sort of rendering software to create a picture of what a space can be, are we really creating an accurate illustration of what the area will look like? While these are usually slick and can awe many audiences, do they really paint a realistic image of the new the space?

While this Wall Street Journal article discusses the new approach Sacramento, CA is taking towards redesign, what actually caught my attention were the renderings that accompanied the article. (OK, I'll admit that I am a sucker for renderings that can show a better and brighter future.)

The question is do these slick design representations get to the heart of the matter; is this what the community needs and wants? I think we can forget that we are planning for a community, neighborhood, and existing residents. While we use standard design principles, is it not in everyone's best interest if we design with the community rather than for them?

This summer I am working as a planner in NYC, working with communities and neighborhoods through a block party initiative. What I have realized over the past few weeks is that many communities really need a partner in the planning process, a community planner who will work with the community and educate through advocacy. This person is working with them as equals and brings a specific expertise that is needed. So although rendering have a place in planning, I think we need to focus on the grassroots approach and listen, first and foremost.

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