Washington D.C. – The Most Walkable City in the US?

Chicago is the fifth most walkable city. Image © Vincent Desjardins via Flickr

new report from Christopher Leinberger and Patrick Lynch at The George Washington University School of Business has unexpectedly named Washington D.C. the most walkable city in the U.S., trumping expected favorites like New York, which ranked second.

Respectively rounding out the top five were Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago. Although a mere 2.8 percent of the population is estimated to walk to work, the report’s authors believe the results are indicative of urban development moving away from automobile dependency and sprawl - an event they consider as significant as Frederick Jackson Turner declaring the “closing of the frontier” in 1893.

Christoph Gielen’s “Ciphers”: Aerial Views of American Sprawl

Courtesy of Jovis Verlag

From the Publisher. Christoph Gielen’s aerial views offer a look at America’s most aberrant and unusual sprawl forms in ways we usually don’t get to see them: from far above the ground—a vantage point that reveals both the intricate geometry as well as the idiosyncratic allure of these developments. Here, encountering sprawl becomes an aesthetic experience that at the same time leaves us with a sense of foreboding, of seeing the “writing on the wall”. At once fascinating and profoundly unsettling, these photographs detail the potential ramifications of unchecked urbanization. When these settlements were developed, neither distance from work place nor gasoline prices much mattered in determining the locations of new constructions. These places are relics from an era that was entirely defined by a belief in unlimited growth, of bigger is better. The startling extent of those practices, and their inherent wastefulness, come to light in Gielen’s pictures—as if looking at a microcosm of non-sustainability through a giant magnifier.

Contributing essays by Johann Frederik Hartle, Galina Tachieva, Srdjan Jovanic Weiss, Susannah Sayler and Edward Morris contextualize Gielen’s work by focusing on a range of aspects, from aesthetics to climate change and futurology. They also examine why taking a closer look at these places is particularly crucial at this juncture, when we are faced with a new wave of building booms in developing nations such as in China.

TED Talk: How Architectural Innovations Migrate Across Borders / Teddy Cruz

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In this talk, architect and urbanist urges us to rethink urban growth. Sharing lessons from the slums of Tijuana, Cruz denounces the “stupid” and consumption-driven ways in which our cities have been expanding and declares that the future depends on the reorganization of social economic relations.

Saving Suburbia Part II: Getting the Soccer Moms On Your Side

The Living Market, a plan to redevelop vacant land to create a Marketplace of community space, shops, and affordable . Image courtesy of Emily Talen, Sungduck Lee, and the Long Island Index.

This Article is the second of a two-part series, “Saving Suburbia.” If you missed Part I, “Bursting the Bubble”, you can find it here.

Suburbia has a problem. We’ve known it for a while. We’ve chosen to ignore it.

Why? Because the suburbs are difficult. And just… not sexy. We have become so enamored with our cities, with their various complexities and potential for sustainability, that the suburbs, with their single-family home and deep carbon footprint, seem a backwards architectural wasteland.

But letting the suburbs die would be a tragic, missed opportunity. As I noted in “Bursting the Bubble,” Suburbia is not just the Myth it propagates (wealthy commuters and Soccer Moms in SUVs, carelessly polluting the environment and resistant to change), but a large, growing “other”: the suburban poor, stranded and imprisoned by sprawl.

To reverse Suburbia’s built hostility to its “other” and the very Earth itself, we must re-imagine the ‘burbs as nodes of density within a well-connected network. But to make this reality, we must get the Myth’s “chosen ones” on our side, which means versing ourselves in a tricky (and political) discourse.

We cannot just be Architects; we have to be part of a community-driven movement.

Saving Suburbia Part I: Bursting the Bubble

© Flickr User CC tango_28

Poverty and violence, boarded windows and weedy lawns, immigrants jammed “by the dozen into houses conceived for the Cleavers.” In “Can this Suburb be Saved?,” New York Magazine critic, Justin Davidson, begins by painting a bleak but realistic picture of suburbia today. It’s these conditions that are making thousands flee to everyday, making headlines predict the “death of sprawl.” [1]

Davidson makes the case, and I agree, that the and architects need each other – now, more than ever. But Davidson ends with a defeatist conclusion. He seems to say, it’s just too difficult, that, ultimately: “suburbanites like the suburbs.” There are suburbanites like these, who believe nothing’s wrong, who shudder at the word “density.” But who are they? The ones jammed “by the dozens” into single-family homes? The ones scraping to make ends meet?

Herein lies the great complication of suburbia. Its myth – of wealth, whiteness, a steady-job in the big city, and a space to call your own – keeps getting in the way of the big-picture: the thousands in need of change. If architects are to “save” the suburbs, and redesign them based on their multiple realities, they’ll have to start by separating themselves from the myth. By bursting the ‘burbs’s bubble.

Read about the Myths and Truths of Suburbia, after the break…