Urban planning design is hard. Difficult choices have to be made by different parties with different interests; by citizens who know nothing about planning or urban design and just like things the way they are. Then there are developers who know nothing about planning other than it takes money and they have it. Then there are the planners and nobody knows what they think because they take their orders from the politicians who take money from one side and votes from the other. No wonder our cities are such a mess.
Now, from the people who brought you Cards Against Urbanity, come the City Design Method Cards, a mix of cards, mobile app and web features that “brings all aspects of city design together in one resource designed for everyone.”
The Kickstarter campaign is off to a slow start, perhaps because the name certainly isn’t as grabby as Cards against Urbanity was, and because Kickstarter site doesn’t really explain how the cards actually work. It is full of phrases like “curating & distributing the very best methods & practices for cities, towns & neighborhoods;” Many people run when they see “curating” used that way. There is enough leveraging, crafting and interlinking going on to scare the uninitiated, mixing startup business jargon with planning jargon, the worst of all possible worlds.
However when you watch the video it all becomes clear and persuasive. Lisa Nisenson explains:
Millions of people step up to the city design table each week. People from civic associations, the public works department, the mayor, PTAs, engineering firms, architects, homeowners' associations, chambers of commerce. And they all have one thing in common, there is no one good resource that captures every aspect of city design in one place. And what’s even worse, None of those resources we have are engaging or visual or organized, and they don't meet people where they are on the learning curve.
Until now, with City Design Method Cards. The 250 cards describe aspects of urban planning, design, and governance. The app has all the cards, updates and links to more information.
It seems odd, in this day of computers and instant access to information from all kinds of sources, to rely on old fashioned cards. On the other hand, one can have too much information, too many choices. Lisa notes that “maybe PowerPoint and pdfs weren't getting the job done”. Perhaps simplifying, getting down to basic principles and definitions, dare I say curating, is a good approach to speeding up the planning and urban design process.
See more at the Kickstarter site and be sure to watch the video, it explains it so much better than the copy.