Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Ed Bacon Competition

Every year, the Philadelphia Center for Architecture hosts the Ed Bacon Student Design Competition for university students from all over the world.  Edmund Bacon was an American architect and planner who spent much of his life working towards improving Philadelphia, he was also a Cornell alum. The project's goal is to encourage inter-disciplinary teams to work together to find solutions for a problem within 4 weeks from the day the contest begins, winning teams receive a cash prize.  Last year, Cornell's team took first place for their riverfront arcade project proposal:

This year Cornell fielded three teams who submitted proposals based on the prompt: "How will Driverless Cars Shape the Philadelphia of Tomorrow?"  We talked to team members Brian Byrd and Taru from one of the planning teams about what their experience last month was like:

How did you get your team together?

Originally, I expressed interest in the Competition and I decided to sign up a team at the last minute. I sent out some emails and facebook ads to get fellow CRP students on board. Also, I contacted Architecture, Landscape Architecture, the Business School, Engineering, etc. Fellow 1st year students Max Miller, Taru, Yan, and Gabriel all expressed interest. We formed our planner-heavy team and ultimately got three landscape students on board and an Information School student on board with the help of Akshali, another first year.

What was the most difficult aspect of the project?

Brian:  The most difficult thing about the project was working in such a large team. A majority of us had no prior experience with design competitions. The hardest part wasn't the actual computer design, but the formulation of one central theme with design parameters.

Taru: The project was about integrating automated cars in the city. I think each person in the team had to face and overcome their own set of challenges. I had no idea about the context - the city, its urban fabric, demographics and its aspirations for the future was  a complete unknown. We had to imagine a future version of the city and many of us did not quite understand its present.  Few of us struggled with the idea of the technology and its implications. Reaching a consensus always took time as there were so many of us for different backgrounds and different priorities. Aligning the various skill sets, allocating appropriate tasks and coordinating the outputs so that they create a cohesive final project was also a challenge.

So how did you decide on what your project would be?

Brian: We spent 3 or four days brainstorming the different site locations and driverless technology. Ultimately we voted as a group to focus on the City Center because we felt it presented the most options for design modifications and is the densest/most dynamic part of the city

How long did it take?

Brian: We spent approximately 3 weeks on the project, but worked intensely the last week. Lots of late nights in Kennedy hall.

What was the best take-away from the project?

Brian: We got an opportunity to form a close-knit team, work with each other on an intense deadline and form bonds that can only be forged under pressure. We learnt to respect each-others skills and explore ideas about our urban futures.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Megaregions---the US and the World

Last week the CRP colloquium speaker was the Regional Plan Association's Vice President for Environmental and Energy Programs (and CRP alumnus) Robert Pirani,  his organization's work on planning for disasters, migration patterns, and demographic shifts in the northeast throughout the 20th century and into the future.  One of RPA's projects is the America 2050 policy program, which provides "leadership on a broad range of transportation, sustainability, and economic-development issues impacting America's growth in the 21st century."  From here Mr. Pirani presented this beautiful map of megaregions and their areas of influence in the USA:

Mega regions are not a new idea of course, as Dr. Richard Florida (of Atlantic Cities), Tim Gulden, and Charlotta Melander explain in their 2008 paper "The rise of the Mega-Region":

...the past two or three decades have seen the rise of a new economic unit—the mega-region. At the time when the great classical economists were framing economic theory, nations truly were the space over which labour and capital were reallocated by the economic process. International investment and travel existed, but they were burdensome and not nearly as common as they have become. Nations were thus natural units of macroeconomic analysis and these nations were productively conceived as being composed of cities and hinterlands. In the 21st Century, however, the emergence of globalization makes national boundaries mean a lot less. Capital can now be allocated freely around the globe—seeking maximum return wherever that may be. Even labour, particularly highly creative and productive labour, can be reallocated globally in a way that would once have been impractical.
 From Florida, Richard, Tim Gulden, and Charlotta Mellander. "The rise of the mega-region." Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society 1, no. 3 (2008): 459-476.
This paper, and Florida's website Who's Your City? show other megaregions of the world:
And the Pacific:

Data for these maps comes from light emissions as an indicator of economic activity, referred to as Light-based Regional Product (LRP).  The authors explain that although the correlation is imperfect, there is a reasonably reliable relationship between large economic areas and light output.  Noticeably absent from the data sets are mega regions in Eurasia, Africa, South America, or Australia, however the authors clarify that their coverage is imperfect and

 "...our method, dependent as it is on light emission patterns, does not account for...historical, cultural, political or social context."  

 Regardless, this is an interesting concept that seems better suited to the economic realities of the present.  What might also be interesting to uncover is how people in these economic corridors identify themselves---do pan-megaregion identities exist? Are they stronger than national identities? And what does this means for future governments and governance?

Monday, November 4, 2013

CRP Annual Fieldtrip

Photo Credit: D. Ohrenstein
Two weeks ago, CRP first-years (and two second-year minders) went on the annual field trip to Washington DC with professors Jeff Chusid and Michael Tomlan. This trip is an annual tradition that switches off each year between Washington DC and New York City.  

That Thursday we boarded a bus at 5am in dark and chilly Ithaca to travel back in seasonal time for lunch at Common Good City Farm in northwestern DC. Common Good was created on an old public school site and now works to provide fresh produce and gardening experience to the surrounding community. One interesting things about this stop--the farm can produce 4-5000 pounds of food per month and is always looking for more compost. Unfortunately has no city-run composting program. For-profit programs do exist however.

Other stops over two days included a visit to the office of the impressively marketed DC Department of Transportation, the DC planning office, the American History Museum (where we got to ride in an elevator with a 50 person capacity!), an evening with the Capitol Steps, visits to several real estate development sites, a talk from CRP alum Peter Rizzo from the General Services Administration, and a nice cocktail party with former Cornellians out in Rosslyn. Look for more details about the trip in the next issue of The Cornell Planner.


Prof. Jeff Chusid talks about converted industrial space in Georgetown.  Byrd reflects on better days in Paraguay.
Photo Credit: D. Ohrenstein

The rooftop deck of the American History Museum.  Cranes in the background are working on the National Museum of African American History and Culture being built at the last open spot on the mall.  The Washington Monument is still undergoing repairs following the summer 2011 earthquake (remember how long ago that was?).


CRP's latest THE CORNELL PLANNER newsletter was published last month, check it out here.

Read about the Women's Planning Forum, the first years' annual trip to DC, and recent student publications.