June 06 2013

Book Previews: Sprawl Retrofitting at The Congress for the New Urbanism’s CNU21

Robert Pittman, artist and author, opened by presenting his new book, Anonymization, for the first time in the United States.

He defined sprawl as “anonymous development” due to the alienation one feels when in a sprawling suburb and the loss of unique character and culture via homogenized designs. The book consists of four phases that complete a cycle of sprawl, just like nature. The phases are: sacred ground, conversion, prefabricated, and aftermath.

Anonymization book cover

At the end, the book contains a plethora of fast facts, including some he read aloud. For example, Virginia classifies trees too close to the road as a danger, and that they must be removed as soon as possible. Every hour, 5 acres of land are being urbanized (or suburbanized) somewhere on Earth. In 2012, it was estimated that 3 to 5 million homes were empty in Spain alone.

Pittman claimed that golf resorts are to blame for a lot of sprawl in the US as well as internationally.

He taught us that in Spain, bricks have become the symbol for the greediness of the construction boom and sprawling development.

His next project will be, “Aftermath,” a collection of photos of “zombie subdivisions.” These  subdivisions are subdivisions that were left mid-construction, often due to their developer’s financial troubles, and then worked on again by another developer.

June Williamson, is an associate professor of architecture at The City College of New York/CUNY and co-author of, “Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs.” She presented the first chapter of her book, Retrofitting Suburbia, “Vision.”

Retrofitting Suburbia Cover

She described the chapter as a “historical digest” organized with a series of historical paradigms: social, governmental, real estate, design, development patterns and trends- all the way through the beginning of tactical urbanism.

Williamson said that the book details how to retrofit a dying or dead shopping mall into “macro housing,” parking spaces into pop-up retail space, and “urban acupuncture.”

After her presentation, she facilitated a small group discussion and asked each group to identify the top three things they think need to happen next in regards to sprawl retrofitting.

What are the top 3 things you’d like to see happen in sprawl retrofitting’s future?

Credit: Images and references linked to sources.

Aascot Holt

Aascot Holt is an undergraduate at Eastern Washington University, pursuing a major in Urban and Regional Planning and a minor in Geography. She will graduate in the spring of 2013. She is from Stevenson, WA and currently lives in Spokane, WA in a brick 1936 kit house. She is most intrigued by small-city and small town planning, parks and recreation planning, long-range planning, and historic preservation. She hopes to continue her habit of being involved with many planning projects at a time, and fears being pigeonholed. Aascot maintains the “Being A Planning Student” Tumblr as well as her planning-centric blog, The Comprehensive. She is currently writing Cheney, WA’s entirely new comprehensive parks, recreation, and trails plan, completely pro bono. More can be learned about her endeavors via LinkedIn.

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 6th, 2013 at 4:19 am and is filed under CNU 21, Environmental Design, Housing, Land Use, The Congress for the New Urbanism, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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