December 28 2012

Goodbye, Netherlands; Farewell, The GRID

Image copyright of Ellen Schwaller

Completing my semester-long stint in the Netherlands also means saying goodbye to The Grid. Writing here has helped me to navigate and distill the sometimes-complicated experience of living and participating in a new social and urban context; for this I am grateful.

A blog can be a sounding board for a writer, an opportunity to express new ideas, and a place to elaborate upon observations. As a planner, observation is such an essential and powerful tool. I feel like every day I get to step outside and do field work. And one thing is for sure, it is much easier to do this in a walkable, bikeable environment than the auto-dominated sunbelt. This is what I will miss the most: jumping on my bike, bus, or feet and observing people – how they interact with each other, how they interact with the space around them. It was so easy to do in The Netherlands.

Flying back into Houston for the holidays just days ago, I instantly recognized the familiar and ubiquitous sprawling subdivisions marked by curvilinear streets and cul-de-sacs. It is a far cry from the canals of Amsterdam, but it is home.

As I begin a research internship with Children at Risk, specifically because of my interest in children’s health in regards to the built environment, I look forward to a different, more structured kind of observation; however, I am also encouraged to explore Houston on a more human-scale where and when I can: bike more, walk more, see more. Sometimes it takes leaving to figure out what to look for when your home.

Credits: Image by the author.

Ellen Schwaller

Ellen Schwaller is a former GRID blogger and graduate of Arizona State University's master's program in Urban and Environmental Planning. Spending most of her life in the sprawling sunbelt, it was a recognized desire for human-centered rather than auto-centered places that drew her to the planning field. With a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Science, she looks for ways to integrate the natural and built environments to create spaces and neighborhoods that matter. A large part of her research has been in the realm of residential perception and attitudes and how this might inform city and neighborhood planning and design.

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This entry was posted on Friday, December 28th, 2012 at 4:03 pm and is filed under Government/Politics, 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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