Sunday, December 27, 2009

Frank Gehry says urban planning is dead in the U.S.

Heated words in an interview with architect Frank Gehry (don't call him a starchitect, that really gets him going) in a British newspaper, The Independent. One of my personal favorite architects (not necessarily a starchitect as bad as some of the others) had these words to say about his career in the U.S.
"We are architects ... We serve customers!" he barks. "I can't just decide myself what's being built. Someone decides what they want, then I work for them. Look, I went to city planning school at Harvard and I discovered that you never got to change a fucking thing or do anything. Urban planning is dead in the US."

Pardon his French. But there is certainly an argument to be made that urban planning is dead in the U.S., it would seem. There is also an argument to be made that it is not, it's just places like Tyson's Corner (who would have EVER thought Tyson's could be saved??). What about OKC? Is urban planning dead or alive as ever here in OKC?

Or rather, is it like Gehry work for clients. City planners in OKC work for a client, the people of OKC. The people of OKC get pissed off if you expect them to ride public transportation, build their houses less than a half-acre apart, sit through one cycle of lights at a major intersection, or have to drive more than 5 minutes for a shopping center. For another good read, if you haven't already read it, read this post on Steve's blog about former Planning Director Garner Stoll, who was ousted for being too aggressive with streetscaping the whole inner city. Stoll focused on pedestrian-friendly strips of small, independent businesses that had urban communities built up around them. Stoll was an active threat to the sprawling ways of OKC developers.

Is current Planning Director, Russell Claus, a threat to the sprawling ways of OKC developers? Time will tell. His background is certainly interesting. He's been with the OKC Planning Department since 1996, named director in 2008. Before that he headed up the Urban Redevelopment Division and he was initially brought to OKC to head up the Murrah Revitalization Program. He also worked for a nature conservatory in New York, and interestingly, Claus grew up and went to college in Brisbane, Australia (before his masters at MIT). So there's no doubt he has an interesting, fresh perspective. He's the kind of guy I would love to get to sit down with over a cup of coffee and just have a chat with..about downtown, OKC, addresses with 5 digits, streets that begin with "200," and Frank Gehry..

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