Wednesday, December 12, 2007

And So It Really Begins...

I started toying with the idea of launching a blog about a year ago. I created this template, added a short post about an interview I had just completed for Metropolis magazine with designer and author Markus Rathgeb, and then I forgot about it for 12 months. A lot happened in the last year. I left my position as the Editor-in-Chief of the monthly magazine Urbanite, spent the summer in Philadelphia with the lovely and talented crew of The Next American City as the Guest Editor of their Fall 2007 issue, and I signed on to be a Contributing Editor at Architect magazine, which just celebrated its year anniversary in November (following a fantastic redesign by Editor Ned Cramer and Pentagram designer Abbott Miller). I also got engaged, planned a wedding, and got married.

All the while, the idea for this blog must have been percolating. I realized some years ago that the built environment is a strong lens through which to observe the world at large. What we build speaks volumes about who we are. It's a subject that I've been exploring professionally as a journalist and as an organizer of events, but I want an opportunity to write about these ideas outside the confines of a magazine-imposed word count. I want to try to capture the energy and creativity of the people I've been meeting, the ones working for social and environmental justice, the ones rethinking the ways in which we approach the most intractable of problems. For the first time in human history, the world is about to become more urban than rural. By 2030, half of the world's population will be living in cities, and within several decades, that percentage will likely tip into a majority of over 60%. How are we going to move forward in this new reality? What will the city of tomorrow be, how will it function, and how will we work to balance the needs of an increasingly urban population and a fragile and damaged ecosystem?

And so here it is...the academic-sounding Urban Palimpsest. Why such a highbrow name for a blog that aims to be accessible? I came across the term "palimpsest" in the early days of my journalism career and it struck me as a powerful metaphor. It literally means a "writing material— a parchment or tablet—used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased" by scraping it clean. Designers, planners, architects (like Peter Eisenman) have employed the idea of the palimpsest in thinking about the city and the layers that create an urban experience. We cannot fully erase what came before us and if we pay attention, if we look just under the surface, we can trace the taproot of ideas that formed our current reality. This awareness and understanding can help inform how we move forward.

And so with that I start this blog in earnest. I hope to hear from you as the content progresses!