Thursday, September 18, 2008

Design Conversation

A map of vacant lots in Baltimore City from a report studying urban brownfields. It shows 480 vacant industrial and commercial properties in Baltimore that are at least 1- acre in size. What would you do with these post-industrial plots?

save. the. date.
monthly design conversation
wednesday, october 1
6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

The monthly design conversation continues on Wednesday, October 1: Join architects, designers, artists, activists, planners, and interested citizens to talk about the future of Baltimore's built environment. The conversation will take place at the Wind Up Space in Station North from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

For those of you who attended the first design conversation in September, the format for this one will be a little different. The theme for the evening is "Start Thinking Small, Baltimore." (a bit of a play off of an op-ed Dan Rodrick's wrote in The Sun). Here's what is meant by that (and some of this may sound familiar):

The world is urbanizing at an alarming rate—by 2015, the majority of people will be living in cities—but, as I've written before, population dispersement is happening in new ways. So while cities like Dubai, Vegas, and Shanghai boom, others, like Liverpool, Detroit, and Baltimore, stagnate.

Since the Industrial Revolution, major metropolises have been measured against steady economic and demographic growth, but that boomtown idea is no longer an accurate model. There are many cities globally that are shrinking and they may never reverse those losses. Baltimore may well be one of them.

After peaking at over 1 million inhabitants, Baltimore’s population now hovers around 600,000. But does this smaller population necessarily diminish Baltimore’s value or potential as a city?

Rather than trying to recreate the city of the past, wouldn't it be a far more interesting exercise to consider how to design and plan for this new, shrinking city and to imagine the opportunities and challenges of a post-industrial, American town like Baltimore? What would you do with the abandoned, empty houses? What are your creative solutions for infill? How might the zoning change? How can we re-imagine the urban ecology?

The evening will kick off with a presentation by Dan D’Oca, principal of Interboro Partners, who will further elaborate on this concept of shrinking cities and will introduce research he has done in this arena.

After, the stage is turned over to you. Come with ideas, design concepts, presentations, renderings, random notes scrawled on Post-Its. Whatever. You get no more than five minutes to present your idea. There’s even AV hook-up and wireless at the Wind Up Space if you want to run images from your computer.

You can feel free to play with the theme “Think Small.” Perhaps you’d like to elucidate on a small, grass roots concepts for change. Or suggest ways small firms or individual designers can improve the built and visual environment in Baltimore. Or maybe you want to tell us this Shrinking Cities idea is horseshit and you have another design solution for the future city. Or, come for the cold beer, sit back, and listen.

If you have any questions about the evening, don't hesitate to contact me.

Hope to see you in two weeks...