We are outlaws.
So says a passionate group of bloggers who have been challenging status quo infrastructure planners and designers. Mark David Major joins the Urbanism Speakeasy this week. He is the principal blogger and co-founder of The Outlaw Urbanist.
You don’t always hear the professional back-story of guests on this show, but I think it’s worthwhile to point out a few things about Mark. He has been working in professional planning and design for 20 years. His perspectives on human settlement patterns and urbanism come from working in the public sector, private sector, and academia. He’s been involved with some of the typical organizations like American Planning Association and the Congress for New Urbanism. I’m telling you this to give some context to Mark’s mission as an outlaw. He knows the industry.
Truth is treason in the empire of lies.
The Outlaw Urbanist manifesto pulls no punches. Here’s a sample:
We are radical traditional urbanists on a mission to expose the heathens who are destroying our cities. Our goal is to utterly eradicate the intellectual fallacy of the tired paradigms seizing our urban design and planning, real estate development, engineering, and architectural professionals since the early to mid 20th century.
The catastrophic consequences of these paradigms are evident: more than a century of sprawl, economic failures, social isolation, and urban dysfunction.
I was curious about the “we”, probably because deep down I’m wondering if I’m a bona fide outlaw. Mark explains who the traditional urbanists are and identifies the authoritarians that oppose the outlaws.
Design for people, not things.
Planners and designers use a lot of buzz words. Even in this episode, we’re talking about “new urbanism” which means different things to different people. Or one of my favorites: “multimodal connectivity”. Some people will look at a highway that serves cars and buses, and call that a multimodal connection. Others might have an aneurism if they hear that. The outlaws have some strong opinions, so how do they define good settlement design and bad settlement design? Mark shares some recognizable features of each.
The subsidized motordom debacle.
New urbanism philosophy has been around in design circles for over 30 years now. If the fundamental concepts are so good, then why do government agencies continue to subsidize auto-oriented sprawl? I’m not going to spoil it here. Listen up for Mark’s response.
Embrace, speak, and practice truth without hesitation.
Politics comes up from time to time on this show. We’ve had a couple of guests in particular expose the nonsense of partisan politics in planning and design. The most common assumptions for political sheep are Republicans are opposed to walking and biking; Democrats are opposed to development and business growth. At the local and regional level, we have a far better chance to influence political leaders. (National politicians are too hungry for power.) Mark shares some ways that you and I can convince politicians that good planning and design should be apolitical.
“We are provocateurs.”
Provoking institutional change seems like an overwhelming challenge. Is city planning reform or street design reform enough? Will that improve communities? And if not, what are the next steps to improving our cities/settlements? Mark shares his thoughts about reform versus revolution. To the status quo, complacency is an ally and truth is an enemy.
Connect with Mark David Major
- The Outlaw Urbanist blog
- Twitter outlaws
- Poor Richard, an Almanac for Architects and Planners (Mark’s new book)
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