Yesterday I wrote about an emerging “new New Urbanism” — solutions for cities that are fast, cheap, nimble, flexible, and open-source.
What does that look like in action? Let’s look at a specific example.
Some cities have great public buildings, designed at a grand but human scale, that foster civic engagement and a sense of place.
And then there’s Dallas.
The plaza outside of Dallas City Hall, designed by I.M. Pei and completed in 1978, is a notoriously barren and desolate space, rarely used by human beings. As Kaid Benfield wrote a couple of weeks back, the problem was recognized almost immediately upon the structure’s completion, and nearly 30 years ago, William H. “Holly” Whyte, the renowned observer and theorist of public spaces, was called in to help.
Apparently, not much happened in the intervening time. The plaza has continued to sit empty. Until, that is, the event that Benfield wrote about last month. A coalition of folks, including the Better Block project, brought in seating, games, food, and music to the bleak plaza. And presto, it came to life.
Whyte had amply documented a generation ago that these simple amenities can make all the difference in the way a public space is used. This stuff has been proven over and over again.
What’s exciting about the newest generation of urbanists is that they are working both with government and outside of it to take ownership of the places where they live and make them better now.
The video above, by Aaron Garcia, juxtaposes archival footage of Whyte insisting that Dallas is not “too puritanical to have a good time” with comments from the young people who are getting out on the street and proving him right.
Brady Williams of Oddfellows Restaurant puts it this way: “I’m tired of people going to other towns because Dallas sucks…. We have a community of doers here that would rather just take the initiative and make Dallas better. We’ve been planning and talking about making Dallas better for way too long. It’s time to do it.”