Convention 2019: Time to take back the streets
July 30, 2019
Photo courtesy Charlie Davies
Vishaan Chakarabarti — CED alumnus, member of the Dean’s Advisory Council, and incoming Dean — recently opened discussion as a speaker at the RTPI Planning Convention 2019 in stride with the convention’s theme, “The future of planning: What’s next?” The convention took place on June 19 in London.
Chakrabarti’s talk centered on three overriding concerns plaguing the future success of 21st century cities: climate change, social inequity, and technological dislocation (the latter in terms of job displacement and the psychological impact of smart devices).
All are going to “play out on the platform of our cities and what we do with our cities,” and all are intrinsically linked — making planning “one of the most important professions in the world.” Chakrabarti’s message was essentially that it is the time to “start over” in how we approach city design — and in particular, taking a major step away from car-first considerations.
Chakrabarti continued to emphasize the harm of sacrificing human experience within the cityscape by attempting to maintain design traditions or safety standards. Chakrabarti also hinted that his sense of technological progress is taken with a grain of salt.
“When everyone walking around is staring at their phones, how do you get them to look up and engage with each other?” he asked in a SF Chronicle interview about his new role at CED.
However, it’s not about being blind to technological progress, Chakrabarti says. Simply, “We need to start over with an understanding of what makes us humans; that we are bipeds; that we need shelter from inclement weather; we need light and air.”
Chakrabarti warns against the unsullied, sparkling idea of newly walkable cities, and the rising gentrification and its associated lack of affordability and exclusionary culture. Instead, the soon-to-be dean advocates for village-like cities that promote mixed usabiliity and cultural connections.
More on Chakrabarti’s talk, here.