Much of my adult life has revolved around a personal pursuit of better understanding how our built environment is created and works. In the early periods of this pursuit I didn’t really understand the nature of my chase; though I could define it soon thereafter I still found myself challenged by my ability (or lack thereof) to find the information I was seeking. In the later periods, as I gained access to the information I desired, I sought a universal understanding as to how changes could be made in order to deliver better results than what we have generally experienced to date.
At this time I stand in a place where I can unequivocally say that the current system by which our built environment is planned, designed, regulated, financed, and developed is irreparably broken. There is very little that one can provide, as evidence to suggest otherwise. Approach it from any angle you choose – geographic, economic, political, social, cultural, etc. – your conclusion will point to a system that delivers inferior results that very few, if any, can say they are truly happy with.
Coincidentally, as evidence mounts against how our built environment is presently delivered, there seems to be a general sense of both apathy and ignorance to the facts surrounding this topic. Whether this is purposeful or not is unimportant, because the bottom line is that our margin for error in addressing these circumstances continues to shrink and will at some point compel change, rather than allowing for the option to choose.
With all of this being said, those that do understand where society stands regarding these issues will be able to both see and recognize that within the challenges we face lies a tremendous opportunity for the ‘early adopters’ who are willing to embrace the principles associated with providing enhanced methods for providing URBANISM.
As a general rule, URBANISM can be defined as “a study of the human habitat (built environment), from rural to urban, looking at the influences of geographic, economic, political, social, and culture, and their impacts/effects on the built environment.” I propose that this definition be thought of as a discipline that is undertaken by those who understand the differences associated by the what, how, and why things are done in delivering better results as opposed to the present practices, which appear to play to the lowest common denominator regardless of the results.
Going a step further, an URBANIST would be an individual who identifies with the aforementioned definition of URBANISM, and has made a personal commitment to abide by the general standards of practice and conduct identified in the Charter of the New Urbanism. Within the principles of this Charter are a set of underlying disciplines that must be taken to heart as the means by which delivered results, relative to out built environment, will be measured. These core beliefs resonate with me on a personal level, and have proven to be a form of conscience with which I measure my professional actions. It is this understanding of URBANISM that has defined me at a deep and intimate level and have made me a self-professed URBANIST!
It is important to note that one who chooses to wear the label of URBANIST does so regardless of and separate from personal, political or professional affiliation. An URBANIST must be recognized as a generalist – a Polymath. Professionally, an URBANIST may be an architect, planner, engineer, government official, transit manager, developer, financier, etc. Regardless of profession, however, an URBANIST understands that their profession is only a part of a much greater whole that requires the understanding and cooperation of many if greater results are to be achieved.
I invite you to consider where you stand. CNU Utah is a local chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism to offer URBANISTS a venue for collaboration in tackling the issues that stand in the way of our collective delivery of more effective results associated with our built environment. If these thoughts resonate with you then join us. There is much to do if we are to make the changes necessary for more positive outcomes. Your participation is most welcome.
I AM AN URBANIST! I hope you will choose to be as well.