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Thread: RUDATs and similar academic planning exercises

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    RUDATs and similar academic planning exercises

    Recently a professional friend posted on Facebook about a charrette that his city had hosted recently that was very similar to AIA RUDAT exercises that I have seen recently. Stakeholders and locals get together with professionals from a variety of design disciplines and discuss, review, analyze and prepare a plan in anywhere from three to five days. The result was a "village" type TND mixed use project located on the fringe of a suburban city of approximately 72,000 within a larger metropolitan area of about 1.5 million.

    As a professional urban designer, I have seen many of these exercises in the past and have often groaned at their outcome. The best I can describe them as is academic. The worst is unrealistic and completely without basis in a market driven economy. I am currently involved in two projects where I having to undue some of the work done by RUDAT type exercises that proposed unrealistic mixed use and commercial projects in suburban fringe areas.

    I must also admit that there is a part of me that dislikes these exercises because they take much needed work away from professionals like myself. If this would have been a development plan that I was hired to design, my efforts to develop the plan likely would have taken weeks or months depending upon the amount of public feedback necessary. Is a plan valid if it can be developed in a few days by a group of people who may or may not be trained and experienced urban designers?

    I have taken a look at the plan that was produced as part of the charrette and it bears no relationship to something that is real or developable. It proposes a TND mixed use community in an area that will never have the population to support such as development. It also includes a lot of what I can best describe as "pop-planning" in the manner it is used in this instance such as walkability and sustainability. The area that the development is a rural outskirt of a very suburban, single family detached community.

    Members of Cyburbia, I ask you what is your feeling about exercises such as these? Have you used them? What are your experiences? Is this type of planning valid or is it academic and unrealistic?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by smccutchan1 View post
    Members of Cyburbia, I ask you what is your feeling about exercises such as these? Have you used them? What are your experiences? Is this type of planning valid or is it academic and unrealistic?
    Unfortunately, such exercises rarely inlude potential investors. Such planning is easy when you can ignore markete forces.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by smccutchan1 View post
    Members of Cyburbia, I ask you what is your feeling about exercises such as these? Have you used them? What are your experiences? Is this type of planning valid or is it academic and unrealistic?
    They are extremely valuable as examples of how not to do something. Therefore I share the fact I am a past member of the NCI and suggest how useful it is to learn how they train Archs and LArchs to present ideas to people. That is: right away you frame how you are going to do your thing, and it won't be a useless charette. You are halfway there.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    I don't know about these directly, but we have used the Urban Land Institute's Technical Assistance Panels in the past. They have been fairly market-aware and relatively useful.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Garbage in, garbage out. If they start out with a community or leader wish list that bears no relationships to economic reality and feasibility, they will have no impact and not be implemented.

    At the other extreme, if you start with good parameters and boundaries, you can obtain citizen and stakeholder input quickly and efficiently.

    I think good design must work hand in hand with sound left-brain market demand analysis and with touchy-feely stakeholder reaction. The charrette captures designer groupthink and the local gut reaction, but is worth the time and energy only if someone crunches some numbers beforehand and is willing to rule out the ridiculously far-fetched.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    HA!

    Our local AIA RUDAT didn't go so well in my opinion. Approve a large outdoor "lifestyle center" aka mall outside of town, then try to promote downtown development on a scale that would make Corbusier blush. It doesn't help that our local architects are essentially reincarnations of Corbusier You wouldn't believe the plans I've seen

    I love this quote as found at the best available online source.....wikipedia

    James Howard Kunstler, a member of the New Urbanism movement, has criticised Le Corbusier's approach to urban planning as destructive and wasteful:

    Le Corbusier [was] ... the leading architectural hoodoo-meister of Early High Modernism, whose 1925 Plan Voisin for Paris proposed to knock down the entire Marais district on the Right Bank and replace it with rows of identical towers set between freeways. Luckily for Paris, the city officials laughed at him every time he came back with the scheme over the next forty years – and Corb was nothing if not a relentless self-promoter. Ironically and tragically, though, the Plan Voisin model was later adopted gleefully by post-World War Two American planners, and resulted in such urban monstrosities as the infamous Cabrini–Green housing projects of Chicago and scores of things similar to it around the country.[21]
    "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."
    John Kenneth Galbraith

  7. #7
    Cyburbian ThePinkPlanner's avatar
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    I've never held one but I've spoken a few times with a fellow VT planner who sings nothing but praise of his experience. It is a very small town that was interested in implementing a form based code. They did the project RUDAT style for a budget everybody said was impossible to get under. The code has been active for less than a year so I'm not sure how effective its been, but he loved the process. I think he's even been presenting his experience at various form based code workshops around the country.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ThePinkPlanner View post
    I've never held one but I've spoken a few times with a fellow VT planner who sings nothing but praise of his experience. It is a very small town that was interested in implementing a form based code. They did the project RUDAT style for a budget everybody said was impossible to get under. The code has been active for less than a year so I'm not sure how effective its been, but he loved the process. I think he's even been presenting his experience at various form based code workshops around the country.
    Well, he's a planner so of course he loves the process.

    The public is much more interested in outcomes than in process. I simply wish for fewer charrettes, or charrettes that are more than an architect defending their idea.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    At any charrette or public workshop the most important first step is to lay out the design ground rules so everyone knows what the potential scope of changes are. Things like maximum and minimum density, potential built forms, the amount of parkland and the range of potential uses are the types of things that need to be defined up front. If people want to question or change those limits that’s fine – you can have that discussion, but people need to realize that the further away from reality they get the less likely their vision will be realized. It’s great to develop visionary concepts but no one should expect them ever to get built (unless you have a very rich philanthropist at your disposal).

    I’m dealing with a situation right now where a community group got together, with the City’s blessing, to create their own plan for a large vacant site in the middle of their neighbourhood, only to be told by the developer that their ‘30 mansions and a huge park’ plan was being replaced with a 600 unit apartment complex plan. The community’s plan carries no weight because it was so unrealistic. If the community had developed a plan for something like a 300 unit townhouse complex and a small park they might have something they could use to influence the developer and the City, but now they've missed their opportunity.

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