Monthly Archives

July 2018

Community Revitalisation in New Orleans

This past weekend a Regional & Urban Design Assistance Team (R/UDAT) from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has been leading community revitalisation workshops in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, an area devastated by hurricane Katrina.

The Lower Ninth Ward is an urban district of New Orleans surrounded by water on all sides with a man-made canal to its north west and the Mississippi River to its south. Today just 6,500 people live there with a third of these households living below the poverty line. The new Mayor of New Orleans, LaToya Cantrell, has pledged city support to renew the restoration efforts.

The revitalisation workshops were spurred by a coalition of faith-based organisations, planners, architects and artists in the community which came together to organise a new effort for the urban regeneration of the neighbourhood.

“The role of the AIA team is to work with these partners and the community to create a neighbourhood-based strategy for the regeneration. The central components of the strategy are on generating equitable development that doesn’t displace the community but serves as a vehicle to facilitate economic mobility and strengthen community.” – Joel Mills, Senior Director of Communities by Design, AIA

The four-day workshop process has included meetings with the steering committee, local tours, stakeholder sessions, and an open house event. To ensure the AIA team is capturing and reflecting on what residents are telling them, they follow a series of feedback loops.

Prior to the weekend’s workshops, the AIA’s Communities by Design released a short film about the project which gathered over 12,000 views on social media. It’s believed the film helped bring significantly more participation to the workshops.

Watch the Communities by Design film here

A resident in the film explains,

“The Lower Ninth Ward was historically, one of the most progressive, black-owned communities in the entire country.”

Before Katrina in 2005, nearly 20,000 people lived there over 90% of whom were African-Americans. The flood waters, a result of the hurricane and a breach in the levee, destroyed 5,000 of their homes. Following the destruction there were an estimated 15 attempts to recover the neighbourhood through different planning initiatives, but none were successful at helping restore the neighbourhood.

There appears to be a renewed sense of determination for people of this community. One resident said,

“This is the first time I have seen energy like this in the lower 9th. This feels like a new beginning.”

It’s a positive shift in a difficult story; no doubt many will be watching with hope as the AIA team, the local organisations and residents work together to build a brighter future.

More on the story can be read in this article from NC State University

The Lower Ninth Ward: Not Just Another Plan

Three launch events for 20/20 Visions

by Charles Campion

In late June, I was delighted to be joined by eminent guests at three launch events for 20/20 Visions: Collaborative Planning & Placemaking.

The first launch, which I dubbed the #NorthernPowerhouse launch, took place at community owned and managed Hebden Bridge Town Hall as part of the Incredible Festival of Ideas on Friday 22 June.  I was introduced by Pam Warhurst, co-founder of Incredible Edible Todmorden, and joined by Erin Simmons, Senior Director, Design Assistance at the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Erin spoke about the AIA’s role in devising and establishing charrette methodology in the 1960’s through its Regional Urban Design Assistance Team (R/UDAT) initiative, which involves communities working with professionals to co-design their towns and neighbourhoods.

Launch two was at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Bookshop in Portland Place, London on Tuesday 26 June.  I was delighted to be joined by guests from RIBA Publishing, JTP and other invited friends and colleagues. I was also delighted that Joel Mills, Senior Director, Communities by Design, AIA had flown over from the States to speak at the launch about the vital importance of involving communities in shaping their places.  I then spoke about the intentions behind 20/20 Visions and thanked the long list of those who had helped shape my career path and those who had helped with the production of the book.

David “Harry” Harrison then read out a message from John Thompson, a pioneer of community planning in the UK. John wrote,

The lessons are plain to see, collaborative planning and placemaking can surpass all barriers and can bring together all the interested parties in a positive and creative atmosphere rather than just the usual decide and defend process.

The Irish launch took place in Cork as part of the Academy of Urbanism Annual congress. I was joined by Angela Brady, past President of RIBA, and Joel Mills.  20/20 Visions contains two Irish case studies – one recounts the story of the Crumlin Road, Belfast Ideas Weekend involving the two sides of the sectarian divide and which was held back in 1997, a year before the Good Friday agreement was signed.  The second covers the year long community planning process that created the Local Area Plan for the Liberties area of Dublin, home of Guinness.

I will be looking forward to further launches in other territories and am particularly looking forward to visiting Iceland in September where I have been invited to speak at the National Planning Conference.

Design Thinking Drawing as Design Practice

Today (Monday July 9) from 5:50 to 8pm, acclaimed Australian urbanist, Peter Richards, will deliver a talk hosted by the Academy of Urbanism (AoU), during which he will show how hand drawing and collaborative design processes have defined the thinking and work of his South-East Queensland practice, Deicke Richards. The evening talk is open to all and free to attend, however booking is essential. See event webpage on the Academy of Urbanism website

Today’s talk  follows on from day one of the DesignThinkingDrawing workshop that Peter is leading and coincides with the release of his new book, DesignThinkingDrawing.  The book builds on Peter Richards’ 35 years of reflective practice in urban design and architecture, and his extensive collection of drawings throughout this time. DesignThinkingDrawing shows how to prepare drawings and diagrams to analyse and synthesise and to generate and explain ideas. The more conventional plans at various scales, sections and perspectives are also demystified. The book forms the coursework for the two day workshop at the AoU and participants will receive their very own copy.

Over the last 20 years Peter’s South-East Queensland practice, Deicke Richards, have utilised the processes found in the new book as part of an essential strategy of their design approach. The office has created a broad range of significant urban design and architecture projects including master plans for new settlements, urban centres, precincts, transit-oriented developments, and urban renewal.

Raising Stone in Blaenau Ffestiniog

The Blaenau Ffestiniog case study in 20/20 Visions describes a charrette focused community planning process to create a strategy to regenerate the town that once roofed the world. In this inspiring video, charrette team member and artist Howard Bowcott shows us the spectacular slate sculptures and other installations that emerged from the process to transform Blaenau town centre.

Watch the video on Youtube