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Learning From a One-Stop, Urban Epic–and Why

Spoiler alert: I love epic stories with universal meaning for varied audiences around the world. In sum, that is why I think Jonathan F.P. Rose‘s new book will become a must-read classic. And, if 400-pagers are not your style, it’s at worst a...

Posted September 28, 2016    

Why My Twitter Stream is Singing About Placemaking

My Twitter stream is alive with the sound of placemaking.  While those are not the exact Sound of Music lyrics we remember, I am as guilty as anyone for hyping Placemaking Week in Vancouver, British Columbia (which begins...

Posted September 13, 2016    

Observing the City: Exploring Dreams, Not Memes

The participation of diverse voices in city decision-making processes is critical to successful urban change. By diverse, I mean not just professionals, politicians and pundits, but everyday people who live and work in city spaces. But before we can...

Posted September 9, 2016    

Why The Zoning Debate In Seattle Has Lacked ‘First Principles’

Seattle housing. Image © Chuck Wolfe.In all my years as a Seattle native, I’m not sure I have seen as passionate a debate as the current discourse about the past and future of single-family zoning in this city. Several articles and opinion pieces,...

Posted July 27, 2015    

As Cities Evolve, 'Access' Means More Than Cars

Questions and answers about accessing cities and neighborhoods once spoke the language of exit ramps, street widening and parking adequacy. Now, different conversations, and varied imagery, create diverse story lines, where urban policy and citizen...

Posted July 22, 2015    

Using Urban Universals to Frame City Life

The two photographs below say both simple and remarkable things about how urban residents interact with each other, and the streets around them.Neither photograph is more superior or more insightful. In fact, I see them as the same photograph,...

Posted July 9, 2015    

Revisiting Sustainable Housing, Politics and A Basic Pride of Place

In Seattle, the recent recommendations of the Mayor’s Housing and Livability Agenda (HALA) Advisory Committee have dominated civic discussion, particularly a small part of the HALA report that emphasizes more flexible housing types in single-family...

Posted July 1, 2015    

Urban Edges, and How to Define the Spaces Beyond

In the city, we blend the familiar with the edge of the unknown.I doubt that before today, any urbanist writer has used an old, Latin term that lives on in southern Italy, to explain the particular wonder of certain city street-ends.  The...

Posted April 8, 2015    

From Village to City, We Are What We Throw Away

We clothe our discarded items in different forms and colors, but our built environments always have small places and features devoted to what we throw away.This observation is nothing profoundly new, or empirically established. But this fundamental...

Posted March 31, 2015    

Using Urban Observation to 'Ghost-Bust' Places

In Seattle, last week, I looked across the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Olive Way, into McGraw Square, and towards the Westin Hotel, noting a Seattle urbanism trifecta—the Lake Union Streetcar, the skillet food truck and one...

Posted March 25, 2015    

Why Cities are Made for Reading, Cover to Cover

Click to view slideshow.Open a book, read only, say, page 77, and the prose may please the mind or heart, but the richness of the story may suffer. Why? Because the plot is still unclear.Reading the city is no different, as represented in the “multi...

Posted February 10, 2015    

From Urbanizing to Urbanism, 2014, According to Facebook Cover Photos

During a year filled with four trips abroad and two months away, many of my 2014 Facebook cover photos helped fill my annual urban and exurban diaries.Themes address the overlapping (and therefore hardly mutually exclusive) nuances of habitation,...

Posted January 7, 2015