Nice session from last fall's CityAge conference in Kansas City: featuring Jean Quan, Mayor of Oakland, BNIM's Bob Berkebile, Tim Duggan of Make it Right Foundation, and Simon O'Byrne, Vice President, Urban Planning, Stantec.
For those of us who still claim an allegiance to the nonprofit sector qua nonprofits as opposed to alternative visions of nonprofits as sort of second-rate for-profit wannabes or as arms and outposts of government, Joe Nocera’s op-ed in the New York Times is so welcome. Relying on a clearly generative conversation he had with urban redevelopment author Roberta Gratz, Nocera looks at the rebuilding of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and, after the more recent Superstorm Sandy devastation, the Rockaways in the New York City borough of Queens.
Nocera reminds us that after Katrina, city leaders—and we should note, though he didn’t, foundation leaders who participated in their planning efforts—concluded that the Lower Ninth Ward should not be rebuilt, but set aside as green space. Given that much of New Orleans is below sea level, that conclusion could have been slapped down on much of the city, but it was aimed at the very low income Lower Ninth Ward. Katrina had accomplished the desired urban redevelopment—or “urban renewal by removal”—that some politicians had long wanted.
The green space plan didn’t go through, but, as Gratz told Nocera, the big money for redevelopment went to the tourist areas, not neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth. Nonetheless, people trickled back into the neighborhood, despite admonitions that the neighborhood should never be rebuilt. People worked together through neighborhood organizations and other nonprofits, such as Brad Pitt’s Make It Right, to restore the neighborhood in environmentally sensitive and pragmatic ways. Government is now responding to the Lower Ninth, not because it was in the grand plan, but because the presence and activism of neighborhood residents are making it impossible not to do so. READ MORE >>
Nearly five years after a massive tornado leveled 95% of Greensburg, KS, the town has become a living laboratory and a proving ground for emerging environmental technologies.
The non-profit Greensburg GreenTown has been the educational resource for the community, working side-by-side with city and county officials, business owners and local residents to incorporate sustainable principles into their rebuilding process, while also serving as a conduit through which donations can be distributed.
Now GreenTown is now taking its award-winning blueprint for natural disaster rebuilding to help an even larger city, Joplin Missouri, which suffered a similarly hideous EF5 tornado this past May. The Green Earth PR Network has made a contribution to help GreenTown Joplin in its efforts to:
construct a series of eco-demonstration homes,
establish eco-lodging for people that want to visit Joplin, and
author a handbook to help guide future victims of natural disasters embrace a sustainable approach to recovery. READ MORE >>
By Marie Aquilino, Deborah Gans, Robin Cross, Francesca Galeazzi, and Sergio Palleroni
Two hundred million people have been affected by natural disasters and hazards in the last decade. For every person who dies, some 3,000 are left facing terrible risks. Ninety-eight percent of these victims live in the developing world, where billions of dollars in aid are absorbed annually by climatic and geologic crises. Extreme temperatures, intense heat waves, increased flooding, and droughts due to climate change are expected to turn ever more people into “eco-refugees.” Among those most affected are recent migrants to cities, where the need for space is so great that many elect to live on dangerous sites such as unstable slopes, fault lines, and flood plains.
The lack of suitable planning—both before the disaster and afterward—is a striking problem with which the design world has only slowly been coming to terms. Following the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, which killed more than 200,000 people, the first questions were asked about the role and responsibility of architects in disaster risk management. A succession of disasters like the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan province, China, and the 2010 earthquake near Port-au-Prince, Haiti, have offered urgent reminders that professional architects—whether in the developing or developed world—are generally absent from efforts to protect people from disaster. They have had no sustained role in shaping policy or leading best practices in disaster prevention, mitigation, and recovery. There is still no career path that prepares students to work as urgentistes—design professionals who intervene at a crucial moment in the recovery process to produce enduring solutions.
But who, if not architects and planners, is in charge of rebuilding towns and villages leveled by earthquakes and cyclones and of ensuring that the same level of destruction does not occur again? The answer is disquieting: no one. Typically, a patchwork of nongovernmental charities, government agencies, and local residents cobble together solutions. Few among them specialize in building homes or infrastructure before disaster strikes, and rarely are they screened for expertise. Competing mandates and donor priorities, weak coordination, fragmented knowledge, and a blatant disregard for environmental health often characterize the failed practices that prevail after a disaster, and that lead to new dangers as well as intolerable waste. After the Indian Ocean tsunami, the World Conservation Union in Sri Lanka reported that mangroves were cleared haphazardly, trees decimated, and sand dunes mined, and that debris contaminated water supplies and blocked drainage canals. Such environmental degradation puts communities at risk for generations. It does not help that most shelter groups define themselves solely in terms of emergency work, which stops abruptly at the transitional-shelter stage, precluding long-term solutions and effectively condemning people to years of inadequate housing. Still fewer have the breadth of view to go beyond housing and tackle schools or clinics—the public buildings and public spaces which form the built environment that can save or threaten life. Donors aggravate the problem further by insisting on short-term results. READ MORE >>
Nearly 100 days after a tornado destroyed much of Birmingham’s Pratt Community, an effort to create a new master plan is underway. The AIA Regional and Urban Design Assistance Team (RUDAT) visited Birmingham, toured the Pratt City community and met with neighborhood leaders and ministers. RUDAT will return in the fall for a four-day workshop to engage residents in shaping a master plan that reflects their vision and priorities for the community. During the first public meeting, Bert Gregory, who is leading the RUDAT design team, noted:
“This is really all about your community, and we need you folks to really define your community. You should think of us as the pencil for your vision.”
BNIM launched Tuscaloosa Forward in June 2011 to create and manage the dialogue between community residents and the planning team - critical to sustainable recovery and rebuilding efforts...and the results have been stunning so far. Read more in "Tuscaloosa Forward Takes Off".