An infusion of commons thinking can transform how we plan the future

As we strive to engage with publics that are to use the facilities we design we often hear the frustration with this process from design professionals and authorities who are often accused of doing this in a routine fashion or that we hear eh same few people engages and we bear the brunt of minority lobbying groups or worse we are beset by cranks – how to make this necessary and esentail process more productive ? BY DAVID M. MOTZENBECKER, on LAND Reader:

“It began with a simple enough thought: “There aren’t nearly enough people here.”

David M. Motzenbecker; President, City Planning Commission at City of Minneapolis

On a fall afternoon in 2007, I was attending a public meeting held by the Minneapolis Planning Department to garner citizens’ input on their latest revision to the City’s Comprehensive Plan – The Minneapolis Plan for Sustainable Growth. As President of the City Planning Commission, my charge is to stewardthe vision for the growth of the city as outlined in its comprehensive plan. One definition of stewardship is “a person using every talent and repeatedly sacrificing desires to do the right thing.” Wasteful actions or not doing everything possible to achieve a positive outcome is contradictory to notion of stewardship. It was the sensation of just going through the motions at this particular meeting, not really embracing the democratic notion of people shaping their own city, that struck me as wasteful. The attendance, comments, and results of meetings like this one led me to the conclusion that the planning commission wasn’t stewarding anything but the opinions of city staff and our own points of view. ”

Read the original articleon LAND Reader:

Urban planning in South Africa

The issues raised herein this poscast have been repeatedly made by amongst others University of Cape Town’s  Prof. Dave Dewar and Fabio Todeschini and published in a their 2004 book Rethinking Urban Transport after Modernism 
at  are Posted by Arina on  World Landscape Architecture

Existing condition of Cosmo City ext 17 (Lion Park) for the Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality. Provided by Michael Hart.

Do the same urban planning ideas apply everywhere? Hear examples from the interview with Michael Hart at

Urban planning ideas are sometimes applied between one region to another without any adjustments to the local culture and climate. The example of such a direct transfer is South Africa, where English planning was implemented. Does it work?

Michael Hart points out that urban planning that focuses on the automobile is not appropriate for South Africa, since car ownership is very low. Nonetheless, existing local standards and guidelines are dictating automobile-driven planning. There are other issues that have been overlooked, such as the availability of the energy and water. Although there are alternative solutions for energy in rural areas, they are too expensive and rarely implemented.

One of the projects worth looking at is the Urban Design Framework for an integrated mixed-use housing development in Cosmo City, Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality. Currently there is an informal settlement in that area, with approximately 7,300 people. There are no roads or infrastructure. Houses are built by owners from available materials. The local municipality is planning to redevelop this area in the future and promises their residents improved housing.
Michael and his team were hired to study existing conditions and develop a framework that could be implemented in that area.

Michael Hart hopes that in the future he will see a lot more sustainable projects in South Africa that will take local culture and environmental constraints into consideration.