As an urban designer, I was taught the principles of good urban form that make for successful, integrative, and healthy environments. However, my education and early career offered less clarity about how cities decide what sort of places they will become. What are the decisions that need to be made, and by who, in order for us to build better cities? What information is needed to support those decisions? How do we present that information so that it matters – that it clarifies, sharpens, and leads to better decisions?
The last 3 years at PlaceMatters have allowed me to work with some wonderful people to tackle those questions. We’ve improved decision-support tools, integrated data and technology into the decision-making process, and built technical capacity for dozens of communities. We’ve helped nurture tools that communicate complex ideas, and built a few of our own.
Along the way, I’ve become increasingly convinced that we need tools and methods that do a better job of both analyzing and communicating the tradeoffs of the decisions facing cities. My time at PlaceMatters has been an enviable vantage point from which I’ve seen the tools and the practice of scenario planning shift towards that spirit of communicating, visualizing, and building understanding.
This vantage point has been ideal preparation for my next position. Starting later this month, I’ll be joining the UrbanFootprint team at Calthorpe Associates. I’ll be helping them use and build out UrbanFootprint, a web-based scenario modeling tool that’s been used extensively in California and elsewhere. It’s already a great tool, and I’m excited about contributing what I’ve learned in the last three years about how technology, analysis, and user-centered design can shape the way we build cities. Although I’ll miss the people and work at PlaceMatters, I’ll continue to be involved in the network of folks that have been part of the PlaceMatters family.
Thank you to all the smart, kind people I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the last few years; I hope we have a chance to work together again someday soon.