Masterplanning Futures: Adaptive Planning in the 21st Century

As an author, critic, and curator, London-based Lucy Bullivant, Hon. FRIBA, makes no small plans. So it was no surprise when she told the audience at the Center for Architecture on 02.14.13 that her latest book, Masterplanning Futures was four years in the making. She said she saw it as “a necessary project” because there are so few books on master planning that go much beyond descriptive analysis to offer comparative analysis.

Her comparative approach groups 24 case studies in 17 countries into nine categories, pairing, for example, KCAP’s master plan for HafenCity in Hamburg, Germany, with Bjarke Ingels Group/BIG’s Loop City proposal for Copenhagen under “Post-industrial Urban Regeneration.” Elemental’s fast-track plans for post-tsunami/earthquake Constitucíon, Chile, and Make it Right’s post-Katrina work in New Orleans, share the billing under “Post-Disaster Urban Regeneration.” Bullivant said such projects illustrate the need for “adaptive design‐led strategic thinking about how a variety of longer and shorter term challenges can be met in a more diversified and incremental way.” Other progressive planning strategies address social equity, rising sea levels, eco-cities, science and technology districts, landscape and landscape infrastructure, and urban growth.

Bullivant’s presentation was like a speed-mentoring session through her very thoughtful and detailed book, beginning with the over-arching premise that there has been a “necessary evolution” from 20th-century top-down master planning, which tended towards a “cut-and-paste urbanism,” to 21st-century bottom-up “adaptive” planning. The challenges facing cities and regions today, she said, require “a dynamic relationship and equilibrium” between those top-down aspirations of the past” and “bottom-up thinking” of today.

She’s heartened by the number of cities taking steps towards “future-proofing their existences” through long-term plans “under time-sensitive banners such as ‘2030’ or ‘2050.’ But do they have fast-track action plans to build resilience against the unexpected in the here and now?”

In closing her whirlwind tour of masterful master plans around the globe, Bullivant said the planning process “is predicated on social equity and calls for a transparency with full regard to local needs and overall environmental and economically sustainable strategies of benefit to all.”

Ernie Hutton, FAICP, Assoc. AIA, co-chair, AIANY Planning and Urban Design Committee, then introduced the three panelists who joined Bullivant in a lively discussion: Adam Lubinsky, Managing Principal, WXY Architecture + Urban Design; Tom Jost, Principal, Parsons Brinckerhoff PlaceMaking group; and James von Klemperer, FAIA, Principal, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates. Their remarks and Bullivant’s observations resonated with talk of “rational urbanism,” technology democratizing the planning process, and much more.

If you missed the talk (or even if you were there), don’t miss the book!

Kristen Richards, Hon. AIA, Hon. ASLA, is the editor of Oculus magazine

Event: Book Talk: “Masterplanning Futures”
Location: Center for Architecture, 02.14.13
Speaker: Lucy Bullivant, Hon. FRIBA
Respondents: Adam Lubinsky, Managing Principal, WXY Studio; Tom Jost, Principal, PB Placemaking; and James von Klemperer, FAIA, Principal, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates
Moderator: Ernie Hutton, FAICP, Assoc. AIA, Co-chair, AIANY Planning and Urban Design Committee, Principal, Hutton Associates/Planning Interaction
Organizers: AIANY Planning and Urban Design Committee & AIANY Oculus Committee