The Only Lasting Truth Is Change [6]

All that you touch
You Change.
All that you Change
Changes you.
The only lasting truth
Is Change.
Is Change.

- The Book of the Living from Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

Fear not change for it is both inevitable and invigorating. 2020 was a year of immense change for me personally and for us as a collective. 2021 will be no different. It will be a time of rebuilding our lives from incredible disruption. It will be a time to rethink how we want to live as we emerge from the depths of a pandemic and widespread shutdowns and return to having access to what was available before. But do we really want to return to how things were?

We also sit on the eve of tremendous political change. After four years of politics founded on division, hate, and fear of change, we find ourselves about to embark on a political shift in ideology. This change has immense opportunity for us to have our country return to being a leader in the international community, and refocus on how we can improve the lives of those who live here in America, both citizens and those searching to build a better life. We need to come together and work to make positive change for everyone.

And importantly, we need to implement changes that work for people of all walks of life. We can’t just reward those with expensive educations who work in the few “superstar” cities that are growing. This means investment in smaller towns, villages, rural areas, and suburbs, making them better places to live. We need to think about how we can make changes to our laws and regulations so we can build the types of places that can thrive economically and that people want to live in.

How can these places break from the dependence on single occupancy vehicles and be served by multi-modal transit networks? How can we provide decentralized economic opportunities in towns that were once reliant on manufacturing jobs or coal mining? How can the 21st century economy spread beyond the limits of big cities? How can our government, along with private enterprise, build the infrastructure these places need? And what will that infrastructure be in the coming years as we transition to clean energy?

It is an exciting time if you are optimistic about the coming changes. I often say I’m a short term pessimist but long term optimist. I can always find something to complain about with how things are currently done - especially when you can see a better way. But I usually find ways to be excited about the changes on the horizon, even with the many challenges we face.

Parting words: don’t be afraid of change. Instead, embrace it and find ways to help the change improve the world around you.

Weekly Design Inspiration

I love creative use of brick in architecture. It is fun seeing such an ancient material being used in new and creative ways in contemporary design. This is a great example of how bricks can be manipulated to create an immersive space. I especially appreciate the organic curves of the walls and arches.

Cheng Chung Design - 50% cloud artists lounge
Mile City, Yunnan Province, China
Click the link above for more images of this project. They make me want to travel back to China to visit and explore this place.

Things worth reading / watching

  1. Here's What *Not* to Do to Your Small-Town Main Street
    Too often urban design tends to focus on large cities. News outlets will cover major developments in New York, or policy changes in San Francisco much more often than things happening in small town America. Yet small towns are where a large percentage of people in America live and we should be working to make those places better and more vibrant. Saying we should cut down on parking, and turn streets into pedestrian plazas may work in the density of Manhattan but those same things could kill businesses on a main street in a small town. This article starts the conversation of what works for main streets and how small towns can learn from mistakes to revitalize their business centers. We need more discussion on the built environment in places like Bamberg, South Carolina and how we can work to make it better to support local businesses and residents.

  2. The Case For One Billion Americans Part II
    Following up on one of last week’s links, here is the second part of the interview with author Matthew Yglesias about his book One Billion Americans: The Case For Thinking Bigger. I just started reading the book.

  3. The pandemic pushed cities to take back their streets from cars. Will they keep them in 2021?
    We need to work hard to make the positive changes brought on by the pandemic permanent. Our cities should be designed as safe places for pedestrians, bikers, outdoor diners, and public demonstrators. Let’s make this a fundamental part of our built environment by reclaiming spaces that subsidize car culture and instead recraft it into permanent places for people.

    It’s not clear how many of the cities that made temporary changes during the pandemic will make those permanent. But it just takes political leadership, says Mike Lydon, a principle at the firm Street Plans.

    Let’s push for this political leadership in all of our communities.

  4. One of the best parts of Winter - Visualizing how our streets can be improved
    I love how people are using our cities’ poor job at clearing streets from snow as a tool to show how streets can be redesigned for the better.
    Another related article: The Urban Design Lesson Hidden in Blizzard 2016

  5. Sketchy Intersections Instagram
    Fun drawings of bad intersections and how they can be fixed.

Sharing the love.

a person/organization that deserves more attention

I had the pleasure of helping bring Michael Ford to Portland a few years ago to give a presentation for the Portland Design Pup Lecture Series. Michael talked about his work engaging youth, particularly underserved communities and children of color, and introducing them to the profession of architecture.

The Hip Hop Architecture Camp® positions Hip Hop culture as a catalyst to introduce underrepresented youth to architecture, urban planning, and design.
-Hip Hop Architecture Camp

His thinking is that our world would look a lot different and work for many more people if the profession that shapes the built environment is more diverse. Give people the knowledge, tools, and opportunity to shape their communities and they will make spaces that work for their needs. When one demographic controls how our cities and communities are built it tends to work best for that group. In America that means our cities are built for white men who benefit greatly at the expense of those who were traditionally shut out from the decision making process. What Michael and his Hip Hop Architecture Camp aims to do is change that equation. By introducing architecture, design and urban planning as a career opportunity for diverse youth, he hopes to change the dynamic of who our cities are built for and how they serve the needs of a diverse population.

I was excited to see a packed house in Portland there to hear his ideas and support his work. His lecture was sponsored by the Architecture Foundation of Oregon who also ran one of his Hip Hop Architecture Camps for Portland students the same week.

Learn more about his work and invite him to give a presentation to your community. I also encourage you to work to bring a Hip Hop Architecture camp to your city. Help get children interested in design and architecture as a potential career and give them the tools to transform our world for the better.

And listen to the MIXTAPE of songs created by camp participants!

More inspiring words by Seth Godin:

The most important blog post

It is on the most important blog.


Even if no one but you reads it. The blog you write each day is the blog you need the most. It’s a compass and a mirror, a chance to put a stake in the ground and refine your thoughts.

And the most important post? The one you’ll write tomorrow.

- Seth’s Blog

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