Blogedanken: The Wishlist

Strange title, no? To explain: the term "blogedanken" is a portmanteau of "blog" and "gedanken," a German word that translates, roughly, to "thought experiment." Tonight, a blogedanken for your entertainment and mental exercise. After the first part, you'll need to highlight the text to see the next three. Resist the urge to look ahead -- go one at a time, or it won't be any fun.

1.) Spend ten minutes brainstorming every bit of urban designery that would be on your ultimate wishlist for your city. Does your city need a more efficient subway? Better street life? A giant sculpture of Chuck Norris? Go crazy. Get creative. This is the easy part. (Here's a great example featured in Weekend Reading two weeks ago, in case you need inspiration).

2.) Now go back over your list and decide which fifteen things would be your top priorities if you could put together your ideal plan for your city. Think carefully -- what would really make your city a better place to live?|||

3.) Next -- without changing the order of your fifteen priority items -- circle the first, sixth, and eleventh entries on your list. Now try to come up with a way that you could combine all three into one grand, symbiotic piece of urban design and/or policy. Repeat the process for the groupings of items 2-7-12, 3-8-13, 4-9-14, and 5-10-15. Again: Go crazy. Get creative.|||

4.) You should now have five innovative, wildly imaginative urban solutions unique to the challenges that face your city. Post your favorites in the comments section of this thread. Floating sustainable fast food culture villages? Tribal teen centers hung from the bottoms of elevated high-speed train tracks? Tax breaks for city workers who rent their homes and volunteer with local nonprofits? Show us what you've got.|||

Go get your gedanken on.

EDIT: This blogedanken is now officially a contest. You can enter as many or as few of your five results from the exercise as you'd like, but no more than five entries per person, please. Entries should be added as comments to this thread, and only participants who complete all four steps will be eligible to win. Entries will be accepted between now and March 31st, at which point I'll narrow the entries down to the most creative/funky/innovative/entertaining of the bunch (yeah, it's subjective, I know) and open things up to a public vote from April 1-10. The winner will be announced on Friday, April 11, and will promptly receive, via mail, a copy of PA Press' book, Hyperborder.

(Photo from Flickr user Dom Dada. The original full-color version can be viewed by clicking the photo.)


Anonymous said...

For my home of Portland, Maine, my favorits were:

It sure would be nice to have a suburban commuter rail network in southern Maine. It would be even nicer if the commuter rail stations weren’t sited in the middle of vast parking lots, especially closer to the urban core. So why not allow development to cluster around those stops, like say Morrill’s Corner? And by development, I mean dense development. We’ll need to reform our zoning to encourage such growth, of course – not just by creating incentives for density but by creating disincentives for sprawl as well. Oh, and remember – this is Maine, a land that get’s pretty damn cold over the course of our long winters, and global warming hasn’t turned us into South Carolina just yet. Yet I hear tell of other cities even further north that are colder and get more snow than us, yet still manage to have a vibrant street life even in depressing old February. We gots to have that. I don’t know how exactly but if we’re going to discourage driving so we can have more walkable and transit oriented neighborhoods, we might as well make the streets of Portland a pleasant place to be in the depths of winter – bike and pedestrian friendly snow clearance, warm transit shelters, fun festivals, whatever it takes.


There is not enough affordable housing in this town. One place to build it would be along mixed-use, complete-boulevards. So build transit oriented first floor retail along corridors such Franklin Arterial, Forest Avenue, Spring Street, Marginal Way, St. John and Valley Streets, Washington Avenue, Brighton, etc, and put housing on the upper floors. Encourage a reasonable high of, lets say, eight or so floors. Oh, and the airport doesn’t have much room to grow. Build a new intermodal regional airport at the site of the soon to be vacated Brunswick Naval Air Station. Then turn over the former Portland International Jetport to all sorts of mixed use development, including affordable housing. Outer Congress can be turned into a Complete Boulevard, as shall the approach from a rebuilt and reconfigured Veterans Bridge.

Jules said...

My favorites for Medellin, Colombia:

24 hour public transportation makes shifts easier to stagger, so bus drivers are not competing with each other in hazardous maneuvers. Every bus and taxi driver will receive mandatory drivers ed and courses on politeness and good manners. If they are rude or customers complain, their punishment won´t be a fine, but they´ll have to do public service hours cleaning the riverbanks.

Cheaper taxis will make it possible for people to choose public transportation over the option of driving themselves. Another solution would be to carpool to work. One of the enticements for carpooling is that coffeeshops with free wifi would give discount coffee and internet access to anyone waiting for a carpool ride, and they would sign up on a database as frequent carpoolers with discounts.

Staggered entry times for work would make it possible for people to enjoy the city during the daytime. Extra funds to keep parks pretty and safe would make it possible for people to enjoy these parks during the daytime, cuddling up with a good book in english while they wait for their work shift to start: people would have the option to spend time off work outside in the sun, and not holed up at home at night.

Mario Ballesteros said...


1) Localized automobile bans has led to the closure of the segundo piso (the almost brand-new elevated highway/nightmare that catered to the city’s upper-middle class, connecting residential and business areas, hovering over poorer and clogged inner-city barrios). In its place, a public lane has been installed, a prototype of alternative mobility and social frottage: park strips and minifarms, food puestos, scenic/picnic platforms, and the city’s first AutoTram route have supplanted the archaic eight traffic lanes.

2) A flexible, pervasive public transportation scheme and the pocket park initiative have been incorporated into the Return to the Lakebed plan for the formerly eroded and overcrowded, dusty dry patches of the eastern parts of the city. Barrios now lie on the edges of recovered Texcoco lake, and commute on Trax (spin-offs of the traditional trajinera of the city’s southern Xochimilco canals) and have access to a network of Chinampa parks (fake islands that were the original standard of agriculture and settlement in the city).

3) Neighborhood-based development cells have been granted rights over the urban voids of their barrios, and are holding use-proposal competitions to fill in the public agenda for the sights.

4) Paricipatory politics have also flourished in the temporary appropriation of abandoned buildings by the SummerLove movement, promoters of infrastructures for making out in public regardless of race, class, or sex.

5) As a way of improving safety and bridging the gap between the city core and the bulging periphery, the city has launched a Defense of Modern Ruins program, stringing together blighted sights that range from industrial sights to downtrodden art-déco buildings to bureaucratic baroque whales. The program includes low-rent housing schemes, urban wilderness tours and itinerant party circuits.

----t h rive---- said...

Original Suggestions:

1. Cheaper and more accessible ferry system in downtown harbour, linked to public transit. Currently too expensive, for tourists only, at $8.50 a pop.
2. Outdoor, covered, green wireless capable public space.
3. More safe-houses for wandering addicts/homeless.
4. Major crosswalks that are green for all sides to allow for diagonal crossing.
5. Expansion of closed-off road market area on sundays. Currently expanding slowly...
6. Easier ways to get to parks/campgrounds that are just outside the city. Even two transfers are a hassle and make it a journey.
7. Tax breaks for those who choose to live without vehicles - or something to reward us!
8. More pet-friendly housing (apts.) who is really actually anti-cat!!?

Up Mixed Suggestions:

1. Ferry system to cheaply transport wandering addicts and homeless.
2. Wireless capable crosswalks?
3. Tax breaks for cars in Chinatown
4. Cat-oriented campgrounds with given transport.

---All of which are great suggestions---!

Anonymous said...

This was fun. In my case, this policy scrambling exercise resulted in only two relatively coherent hybrid proposals for my city, Lexington, Ky. The other three combinations produced non-viable, stillborn monsters.

1. Priority 1 (make mixed-use planning that supports street-level vitality an explicit city planning goal) + priority 6 (organize a strong city-wide neighborhood group to promote good planning) + priority 11 (creating more cross-city route by connecting more of the city's spoke roads to its cross road) = Organize a strong city-wide neighborhood group to promote mixed-use planning that supports street-level vitality, and make the first priority of that group the reweaving of the city's street web to create more corners for mixed-use development.

2. Priority 5 (require wider sidewalks everywhere) + priority 10 (establish a entrepreneurial incubator loan and subsidy program) + priority 15 (build a dog park/coffee shop combo downtown) = Having the city select a suitable site for a dog park in a neighborhood with lots of dog-owners, surrounding the site with wide sidewalks and using the incubator program to help launch the in-park coffee shop.

You can find my complete, un-prioritized brainstormed wish list for Lexington, Ky. at http://flippingpencils.typepad.com/blog/2008/03/my-wish-list-fo.html.

Paul Cline, AIA said...

Part One: university, mountains, entertainment, feats of strength, stadium, games, hiking, business growth, coffee, density, water, shopping, history, law & order, access to other cities, world class restaurants, hole in the wall restaurants, arts district, parks, development limits, green belt outside city, church, neighborhoods, not too dense, equality of opportunity, security, farms, nature, ability to grow, a spirit of place, roads, pedestrian scale streetscape, bicycle paths, train-metro interconnect, satalite communities, parades, forest, casinos, cafe culture, introspection, adult play, child's play, feats of wit, a future, god, friends, family

tobin said...

I dreamed up this antidote to sprawl malaise last night - really, I like the brainstorm so I must share mine:

1. Gather ALL city residents.
2. Begin in the urban center and encircle the city center with people holding hands.
3. With the remainder of the people, create concentric rings of people at intervals of no more than a few blocks.
4. When you get are no longer able to create a ring of people holding hands, what remains inside the ring is the focus of urban development.
5. City growing? Want to 'zone' an new level urbanization? No problem - gather all the new residents and make a new ring of people and develop the new area those people are able to circle.

That's my city if I'm building it.
-T / culture-builder.com

petersigrist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
petersigrist said...

For Cambridge I would wish for:

1. Hovering leisure boats with transparent roofs and floors, which hover about twenty feet in the air and provide lifts around town above underwater gardens with glass walls at street level as well as terraces, balconies, shops, and restaurants that open onto the streets and river

2. Parks, gardens, public squares, agricultural plots, trees . . . as many as possible, rooftop venues that provide good views, and a planetarium with huge domed screen that can also show holographic movies

3. Unique fountains throughout the town, including one in the central market square, plus interesting statues in random places, maybe of animals or historical figures, local agricultural jobs that provide housing, food, and clothing for homeless people

4. A university library in the center of town, similar to the NYPL at Bryant Park, which would also be open to the public and host exhibitions, plus a great contemporary art museum and school with a long restaurant in which every table is at the window and a waterfall flows over the top

5. Sculptures, including sturdy ones that kids can play on and people can lean or sit on, public spaces for temporary commissions, and a parade featuring floats by students from the art school, with music performances on the floats

back2life said...

My Atlanta wish list

1. A regional planning association powerful enough that member cities ACTUALLY follow it's recommendations

2. Regional Commuter Rail to Athens, Macon, Columbus, and high speed rail to Charlotte, Birmingham, Montgomery, Chattanooga, Savannah and Jacksonville

3. A revamped multimodal transport terminus at Five points that includes Amtrak services

4. Better management of the recent, but increasing conversion of former industrial property to residential/mixed use

5. AFFORDABLE HOUSING, even in a cheap housing mecca like Atlanta, most of that cheap housing is far beyond the perimeter.

5. Expansion of MARTA to Cobb, and Gwinett County

6. Make county governments pay for transit into the central cities, instead of the reverse

7. RETAIN the trees. Atlanta used to be known as the Garden City, but I fear current development trends are swiftly ending that idea

8. Better coordination of zoning between Fulton and DeKalb. It makes no sense that Moreland becomes such an obvious dividing line, with ultra-trendy townhomes on one side, and older, SFR on the other.

9. More attention towards parks, schools, and public facility in the Southern part of the city

10. Dispersal of retail/services. As a West End resident, I should not have to drive Downtown or to the shops on Moreland for school supplies

11. Preservation of the bohemian enclaves, don't let Cabbagetown or Little Five Points fall to the same forces as in Virginia-Highlands

12. Public Spaces that are clean, safe and accessible. Piedmont Park is so conveniently located to the rest of us South of 20