Climate for Change

The potential of landscape design to transform the built environment from its current energy-intensive state has largely been overlooked.

Contemporary energy conservation efforts emphasize architectural and engineering solutions. Green building is a trend, still divorced from the landscape and the garden, both which are green to begin with. Integral to any discussion of sustainability or green building should be a consideration of the capacity of the designed landscape to create and modify microclimates and thus conserve energy.

Prior to the oil embargo of 1973 which alerted the world to its overdependence on diminishing fossil fuel reserves, building and growth patterns had become extremely wasteful. In reaction to the prevailing attitudes that our energy supplies were inexhaustible, many architects and landscape architects began to investigate passive design techniques. Unfortunately, our fascination with later Information Age technologies diverted our attention away from these early advances and investigations.

Many of the principles of passive design explored in the 1970s had their origins in the distant past. Throughout landscape history, the harsher the climate, the more ingenious the devices and methods became for creating physically comfortable spaces. A review of historical gardens would reveal many precedents for energy efficient design. In fact, the principles of climatic site planning reach back thousands of years. In Mediterranean climates, such as ours, people lived in close connection with the landscape, adapting their environments to create comfortable living spaces by observing natural patterns and systems. One doesn’t need a complex computer model to understand how the sun moves across the sky.

The move towards an energy responsive ethic provides us with a second chance to incorporate the knowledge and methodologies from our ancient and recent pasts and implement these ideas on a large scale.


A solar-powered limonaia defines the edge of a south-facing terrace at Vicobello, near Siena, Italy. The adjacent formal garden is essentially an orange grove.
As early 36 BC, Varro identified the southeast-facing hillside as the ideal location for a villa. (The form of the typical “suburban” villa included house and grounds together with the total complex understood as a unit.) The southeast orientation allowed the dwelling and the garden to catch the prevailing summer breezes and block the cold northern winds in winter.

During the Renaissance there existed a “Canon of Horticultural Rule” which presented a format for placing elements in the landscape. According to the canon, the bosco or planted woodland was an integral element of the site plan. A dense plantation of evergreen trees placed on the northern side of a structure not only blocked the winter winds, but also played an important ecological role, providing abundant vegetative mass for photosynthesis and wildlife habitat. This is an extremely important lesson for contemporary design: establishing a ratio of vegetative mass to built form and maximizing tree canopy can provide great climatic benefit. A plantation mass can effectively block the sun, and thus reduce ground level temperatures and insulate buildings. Planting large areas of deciduous trees with broad canopies will produce significant quantities of oxygen, while reducing ambient temperatures in the summer.


Contemporary ideas of passive solar design are also rooted in history. All living material can trace its origins to the heavenly fire. Without the sun we cannot thrive. In the past, solar orientation was a guiding principle in laying out garden and dwelling. Leon Battista Alberti promoted the common-sense use of passive solar design as long ago as 1482. He believed that loggias should be designed not only to capture beautiful views, but also to provide year round comfort by admitting sun or breezes, depending on the season. Alberti even proposed the use of glass to keep out the winter wind and let in the undefiled daylight.

Pliny the Younger’s Laurentine villa near Rome contained a unique solar device called the heliocaminus, or heated sunbath, which was a garden room enclosed on four sides and open to the sky to capture the sun’s rays. The solar-heated heliocaminus of the Romans evolved into the giardino segreto or secret garden, ever popular in Italian Renaissance gardens. Usually a sunken space with decorative stone or stucco walls, the enclosed room deflected cold winds and collected heat from the sun. One of the finest examples of the giardino segreto can be found just outside of Florence on the grounds of the Villa Gamberaia. Located directly across from the central entrance to the villa is a narrow secret garden, hardly more than 20 feet across and 100 feet long. This diminutive garden runs east to west to ensuring exposure to the morning and afternoon sun.

Being aware of the movement of the sun also allowed Renaissance designers to develop garden elements for the year-round growth of crops. The limonaia was one of the first solar-powered spaces in temperate climates that harnessed and stored solar energy for the winter storage of citrus plants. Similar in form to the loggia, the limonaia faced south and was enclosed with large plates of glass, like a greenhouse. Operable windows regulated interior heat. Plants were placed on tiered platforms at the base of the solid north wall to receive plenty of sunlight.

The Villa Medici at Castello, a few miles from Florence, had over 300 varieties of fruit trees in cultivation, essentially making this villa a functioning agricultural landscape set within a beautiful formal garden. The ornate formal gardens of the Italian Renaissance, so often criticized as exercises in geometry imposed on nature, continue to have relevance for designers and planners today. As agricultural centers they provided sustenance for not only their owners, but the families that cultivated and maintained them. Most of the farming villas produced cash crops and could be considered self-sustaining in many respects.

The limonaia, integral to the Italian garden, can be retrofitted into contemporary gardens to serve as the foundation for sustainable communities. Relevant today for its ability to capture and store the sun’s heat, a limonaia can be an instrumental device for growing food as we move towards a more sustainable future where gardens provide not only beauty, but sustenance.


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A shady pavilion built directly over a canal and filled with jets of aerated water at the Nishat Bagh, in Kashmir, produces a form of natural air conditioning.
Garden designers have sculpted the movement of air and designed air-cooled spaces throughout history, particularly in Mediterranean climates. Today’s designers can exploit the cooling effects of moving air to reduce the energy and environmental costs of using mechanically-cooled air-conditioning systems. Microclimates can be designed to take advantage of the cooling properties of air flow. Air can be directed, funneled, and accelerated with simple landscape and architectural forms such as seats, arbors, pergolas, garden pavilions and porches.

The Alcazar Gardens of Seville contain one of the cleverest air-cooled seats in garden history. This extraordinary bench is situated in the Jardin de la Danza, a small garden room within a series of enclosed patios. Extremely thick walls enclose the garden on the east and west, while the southern wall addresses the prevailing summer breezes with an intimate niche. Between two built-in benches, a small arched window with a decorative metal grill frames a picturesque view of the adjacent lower garden. As the breeze flows, it is forced through the small window, thus increasing its velocity at its point of exit on the opposite side of the opening. (We now understand this phenomenon as the Venturi Effect.) In addition to being naturally air-conditioned, the enclave remains cool in the summer because the thick walls that enclose it act as an insulator, while the white walls reflect the heat produced from the intense rays of the sun. This ingenious form of air conditioning remains effective to this day.

Alleés are parallel rows of evenly planted trees placed on either side of a path, avenue, or roadway, and are usually long enough to create a walk or promenade of some distance. They are commonly used to direct views, organize spaces, create vistas, and unite various parts of a garden. An alleé can also stimulate the movement of air and be used to direct air currents into specific areas of the garden, garden structures and dwellings. When planted along south-facing slopes, alleés benefit from naturally rising air currents that push air from the shaded space into building interiors.

In desert climates garden pavilions were commonly built with a south-facing porch balanced over a large pool. The shaded interior porch with its high ceiling would catch the cooled air that passed over the pool. Many variations were possible, but a connection to the garden was essential. To augment the cooling effect of the porch, the Persians suspended a curtain from the façade of the pavilion to block the hottest rays of the summer sun. The curtain was pulled back in the winter to allow the sun to enter and warm the space. A soft and luminous quality of light filtered through the fabric. When the curtain was fully extended over the pool, it acted as a large air scoop, concentrating the ephemeral breeze, and capturing water evaporating from the pool. In addition, the cloth could be moistened with rose water, cooling and scenting the interior as the moisture evaporated. The Persian garden pavilion and the Italian summer house are both designed for natural coolness. As intelligent passive design devices they represent relevant footprints for reducing energy consumption in the contemporary built environment.


The sunken room at Villa Gamberaia in Settignano, Italy, functions as an effective solar collector for winter comfort.
The importance of water as a commodity cannot be underestimated, especially in California. Without water there can be no life. And in past cultures, the collection, storage, and movement of water was a priority in order to maintain a predictable supply throughout the year. Only then could passive microclimates be enjoyed and the art of the garden flourish.

In California, every drop of water that falls on a site should be captured and stored. Extremely high temperatures combined with lengthy droughts have turned the American west into a tinderbox. In many regions of the world water is being used more quickly than aquifers can be replenished. Water tables are falling. If this trend continues it will have a profound impact on food production and living standards.

The control and disbursement of water in California has become a politically explosive issue. Perhaps only through enlightened watershed management and a change in public attitudes toward consumption can a dependable supply of clean water be preserved. Continued research of both historical precedents and current technologies, combined with the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices, are the first steps towards redefining our relationship with water. Water is not merely a resource to be exploited for human convenience, but rather a nurturing force that links and sustains all life on earth.

In many arid climates cisterns were used as a fundamental method of storing as much rain water and runoff as possible for use during the dry season. In Los Angeles, before aqueducts brought water from the north, residential cisterns were critical elements in a system that had to balance the effects of both droughts and floods. This tradition can be resurrected in the contemporary landscape. Runoff can be directed into insulated closed cisterns built into new structures or retrofitted into existing structures.

Long before modern drip irrigation, the Persian gardener developed a simple yet efficient method for subsurface irrigation. In Yazd, one of the hottest spots on the Iranian plateau, “condensing jars” significantly reduced the amount of water lost to evaporation. Earthenware containers were placed in the soil between rows of plants, set with their narrow necks protruding just above the surface. When filled with water these containers “sweated” moisture through their porous earthen sides, directly irrigating the roots of the vegetation. Condensing jars, removed from exposure to sun and air, effectively conserved water by protecting it from evaporation.

Aerated water was often employed to cool garden structures. Forcing water under high pressure through miniature openings or thin slots would suspend fine drops of water in the surrounding air, humidifying it and lowering the temperature. To produce this effect, water would first be pumped into reservoirs on the roof. With gravity pressure, the water would descend through columns pierced with thousands of tiny holes, creating an almost invisible mist that gently cooled the room. Aerated by thousands of tiny misting jets, these garden rooms were a tranquil oasis for the body and mind.


Many advances have been made in green architecture and alternative building. The US Green Building Council has established standards for sustainable buildings. However, these achievements need to be integrated with energy-conserving, sustainable landscapes that create new gardens on a regional scale. New and exciting opportunities lie ahead for the creation of unified garden and architectural forms that not only conserve energy, water, and agricultural lands, but are also works of art and places for spiritual renewal.

LIFE SUPPORT: Creating a Prison Hospice Garden

In the spring semester of 2006, seven graduate students completed a five-week module on restorative landscapes by designing a garden for a hospice in a prison—perhaps the first such garden ever proposed.

Life Sentence

The California Medical Facility in Vacaville is the major treatment center for ill and/or dying inmates in the state prison system. In the mid-1980s many inmates were dying of AIDS, often dying alone in their cells. This barely-noticed crisis inspired Nancy Jaicks Alexander and Robert Evans Alexander, FAIA (dec.), working with Father Patrick Leslie (then the Catholic chaplain) to establish the first hospice in an American prison.

A unique aspect of this seventeen-bed hospice is that the hospice volunteers, of which there are forty, are all fellow inmates. Many of the volunteers are serving life sentences for murder with no possibility of parole. They receive weekly ongoing training in hospice care. When a patient is close to death, volunteers sit around the clock in eight-hour vigils so that no man will die alone. The principal fatal diseases at this time are lung cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, and HIV/AIDS.

Students in LA 256: Healing Gardens and Restorative Landscapes, taught by Clare Cooper Marcus, took on the challenge of creating a garden for this hospice. This class was not a studio; rather it was principally a seminar with reading, lectures, discussion, and experiential exercises. The garden design was in lieu of a term paper, and the students had just two weeks to produce their proposals along with suggested budgets. Preliminary designs were reviewed after one week by Associate Professor Louise Mozingo, and landscape architect Vince Healy who, as a student at Harvard, had written his MLA thesis on hospice gardens.

The Dog Run

IMG_4198 As a first step, Nancy, Chaplain Keith Knauf (current director of hospice volunteers), and I met with some of the hospice volunteers to solicit their ideas. They talked about the current 35×12-feet outdoor space of the hospice – a concrete slab completely caged-in with chain link – which the staff calls a patio and the inmates term “The Dog Run.” They were enthusiastic about the idea of expanding it and creating a garden.

I asked them what they thought would be important in such a garden. “The sight and sound of water,” said one man. “I grew up near the Southern California coast and the sound of water is really important to me…” “Lots of color,” offered another. “The hospice wing is pretty cheery.” And another suggested, “Things to eat! We have some cherry tomatoes and peppers in the Dog Run. People really like that.”

I asked what might be some of the objections which the administrative or custody (“security”) staff could raise and among the responses was, “It would have to have a roof like the Dog Run so we couldn’t climb out and escape.” Additionally, I was told that, “Chain link would have to be anchored all round in concrete so a person couldn’t tunnel out.” Another informed me, “They wouldn’t allow anything that could be broken apart and used as a weapon.”

As enthusiastic as they were, the inmate-volunteers were well aware that the biggest impediment would be the cost. “But we could do some of the work ourselves,” volunteered one man, “I have a degree in civil engineering from Sacramento State. I could build a fountain.” Another, who had worked in construction, said he could build planter boxes. “We could get local nurseries to donate plants.” “Inmates in the horticulture and landscaping program could raise plants and take on the maintenance,” was the inspired suggestion of another man. The most surprising idea came from a grey-haired, stocky man. “Twice a year we hold food sales. We sell pizza and donuts – stuff like that. We make over $6,000 each time. We could give that money for the garden.”

No Trees Allowed

IMG_4208The prison authorities agreed, after appropriate security checks, to permit the students to tour the prison and measure and photograph the proposed garden site. For all of us it was quite an emotional experience: none of us had been in a prison before, most had never visited a hospice.

Like most prisons, the environment of the California Medical Facility at Vacaville is grim. The building is a quarter mile long and houses 3,300 inmates, of whom 550 are diagnosed with HIV. Within the prison there is no color and little sound beyond men shuffling along the corridor to a clinic appointment, guards calling out to inmates to stand against the wall as visitors pass, and the clanging echoes of security gates opening and closing.

Cell blocks open off a wide concrete corridor like the teeth of a comb. Between the cell blocks are areas of open space, some used for exercise and weight training, others filled with dead grass and inaccessible. On one side of the prison are sports fields used at designated times for running, baseball, basketball, and socializing. Here, some of the inmates feed seagulls with food left over from their lunch. There is no shade; there are no trees. In July 2006, outdoor temperatures reached 108°. A lone tree in a courtyard next to the chapel was once climbed by a patient from the psychiatric unit trying to escape. The tree was cut down and the courtyard permanently closed.

The one bright spot in the whole facility is an area for vocational training in horticulture comprising a garden, greenhouse, lath house, and compost bins. Perhaps the most touching experience in our whole prison tour was entering the shady verdure of the lath house and meeting a slim, white-haired man with deep blue eyes wearing a neat blue work shirt. “Please come in – come in! My name is Richard; just – Richard…” He proudly showed us his domain – gravel paths winding between ferns and tropical plants, each neatly labeled with its Latin and English names. “This was nothing when I came here two years ago – all overgrown, no labels. And I didn’t know anything about plants! Now I have my California State Certificate in Horticulture.” Unfortunately this little oasis in the prison is a quarter mile from the hospice wing and security restrictions do not permit inmate-patients being brought here to enjoy the plants and the garden.

As the students measured and photographed the potential site of a garden for the hospice (under the watchful eyes of guards in a nearby tower), we all become aware of the limitations that would have to be dealt with: a large steel storage container that could not be moved, a driveway for delivery vehicles that could not be transgressed, a security restriction that said, “No trees,” and the requirement that the whole site must be surrounded and “roofed” with chain link fence. Nevertheless, the students saw the potential to create a healing oasis in this otherwise grim environment.

The Most Creative People in California

IMG_4277The last class meeting comprised a return visit to the prison, and formal presentations by the three student teams to prison officials, including the chief medical officer for HIV treatment services, the associate warden, a lieutenant from the custody division, and the director of hospice volunteers. Unfortunately, the inmate-volunteers themselves were not permitted to attend.

Prison officials were impressed with the quality and sensitivity of the designs, as well as the goal of reducing costs by proposing drought tolerant plants and solar panels. The students took note of the requirement that every square inch of the garden should be visible when a guard steps out of the hospice into the open space. They also responded to suggestions from lectures and reading that a hospice garden needs places where a person alone, or a patient and a visitor, can find some privacy; places where a family group might sit comfortably with a chaplain or counselor; raised beds where a patient in a wheelchair might pick tomatoes or water strawberries; opportunities to visually “escape” by viewing the hills beyond the double chain-link and electric fence which surround the entire prison. The prison authorities were also pleased to note that student-teams recognized the potential for horticulture trainees to raise cuttings and annuals and plant up beds in the hospice gardens, thus linking these two elements of the prison population.

All the designs recognized the essentials of a healing or restorative landscape in a healthcare environment, whether in a hospice, a hospital, or a nursing home: seasonal color, intricacy of texture, the sight and sound of water, close in and distant views, plants that move with the slightest breeze, flowers to attract wildlife (the restrictions of the chain link fence would restrict this to hummingbirds and butterflies). The goal is to create a rich, sensory milieu since empirical evidence shows that “nature distraction” has the affect of reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, and reducing the heart rate.

A few design elements were vetoed by the head of security. We had urged the students to propose quick-growing vines that could withstand the summer temperatures of 100°-plus in Vacaville and that would soften the effect of the required chain-link “cage” around and over the garden. Too late, we discovered that prison security goes the rounds, shaking every piece of chain-link three times a day in case they are being filed through prior to an escape attempt. The one team who proposed a split bamboo fence inside, and separate from, the chain link got the green light. Irrigation systems, proposed by two teams, were also vetoed in case inmates dug them up and “re-used” the metal couplings. A final surprise veto came for four lemon trees in large pots. At first we thought it was for the pots; we had been told to avoid anything that could be broken and used as a weapon. But it was for the lemon trees. “They’ll take the fruit and make it into alcohol. There are stills in the prison. We don’t know where they are. They’ll use anything – raisins from the cafeteria, fruit brought in by visitors.” On recounting this to colleague Randy Hester, he remarked, “It sounds like some of the most creative people in California are in prison!”

An Island of Compassion

IMG_4170At the end of the presentations, prison officials were very enthusiastic about creating the garden and were, I think, totally persuaded as to its potential psychological benefits for staff, inmate-patients, inmate-volunteers, and visitors. They were delighted that we could leave copies of all the designs with them, to use in any way they wanted. The problem of actually creating a garden, as always, is money. The prison system budget is hugely over-stretched; crowding has resulted in indoor gymnasia and recreational facilities being converted into dormitories. “We cannot use taxpayers’ money to make a garden,” we were told by Dr. Bick. “But five years ago, they told me I couldn’t have a new clinic, and this year it opened. We’ll create that garden somehow, however long it takes!”

Nancy refers to the hospice that she helped to create as “an island of compassion in a sea of violence, fear, and paranoia.” We are hopeful that the garden, when it is created, will become a restorative oasis for those who are dying, for the medical staff, and for the inmate-volunteers who care for their peers.

If you would like to contribute to the creation of the hospice garden, you may send a check made out to “PCS/hospice,” with a note on the check, “For hospice garden.” Please send the check to: Pastoral Care Services Program, Chaplain Keith Knauf, CMF, PO Box 2000, Vacaville, CA 95696-2000. Donations are tax-deductible.

Rebuilding Paradise: Strategies for Sustainable Tourism in Thailand

On December 26, 2004 a massive undersea earthquake in the Andaman-Sumatran subduction zone spawned a huge tsunami that killed over 200,000 people in countries bordered by the Indian Ocean. Thailand suffered widespread damage in six southern provinces.
Tsunami damage, source Krabi Tourism Workshop
Tsunami damage, source Krabi Tourism Workshop

Dwellings were damaged or destroyed. Natural resources — coral reefs, beaches, mangrove areas and freshwater aquifers — sustained extensive damage. Also hard-hit was public infrastructure, such as fish and shrimp farms, landfills, and wastewater systems. Rebuilding and recovery have been uneven and slow. Tourist areas with casualty-insured facilities are recovering the fastest, while local settlements with little insurance coverage and unclear property rights are slow to rebuild.

In most areas, the focus is on near-term recovery rather than long-term issues. But broader questions need answers — what role should tourism play in Southern Thailand? What should be the balance between environmental protection and cultural preservation and the economic benefits of tourism activities?

In February 2005, the University of California at Berkeley, Chulalongkorn University, and the Thai Public Policy Foundation formed a partnership to provide technical assistance to help shape long-term strategic planning in the Andaman coastal region. The project began when Chote Soponpanich, President of the Thai Public Policy Foundation, contacted Chancellor Robert Birgeneau of UC Berkeley to ask how the university could provide technical assistance for tsunami relief. Building on a previously successful partnership between the Thai Public Policy Foundation, UC Berkeley’s Department of City and Regional Planning and Goldman School of Public Policy, and Chulalongkorn University Social Science Research Institute, the three institutions decided to work together. Short-term humanitarian aid was abundant, so the team envisioned a project focusing on long-term strategic planning for tourism, given the needs of the impacted tourist areas and the partners’ combined expertise.

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Community in Ban Hin Phoeng, (Krabi Province) meeting with the CU-UC Team.

During the week of March 21-25, 2005 the partners visited three provinces — Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga — assessing conditions and defining the project. They met with local elected officials, planners, and community leaders, conducting interviews and visiting tsunami-inundated areas, where they assessed local technical capacity, surveyed the scale of international humanitarian assistance activities, and gauged the level of interest of each of the provinces in receiving long-term strategic planning assistance. In Bangkok the partners also met with government officials to learn about ongoing planning activities.

Based on these field visits and discussions with Chulalongkorn faculty and the Thai Public Policy Foundation Board of Directors, the partnership agreed to concentrate efforts on Krabi Province, developing an overall strategic framework, focusing on sustainable tourism development, community development and income generation, and regional level infrastructure needs. In addition, the partnership agreed to develop an active community participation process to engage stakeholders and reflect their views in the final product.

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Muslim fishing community on Si Boya Island.

On May 23, 2005 in Bangkok, 20 graduate students and six faculty from Chulalongkorn and Berkeley met to form the project team. Participants had backgrounds in city planning, architecture, government, and landscape architecture. After briefings, the team traveled to Krabi Province to begin the project. From May 26 to June 4, they met with local government officials, business leaders, community groups and tourists, then on June 5 returned to Bangkok to prepare the strategic plan and presentation.

Tourism’s rapid expansion in southern Thailand provides economic benefits for many, but affects many facets of daily life. In Krabi Province, tourism’s pluses can drive the region’s development and growth, creating jobs and generating local government revenues. Tourism’s minuses include environmental degradation, social dependency, underdevelopment, and adverse socio-cultural effects, especially for rural populations. The tsunami’s aftermath offers the opportunity to assess benefits and costs of tourism, and to reframe a tourism strategy that is environmentally sustainable, economically productive, and socially acceptable.

Stakeholder meetings, informal interviews, and extensive fieldwork throughout the province allowed researchers to collect both qualitative and quantitative data on the province’s existing conditions. The team identified issues surrounding sustainable tourism development, environmental protection, community development, income generation, and regional level infrastructure needs. Back in Bangkok, the team used a strategic planning and scenario assessment method to assess tourism strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and to consider possible future strategies.

CU-UC Team members interviewing backpackers en route to Phi Phi Don Island.
CU-UC Team members interviewing backpackers en route to Phi Phi Don Island.

The region’s rebuilding provides a unique opportunity to develop long-term strategies for guiding future development. The resulting Strategic Plan for Sustainable Tourism Development in Krabi Province discusses the direct and indirect economic, social, and environmental linkages between the distinct sectors and stakeholder groups within the province and shows how their activities may affect Krabi Province’s future.

In describing the approach and method of the project, the Strategic Plan provides a general overview of Krabi Province, and discusses tourism trends from international, national, regional and provincial perspectives. The report also presents a vision of sustainable tourism, an assessment of the province’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (a SWOT analysis), and three tourism strategies. Then, using a scenario planning process, each strategy’s likely performance is evaluated. Finally, the report summarizes the results of the scenario analysis and proposes a range of implementation options for consideration. In addition, it outlines the next steps that should be taken to achieve sustainable tourism in Krabi Province.

The Strategic Plan differs from, and complements existing, national, regional and provincial plans in several important ways. First, alternative tourism strategies are tested against external scenarios to gauge resiliency. Second, communities and residents are viewed as main drivers behind tourism management and planning, not just as economic stakeholders. Third, tourism is viewed not as a sector in and of itself, but in the broader context of the province’s whole economy, with tourists as integral stakeholders, not just a source of external demand.

Researchers developed three distinct tourism strategies: Krabi Riviera, Krabi Highlights and Krabi Discovery. Krabi Riviera is a market-led laissez faire approach emphasizing mass tourism. Krabi’s beaches and islands become the main draw for tourism activity, with most development occurring along the coast, concentrating on large coastal resorts and supporting facilities. Fragile ecological areas such as mangrove forests, wetlands, and other critical habitat open to development of resorts, hotels, and other tourist amenities, taking precedence over the quality of tourism and community life.

Krabi Highlights, a government-led strategy promoting nodal development with greater local linkages, features six nodes, or locations, for tourism development. Each node becomes a hub for a particular niche market, such as eco-, cultural, and religious tourism, providing visitors with differing experiences. The government proactively promotes and encourages promotion and a combination of measures to encourage development in desired locations and limits tourism elsewhere.

Krabi Discovery is a community-led strategy emphasizing fine-grain development. Local-self governments in the more popular destinations treat the tourism market as a driver of community development, placing priority on the promotion of community-based economic development while taking readings from the tourist market, rather than trying to explicitly satisfy market demands. Chief stakeholders are local communities, which define the scope and scale of tourism development and participate actively in tourism planning and implementation, while the central and provincial governments facilitate the community empowerment through the provision of loans, infrastructure, marketing of tourism in the rest of the country and abroad, and coordinates the creation of pilot programs to experiment with different niches and activities.

Family enjoying an afternoon in Krabi’s hot springs
Family enjoying an afternoon in Krabi’s hot springs

To test the future likely performance of the strategies, the team created three external scenarios — Global Boom, Global Median and Global Downturn. Global Boom posits maximum economic growth, social cohesion and environmental stability, in which worldwide economies grow at above average rates and average incomes increase. Greater disposable incomes mean greater global demand for tourism, and Thailand captures an increasing share of both domestic and international tourist markets. Thailand improves in both social and political realms, with the Thai people achieving higher levels of education and training. Human factors bolster the overall strength of the nation and the region. Environmental factors, both natural and manmade, are stable and positive, water supply is sufficient, and there are no new environmental problems or risks.

The next scenario, Global Median, builds on current global and regional trends, with average economic performance, a steady sociopolitical state, and some environmental threats. Growth is moderate and capital is not as readily available as under the Boom scenario, but Thailand grabs an increasing share of that growth, though with less demand for specific types of niche tourism. Sociopolitical situations remain much the same, however, environmental factors present some problems at global and national levels, with water shortages, industrial pollution and continued global warming leading to moderately rising sea levels.

Global Downturn is the last scenario, a pessimistic projection of economic stagnation, social conflict, and environmental trauma. Under this scenario, external conditions follow the Global Boom trends until 2015, at which point economic, sociopolitical, and environmental threats are realized, severely affecting the tourism industry. A stagnant or declining global economy precipitates a decline in Asian economies, with negative effects on domestic and international tourism, as well as demand for niche tourist activities. Sociopolitical strife escalates, collaborative intervention from foreign powers increases tension and upsets traditional ways of life. The environment suffers, with severe droughts affecting some areas, while dramatically rising sea levels impact Thailand’s coastlines.

The results of the scenario analysis indicate that Krabi’s natural environment will come under significant pressure if the Krabi Riviera strategy is pursued and driven by the Global Boom scenario. Alternatively, the other strategies pose less risk to the environment regardless of which external environment occurs in the future. However, the results of the scenario analysis do not suggest that one strategy is best. Each strategy offers a distinct set of benefits and costs that need to be carefully considered as the community thinks about and plans its future tourism industry.

A Call for New Ruralism

New Ruralism is a framework for creating a bridge between Sustainable Agriculture and New Urbanism. Sustainable agriculture can help bring cities down to earth, to a deeper commitment to the ecology and economy of the surrounding countryside on which they depend.


New Ruralism embraces the power of place-making that can help American agriculture move from an artificially narrow production focus to encompass broader resource preservation values. As a place-based and systems-based framework, the New Ruralism nurtures the symbiotic relationship between urban and rural areas. To build this bridge, the Institute of Urban & Regional Development (IURD) and Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE) are jointly launching a project on New Ruralism.

The Rationale for New Ruralism

To thrive and endure, regions and the cities within them need a vital local agricultural system that encompasses individual farms, rural communities, and stewardship of natural resources. As it stands, rural areas – especially those at the urban edge – face enormous challenges. In California, as in many parts of the developed world, agricultural operations near cities are under extreme pressure from suburbanization, environmental degradation, and an industrialized and globalized farm economy. Urban areas are contending with the flip side of this problem: the multiple costs of sprawl and a national crisis of health problems related to diet, exercise, and the built environment. Too many urban residents are increasingly overfed and undernourished. They are disconnected from rural and natural surroundings that further recede with increasing low-density auto-dependent urbanization. In many ways, industrialized agriculture and urban sprawl are similar blights, both operating with little regard to the natural conditions of the landscape and oblivious to the ecological and cultural uniqueness of place.

New Ruralism is built on twenty years of reform – in food, agriculture, and land use planning. The sustainable agriculture and local food systems movements have taken organic foods mainstream, made farmers’ markets a basic town-center amenity, and put “slow food” on a fast track. At the same time, New Urbanism projects and Smart Growth initiatives have demonstrated the possibilities of creating healthier, more livable urban centers. Communities large and small are utilizing smart growth tools to create mixed use, pedestrian-friendly and transit-oriented developments; to encourage infill, revitalize downtowns, institute ‘green’ building policies, and better balance the growth of jobs and housing. New Urbanism acknowledges farmland and nature to be as “important to the metropolis as the garden is the house”. Yet approaches for strengthening the vitality of surrounding rural areas as a means to contain and sustain cities have not been thoroughly investigated. In many ways, New Ruralism is now where New Urbanism and Smart Growth were two decades ago – powerful ideas that were being generated mostly by professionals, out of sight of public and academic views.


kraus_3Just as New Urbanists and ‘critical regionalists’ have articulated and demonstrated the potential for a renewed movement of place-affirming urban planning, our regional rural areas need a similar call to action. We are positing New Ruralism as a corollary of New Urbanism with a related framework of principles, policies, and practices, and with the following as its preliminary vision statement:

New Ruralism is the preservation and enhancement of urban edge rural areas as places that are indispensable to the economic, environmental, and cultural vitality of cities and metropolitan regions.

New Ruralism draws from past models. Some obvious examples are the agrarian context for the ‘Garden City’ and the self-sufficiency elements of eco-villages. New Ruralism also incorporates current initiatives, such as sustainable city charters, local food policy councils, the agricultural land trust movement, and mechanisms to preserve and enhance regional agriculture and its natural resource base. Most importantly, New Ruralism can harness marketplace forces such as demand for rural lifestyle, countryside view, and food with ‘terroir’ (a taste of place).

The geography for New Ruralism can be generally defined as rural lands within urban influence; the larger the metropolis, the larger the field of influence. The geographical structure of metropolitan regions extends out from the urban-rural interface and the rural-urban fringe to exurbia and beyond, to urban-influenced farmland. It is too often a contested landscape of transitional land uses, speculative land values, regulatory uncertainty, and impermanent agriculture. The current default attitude in this area is that metropolitan agriculture inevitably dissolves and retreats as the urban footprint expands.

Within this field of urban influence, the New Ruralism movement would help create permanent agricultural preserves as sources of fresh food for the larger urban region, and as places for nurturing urban connections with the land. These could take the form of green food belt perimeters, buffers between urban areas, small agricultural parks at the urban-rural interface, or bigger preserves further a-field that include larger farms and rural settlements. This vision must work hand in hand with the New Urbanism vision of compact mixed-use urbanized areas, the elimination of low-density auto-dependent sprawl, and distinct “edges” between towns and their surrounding rural working lands.


kraus_4These ideas for a vision and geography for New Ruralism provide a starting point for some preliminary principles.

New Ruralism would denote specific, named rural places located near an urban area and part of a broader metropolitan region. Such New Ruralist places would have an identity rooted in their unique and significant agricultural, ecological, geographical, and cultural attributes. This identity would contribute to a broader regional sense of place, through local farm products, rural activities, iconic landscape, and opportunities for public experience. These rural places may also have general designations as agricultural preserves or ‘appellations’ or ‘local food belts’.

The primary land use would be small to medium scale sustainable agriculture integrated and overlapping with areas for wildlife and habitat management and for passive recreation. Conducive agronomic conditions and agricultural history would be primary factors determining the location of such agricultural preserves. Other factors would include dedicated current farmers and identified aspiring farmers; crops and livestock distinctive to the place; processing and marketing infrastructure; affordable housing on farms or in nearby communities for farm employees; and regulations supportive of value-added enterprises and agritourism operations. The ‘Wild Farm’ movement demonstrates the potential value of this kind of multifunctional agriculture.

Urban-rural connectivity would be a multi-faceted exchange. A major linkage would be in the form of ‘locally grown food’, promoted through direct marketing channels and through institutional networks. ‘Local food-shed’ is an attribute ripe for quantification and even certification, due to its value-added connotation of fresh, healthy and flavorful food and its potential for public access and interaction. (Such a place-based designation has long been used for wines and is now being used for crops tied to place and method of production.) Connectivity would also take the form of physical links to urban green spaces and to regional hiking, equestrian, and biking trail systems. Another linkage is the arena of environmental services. Services such as green waste composting, aquifer recharge, flood and fire protection, and preservation of biodiversity would be part of the urban-rural economic exchange and would help re-establish the value of the ecological structures that underlie the jurisdictional patchwork.

New Ruralist agricultural preserves would welcome the public as both visitors and residents. One of the highest values of rural areas near cities is their attraction as homesites for people who are not farmers. With careful planning, this bane can be a boon. Affirmative agriculture easements and projects such as Vineyard Estates in Livermore and the Qroe[1] model in New England demonstrate the potential for successful symbiosis of estate homes with agriculture, as valued landscape. However, the benefits of country life should not be limited to the wealthy. Following both the demand for ‘rural lifestyle’ and the trend for the ‘not-so-big-house’, clustered, modest non-farm rural home homesites have the potential to be a key value proposition for preserving agricultural land, especially if they are strictly limited and their value is tied in to the local agricultural economy. Perhaps these homeowners can purchase a “share” of the farm production along with their modest dwellings.

The development and management of each agricultural preserve would be guided by a comprehensive plan. Such a plan could be established and implemented as a join powers agreement between city and county agencies where necessary. Broader regulations and incentives would likely also come into play. The key to establishing rural places reflecting metropolitan regional values is a holistic approach that integrates a wide range of goals for public health, conservation, economic development, housing, agricultural productivity, and more. Within a template framework, each plan might also have specific quantified objectives, such as goals for local food production or local jobs or educational programs. Through these plans, New Ruralist places would capture and compensate landowners for specific “public good” amenities provided for the local town or broader metropolitan region.

In summary, these ideas for a New Ruralism vision and principles are exploratory, intended to provoke discussion and response. Key questions are:

  • How can the concept of New Ruralism be most useful for advancing the common goals of sustainable agriculture/local food systems movement and the new urbanism/smart growth movement?
  • Does New Ruralism provide a meaningful framework for analyzing past models and present initiatives for harmonizing city and countryside?
  • What are the key elements required for it to succeed and what long term benefits would accrue from these successes?
  • Can New Ruralism be applied as a construct in actual planning projects and be advanced into governmental regulations?
  • Can a New Ruralist vision, illuminated by key models, help galvanize the public support and private investment necessary to create urban edge agricultural preserves?

During the coming months, through workshops and white papers, IURD and SAGE plan to continue to explore these and other questions. We welcome your thoughts on our preliminary ideas.

[1] The Qroe Company develops and manages real estate properties that integrate conservation, farming and housing.

The Future of Infill Housing in California: Opportunities, Potential, Constraints, and Demand Infill

Infill: Pro and Con

Infill is the new urban development approach that isn’t new. City planners, designers, and urban policy officials have been trying to encourage central city development in various forms since the early 1940s. Federal involvement in this issue dates from the passage of the Housing Act of 1949 which authorized federal funding for urban renewal.

Conceptually at least, the fit between infill housing development and smart growth is a natural one as each additional housing unit built in a central city or older suburban neighborhood reduces the demand for housing at the urban edge. Indeed, while smart growth’s attempts to contain sprawl at the urban edge have met with resistance from developers, homebuyers, and many suburban officials, everybody, it seems, likes infill housing.

And they should. Infill housing makes three types of policy sense. As noted above, encouraging additional infill development reduces development pressures on outlying farmland, open space, and habitat lands. Second, encouraging additional infill development, particularly near transit lines and in neighborhoods that are currently or potentially “walkable,” may help slow the inevitable increase in automobile travel both on freeways and local roads. Third, and perhaps most important, many older neighborhoods are in dire need of new investment. Some of these neighborhoods are demographically and economically stable, but are suffering from years of inattention and underinvestment. Other neighborhoods, such as those of new immigrant populations, have become focal points of demographic and economic flux. Regardless of the particular situation, the increased private investment that is at the core of infill housing development can provide the additional financial and human resources that these communities will increasingly require.

As appealing as infill development may be in theory, it can be less appealing in practice. Done without good planning — that is, when not linked to appropriate infrastructure development and public service improvements — additional infill development becomes a formula for increased local traffic congestion, over-crowded schools and parks, and buildings that disrespect the history and character of existing neighborhoods. Done too quickly and without adequate safeguards, additional infill becomes a formula for gentrification, as existing residents are displaced to make way for new homes they can afford to neither buy nor rent. Done without reference to a viable financial model and the needs of private developers to earn reasonable rates of return, infill becomes simply a pipedream.

The California Context

Nowhere is enthusiasm for infill greater than in California, where state officials and legislators, regional agencies, local governments, organizations, environmental groups, and even homebuilders have all jumped aboard the infill bandwagon. Its reputation as the world capital of sprawl notwithstanding, California has already done a credible job accommodating infill development, particularly within its coastal cities and counties. Depending on how infill is counted, and based on an analysis of census data, infill housing accounted for between 20% and 35% of new homes built in California during the 1990s. Among counties, infill accounted for more than 40% of new housing units constructed in San Francisco, Yolo, Los Angeles, Santa Clara, Merced, Orange, Stanislaus, and San Mateo during the 1990s.

With California growing at a rate of five million people per decade, even more needs to be done. Recognizing this need, in 2004 the California Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency, and two of its departments — Caltrans and the California Department of Housing and Community Development — commissioned UC Berkeley’s Institute of Urban and Regional Development to prepare the first-ever statewide assessment of infill housing potential. Undertaken by DCRP graduate students Guangyu Li, Michael Reilly, Thomas Rogers, and Charles Warren, under the direction of DCRP professor John Landis and IURD Community Partnerships director Heather Hood, the assessment includes a statewide, parcel-based inventory of potential infill sites; an estimate of the sites’ potential to accommodate additional housing in appropriate locations and densities; current constraints preventing the development of infill housing; and an estimate of the current and projected demand for infill housing. In addition, results will be made directly available to local planners, redevelopment officials, elected officials, and developers via the internet.

Inventorying Infill Parcels

Because inventorying infill sites on a parcel-by-parcel basis is infeasible at the scale of a state or metropolitan area, this study makes use of county assessors’ records to identify vacant and refill (previously developed) parcels. Following the definition commonly used by county tax assessors, a vacant parcel is defined as one that has no inhabitable structure or building, or is currently not in use for extractive purposes such as mining or oil drilling. Parcels with structures too small to be inhabited, or for which the structure value is less than $5,000 (measured in constant 2004 dollars) are also deemed to be vacant. Refill parcels, also known as redevelopable parcels, are privately-owned, previously-developed parcels with a structure valued at $5,000 or more, but for which the improvement-value-to-land value (I/L) ratio is less than 1.0 for commercial and multifamily properties; and less than 0.5 for single-family properties. County tax assessors estimate improvement values and land values whenever a property is sold based on transaction values as reported to county deed recorders.

Whether a parcel should be counted as a potential urban infill site depends in part on where it is located as well as its availability for development or redevelopment. Using detailed Census data and digital maps, researchers delineated three sets of geographical “catchment” areas for identifying potential infill sites: Largest Infill Counting Areas (LICAs, having an average gross residential density of 2.4 dwelling units per acre), Middle Infill Counting Areas (MICAs, with a gross residential density greater than 2.4 dwelling units per acre and commercial and industrial areas within the urban footprint), and Smallest Infill Counting Areas (SICAs, with gross residential densities greater than 4 units per acre and potentially “walkable” — that is, their housing densities are high enough that a significant number of potential trip destinations are within an easy-walking distance of a quarter-mile).

Based on this inventorying method and additional exclusion conditions, California’s cities and urban neighborhoods encompass nearly 500,000 potential infill parcels comprising 220,000 acres of land. These totals were calculated by counting up all vacant and underutilized parcels within the state’s Largest Infill Counting Areas (LICAs). Moving from the Largest to the Middle Infill Counting Areas (MICAs) reduces the total number of potential infill parcels by about 10 percent and the amount of infill acreage by about 28 percent. Further restricting the set of potential infill sites to the Smallest Infill Counting Areas (SICAs) reduces the statewide number of vacant and refill parcels to about 345,000, and the amount of potential infill land area to approximately 84,000 acres.

Most potential infill sites in California are refill sites — that is, they are currently developed. Refill parcels account for 89 percent of potential infill sites within the LICAs, 92 percent of potential infill sites within the MICAs, and 95 percent of potential infill parcels within the SICAs. In terms of land area, refill parcels account for 71 percent of potential LICA infill acreage, 83 percent of potential MICA infill acreage, and 91 percent of potential SICA infill acreage.

Most potential infill sites are also small. The average LICA refill parcel is just 4/10ths of an acre in size; the average SICA refill parcel is but 2/10ths of an acre. Vacant infill sites are a bit larger, but barely so: the average LICA vacant parcel is just over an acre in size while the average SICA vacant parcel is 4/10ths of an acre. Some smaller parcels may be appropriate for lot consolidation, but this cannot be determined from assessors’ parcel data.

The largest share of refill acreage is currently in multi-family residential use. Multifamily residential uses account for 29 percent of LICA refill acreage and 44 percent of SICA infill acreage. Single-family homes account for another 13 and 22 percent, respectively, of LICA and SICA infill acreage. Turning to underutilized industrial sites — which have their own unique problems as potential housing refill sites because of the possibility of toxic contamination and a lack of residential services — only 11 percent of LICA infill acreage and 4 percent of SICA infill acreage consist of this property type. Although much has been made of the possibility of recycling older commercial buildings and shopping centers into new housing, only 6 percent of LICA infill acreage and 8 percent of SICA infill acreage is currently in commercial use.

Before considering how many housing units California’s infill inventory might accommodate, it is important to reiterate that all these estimates are based on an analysis of assessors’ parcel data, and not on individual site inspections. The quality of assessors’ parcel data varies by county, with land and structure assessments based on older transactions being particularly problematic. Of greater significance, we have no information regarding which, if any, of the parcels identified in the infill inventory are or might ever be made available by their current owners for sale and/or development. Indeed, the current lack of development activity in many infill neighborhoods that are otherwise ripe for redevelopment suggests that many owners of potentially developable sites do not see them as such.

California’s Infill Housing Potential

Based on the concept of neighborhood-appropriate density which links potential infill densities to the availability of quality transit service and supportive neighborhood land uses; and irrespective of physical, economic, and community feasibility issues, California could accommodate as many as four million additional infill units within its Largest Infill Counting Areas (LICAs). This is equivalent to twenty years of housing production based on a statewide production level of 200,000 units per year. About three million of these four million new homes would be constructed on previously developed sites in the form of refill. Another one million units would be constructed on currently vacant sites. Limiting infill housing development to California’s Middle Infill Counting Areas (MICAs) reduces the state’s estimated infill housing potential to about 3.6 million potential units. Further limiting it to California’s Smallest Infill Counting Areas (SICAs) would reduce the state’s estimated infill housing potential to about 2.1 million potential housing units.

Among refill housing units, the largest share could be built on parcels currently in residential use. Twenty percent of California’s LICA infill housing potential is associated with multi-family properties. If nothing else, this percentage indicates the vulnerability of the state’s multi-family neighborhoods to possible gentrification. Industrial sites comprise the next largest source of potential refill units.

By itself, Greater Los Angeles accounts for sixty to seventy percent of California’s infill housing potential. Based on its superior transit service and positive land use mix, the Greater Los Angeles Region could accommodate an additional 2.3 million infill housing units within its LICAs, an additional 2.2 million infill units within its MICAs, and an additional 1.5 million infill units within its SICAs. Most of this new housing development would occur in Los Angeles County. Elsewhere in Southern California, San Diego County could accommodate an additional 220,000 infill housing units in its SICAs and 422,000 in its LICAs. The infill potential of the San Francisco Bay Area, although sizeable, is far less than that of the Greater Los Angeles Region. Altogether, we estimate that the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area could accommodate between 360,000 and 752,000 infill housing units at average densities ranging from 37 units per acre down to 21 units per acre.

Much has been made of the potential contributions of transit-accessible development toward meeting California’s future housing needs, and this attention is merited. Statewide, it is estimated that upwards of 550,000 additional infill units could be accommodated on potential infill sites within walking distance (1/3 of a mile or less) of existing rail transit stations. This includes commuter systems such as Los Angeles’s MetroLink or the Bay Area’s Caltrain, subway systems such as BART or the Red Line in Los Angeles, and light-rail systems such as the San Diego Trolley or Santa Clara County’s VTA system.

Turning from rail transit to bus transit, there are more than 25,600 acres of potential infill land in California that are within a quarter-mile’s distance of a bus line offering high-frequency service. Altogether, we estimate these sites could potentially accommodate nearly 1.1 million infill housing units. As exceptional as this total sounds, most of it is in just one county — Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has been a national leader in the implementation of high-frequency bus service, including bus rapid transit, and approximately 900,000 potential infill units — almost half of all potential infill units in Los Angeles County — could be constructed on potential infill sites that are within a quarter mile of one of MTA’s high-frequency bus lines.

Barriers to Infill Housing Development

These estimates assume that every potential infill parcel that could be developed as infill housing would be developed as infill housing. This is unrealistic. Would-be infill housing developers face numerous difficulties and constraints — among them physical and financial feasibility. Physically speaking, larger lots are easier to develop than smaller ones. The attendant regulatory and parking challenges developers face in designing marketable housing on lots less than 2,500 square feet become so great as to render the lot almost un-buildable. Not until a lot is about 5,000 square feet in size — about 1/8th of an acre — do the constraints to designing marketable infill projects begin to recede. Financially, the profitability of developing for-sale projects, while much greater than for rental projects, is insufficient to overcome the risks associated with the possibility of being sued for damages under current construction dispute concerns. A related constraint is the expense of infrastructure improvements — particularly schools, parks, and roadway capacity — necessary to accommodate additional development. Should the costs of upgrading local infrastructure and public services fall entirely on the subject property, they would likely render its development economically infeasible. Additionally, development on brownfield sites often entails remediation that is only discovered after construction has begun.

Other potential barriers include pre-emption and community character issues. Many of the identified sites carry current zoning designations that would not permit residential uses. Assuming these sites were reserved for future economic development, and therefore pre-empted from redevelopment into residential use, California’s infill housing potential would fall by about one million units. Redevelopment of parcels already occupied by apartment buildings — about thirty percent of the state’s infill inventory — runs the risk of displacing hundreds of thousands of low-income families. In addition, infill development, like any new development, has the potential to alter the character of existing communities. Even when individual projects pay attention to issues of community character and context, the cumulative effect of many such developments on a neighborhood or community may be considerable — especially when many changes occur over a short period of time.

Who is Moving to Infill Neighborhoods?

Taking a line from the 1989 movie, Field of Dreams, when it comes to infill housing, planners and developers alike seem to believe that “if you build it, they will come.” History cautions otherwise. While a number of central cities around the country — notably Chicago, Seattle, Houston and Atlanta — have successfully attracted significant numbers of new residents to downtown neighborhoods, this is still the exception; metropolitan decentralization continues to be the dominant residential development pattern. Compared to the market for suburban housing, the market for infill housing remains relatively small. But, like California itself, the infill market is growing and as the state’s population grows ever more diverse, the market for infill housing is also likely to grow.

A marketing axiom states that the best way to understand a prospective market is to study the current one. Rather than studying who is currently living in infill neighborhoods — defined in this study as central city neighborhoods and older suburban communities — we focus on who is choosing to move to those neighborhoods, and why. Recent movers are identified in the 2000 Census as those who changed location between 1996 and 2000.

Race and Ethnicity: Compared along race and ethnicity lines, California’s central city neighborhoods were far less attractive to white movers than its suburban ones. Based on the 2000 Census, white households comprised 46% and 61% of recent movers to older and newer suburban communities, but only 35% of recent movers to central city neighborhoods. The situation was exactly the opposite for Latino households, who comprised 35% of recent movers to central city neighborhoods and 28% of recent mover households to older suburban communities, but only 22% of recent movers to newer suburban communities. African-American households favored central cities even more than Latinos: 14% of recent movers to central city neighborhoods were African-American, versus 8% of recent movers to older suburban communities, and 6% of recent movers to newer suburban communities. Asian-American households, by contrast, tend to favor central city neighborhoods and older suburban neighborhoods (14% and 13%, respectively) more than newer suburban neighborhoods, where only 6% of recent movers where Asian-American. Not surprisingly, these percentages vary significantly by region.

Should these trends continue, many of California’s older central city neighborhoods will become more Latino in character, while the state’s newer suburban communities will continue to remain predominantly white. Between these extremes, California’s older suburban neighborhoods will continue to grow ever more diverse.

Household Type: Married-couple families, both with and without children continue to favor newer communities over older ones. Statewide, married-couple families with children accounted for 31% of recent movers to older suburban communities and 37% of movers to newer suburban communities, but only 21% of recent movers to central city neighborhoods. Mover households consisting of married couples without children favored suburban locations in similar proportions. Mover households who were separated, divorced, or widowed were equally distributed among the three neighborhood types, accounting for 12% of recent movers to central cities, older suburbs, and newer suburbs. Single-parent families followed a similar pattern, accounting for 11% of recent mover households to each of the three neighborhood types. Singles and non-traditional, multiple-family households, by contrast, continue to significantly favor central city locations over others. These percentages vary only slightly by region.

Should these trends continue, California’s central cities will become home to ever more singles and non-traditional multiple-family households, and fewer married-couple families. Newer suburban communities, by contrast, will be more oriented toward families — albeit many different types of families — while older suburban neighborhoods will be a melting pot for all household types.

Age: Following the family trends profiled above, younger movers tend to favor central city neighborhoods over suburban ones, albeit only slightly. On the other side of the age distribution, middle-aged and senior mover households continue to prefer suburban locations, particularly newer suburbs. This is not to say that empty-nesters — middle-aged couples whose children have left home — are not moving to central city neighborhoods; they are, along with older and newer suburban neighborhoods as well. These trends do not vary much by region. Should they continue, California’s central city areas will grow slightly, although perceptibly, younger over time, while its newer communities will grow perceptibly older.

Household Income: Central city neighborhoods are increasingly losing out to newer suburban communities in terms of resident incomes. Nearly half of California households who moved to central city neighborhoods between 1995 and 2000 earned less than $40,000 in 1999. By contrast, only a quarter of recent movers to suburban communities had household incomes less than $40,000. Among wealthier households, only 12% of recent movers to central city neighborhoods had household incomes above $100,000. In comparison, 20% of recent mover households to newer suburban communities had household incomes above $100,000. As with other demographic characteristics, older suburban communities fell in between, attracting a mix of households with diverse incomes. These findings do not vary much by region.

The Future Demand for Infill Living

Applying the recent mover demographic cross-section from the 2000 Census to the California Department of Finance’s 2010 and 2020 population projections suggests that the number of households living in California’s central city neighborhoods across the state will grow by 2% between 2000 and 2010 (rising from 4.4 to 4.5 million), and by 3% between 2000 and 2020, rising to a total of 4.6 million in 2020. The growth in central city households will be concentrated in a limited number of counties, notably Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco counties, and to lesser extent in Santa Clara, Sacramento, and Sonoma counties. In a number of other counties, most notably Alameda, Contra Costa and Orange counties, the number of households living in central city neighborhoods may actually decline. Indeed, except for San Francisco, there is no California county in which the share of households living in central city neighborhoods will grow. Still, the past should never be regarded as automatically predictive of the future. Should a wider range of housing types and products be offered in central city neighborhoods than in the past — particularly housing of interest to families — it is possible that the demand for central city living could grow by more than these amounts.

The bulk of the increased demand for infill living will be concentrated in California’s older suburban communities. The number of households living in the state’s older suburban cities (e.g., Glendale, Pasadena, Torrance, Van Nuys, Fullerton, Santa Ana, and Chula Vista in Southern California; Berkeley, Fremont, Richmond, Sunnyvale, and Vallejo in the Bay Area) is projected to increase by 26% between 2000 and 2010 (rising from 2.7 to 3.4 million) and by 56% between 2000 and 2020, rising to a total of 4.2 million in 2020. Much of this increase will be driven by growth in the number of Latino households, who, if present trends continue, will favor older suburban communities offering inexpensive, single-family housing. Among the counties likely to see the largest population and household growth in older suburban communities are Los Angeles, San Diego, Alameda, Santa Clara, Orange, and Contra Costa. In the absence of policies and programs to encourage new construction to accommodate this growth, California’s older suburban communities will likely become much more over-crowded. The strong future demand for housing in the state’s older communities will also put upward pressures on land and housing prices.

Matching Infill Demand with Infill Potential: Quantitative and Qualitative Dimensions

It is now time to try to reconcile potential infill supply and possible infill demand. This will be done in two ways. The first is quantitative: it compares projections of the demand for infill living with the number of potential infill housing units. The second way is more qualitative: it compares the attributes sought by the types of households interested in infill living with the availability of those attributes in different locations.

Starting with the quantitative approach, there are six California counties in which infill housing potential greatly exceeds projected demand: Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, San Francisco and Riverside. Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco counties are similar in that they couple a large numerical demand for infill living, a large supply of potential infill sites, and available transit and public services capable of supporting higher densities. Riverside and San Bernardino counties are different: their infill potential and development densities are low by regional and state standards, but their demographic demand for infill housing is lower still.

Counties in which infill potential and demand are in rough balance include Alameda, Santa Barbara, Kern, Santa Cruz, Marin, Tulare, Monterey, Stanislaus, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Sonoma, and Solano.

There are three counties — Contra Costa, Orange, and Sacramento — in which infill demand far exceeds infill potential. In Sacramento’s case, the demand for infill housing is reasonably strong, but potential infill sites are few and far between. Infill sites abound in Orange County, but they are outstripped by strong demand.

Just as the methods used to estimate infill potential and infill demand must be carefully scrutinized for their accuracy and applicability, so too must these last efforts to balance potential with demand. Infill developers face numerous difficulties, and the cumulative effects of these constraints increase with the number of potential infill units. This is particularly true in Los Angeles and San Diego counties, where infill potential seems to so greatly exceed demand. On the other side of the coin, some of the households counted as infill demand in Orange, Sacramento, and Contra Costa counties — the three counties where numerical demand exceeds potential — could just as easily choose to buy or rent a home in a newer suburban community. This would have the effect of reducing infill demand, and evening the balance between potential and demand.

These last caveats notwithstanding, this analysis suggests that, quantitatively at least, there is likely to be a sizeable market for infill housing in many of the same counties in which there is a large potential to build infill housing. This is good news for households seeking housing, good news for infill builders and developers, good news for planners and environmentalists concerned with smart growth, and good news for community leaders seeking to revitalize older neighborhoods.

The second match condition — the qualitative one — is more complicated. First, the good news: based on a detailed statistical analysis of recent mover preferences, no demographic group in any urban area was predisposed for or against higher densities. To the degree that they are offered the housing and neighborhood services they most value (at a reasonable cost), many households will happily consider living in a higher-density building or neighborhood. For builders, this means putting the emphasis on building quality, neighborhood quality, and product diversity, rather than on density. In a similar vein, except for Asian-Americans, no demographic group exhibited strong preferences for greater employment accessibility. This suggests that the market for infill living extends far beyond downtown commercial cores. On the flipside, all demographic groups had strong aversions to living in or near industrial zones. This suggests that isolated infill projects located in the heart of active industrial districts are likely to find it tough going, at least until they establish a critical mass of related activities. Finally, except for single-person households, the market for infill living seems to be larger, broader, and stronger in older suburban neighborhoods than in central city neighborhoods. Given the large supply of infill sites in older suburban neighborhoods and their more favorable economics, this is good news. At the same time, opposition to infill development may be greater in older suburban neighborhoods than in central city ones.

Ten Policy Suggestions

Ten specific public policy suggestions and next steps for promoting increased infill housing construction emerged from this study.

  1. Improve the amount and quality of available information on potential infill development opportunities.
  2. Establish a permanent funding source for affordable housing to be used in part to develop and implement cost-effective programs to help low-income households displaced by new infill development.
  3. Require cities and counties to specifically identify potential infill housing sites and infill programs and strategies as part of their housing elements.
  4. Streamline the development entitlements process, and in particular, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), to reduce the regulatory uncertainty associated with infill housing projects.
  5. Create new sources of infrastructure and off-site improvement financing for infill projects.
  6. Develop a comprehensive community education/engagement strategy to generate public support for infill development.
  7. Undertake a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of national and state brownfield remediation and liability laws; and to identify potential reforms to state law as necessary.
  8. Focus and expand existing mortgage financing programs for first-time homebuyers who purchase new homes in designated infill development areas.
  9. Review the effectiveness of SB 800 and if necessary, update it to further reduce the stifling effects of potential exposure to construction dispute litigation on the construction of attached infill housing.
  10. Establish a demonstration program linking infill development to expanded state funding for elementary and middle schools in infill neighborhoods.

The full set of policy suggestions and alternatives are elaborated in The Future of Infill Housing in California: Opportunities, Potential, Feasibility and Demand–Volume One, available from the Institute of Urban and Regional Development (510-642-4874 or

Super Size Me: America’s New Epidemic

At the beginning of the 20th century, business leaders, physicians, planners and architects saw daily the effects of bad urban environments. Most evident were communicable diseases which were known to be coming from bad housing, crowding, little sunlight, unfit drinking water, mosquitoes and unremoved waste. Virtually every family had lost a loved one to an infectious disease of environmental origin. Controlling these diseases required cleaning up and better designing urban areas.

These leaders proposed and put in place the funding for large urban improvements and public sanitation efforts. It was evident, one could not be well if the neighbor had typhoid and a business partner had TB. These infrastructure improvements could not have occurred if each of the professions remained isolated within its specialty. Doctors had to care about sewers, architects about sunlight, and politicians about public health accountability. The success of these efforts has been magnificent. American life spans have doubled since that time, from 40 to 80 years, and only seven of those added years have come from medical care. The other 33 years have come from “Public Health writ large” – especially better housing, food, water, workplaces, and immunizations.

Today America must confront a different set of serious epidemics. These are epidemics of chronic diseases: long lasting difficult diseases like diabetes, obesity, depression, osteoporosis, and cancer. They are devastating to quality of life, and costly. In 1960, the United States spent 5.1% of the Gross Domestic Product on health care; in 2003, the portion was 15.3%, that is, $1.7 trillion, a tripling in the ratio in 43 years. The one-year increase in dollars spent over 2002 was 7.7%. And the nation is just beginning to confront the cost of caring for an immense cohort of baby boomers who are entering the most medically expensive life stages. In the year 2000, just 9% of Americans were age 65 or over, in 2020, nearly 20% will be. While expenditures on medical care skyrocket, efforts to delay or prevent the onset of age-related diseases are just beginning to be addressed.

The epidemic of obesity will only increase these staggering costs. In 1978, 15% of Americans were not just overweight but obese, by 2002, 31% of us were. The average 11 year old boy today is 11 pounds heavier than he was in 1973. Being overweight and obesity increase the risks of cancer, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, joint and bone disease, and many other afflictions. The most rapidly increasing surgery in adults and in children is bariatric surgery, commonly known as “stomach stapling.” Absolute numbers of these surgeries in California have tripled in just the last four years. Obesity increases our risk of becoming diabetic in adulthood nearly 40 times. When I was a young pediatrician, I never saw a child with Type 2 diabetes (adult onset type); now it is more than one third of the pediatric diabetes population. Developing diabetes before age 40 shortens life on average 14 years, and diminishes the quality of life by 20 years. The children of today may be the first generation in American history to live less long than their parents because of their overweight and lack of fitness. Much of the obesity epidemic is due to a “toxic” nutrition environment: abundant cheap high-calorie food and drinks (even at school) and a saturation of junk food advertising. But it is also because we and our children cannot walk to where we need to do our life work: schools, sports fields, friends’ homes, libraries, shops or churches.

While the good news is that technology has eliminated a lot of the really backbreaking labor from our lives, we have also “designed” a lot of walking out of our lives. In 1970, 66% of children walked or bicycled to school, today it is about 16%. Overall, Americans walk or bike a trivial amount – only about 6% of our trips – as compared to close to 50% for the people of chilly Scandinavia. From 1960 to 2000, we more than doubled per person driving – from 4,000 to close to 10,000 miles per year. An American mother spends more than one hour per day in her car and half of that time is spent chauffeuring children or doing errands, again way up from a generation ago.

This lifestyle is not making us healthier and happier. Just in the last ten years the number of days that the average American reports as feeling unwell or outright sick has increased by 12 more days per year spent unwell. Expenditures for antidepressants have skyrocketed and for many health plans they are the second largest prescription expense (after cholesterol lowering medications). Our children, many of whom have little chance for home- or school-based exercise, are increasingly medicated for inattentiveness or hyperactivity.

Population changes in the 21st century will astonish. Our nation will have twice today’s population at the end of the century, nearly 600 million people. California’s population in 2000 was 34 million; the estimate for 2050 is 54.8 million. Riverside and Kern Counties will triple in population. The year 2050 projected population for Sacramento County is 2.8 million, larger than today’s city of Chicago. Fresno County will be 1.6 million, the size of today’s Philadelphia. Yet we continue to build subdivisions as if land were limitless.

Climate warming is real; the debate is just about the degree. Sacramento is projected to match the temperature of Phoenix by mid-century and the Sierra snowpack to be just a memory by the end of the century. Land use will change California’s economy. In 1945, the state’s most productive agricultural county was Los Angeles. Today, LA has little agriculture and most of its food comes from long distances, as does its water. Few LA children have access to parks, and for many Angelenos a chief conversation topic after real estate prices is how long it takes to get anywhere in the gridlocked city. Sadly, the Central Valley of the State, the producer of more than half the nation’s fruits and vegetables, a huge economic engine, will be by the end of the century a subdivided, very hot, very air polluted Los Angeles look-alike.

This sad vision may feel overwhelming, but it is not surprising to the average American. For many of us, things don’t feel right. We can afford homes, but they are far from work and we spend more time working and commuting than our parents did. The average American works 1835 hours per year, more than in any other developed country, and we sit in our cars for stupefying amounts of time. Despite electronic toys, cell phones, and the internet, many of our children are lonely and disconnected – more than 3 million American children today have significant depression symptoms.

What is the best non-drug way to treat depression? Exercise and social connectedness. What is the best non-drug way to treat Type 2 diabetes? Exercise and weight loss. What is the safest form of exercise? Walking. What are the most fuel-efficient least-polluting ways to commute? Walking and biking. For persons with diabetes, walking for exercise just two hours per week reduced their death rate by nearly 40%. I believe that reducing opportunities for walking as exercise is a national health threat. If you ask people why they don’t walk or bike, you get answers like: “It is not safe. There are no sidewalks or bike routes or nearby destinations or proximal transit stops.” Or “I feel vulnerable.” “We don’t have people watching out for each other the way we did when I was a kid.”

After 30 years of hard work in environmental health, I have become convinced that this confluence of threats must be countered with a congruence of benefits: what is good for us as individuals is good for community, and is good for the planet. As individuals, we need to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, using meats and oils as condiments. This argues not only for saving California’s agriculture, but for gardens nearby our homes, schools and neighborhoods. It means that as individuals, we must walk as a major form of exercise “10,000 steps a day”. If we lived closer to work we could get those steps in and if we did not need so much car time, we might have more time with the people we love – and who care about us.

We need to belong to a community, one that is the hub and support for the routine demands of life: learning, shopping, socializing, mourning and rejoicing. Well designed communities make this much easier. For this, and for the reason that we must put 50 million Californians somewhere, we must re-create denser communities that have privacy, safety, beauty, tranquility, and culture. Such communities need to cluster near mass transit; people who use mass transit walk more and pollute less. Well designed communities can also be the safe haven during the weather disasters that global warming will bring us.

We are at the Tipping Point with global warming in the words of the prescient James Hansen of NASA. Unless we dramatically reduce the carbon loading of the atmosphere, a two to three degree temperature rise is inevitable with accelerating icepack melting and an average sea level rise of 80 feet. Green and sustainable building and community design must advance past sustainability and become “restorative”.

As I see it, the biggest challenge is not knowledge (though plenty more research is needed) and it is not good will (we all want to give our children a planet as healthful, diverse and beautiful as the one we were given). The biggest challenge is one of leadership – we need to be articulating and getting ownership of a vision of healthy communities that superbly support families, children, old people, workers, and parents, as well as the natural world around us. Well designed communities can make this much easier – it is not the only solution, but a community that is a place of the heart, as well as the wallet, is a big step towards health.

Technology benefits our lives and is built on specialization. But to achieve healthy persons, communities and planet, the barriers that separate the disciplines of health from business from design from transportation from politics must be torn down. The challenges are daunting but critical: we need to confront them just as the doctors, designers, business people and politicians did a century ago. A first step is for the medical, public health, urban design, and planning professions to work together to create active and livable communities

Tianjin transit-oriented development: Principles and Prototypes

A Collaboration between the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute and the University of California, Berkeley College of Environmental Design


tianjin_1 From 1998-2002 China experienced unprecedented growth, with an annual GDP increase of 7.8% – the fastest in the world. It is expected that over the next 20 to 30 years China will complete its transition from a planned to market economy, fully integrate itself into world trade, and become the world’s largest and most powerful economy [1].

Sustainability is a concern shared by most Western professionals who are consulting with the Chinese government, either directly or indirectly, to devise a development strategy that will support its vigorous growth. Statistics reveal that the U.S., now the world’s largest economy, uses 25% of the world’s natural resources. If China – with four times the U.S.’s population – develops similar consumption patterns, it will consume all of the world’s non-renewable resources when its economy reaches full fruition in 20-30 years.

Rising incomes in China are fueling a dramatic increase in automobile ownership: it is estimated that between 12,000 and 14,000 new cars are added to China’s streets each day, increasing traffic congestion and air pollution, and spawning the development of thousands of kilometers of new highways [2]. Transit-oriented development, or TOD, is one element of a sustainable development strategy that can help to lessen the burden of growing cities on the world’s limited supply of non-renewable resources. TOD, supported by a detailed and integrative policy framework, promotes the efficient use of land and development of a compact urban form, while curbing automobile usage by creating incentives for transit, walking, bicycling and other non-motorized modes of transportation.


Tianjin: a snapshot


Metropolitan Tianjin is the third largest city in China, after Beijing and Shanghai. With a population of 10 million, Tianjin reports directly to the Chinese government and benefits from direct access to centralized sources of funding for large-scale development projects. The port at Tanggu (30 km southeast of Tianjin proper) fuels much of Tianjin’s economy. Tianjin’s major industries include clothing and textiles, chemicals and electronics.

Tianjin’s Central Station is one of northern China’s major railway hubs and serves as a junction point for the Beijing-Shanghai lines, while also providing direct access to other northeastern and southern provinces. After Beijing was chosen to host the 2008 Olympics, the City of Tianjin invested heavily in improvements to urban transport – most prominently a new light rail line connecting Tianjin proper with the port of Tanggu. The City is also expanding existing rail lines within Tianjin proper to support its growing population of residents and commuters.

Studio goals and approach

In the fall of 2004, UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design was asked by the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute to develop principles and prototypes for TOD in Tianjin. The studio was comprised of fifteen graduate students in architecture, landscape architecture and city and regional planning, and led by three instructors. The interdisciplinary nature of the studio sought to combine a wide range of skills to propose a plan for new TOD in Tianjin.

The Institute suggested four sites in Tianjin, from which the studio chose three, as platforms for their ideas. Each site is distinct in its geography, history and local character, but they shared two things in common: first, on each site there is at least on transit station serving the city’s expanding rail system; and second, each site has a direct connection to Tianjin’s network of rivers and canals.

The studio viewed the river as the conceptual “thread” running through the three proposals. Echoing an approach of “ecosystem as infrastructure” [3], the studio envisioned the river as the City’s main artery, with riverfront paths to feed pedestrians and bicyclists into the larger network of roads and railway transit. A plan for commercial, residential and public land uses would strategically fill in the areas between transit stations and the river, thereby helping the City to gain the most from its investment by directly linking people to the transit system.


tiajin_3The studio authored a broad set of principles to inform the planning and design process. Based on these principles — which are further distilled into a set of strategies and guidelines — we developed prototypes for three sites in Tianjin.

The “kit of parts” breaks this set of principles down into physical components and highlights the more specific elements of each plan. Tianjin Municipal Government can use this menu of options in developing future prototypes for development.

Principle 1 – High Density/Mixed Use

Create high density mixed-use neighborhoods to support transit. A successful transit-oriented development creates a wide range of destinations (offices, community centers, and recreation areas) within easy walking or biking distance of transit.

Principle 2 – Pedestrian/Bicyclist Network

Develop an independent pedestrian and bicycle network to support transit and access through neighborhoods. Directly connecting pedestrian and bicycle-only pathways to transit stations encourages the use of non-motorized transport. These car-free pathways also increase foot traffic visibility for local businesses.

Principle 3 – Transit Connections

Facilitate connections to transit with a fine-grained street grid. An urban street grid works best when it incorporates a clear hierarchy of street types. The grid allows for the dispersion of travel and access through neighborhoods, while the hierarchy provides different street environments to accommodate both faster and slower traffic.

Principle 4 – Public Realm

Create spaces for social interaction. Planning urban neighborhoods with an inviting public realm is key to creating vibrant communities. Streets, parks and open spaces should provide places for recreation and leisure. Buildings should be designed with outward-facing elements — such as balconies and porches — to enliven the streetscape.

Principle 5 – Self-sufficient Neighborhoods

Design “Zero Waste” self-sufficient neighborhoods. Generating much of their power needs on-site, self-sufficient neighborhoods create less demand on the centralized infrastructure for non-renewable resources. Block designs should include systems to generate energy, and to collect and reuse water and waste.

Principle 6 – Heterogeneous Communities

Promote diversity and choice within neighborhoods, encouraging the formation of heterogeneous communities. Neighborhoods should incorporate a range of housing types, services and amenities to allow residents of different income types and lifestyles to live in the same area.

Principle 7 – Existing Site Conditions

Respect the site’s history and natural features by incorporating existing elements into future site plans. One of the most recognizable features in Tianjin is the river network from which the city grew over time. Incorporating existing natural and historical features into new development is an important strategy for creating viable, sustainable communities that identify with the city’s past.

Conclusions and Recommendations

tiajin_4This project examined opportunities for TOD in three very different contexts. While all of the plans are based on the principles of TOD, they apply these principles differently to respond to the characteristics of each site.

We identified several obstacles to effective TOD in Tianjin during our planning and design process.

First, the current development process in China results in large-scale, master-developed projects with repetitive architecture on super-blocks. This development pattern does not support transit and is not consistent with TOD principles of mixed-use, public realm, diversity, and site history. The city should aim to better balance architectural diversity, solar access requirements and environmental sustainability goals.

Second, the city’s efforts to expand roads and build large thoroughfares are not consistent with the TOD principle of connectivity, which requires a dense network of streets. Some may believe that a dense street network causes traffic, but in fact, it provides many alternative routes to travelers, which spreads traffic out. Instead of expanding roads, Tianjin should create a dense network of narrower streets to support transit, bicycling, and walking.

Third, we noted many examples of automobile priority in new development. For example, many new buildings have a large parking lot in front of the building. This facilitates automobile use, but disadvantages pedestrians who have to walk through the parking lot to get to the entrance. It also creates a “dead space” along the street, which is unpleasant for pedestrians and bicyclists. Instead, buildings should be sited close to the street, with any parking in the rear. This encourages people to take transit and then walk or bicycle to the building rather than drive, which reduces traffic and creates a lively streetscape.

Finally, Tianjin has unique natural assets and a special history, but most new development does not reflect this. In order to create a positive image and identity for the city, new development should incorporate these assets, such as the river and canal system, agricultural history, and existing open space.

These are challenging issues, but they are critical to the success of TOD in Tianjin. If Tianjin is committed to TOD, they can be resolved. Our plans and principles provide guidance, and the city can use demonstration projects to test these development models.

Key Steps

We identified seven key steps to implementing TOD in Tianjin. Each is discussed below.

Policy Framework

Adopting a clear set of TOD policies is critical. We have developed a proposed set of TOD principles, strategies and guidelines. The City of Tianjin could create a TOD district for all areas within 1 km of a transit station in which these policies would apply. The city could then create a specific plan for each TOD district that outlines a development vision based on these policies [1-4].

Implementation Partners

Implementing TOD requires the participation of multiple partners [5]. In Tianjin, these may include city agencies, the Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute, transit operators (subway, light rail, and bus), the private sector (developers, financial institutions, and other businesses), the central government, and Tianjin residents. Each of these partners can contribute to a distinct aspect of TOD. The city may lease or sell land, provide infrastructure, supply funding, and control the review of development proposals. The Urban Planning and Design Institute and transit operators may work with the city to develop TOD policies and specific plans. The private sector may develop and invest in TOD projects. The central government may provide funding or technical assistance. Finally, Tianjin residents may offer feedback on proposed plans and development proposals. To facilitate coordination, the city could create a TOD committee with representatives from each partner to review and approve development proposals in TOD districts.

Incorporation into Plans

To be truly effective, Tianjin should incorporate TOD concepts and principles into plans at multiple levels — regional, city, and site — as well as into plans of various kinds (i.e. land use, housing, and transit). For example, the city could include TOD principles in its updated General Plan as well as its Transit Plan and the Regional Strategic Plan. Tianjin could also develop a pedestrian plan and a bicycle plan[6,7]. These are critical components of TOD since most transit riders either walk or bicycle to the station.

Land Allocation

Architectural diversity is a key element of TOD. A site with many different building types and styles serves a variety of uses and housing needs, which allows a mix of people to live, work, and shop in one area. This can be achieved by encouraging multiple developers to work on a site: a group of developers could work together on each phase of a project; a site could be separated into smaller pieces with different developers for each piece; or the city could limit the total number of units on a site designed or developed by one entity.

Development around stations can also be structured in several ways: a developer could acquire the air rights above an underground station while the city retains control of the ground, the city could lease or sell the land to a developer but keep certain areas for transit facilities, or the city and developer could share construction or operating costs.


In some cases, particularly in suburban or edge stations, it may be necessary to implement the specific plan in several phases. However, a full mix of uses (residential, office, commercial, public facilities, and open space) should be included in each phase if possible. This ensures that the neighborhood functions as a mixed-use community, rather than as isolated islands of housing or office development.

One phasing strategy is land banking. This means concentrating development and density in specific parcels and leaving other parcels undeveloped, or developing them at lower intensity interim uses that allow for higher intensities later. This allows high-density development to occur around the station over a longer time frame, which conserves land and reduces sprawl [11].


Plan review is important to ensure that proposed development complies with TOD principles and the specific plan. The City could issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) that asks developers to submit proposals for an element of the specific plan. The TOD committee could review these proposals for the quality of their urban and pedestrian design (including traffic and parking), environmental sustainability, and transit impact.

Housing development should serve a variety of incomes. One strategy for this is inclusionary zoning, which requires that a percentage of the units in each development (often 10-20%) are affordable to lower-income households. Another approach is to create a “housing protection district,” in which any affordable housing that is demolished has to be replaced in new buildings. The city could also provide a “density bonus” that allows 15-25% more units than normally allowed under the zoning if developers include a certain percentage of affordable housing units. These units should be scattered throughout the site, not concentrated in one area.


The City of Tianjin is making a significant investment in its rail network. TOD can help Tianjin realize of the benefits of this investment through “value capture” — mechanisms that return to the City some of the economic value generated by the transit system and the development pattern of TOD. For example, lease payments from developers to the city can be adjusted based on the increase in land value due to TOD, as reflected in regular appraisals. Alternatively, the city can require developers to return a percentage of their profits to the city with their lease payments each year.

This “captured value” should not go to the City’s general fund. It should further support TOD by subsidizing or enhancing transit, paying for landscaping and maintenance of parks and public facilities, or providing funding for affordable housing. Revenues could also go to a “TOD fund” for future TOD projects.

TOD and Tianjin’s Future

Tianjin currently faces many challenges: a booming population, rapid growth in vehicle ownership, and increasing congestion and pollution. At the same time, the city has great assets: a rich history, a river and canal network, strong neighborhoods, and a growing transit system.

By investing in transit, Tianjin is taking an important step towards a more sustainable future. TOD represents the next step. The principles, plans, and guidelines outlined in this report present an opportunity for Tianjin to not only create a future that is more economical, livable, and sustainable than the present, but also to become a leader in progressive planning and a model of responsible development for other cities in China.

At the same time, it is important to recognize that TOD is not a cure-all for the challenges that Tianjin faces. Other policies are also needed: in particular, pricing of vehicle ownership and use to reflect its full social and environmental costs, and policies to encourage resource conservation and the use of renewable energy sources. A holistic approach that addresses both the demand and supply of resources will be most effective at reducing congestion.

Studio Instructors

Harrison S. Fraker, FAIA, Dean, College of Environmental Design
David E. Dowall, Director, Institute for Urban and Regional Development and Professor, Department of City and Regional Planning
Tom Lollini, Assistant Vice Chancellor, Physical and Environmental Planning


John Bela
Peter Benoit
Susan Frith
Alan Glauch
Tavaine Green
Joe Jacoby
Emily S. Johnson
Julie Kim
Sandra Lozano
Luis Mejias
Terri O’Connor
Aditi Rao
Jay Stagi
Pitchayada Treetiphut
Kit Wang


1. Justin Yifu Lin, “Is China’s Growth Real and Sustainable?”, China Center for Economic Research, Peking University (, 2004.

2. Robert Cervero, Lecture (April 11, 2005), City and Regional Planning 219: Comparative International Transportation, University of California, Berkeley Department of City and Regional Planning.

3. Martin C. Pedersen, “Eternal Optimist: Architect William McDonough has witnessed China’s rapid modernization and sees hope for sustainable development,” Metropolis, (, January 24, 2005.

4. Robert Cervero, et al, “Transit-Oriented Development in the United States: Experience, Challenges, and Prospects,” Transit Cooperative Research Program, Transportation Research Board (, 2004.

5. The New Transit Town: Best Practices in Transit-Oriented Development, Dittmar, Hank & Gloria Ohland (Eds.), Island Press (, 2004.

6. St. Paul on the Mississippi Development Framework, Ken Greenburg, St. Paul Riverfront Corporation

7. Getting it Right: Preventing Sprawl in Coyote Valley, Greenbelt Alliance, Solomon WRT

8. Pleasant Hill BART Transit Village Final Development Plan, Contra Costa County

9. City of Vancouver, Canada, Urban Design guidelines

10. City of Oakland, California, Pedestrian Master Plan

11. City of San Francisco, California, Department of Parking and Traffic, Bicycle Plan

12. William Huang, “The Effects of Transportation Infrastructure on Nearby Property Values: A Review of the Literature,” UC Berkeley IURD Working Paper #620, 1994

13. American Public Transit Association, Research on the Value of Transit-Oriented Development

14. Michael Duncan and Robert Cervero, “Transit’s Value-Added: Effects of Light and Commuter Rail Services on Commercial Land Values,” University of California at Berkeley, 2001
15. Hong Kong Mass Transit Rail Corporation Property Development: Consultancy Services:

The Moving Wall

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial stands as a symbol of America’s honor and recognition of the men and women who served and sacrificed their lives in the Vietnam War. By separating the issue of individuals serving in the military during the Vietnam era and U.S. policy carried out there, the Memorial Fund hoped to begin a process of national reconciliation.
— Description of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.[1]

Each wall is 126.2 ft. in length for a total length of 252.4 ft. — or slightly less than the length of a football field.
— Description of the Moving Wall[2]

kim_1 On May 1, 1981, a jury of architects, landscape architects, and artists plucked submission no. 1,026 — a set of moody pictures drawn in blue and green pastels — from a pool of more than 1,400 proposals for the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The drawings were accompanied by an evocative essay, handwritten on a single sheet of paper, that described the memorial’s proposed immensity: two walls, each more than 200 feet long and made of polished black granite, converge at a point, forming an expansive V. The names of more than 58,000 American soldiers, either killed during the war or declared missing in action, are carved in chronological order into the surfaces of the walls. “Seemingly infinite in number,” the essay stated, “[the names] convey the sense of overwhelming numbers, while unifying these individuals into a whole.… We, the living, are brought to a concrete realization of these deaths.”[3] The jury’s announcement of the winning proposal, designed by Maya Lin, ignited a public controversy that would last for the next several years.

Meanwhile Jean Baudrillard, the French social theorist, published the first edition of Simulacra and Simulation in fall 1981. In this pivotal work of postmodern theory, Baudrillard posited that our conception of the world is no longer “real” or “unreal” — but, instead, “hyperreal.” One’s sense of hyperreality, Baudrillard suggested, is constructed through the process of simulation, or the mass production of objects based on a “generative core.” [4]

One of Baudrillard’s primary claims was that the production of simulacra has supplanted a society’s efforts to produce copies, counterfeits, or replicas of idealized forms. Instead, reproductions exist through independent — and sometimes irreverent — relationships to an original model. “There is no more counterfeiting of an original,” Baudrillard wrote, “… only models from which all forms proceed according to modulated differences.”[5] Therein lies the internal paradox of simulation — while the production of objects may be inspired by a desire to replicate the model, the importance of the model falls away as reproduction occurs. Discrepancies between an experience of the original and one’s understanding of its reproductions are explained by Baudrillard’s notion of the generative core — the experience of the original model (as opposed to the thing itself) — that serves as the model for replication. Variations are the inevitable result, because the model itself is not a finite or known quantity.

Simulacra and Simulation can be described as a grand, sophisticated claim toward the power of subjectivity — or the notion that individual realities are constructed through signs of the real, or through the process of codification, rather than through an objective representation of the real itself. Baudrillard’s term for these newly constructed realities is “simulacra.”

A Strong, Clear Origin

The Moving Wall in Bridgeport, Wash., October 25-31, 2003. Since 2000, Superintendent Gene Schmidt had imagined the hills behind Bridgeport Elementary School as the perfect backdrop for the Moving Wall.

The publication of Baudrillard’s theories on simulacra and simulation paralleled a spectacular effort to produce an object that would become the preeminent model for “proper” memorialization, not to mention one of America’s most recognized “originals.” Among architects and designers, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has set what some might call an inescapable precedent for the design of commemorative memorials. It is one of the most widely discussed memorials among historians, art and architecture critics, and cultural theorists, as well as an internationally circulated icon of America as a whole.[6]

Although the length of the design and construction process measured less than two years, it was defined by both internal and external controversies from the start. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, whose principal financiers included Texas billionaire Ross Perot, raised more than $8 million to fund the memorial.[7] When veteran Jan Scruggs founded the VVMF in 1979, one of the motivations behind the construction of a memorial was that it would help to quell the discord among veterans. But internal divisions were only deepened by Scruggs’s decision to effectively exclude the input of his fellow veterans, or the community for whom the VVMF supposedly stood. In November 1980, the VVMF — eager to push the plan through “Washington’s notoriously difficult architectural gatekeepers”[8] — appointed Paul Spreiregen, a prominent Washington architect, to oversee the competition and selection of jury members. The result was a panel that included a compilation of eight artists and design professionals — but no veterans, family members of dead soldiers, or, for that matter, women or minorities.[9]

On May 6, 1981, the VVMF had to subdue its own surprise in declaring Maya Lin, a 21-year-old senior at Yale, the winner of the competition. (One of the more memorable moments in Freida Lee Mock’s 1995 documentary A Strong, Clear Vision is Scruggs’s account of the awkwardness associated with first meeting with Lin in her college dormitory.) Nonetheless, the committee stood behind Lin — the author of what one juror described as “a simple and meditative design”[10] — as she was dragged into the national spotlight and forced to conduct a highly public defense of her proposal.

The perceived emotional coolness of her minimalist design, not to mention the unconventionality of its designer, had only intensified the furor harbored by a group of veterans who were already livid over their exclusion from the selection process. On Oct. 24, 1981, in a New York Times op-ed column, Tom Carhart — a veteran and Purple Heart recipient — characterized Lin’s proposal as “a black gash of shame and sorrow, hacked into the national visage that is the Mall.” At public hearings in the Capitol, Lin defended the simplicity of her design with an uncanny, unwavering resolve and, in line with a statement previously published in the Washington Post, rejected suggestions to change it in any way: “I don’t think anything should be done to the design that adds or detracts from its power. You could say, I guess, that I’m stubborn.”[11] In November 1982, the memorial — constructed exactly as Lin had envisioned it — was unveiled, in situ, on the Washington Mall. In 1984, however, a bronze statue of three servicemen and an American flagpole were added to the memorial site to appease some veterans’ objections to the original design.[12]

John Devitt Goes to Washington

Installation of the Moving Wall in Bridgeport, Wash. Volunteers built a platform out of 2×4’s to create a level surface for the Moving Wall.

No sooner than the official VVM was unveiled had a plan for veterans to reclaim the memorial started to take shape. John Devitt, a former First Cavalry door gunner for the U.S. Army, sat among an audience of 6,000 at the VVM’s dedication ceremony on Nov. 13 (two days after Veterans’ Day) in 1982. Because he was unemployed at the time, Devitt’s trip to Washington had been sponsored by donations from members of his local community in San Jose, Calif. Devitt was aware of the controversy leading up to the memorial’s opening and shared some of the skepticism and resentment that had been publicly expressed by his fellow veterans — but he attended the ceremony nonetheless, grateful to his family and friends for their fundraising effort.

Devitt’s trip to Washington turned out to be life-altering. He returned to California deeply moved by his visit to “the Wall,” as veterans have nicknamed it, which he described as both healing and cathartic. “I walked up to ‘The Wall’ and felt this intense pride,” Devitt said in an interview with Jim Belshaw, a writer for Veteran magazine, in December 2000. “I hadn’t felt that since the day I left Vietnam. It was one thing nobody had mentioned in the twelve years I’d been home. Everybody talked about guilt. I had tried guilt and it didn’t work. I was very proud of the guys I was with and especially the ones who were killed. You can’t give more than that. I was so glad to see their names out there in the public.”[13]

In addition to a heightened sense of personal pride, Devitt felt charged with a mission to move the experience of the Wall beyond the arena of the Washington Mall. “When you think about it,” Devitt wrote, “two or three million people visit the Wall every year. There are ten or twenty times that many people who, for whatever reason, will never be able to make the trip to Washington.… I wanted them to be able to see and feel what I had.”[14] In other words, Devitt was not so much inclined to crystallize the power of his experience at the Wall as he was compelled to reproduce it.

The Original Copy

Installation of the Moving Wall in Zanesville, Ohio, June 9-15, 2000. Local carpenters built a special platform to create a tapering effect. At its apex, the base of the wall is 3 feet above grade, but at its respective ends, the aluminum panels sit directly on the ground.
Installation of the Moving Wall in Zanesville, Ohio, June 9-15, 2000. Local carpenters built a special platform to create a tapering effect. At its apex, the base of the wall is 3 feet above grade, but at its respective ends, the aluminum panels sit directly on the ground.

Devitt devoted the next 11 years to the development of a traveling half-scale version of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, an object commonly referred to as a “replica” of the original. Although there are at least nine known copies, Devitt’s was the first. The traveling memorial, first titled the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Mobile) in 1984 — but now, in its third iteration, known as the Moving Wall — has visited nearly 1,000 communities in the U.S. during the past 20 years. Although most of the sponsoring communities can be classified as blue-collar or working-class, the Moving Wall has made several appearances in metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles and Atlanta. The Moving Wall has also traveled overseas: In July 1993, the Moving Wall was installed on sites in Guam and the Mariana Islands, where the United States maintained strategic military stations during the Vietnam War.[15]

The success of the Moving Wall has spawned the design of subsequent replicas — or copies of Devitt’s copy — further expanding the spiral of individual meanings. The VVMF developed a traveling replica, the Wall that Heals, in 1996. Coors Brewing and Service Corporation International (SCI) have also developed traveling VVM’s. Members of Vietnam Combat Veterans, an organization formed by Devitt in 1986, have referred to these replicas as “rip-offs,”[16] implicitly because Devitt has not been given due credit by these corporations as the inventor of the original copy. It seems that VCV looks more favorably upon the founders of a virtual replica, called the Virtual Wall, which can be visited at or via a link on the Moving Wall’s website.

A Wall Moves to Bridgeport, Wa.

A volunteer polishes the Moving Wall’s reflective surface.
A volunteer polishes the Moving Wall’s reflective surface.

The Moving Wall was displayed on the soccer field behind Bridgeport Elementary School October 25-31, 2003. The installation was orchestrated by local residents Gene Schmidt and Ken Krugel, both of whom had visited the original VVM in Washington before the Moving Wall’s appearance in Bridgeport. Krugel, a Vietnam veteran, first visited the VVM in 1984, nearly two years after it opened on the Mall. He was hesitant to visit the memorial — as he claims many veterans were — and expected to encounter “a second-hand memorial.”[17] Like Devitt, Krugel was unexpectedly moved by his visit to the VVM. He recalled spending an entire day — and night — at the memorial, an experience that served as a template for his vision of the Moving Wall’s appearance in his hometown. “We had the perfect setting for the Moving Wall in Bridgeport,” he said. “I’ve seen it installed in other places, in city parks or on brown dirt. But we had it against the hills, and near an orchard. With the subdued lighting, the fog, and the trees, it was very much like the setting in Washington.”[18]

Krugel aided Schmidt, superintendent of the local school district, in assembling a team of 300 volunteers to help with the logistics of the Moving Wall’s setup and display. Since 1999, when Krugel and Schmidt began planning for the Moving Wall’s arrival, they had envisioned the school’s athletic fields as the perfect site for the installation — not only because it was both a picturesque setting and on level ground but because of the field’s location adjacent to the Bridgeport Cemetery, the burial ground for the five local soldiers who were killed in Vietnam. The volunteers erected an aisle of flags and several tents to display memorabilia — the flags, plaques, photos, and identification tags left at the Moving Wall, which are adopted as part of the traveling exhibition. They also monitored the computer terminals, where visitors looked up the location of specific names. Schmidt organized opening and closing ceremonies, a performance of “Taps” every day at dusk, and an oration of the 58,202 names inscribed on the wall that lasted four days. “People had their tissues out before they even got here,” Schmidt recalled. “And no one ran. It was apparent that this was a memorial, a commemorative scene. People stayed quiet and walked slowly.”[19]

From Mobile to Moving

Since 1984, two stewards have transported the memorial to over 1,000 communities throughout the U.S.
Since 1984, two stewards have transported the memorial to over 1,000 communities throughout the U.S.

When Devitt first conceived of the Moving Wall in 1982, his primary goal was to evoke an emotionally powerful experience, not to replicate the exact physical features of the original memorial. He modeled its physical form as a carrier for the 58,202 names that are carved into the original. For Devitt, the names “were what counted, the primary concern”[20] — the names, rather than an allegiance to the original memorial, were his main consideration in devising the traveling memorial. The names on the Moving Wall are arranged chronologically — as they are on the original — employing a design strategy devised by Lin to express a spatial connection between the number of U.S. casualties and the progression of the war. While the listing of names allows for the recognition of each individual soldier, the body of names, as a whole, communicates a wider political message about the immense scale of lives sacrificed to sustain U.S. involvement in the drawn-out war.

Devitt first attempted to reproduce the names photographically, but he found the polished granite surface of the original to be so reflective of its surroundings that the individual names became illegible in photographs. As a result, Devitt decided to silkscreen the names onto five Plexiglas panels, and the first moving memorial, the VVM (Mobile), was completed in time for Veterans’ Day 1984. Devitt recalled its immediate impact at its unveiling in Tyler, Tex.: “We hadn’t even put up the fifth panel when a Gold Star Mother placed a beautifully decorated candle at the base of the panel where her son’s name was displayed.”[21]

In devising a system to “carry” the names, Devitt’s main challenges were durability and portability. The VVM (Mobile) was retired after the 1986 tour because the Plexiglas panels had weathered so poorly; initially it was replaced by a kit of masonite panels laminated by a formica display surface for the names, with steel-tube framing for support. In 1988 the VVMF provided Devitt with photographic negatives of the names, a template Devitt used to have all of the names laser-engraved onto the surface. In 1990, Devitt constructed yet another moving memorial, this time out of 140 aluminum panels coated with a black polyurethane finish and supported by a kit of adjustable steel poles; it was also at this time that Devitt obtained a copyright for the moving memorial and changed its name from the VVM (Mobile) to the Moving Wall.

The Moving Wall is recognizable as an attempted duplicate of the original VVM, but in most senses its form represents a vast departure from that of its model. Because it is not sunken down into the ground and has little width or depth, the Moving Wall acts primarily as a two-dimensional display surface for the names and thus looks like a flattened version of the original. In addition, the Moving Wall’s aluminum panels are flimsy compared with the gravity and permanence imparted by Lin’s use of granite to construct the original. These differences, however, are what define the Moving Wall as a simulacrum. They point to the give-and-take relationship between Devitt’s desire to evoke his experience of the original and his determination to make the replica portable. And it is through these discrepancies that the Moving Wall becomes a memorial on its own — or, in Baudrillard’s words, an “emancipated sign, in which any and every class will be able to participate.”[22]

A Community Mobilizes

Opening ceremonies were held on October 25, 2003 in the field behind Bridgeport Elementary School.
Opening ceremonies were held on October 25, 2003 in the field behind Bridgeport Elementary School.

It took Gene Schmidt four years — and the help of a local senator — to successfully schedule an appearance of the Moving Wall in Bridgeport. Schmidt submitted Bridgeport’s first application in 1999 and was initially discouraged when the school district received no response from the Moving Wall’s headquarters in Michigan. But when he read about the Moving Wall’s appearance in Nespelem, Wa. — a rural town of only 200 people — Schmidt thought, “Well if they can do it, gosh, so can we.”[23]

Schmidt enlisted Krugel, the local postmaster, to help with logistics. The pair began fundraising well before the Moving Wall’s appearance in Bridgeport was even confirmed. “We got on the waiting list,” Krugel said. “But I didn’t know if we’d ever really get it.” Schmidt’s outlook was more optimistic: “I knew it would be just a matter of time before we’d get it. And in any case, we needed to start planning and fundraising as soon as possible. For a small town like ours, it was a major undertaking.”[24]

Relative to the tiny town of Nespelem, the city of Bridgeport may seem larger than it actually is — with a population of 2,000 residents, Bridgeport might be aptly characterized as a big small town.In a city where people struggle to make ends meet — half Bridgeport’s residents live with a median household income of $28,000 or less — Schmidt knew he could not rely on the community to make unsolicited donations to fund the Moving Wall display.[25] It costs about $4,000 to display the Moving Wall for one week — plus nine days’ worth of food and hotel rooms for the traveling stewards. All display fees are used by Devitt’s organization, Vietnam Combat Veterans, to cover the Moving Wall’s travel and maintenance costs. “This is not [an effort] to make the Memorial Fund of VCV, Ltd. rich,” the group’s guidelines state. “It is to ensure that The Moving Wall is not used or abused.”[26] In addition, local communities assume the costs of extras — everything from flags and marching bands to toilets and compensation for 24-hour-a-day guards.[27]

Schmidt and Krugel collaborated with local individuals and groups to raise the necessary funds. Through this process, which involved hundreds of residents, the Moving Wall became specific to the Bridgeport community, generating a level of significance and meaning well before the replica had even arrived. Schmidt and Krugel asked Sen. Maria Cantwell to write letters to John Devitt on the community’s behalf, and the pair procured the help of the Columbia Quilters, a group of Bridgeport residents who raffled off a quilt and donated the proceeds to the Moving Wall fund.

Schmidt also obtained financial support from Bridgeport’s veteran community. According to Krugel, the older World War II and Korean War veterans felt that the time had come to recognize the younger generation of vets who had served during Vietnam, many of whom were treated with hostility after returning from active duty. Krugel had experienced such disdain firsthand stepping off of a Greyhound bus in Los Angeles in 1969: “I wasn’t in uniform, but I had a military haircut. And someone spat on me three times. Obviously that is something I’ll never forget. There were stories of drug abuse, massacring children, and rape, all of which certainly happened. But not all vets took part in this — I certainly did not. To say the least, it was not a popular war.”[28]

Replicas — or Simulacra?

On the Moving Wall’s website, Devitt has posted the following statement to eliminate confusion between the original, not-for-profit version and other “so-called replicas” that have been sprouting up around the United States: “The Moving Wall is not just a generic name for any of the traveling replicas that copied The Moving Wall — it is a name that was given specifically to the nation’s first traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial during its fourth display back in February of 1985. The first visitors to the nation’s first memorial designed and built to be brought to the people were moved beyond words. Many expressed their thankfulness that absolutely nothing was expected of them — there was nothing for sale, no solicitations for money and no advertising. They found only the names on the wall and the memories that visitors brought with them. The Moving Wall is the only traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial that was actually designed and physically built by Vietnam Veterans with public donations.”[29]

But is the copy of the original Vietnam Veterans Memorial best characterized as such? Is “replica” or “copy” an accurate designation for the Moving Wall, which, at approximately half the size of the original, packs neatly into four large bins and travels the United States on a flatbed truck? Baudrillard and his postmodern bedfellows have overthrown the concept of the “true” copy, or the notion that exact reproduction is even possible; in Baudrillard’s view, there is no more interpretive distance between the “real” and the “imaginary.” As it follows, there are no more copies — just simulacra. Baudrillard’s view of social progress, a scenario in which “every order subsumes the previous order,” renders the idea of the replica, and any belief in the existence of a “true” copy, mere nostalgia. The first order of the simulacrum is embedded in the second order, which is then absorbed by the third, making a total regression back to the era of the counterfeit impossible.

Even if the Moving Wall is widely referred to as a “replica,” it functions more like Baudrillard’s definition of a simulacrum, with each installation existing independently of the original VVM and making up one part of a spiraling network of individual experiences. In August 2005, Krugel described the Moving Wall less as a copy and more as a simulation of an effect — similar to Baudrillard’s notion of a “generative [experiential] core”: “It’s not granite, and it’s not down in the ground. It arrives on a truck and [is] put together with screws and bolts. But it’s not just about the visual experience — it’s about the emotions. When I think of other monuments, they’re just there. This just happens to be one that moves.”[30]

As “Real” as It Gets

In Schmidt and Krugel’s estimation, approximately 8,000 people visited the Moving Wall in Bridgeport, some traveling from as far as 200 miles away — but only 2 percent of them had ever visited the original in Washington. “Even if they can afford the trip, many people don’t want to go. They feel nervous about confronting those emotions — especially in public. For those 20 and under, Vietnam is a lesson in history. But for those 40 and above, those are very real and oftentimes painful moments to remember.”[31]

The nearly 4,000 school children who visited the Moving Wall did so at a safe remove; for kids, the experience is mostly educational. But for some visitors, the experience proved to be painfully personal. While the Moving Wall was in Bridgeport, Krugel and his wife paid several visits to the parents of one of the five soldiers from Bridgeport killed in the war. “We sat in their living room for an hour until we could even tell them why we were there. And then, we talked to this couple for four hours. The mother started to bring out pictures, newspaper clippings, and memorabilia from the soldier’s high school days that she had never shown to anyone. They were so resentful that they were unable to talk to anyone for 30 years about the death of their son. Bridgeport is close to Canada, where many people fled to avoid being drafted — the majority of people from here didn’t volunteer. That says a bit about how this couple and a lot of Bridgeport viewed the war.”[32]

A few days later, Krugel accompanied the parents of the slain soldier to the Moving Wall, where they grieved and displayed their son’s honorary medals. “That memory alone,” Krugel recalled, “makes the whole operation worthwhile.”[33]

Krugel also viewed the effort to bring the Moving Wall to Bridgeport as an opportunity to symbolize the unification of the local veterans community which, like most organizations with members of different generations, has suffered from internal divisiveness over the years. “There’s a saying among vets,” Krugel said, “that goes, ‘Never again.’ As in never again will vets of one war not support vets of another.”[34]

“So Many” Memorials, So Many Meanings

Last April, in reference to the nine separate visits of traveling VVM memorials — including the Moving Wall — to southern Arizona, the Arizona Daily Star published an article, titled “Are They Too Much of a Good Thing?” In the feature, several local residents are quoted as agreeing that while traveling replicas like the Moving Wall were “a good idea,” there was the possibility that they could lose their meaning if the walls are displayed too frequently. Mike Brewer, a veteran living in Tucson, took a more equivocal stance, citing high public demand as the likely reason for the proliferation of the memorials. “If you look at the math,” Brewer told the Daily Star, “the war was 13 years long, 2.5 million served in Vietnam and 9 million were in the military during that era. The war touched a lot of people. And even with so many models on tour, they have not saturated the market.”[35]

With “so many” replicas, and the exponential meanings generated through their production and display, a theorization of the Moving Wall resists total comprehension. As the Moving Wall is continually located and relocated on sites throughout the United States, it effectively defies a singularization of its meaning, and interpretations become multiplied through the ongoing process of simulation. Although millions of people continue to visit the original VVM in Washington, Baudrillard’s writings on the process of simulation — as applied to the case of The Moving Wall — provide a framework with which one is able to de-emphasize its importance as a discrete object and, in turn, recognize the presence of “so many” memorials and an even greater number of individually constructed realities. The Moving Wall does more than gesture toward the absence of an objective reality; it can be thought of as a traveling figure that generates multiple meanings in the absence of a singular truth. Unlike many of the minimalist memorials that we see today, it does more than merely gesture toward this eternal void. Instead it highlights the presence of more realities than we can know or name.


This paper is an extended version of the research, writing, and discussions that originated in a graduate seminar, Architecture and National Identity, taught by Greig Crysler in spring 2005. I am grateful to professor Crysler and to my classmates, many of whom helped to shape the thoughts presented in this paper.


[1] Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, “The Memorial” [], n.d.

[2] Vietnam Combat Veterans, Ltd. “Physical Statistics of The Moving Wall™” [], n.d.

[3] Maya Ying Lin, Boundaries (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2000), 4:05. Maya Lin was declared winner of the nationwide competition on May 6, 1981.

[4] Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, trans. Sheila Faria Glaser (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994), 56. Originally published in 1981. For commentary on Baudrillard’s reputation as a postmodernist, see Douglas Kellner, “Baudrillard en route to Postmodernity” [], and Kellner, “Jean Baudrillard,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [], 2005.

[5] Ibid.

[6] The extent to which the VVM has influenced the design of future memorials was evident among proposals to the recent Ground Zero (2003-04), Flight 93 (2004-05) and National AIDS Memorial (2004-05) design competitions. For an example of how the VVM is exported internationally as an icon of America, see

[7] Edward J. Gallagher, “The Vietnam Wall Controversy,” Lehigh University Department of English [] and [], n.d.

[8]Kristin Ann Hass, “Making a Memory of War: Building the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.” From Carried to the Wall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 12.

[9] Paul Richard, “Design Competition for Vietnam Memorial,” Washington Post, Nov. 11, 1980, B7. Archival footage of Lin’s testimony at public hearings in the Capitol can be seen in Freida Lee Mock and Terry Sanders’ documentary film A Strong, Clear Vision (New York: New Video Group, 1995).

[10] Wolf Von Eckardt, “Of Heart and Mind: The Serene Grace of the Vietnam Memorial,” Washington Post, May 16, 1981, B1.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, “The Three Servicemen Statue” [], n.d.

[13] Jim Belshaw, “John Devitt: Travels With The Wall,” Veteran [], December 2000/January 2001.

[14] Gerry Stegmaier, “The Moving Wall,” Among Friends[], n.d.

[15] See “History of The Moving Wall™ Displays,” Vietnam Combat Veterans, Ltd. [], n.d.

[16]Veterans Combat Veterans, Ltd. Replicas of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial: Suspected Misinformation/Disinformation [], May 25, 1997.

[17] Ken Krugel in a telephone interview conducted by the author on Aug. 17, 2005.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Belshaw,


[22] Jean Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death, trans. Iain Hamilton Grant (London, Thousand Oaks, and New Delhi: Sage Publications, 1993), 51. Originally published 1976.

[23]Gene Schmidt in a telephone interview with the author, Aug. 16, 2005.


[25]U.S. Census Bureau, “Summary of Census Data for Bridgeport, Washington” [], 2000.

[26] Criticism of Jan Scruggs.

[27] Schmidt, Aug. 16, 2005.

[28] Krugel, Aug. 17, 2005.

[29] Vietnam Combat Veterans, Ltd. “Scheduling the Moving Wall™” [], n.d.

[30] Krugel, Aug. 17, 2005.

[31] Schmidt, Aug. 16, 2005.

[32] Krugel, Aug. 17, 2005.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Carol Ann Alaimo, “Are they too much of a good thing?” Arizona Daily Star, April 16, 2005.

Disturbed Harmony | Flight 93 National Memorial

By Leor Lovinger, MLA ’03




In July 2005, Disturbed Harmony, by Leor Lovinger MLA ’03, was chosen as one of five finalists out of more than 1,000 entries for the Flight 93 National Memorial. The winning scheme will be announced in early September 2005.


On Sept. 11, 2001, our cities, our landscapes, and our lives were under attack. Their rhythms and harmony were disturbed. That day, the 40 passengers and crew of Flight 93 acted as the country’s first line of defense.

Our concept for a Bravery Wall, with its inscriptions crossing the rolling rural landscape, was inspired by the stories of the telephone calls between the heroes of Flight 93 and their loved ones, through which we all learned about their collective acts of sacrifice and courage. As the wall moves north to south toward the Sacred Ground, ending at the Circle of Heroism, it symbolizes how 40 individuals, bound by fate, confronted evil and chose to act. Because of their actions, Flight 93 will be remembered forever — not in infamy but for their unconquerable human spirit and messages of hope and love.

The scale of the proposed Flight 93 Memorial Park and the rural setting provide the opportunity to create a unique experience. The dragline tells the story of a land in the process of reclamation. Learning about the site’s mining history and witnessing its reclamation resonates with visitors to the memorial, as they acknowledge the past while looking ahead and anticipating the healing of our wounds.

The Bravery Wall, the memorial’s spine, has a strong presence in the 2,200-acre site, yet it will complement the landscape rather than overpowering it. The Bravery Wall unfolds before the visitors as they move through the park, providing many levels of intimacy and opportunities for remembrance and contemplation. Wind, sunlight, sky patterns, and snow transform visitors’ experiences of the wall, making every visit unique.



The full length of the Bravery Wall, crossing the Field of Honor, conveys the magnitude of loss of human life on Sept. 11, as one imagines 3,021 people standing hand-in-hand, stretching the wall’s entire 11,000-foot length across the landscape. An anniversary walk will transform this line in the landscape into a ribbon of life, as participants remember those lost and learn about Flight 93 and the heroes, acknowledge their sacrifice and heroism in the face of infamy, and gain a better understanding of the enduring human spirit.

The hard rock qualities of the granite used in the Bravery Wall blocks are a fitting testimonial to the strength exhibited by those aboard Flight 93. We propose an earth-toned granite, similar in color to the local fieldstone, that will blend with the environment and withstand the harsh site conditions for centuries to come.

As heroism is the outcome of bravery, the Bravery Wall ends at the Circle of Heroism. The Circle of Heroism symbolizes the 40 individuals coming together in an act of collective courage that would change history. Forty stone columns have been carefully located within a setting of stepped terraces, with views across the meadow to the Sacred Ground. Annual events in the space will encourage us to reflect upon the heroes’ connectedness and celebrate our own, while acknowledging them and ourselves as individuals.

We envision a memorial that engages visitors beyond the park boundary, including nearby towns and neighbors. Commemorative benches, donated by local youth, provide resting spots along the Bravery Wall, and convenient locations have been planned where local “ambassadors” can continue to enrich visitors’ experiences. Both serve to link visitors to local communities. Views of the dragline, and out to the surrounding countryside and Laurel Ridge, connect visitors to the region. The Circle of Heroism includes an area where visitors from across the nation and beyond can weave a tapestry of tribute to the fallen heroes through words, symbols, or cherished possessions left behind.

As visitors watch others experience the memorial, commune with the wall, and hear the echoes of the heroes’ voices, they may be drawn to reflect on the values by which they live their lives. Though we are creating a national memorial, which will be a place of inspiration and hope for all who see it, the site will forever remain the setting for the Sacred Ground, the final resting place of 40 very uncommon souls.


The World Trade Center Memorial Two interviews with Peter Walker

It has been more than a year and a half since exactly 5,201 entries for the design of a World Trade Center Memorial in the heart of New York City’s financial district were reviewed by a diverse 13-member panel comprising professional architects, landscape architects, and victims’ family members.

brooke_1 The widely publicized project was awarded in early 2004 to Michael Arad, an architect at the New York City Housing Authority, and Peter Walker, a Berkeley landscape architect and former chair of the CED Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Department.

In February 2004, a mere month after the competition ended, I first spoke with Peter Walker at his office in Berkeley about the details of what could be considered the commission of a lifetime for most practitioners. The honeymoon glow of the design process was burning bright, and expectations for both the site plan and the memorial were riding high on a wave of media attention, public interest, and political clout.

Not all good things go exactly according to plan, however. While progress is indeed being made, it is largely invisible to those outside the circle of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Today, with the exception of the rebuilt PATH train station, Ground Zero remains largely unchanged since the cleanup ended in May 2003, with political interests, security concerns, design changes, and a less than robust market for new office space plaguing the project and testing the faith of even the most optimistic onlookers that the project will achieve the aspirations it laid out in 2001. Current estimates place the final build out for the site planned by Daniel Libeskind at about 2012 and include not just Arad and Walker’s memorial but a skyscraper dubbed the Freedom Tower, being designed by David Childs of Skidmore Owings and Merrill, a transit center by Santiago Calatrava, a cultural center by Norwegian firm Snohetta, and a theater by Frank Gehry.

Recently, after 18 eighteen months of design work for the memorial had been completed, and with likely enough negotiation skills to write a how-to book, I had the opportunity to speak to Walker again by phone (he currently spends at least half of his time in New York City) and revisit his thoughts on the project, the players, the politics, and the media coverage surrounding one of the best-known design projects in the world.

What follows are two interviews that present an interesting juxtaposition of viewpoints not just on a complicated, high-profile project upon which the expectations of a nation are hanging, but on the evolution of the design process itself. Here is Walker’s version of the ubiquitous roller-coaster ride that most designers are all too familiar with: the brief thrill of the conceptual design and its intoxicating potency, followed by the infinite endurance required to survive the critics, design changes, budget negotiations, and political roadblocks and to bring the project to fruition.

February 2004


Jennifer Brooke: Could you explain how you came to be on this competition team and what it has been like to work with Michael Arad, a relatively young designer?

Peter Walker: One of the questions Michael was initially asked about was the plaza, which originally he had left completely open. The jury also insisted that he put in some cultural buildings. The other area they asked him about was the park, and they said, Why don’t you talk it over with some landscape architect. When I got the call from Michael, I did not really know which scheme he represented. I had seen the competition schemes in the paper, but none of the names looked familiar. Once we found out which one was Michael’s, I told him we would be interested. We started to live by the fax machine and telephone, and we were feeding information back to the jury by answering questions verbally about our intentions, accompanied by a few [faxed] sketches.

Shortly after that the jury wanted to have a meeting with the two of us. I flew back to New York on Saturday and called him up and asked, How are things going? He said that the jury wanted a meeting on Sunday at 9:00 a.m. So I said, Fine, let’s meet at 7:00. You and I need to know what each other looks like. So we had breakfast and he brought his boards, and there we were in the hotel and we were down on the floor with his drawings. So we gathered them all up and we went up to Gracie Mansion, and the focus was on the park––we had worked like you do at school — producing thumbnail sketches. Fortunately the jury could deal with it. So that was a good meeting, though very short — 30 minutes.

I came back to Berkeley, and on Tuesday we got a telephone call regarding questions about some things the jury was still worried about, and whether we would be willing to resolve these things. When you are a petitioner, what are you going to do, say no? So we said yes. They said, Fine, we will send you a letter of understanding. Will you sign it? I was a little apprehensive, because we really weren’t very keen about some of the things that they wanted us to look at. So they faxed it, I signed it and faxed it back. Michael did the same. They called back an hour later and said, You have it.

We had more meetings in Berkeley and in New York with Libeskind and the agency. The public presentation with the governor, the mayor, and press from everywhere was on Wednesday morning. So we negotiated through that weekend with Daniel and finally found a place for the cultural buildings, and I think about 3:00 p.m. Sunday afternoon, not on paper but in sketches, we had our scheme. Michael did not have an office, not even a secretary. He was working out of his bedroom, and I was there without anybody from our office. If I had been smart about it, I would have taken someone. Late Sunday we got the model pretty well finished in terms of where the cultural buildings would go. All that afternoon and night I was working on the landscape plan at the scale of the model using yellow trace and rulers. The following morning they took my tracing, put it on the model, and drilled holes through the trace to show where the trees were. He destroyed the drawing while he was making the model. It was OK. It worked! It looked pretty good. Wednesday was the television day. We had our first TV show at about 7:30 AM and in between the jury, the governor, the mayor, and doing the presentation, we were wiped out.

model_memJB: Why do you think the jury chose this particular entry? What about it do you think pushed them over the edge in your favor?

PW: I like to think they liked Michael’s idea because it is quite somber and tomb-like. Many of the others were very theatrical and required tremendous amounts of maintenance. Not that this one doesn’t. But they were very complex. One of the problems in doing the park was to not lose the ground plane, which is the key to the voids. If the voids were going down through shrubbery, it would not work.

The last thing that I think appealed to the jury was this idea of moving from somber darkness to light, which is really talking about death, mostly, but extending the dimension of the scheme to something that was also living. When you come up, you should feel that life can go on. You should have this sense of life. Through the use of plant materials we are going to do things to dramatize seasonal change like we did at Saitama, Japan, and make that cycle of the seasons apparent.

JB: So what role is landscape playing in the overall concept of the memorial?

PW: In the original scheme, Michael had used a few pines to make it seem sort of bereft of life, to make it seem very, very still. But I think the mood was not quite right because they all looked the same. Michael got that. In the Eastern climate, you might use sycamore trees, and add some locust or flowering trees in order to get a little variety in throughout the seasons.

At Saitama [a Petwer Walker & Partners project in Japan] project in Japan] we used just one species of tree and it is remarkable. But we needed something more complex here. We are going to use several different ground covers: some mosses, and 80 percent grass because it is going to take a beating. The parapets are stone, and we are using stone paving in very long, narrow pieces because we have different geometries moving across the site. If you enter one way, you see a natural form of planting that contrasts with the form of the memorial, and if you enter from the other way, you see an organization of tree-trunk colonnades playing against the voids. So there are two different effects depending on which way you turn. We are trying to get a lot out of a little. There is a grassed glade for the families, who meet twice a year, in the spring and on Sept. 11.

JB: In the minds of many design professionals, the World Trade Center is not just the commission of the decade but perhaps the commission of the century. How difficult has it been thus far working under the intense media glare – the eyes of the world?

PW: From our standpoint the numbers of different people who are involved and the media essentially make it a very open process. It’s like everyone is in the room all the time. All the information is gathered by these agencies, and it comes out through them. It’s a completely different way of working. It’s more like being a politician, where you are constantly making public presentations in one form or the other. We are only a month into this. It’s got to calm down.

The difficulty with all the media attention is that when I’m in Berkeley, I sometimes spend half a day on interviews. The World Trade Center Memorial is nice in that everyone wishes you well. The New York Times did a series of articles that are just terrific, posing questions about how the water features in the project can actually be managed. They have asked questions about safety (not security in the terrorist sense). Currently there is a big issue about whether these memorial spaces are precisely over the tower footprints. What has happened is that the infrastructure has moved into the footprints, which makes it difficult not to slip over on either side. The question of the footprint is a real issue to a certain number of people and by getting it out, it’s like a public meeting — you may take the heat out of that particular issue. In other words, it raises the question early enough so that you don’t get blindsided later on. The media is very sophisticated, very knowledgeable about politics.

We have an awful lot of masters on the project, plus two of the largest agencies in the United States, plus HUD at some point, in addition to the governor’s office and mayor’s office, which are gigantic. The families are a tremendously diverse group, with many different points of view. The thing that holds them together is their grief, which is very immediate when you are in the midst of it.

911_memJB: The Vietnam Memorial changed the way people think about memorials. Do you think this memorial has the same potential to do that, or do you think it is at such a different scale that it is completely different?

PW: I don’t know. The Vietnam Memorial contrasts a sort of Olmstedian landscape against a minimal element. This memorial is really playing at a larger scale against a very urban landscape. So in this way they are very unlike each other. The WTC memorial spaces have a below-ground spiritual dimension that the Vietnam Memorial does not have. This memorial is entered by going down from light into darkness and out to the light again. It has a theatrical dimension. I think that lack of theatricality in the Vietnam Memorial is what is so great about it. The idea in the WTC Memorial is not like that. People are going to compare them, but they really are completely different.

JB: If a person could visit the memorial and walk away with one thing, what would you like that to be?

PW: I think it is like any memorial. You hope they retain some composite but distinctive image that will stay with them. You want to compete with the great monuments. You also want to have something that fits on a postcard so that you instantly know what it is. Something iconographic. I think that’s the strength of Michael’s initial scheme. I’m sure that’s what attracted the jury.

JB: Due to the significant role landscape plays in this memorial, do you think this will change the way the general public perceives landscape architecture as a profession. Do you think this project has the potential to do that?

PW: I think that there is a fair amount of lip service given to landscape architecture. People who live in cities really like their parks, but they are not seen as designed, even though they are. They are seen as historical expressions, like Bryant Park, or they are seen as expressions of nature, like Central Park. I think the artifice gets lost, and I think the proof of that is, when they cease to be maintained or cared for, no one complains. I don’t think they are seen in the sort of crystalline way architecture is seen, and I don’t think this is going to change much. It probably will change things for us as designers, because clients will show a willingness to do things that they would not have otherwise thought about. I can’t tell you how many times in this thing I have used Battery Park or Bryant Park as an example of what I was talking about and found that most people don’t think of them as specific artifacts. So I think this may add to the vocabulary. A vocabulary is obviously already there, but it’s not a vocabulary people are using to make policy.

JB: Given all the players involved and all the constituencies that have a vested interest in the project, how difficult is it going to be to get this built the way that you and Michael have sat down and talked about it?

PW: I think it is going to be difficult, but we have some power in the situation because the vision has been more or less accepted by everybody and if it is not realized, someone will object. I don’t believe there is anybody who really wants to get rid of the design idea. We have not heard of many who oppose the scheme. As I said, everybody has been really supportive. Even the people who have objections seem to understand the scheme.

August 2005

JB: At the start you knew that this would be a difficult project to realize as it was conceived by Michael Arad and yourself. Has it been more difficult than you expected?

PW: What has been more difficult than I imagined was the amount of time it takes to deal with the composite problem the memorial has posed. We had always assumed that it would be a big design effort, construction effort, and a technical research effort, as every project is. But we’re doing it all under intense public scrutiny, and because of the public scrutiny, there is a tremendous amount of political direction which we never could have imagined.

Put all these things together and it has consumed the office, every waking moment. We now travel a full four days a month, taking these chunks of time away from the office. We originally assumed that we’d be traveling east every two weeks through schematic design, and then perhaps every three weeks, but we didn’t expect a conference call every day. It has put the office in the position of having to turn away work. We’ve had to increase our staff more than we’d like, and it’s taking our upper-level management away from the office. The time requirements and their continuation are more than we expected. We always knew of the highly public nature of the project but didn’t think we’d be trying to design while under investigation. It’s like having two jobs. You have your daily job with the project, and then you have this other job dealing with the larger political and media issues.

JB: Where are you now in the design process for the memorial? Is there an end in sight?

PW: We’re moving forward. The last year has not been unproductive. This is probably the most demanding design project I’ve ever had. We are just now finishing design development on the project. We’ve got more than a typical DD package done; we also have our trees tagged, the pool plumbing worked out, and coordination with Calatrava and Snohetta underway. Much of the coordination is coming to a head. Many of the consultants started after us but have had an easier time. We’re in the position of having to do coordination like this while we’re in design development. It would have been a lot easier to coordinate if we had been able to do it earlier.

JB: Significant design elements for the memorial, particularly the ceremonial procession from above ground to below ground have undergone significant changes. How is the design team dealing with decisions to alter such an important aspect of the original design?

PW: When we first started with the conceptual plans as they were laid out in the competition scheme, we did not have a solution to all the problems. Many of these decisions have improved the project. We expected to do design alternatives. Our task was to produce a memorial that worked according to the conceptual direction of Michael’s plan, but also produce a public open space that didn’t destroy the memorial. Michael has really kept his eye on the memorial part of the project, while I’ve kept an eye on the public open space. The plaza must be respectful of the memorial and not destroy the mood. The mood is what needs to be balanced with all the suggestions for things such as concerts in the plaza. The mood is very important. Like we’ve done on other program-sensitive projects like the Nasher Sculpture Center, we’ve had to take some things that we don’t want to see, but that are still necessary to the functioning of the project, and make them invisible. The design process is the same as other projects in that there are ideas and you have to fight for some and let others go, but in this case we’ve had to take on all comers from all directions.

There will be 5 million people a year visiting this site, but they don’t all come at once! Even so, it should be possible to maintain the solemnity of the place despite its public nature by controlling the number of people in any space at one time and carefully considering the devices to control their behavior. Things like signage, buying tickets, the numbers of people moving from one space to another are all being specifically considered. Too many people in one room or location could take away from the mood of the place, so it is important to control movement with careful manipulations in the landscape materials. For example, movements of people going to and from work can be handled with pavement choices and barriers. We considered putting a wall around the site at the beginning — a low parapet, or even a hedge with one or two access points — but we wanted to be more subtle than that. It is different than the Vietnam Memorial, which sits in the park and works in relationship to it. In our case there is no park. We are the park. Parks are prized in a city such as New York. Park space in the city is at a premium, and the parks are beloved. The difficulty here is that there will be use restrictions, and we have to design for them. This park will not be able to be used the way people are accustomed to using other parks, for Frisbee, dogs, and shortcuts for commuters.

brooke_3JB: Have there been any pleasant surprises since you have begun? Things you didn’t expect?

PW: We’ve been able to accomplish things in the bureaucracies that we never expected. And the people! We have met people that have been extraordinarily helpful in cutting through the red tape, championing causes, addressing the more cruel questions that are constantly put to us. Some of these people will be friends for the rest of my life. These are people that are on the board, they are family members, they are agency members, and even one or two members of the press that have been very careful to tell the whole story and avoid looking for the most contentious bytes of information. The mayor and the governor of New York have also shown incredible support and dedicated interest in the project and that has been great.

JB: This isn’t really the kind of project you build, take photos of, and revisit a few years later. How does this project fit into the trajectory of your career?

PW: It might kill me! [Laughs] This project is different than most others I’ve worked on, because it is open to the public but is run by a foundation. It is also unlike many other projects I’ve worked on in that it is endowed. Unlike a project like a public college campus, where you finish and it gets turned over to the students and administration, a private group is running this. This will be a continuous operation, and I’m sure that we will continue to be involved. Our office will be on call in the horticultural sense but also with the people management. I’m sure there will be some revisiting of elements, and they won’t stay exactly the same. When you are dealing with landscape, plants deteriorate and need maintenance, and we will of course need to respond to things that happen that no one could anticipate.

I’ve never had a client like this, one that was both knowledgeable and eternal. I think about Le Notre and Olmsted and the skills they had in dealing with large institutions similar to this, and I just wish I had more years to work in this part of my career. I should have had clients like these years ago! Some landscape architects reach this point earlier in their life. Most landscape architects have to slog through the smaller and less interesting projects that it takes to get to something like this. Now, because of this project, we have more projects of this caliber in the office, not memorials necessarily but projects that I just wish that I had 20 more years to work on.