I have always found it interesting that Design and Planning initiatives such as “Living Streets”, “Complete Streets”, “Walkable Communities”, “Transit Oriented Design” and the big one “Sustainable Design” are often discussed in the context of being a new approach. So new that those of us in the Landscape Architecture profession have taken to branding ourselves as experts or specialists in these areas. Recent changes in technology and demographics and a greater sensitivity to energy consumption have placed these at the forefront of our profession. Don’t get me wrong, I believe these are all worthwhile initiatives. But new?
In my annual New Years attempt to clean out, file and get organized I came across a book that brought this issue to life. The Pedestrian Revolution, Streets Without Cars by Simon Breines & William J. Dean 1974. Based on the date this had to have been required reading while I was in College. 1972 – 1976. So Just over 35 years ago we were being taught the importance of the Pedestrian within the Urban Fabric. See “Living Streets”. Curious, I perused our library at work and low and behold, I found Plants/People and Environmental Quality, published by the National Park Service in cooperation with ASLA in 1972 by Gary O. Robinette and Landscape Architecture, An Ecological Approach to Environmental Planning, 1961 by John Ormsbee Simonds.
So these concepts are by no means new, I am still comforted by the fact that they have been around for awhile. They are not fads-they are time tested approaches to environmentally appropriate design solutions. They spoke to the hearts and minds of our great designers 40 years ago, and they still make excellent sense to us today. These initiatives are fundamental to the practice of Landscape Architcture, and as time passes, and need grows, technological advancements in design and construction are making our aspirations more of a reality. It is important that this legacy of environmental stewardship is passed to future generations so they can continue to evolve new and better design solutions.