Excerpt from capstone project, Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative. Full .pdf available here.

Now more than ever, the way we plan cities is out of touch with the way we live in them. As the city moves in the direction of being primarily a creator of inherently subjective and perspectival experiences, we still plan from the top down. As widespread vacancy and divestiture of intention from artifice opens the door for multifarious visions to be simultaneously projected upon a piece of the city, we still plan in bounded, contiguous, homogeneous districts. As we watch region after area after place after space abandoned for no reason, we still plan as though we can solve the problem by making a better version of what we replace. The ways in which we have traditionally documented our inhabitation of the world and proposed changes to that inhabitation are, for the most part, ill-equipped to address conditions of urbanity which, increasingly, characterize the modern city.

The act of mapping is, at its core, the act of selecting and representing finite sets of data – an «output» from the real world, so to speak. The act of planning is its inverse; it is an «input» to the real world, but it can only be articulated and proposed in the context of a «world» simplified to the point of being legible and understandable – which is to say, a map. All too often, the inherent relationship of these two disciplines is underappreciated. Contemporary movements in cartography and geography have begun to illustrate how the reading of data from the real world can move radically beyond the traditional parameters of mapping, but contemporary planning has been slow to recognize the implications of these shifts. As the ways we live our cities change and the discipline of planning encounters new tasks and challenges, it becomes imperative to develop our mapping strategies and our planning strategies as a unified tool or set of tools for the tasks at hand.