Gary Hack: Professor Emeritus of City & Regional Planning at UPenn believes that the people who live in a city are the only ones who really know how to improve…
The best intelligence about what a city lacks and what it needs, exists among people who use it every day. They are frustrated by what they can’t find, how difficult it is to navigate from place to place, how congested particular streets are, and by the lack of places there are to get away from the crowds. They know streets that are safe, and others to avoid. They also know the special places in their city where they shop, eat and find entertainment, and the unique buildings and squares where they proudly take visitors. Many local residents have seen things in other parts of the city, or other cities that they would like to have in their neighborhood or where they work or study. The shortest route to knowing what needs to be improved is by asking residents to share their needs and desires.
But there are some things that people in the crowd don’t know: the world of innovative possibilities that might address the problems they identify, the feasibility of building and maintaining things, the density needed in a city to support the services and shops residents desire, among other things. There are things that designers and planners can see that residents overlook, and professionals know how to make all the parts of the city add up to an energetic whole.