Victoria Casasco introduces Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, founding principal of Architectonica, and the urban planning firm Duany Plater-Zyberk. She heads the graduate program at the University of Miami, as well as lecturing all over the U.S. She has worked to change planning policy to incorporate physical design as opposed to just demographic, transportation and services criteria. She is challenging developers to create desegregated zoning, both for the benefit of the residents and the developers.
Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk believes that current urban planning is misguided due to its lack of good design sense, and its obsession with accommodating the automobile, and segregating uses. She believes the city is a device to bring people together for security, communication and commerce. She defines good design as an intentional act that solves a problem without creating a new one, that achieves maximum impact with minimal resources, that understands the broader context of a problem, that is critical of clichés, but has a healthy respect for history. Good neighborhood design has a central focus, and is organized to allow pedestrian travel within the neighborhood.
Plater-Zyberk sees the neighborhood of four hundred to two thousand residents as the basic building block of good urban design. There should be a central public use facility which is slightly higher density, and there should be a transportation hub. The zoning should be mixed use and prioritize pedestrian travel. She worked on the Seaside resort town in Florida that demonstrates her planning concepts at the scale of the neighborhood. In this town there are two policies that control how the city is built, the urban code and the architectural code.
Plater-Zyberk discusses the challenge of planning in existing cities such as Trenton, New Jersey. A priority must be given to public space and pedestrian uses. Zoning should be changed to allow for mixed uses, while respecting and supporting ethnic identities of neighborhoods. Commerce and cultural institutions should be kept downtown, and parking should be seen as a public infrastructure. Most importantly, the urban designers lead the plan, rather than the transportation and services departments.
Plater-Zyberk answers questions from the audience. Even though Seaside is not a year round community, it demonstrates that better design eventually leads to higher land values. Architects should be more involved with urban planning, and at least aware of good urban planning even if only designing a house.