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Urban design and development happens in zones where there is potential for change - where value has the potential to increase. The land has to have "risk."  In areas of "risk" design takes lower value areas and make them higher value areas.  These are edge conditions, urban ecotones: areas where "high value" and "low value" interact and mingle.  In this space, there may be open land, or there may simply be displacement, as "low" value parcels - and buildings, streets, and residents - are replaced by "high" value parcels - buildings, streets, and residents. Landscape architecture is frequently tasked with the job of stitching together this urban design flip.  Rather than build suburban campuses in the center of cities, displacing populations and replacing them with robots, let's ensure healthy urban metabolism by fostering anti-campuses, where landscape brings together diverse urban constituents in flourishing greenspaces. 

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Major SF Design Firm

Landscape of Urban Risk

The Campus

In the 1960s, 1970s, and onwards until the 2000s, we saw marginal areas at the rural/urban edge become "suburbanized" in large campus like developments, most notably with shopping malls, office parks, parking lots, highways, large parks, and tract housing. This continued the trends of value and risk mapping started in the early 20th century, including "red-lining." The most self-contained campuses were theme parks like Disneyland and resorts like Club-Med.  Campuses, with pseudo pedestrian walking courses and greenways became extremely popular to tie together suburban malls and housing. 

As consumer aesthetics changed to prefer walkable campuses over automobile oriented campuses, "New Urbanist" developers began to build campuses that resembled walkable cities and towns.  Seaside, Florida is an early example, and is perhaps best represented by the 1998 Jim Carrey film "The Truman Show."  City-like campuses began to spring up as "transit oriented development" all over the United States and abroad, often marketing highly idealized scenes of "normal life."   These campuses frequently have hidden parking lots behind facades that look like somewhat similar to pre-WWII buildings.


The Anti-Campus

The anti-campus likewise revolves around landscape designed greenspaces and streetscapes.  However, the anti-campus is a collection of multiple independently acting parts.  It is particularly landscape that ties together the anti-campus because the parts are not a single unified entity like a mall, tourist resort, or suburban tract development.  The anti-campus is anchored not by "big-box" mall chains, but instead by "single room occupancy" dwellings, coffee shops, hotels, and the parks and plazas where people like to sit, see, and be seen.  That is, anti-campus infrastructures keep their dynamic value by incorporating and retaining risk in their core geography, creating resiliency.  

Although developers quickly benefit from straight gentrification, when an area is too gentrified, it loses its own risk and  civic accountability. It becomes calcified as a real-estate venture, pushing out the civic life that made the neighborhood desirable to begin with.  With gentrification, the anti-campus becomes just the mono culture of the campus, although in the pedestrian oriented urban center.  

The challenge of 21st century urban design is to create accountable development that keeps the urban core accessible, not only for social justice, but also for purely economic reasons. In order to maintain the metabolism of urban growth, and avoid the "ghost city" phenomenon so common in quickly over-developed early 21st century urban areas, cities must accommodate real civic diversity.

As we have argued with  "Streetcoin", organizations including cities, developers, tech companies, and accountable care organizations that link together hospitals and insurance companies need to find ways to incorporate the valuable human analytics of high risk groups, not only to ensure safe streets and healthy populations, but also to ensure flourishing civic life. 

The Data Feedback Plaza

At the heart of the anti-campus is the data feedback plaza.  Plantings, sound, and shared social atmosphere have long been a way of telling instant data feedback in landscapes.  Plants trace the movement of light and wind with the curvature of limbs, the blooming of flowers, scent, and the hosting of moss and other species.  Likewise, most people can hear music, watch people and animals, and immediately feel the social mood of spaces.  However, now embedded networks of "the internet of things" are allowing for immediate big data feedback for accountable civic agencies. Designers can increasingly integrate advertising, real estate, crime prevention, and neighborhood character into plans and programming.   Shared ledgers of data, including real time health data, are becoming actionable in terms of small edits in landscape.   


Yet, to have sizable changes in human data outcomes, key social network nodes need to be activated, and activated in meaningful ways.  This is where data integration with high risk groups becomes even more important.  Plazas and parks are already the most well-loved spaces in cities, often occupied by high risk groups most of all.  Data feedback plazas mean activating this diversity for the long term civic benefit of all constituencies in the city. 



Ciphers: Imagining Data Feedback Landscapes

UX Cipher: A Strategic Opening

There are spaces in our landscape that are under-utilized, privatized, and blocked:

- parking lots surrounded by fences

- unbuilt lots surrounded by fences

- areas behind dilapidated closed big-box stores

- channelized drainage ditches

- fenced off spaces under highways

Often these spaces are located in the heart of suburban transit nodes, close to commuter rail, beside old streams now channelized, in the midst of a sea of downgraded suburban shopping malls. 


These difficult to occupy spaces often have replaced town centers that were once thriving urban spaces a century ago with clusters of alleys, markets, plazas, private homes, single room occupancy dwellings, etc.  Today, they are often the location of tent cities where addiction runs high and frequent hospitalization can cost tax payers millions of dollars per denizen, each year.  

Through the use of ux cipher landscape architecture it's possible for private land holders to temporarily rent sections of space to local neighborhood entrepreneurial leaders who build temporary dwellings in these spaces that improve standards of living, creating accountable healthcare feedback value through participation.



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