The video game test

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Former Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist used a series of thought experiments or "tests" to help people think about whether a proposed development was really going to help the process of revitalization:

  • The postcard test. Is this building something you'd see on a postcard trumpeting the unique qualities of your city? Norquist did several companion slides comparing old historic buildings in the city's center (such as the library) with their new, uninspired counterparts in the suburbs. Lacing his talk with ample humor, Norquist labeled one particularly ugly new structure 'a monument to totalitarianism.'

  • The parade test. Is your street design and the buildings that frame the street a place you could imagine the public congregating for a parade or similar public festival?

  • The century test. Is the building designed to last? Will it be around 100 years from now? Is it attractive enough that you'd even want it around 100 years from now?

Oklahoma City's Downtown Guy makes a comment that suggests an additional test of urban design goodness:

One more random thought: if there is no interest in downtowns or hip urban locales, why is it that the most popular video games don’t feature races and other adventures with backdrops of big box retail shopping centers? Think about it – the coolest video games all take place in urban areas where the architecture is anything but suburban. What’s capturing the attention of today’s youth – you got it – they want to be downtown.

Let's call it the "video game test": If the cityscape isn't cool enough for a popular video game, it isn't cool enough for our city.

Downtown Guy also discovers a map of the Great Plains and that that's where Oklahoma City is. Interesting to see the way the boundary curves around and through Tulsa. That same entry lists an MIT professor's tips regarding design review, a process used in cities that have urban conservation districts, where proposed new developments in existing neighborhoods are evaluated for compatibility with the neighborhood's character. Charles G. Hill, whose Surlywood estate is located in such a district, has some comments on the same topic here.

Tulsa doesn't have any design review districts, as such. We have historic preservation districts that are strictly residential and are concerned with maintaining the appearance of the appropriate period on a home's facade. Urban or neighborhood conservation districts focus less on the building in isolation and more on its relationship to other buildings and the street. The focus is not on preserving buildings of historical significance, but on preserving any valued characteristic of a neighborhood. It would be a great tool for preserving the small and shrinking parts of our city that are truly urban and pedestrian-friendly.

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Michael Bates, on the sort of urban-design review that exists in Oklahoma City: Tulsa doesn't have any design review districts, as such. We have historic preservation districts that are strictly... Read More

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 31, 2005 12:57 AM.

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