"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.

Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has"

Margaret Mead, Anthropologist
(used with permission)

"If you don't like the news .... go out and make some of your own !!"

Wes "Scoop" Nisker, Newscaster


Government is a slow and tedious process. While it often includes citizen and neighborhood involvement, non-governmental, private organizations have created movements and interesting groups which can create positive change in our cities and towns.

I am fascinated by the way groups are created and how they influence public decision making. This blog merely recognizes them and forwards the description of these groups from their own websites.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Town Square Initiative

Location: International

Website: www.gensleron.com/cities/

By 2050, nearly 70 percent of the world’s population—some 6.29 billion people—will live in cities, according to data from the United Nations. The pressure to create urban centres that facilitate healthy human social interaction is greater than ever. And it will grow ever more.

Our cities need to become better at what they do. They must provide comprehensive answers to help balance and foster our lifestyles on a global level. The time is now, and those of us who can have an obligation to contribute to—and even to instigate—dialogues on how to best achieve this.

Gensler is taking on this challenge by launching the Reimagining Cities campaign. Each year, our offices around the globe will explore one topic that defines modern cities and seek out, in the places Gensler calls home, ways to demonstrate innovative urban ideas.

Town Square Initiative was the inaugural effort for Reimagining Cities. The primary focus of this yearlong volunteer effort was to reconsider the public open spaces in cities and to explore how we can improve our social capacity through an improved physical urban environment.

We are only now understanding that so many past urban solutions have led us to dysfunctional spaces. How do we avoid replicating previous mistakes?

Mistakes, for example, in urban planning and development that sought to streamline a single aspect of infrastructure, such as automotive transportation, at the great expense of the most fundamental of tasks a city performs: bringing people together and enabling social exchange and physical interaction.

Today we know that we cannot afford to develop singular answers. Our challenges are multi-faceted, complex questions, and the answers must be equally ambidextrous. Our modern cities need to mirror our modern, multitasking lifestyles.

Today, cities in so-called developed countries are models for the development of cities across the developing world. And developing cities are growing at staggering rates.

As economies increase, aspirations of wealth and the associated lifestyles threaten to come at the expense of balanced, society-oriented urban development—much as they did in the developed cities, only now we are looking at much larger scales of intervention. Cities are growing into megalopolises, generating an entirely new set of challenges.

Even in the established urban centres across Europe and North America, shifting economies are beginning to grow and merge into significantly larger hubs of social and business activity.

We must therefore understand the challenges we face not only in developing countries, but also in our much admired so-called developed cities . When we look at these established urban centres, we discover fundamental flaws in how we utilise spaces and how we prioritise the use of these spaces.

The social functions of public spaces—however utilitarian they may appear to be—are not to be underestimated. The urban fabric is the physical seed bed of our increasingly urban societies. With the modernisation and globalisation of our societies, social structure, responsibility, and accountability seem to be ever more challenged.

Our urban public spaces—from streetscapes and waterfronts to parks, civic plazas, and the neighbourhoods we live in—need to contribute to our social awareness; our sense of social purpose and belonging.

From reconsidering the fundamentals of urban design as well as identifying missed opportunities, the Town Square Initiative seeks to recontextualise our existing cities' social environment by exploring innovative approaches and proposing straightforward, multifaceted, future-oriented solutions.

Over the last 12 months more than half of Gensler's offices worldwide engaged in this initiative to improve the urban environment. What we discovered is that despite the very specific and individual challenges different cities across the globe are facing, there are fundamental commonalities that begin to help us understand this effort as a global challenge.

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