New York City’s chief urban designer Alexandros Washburn has some valuable insight into how we should be thinking about urban redevelopment in an era of climate change. Next City interviews Washburn in advance of the release of his new book The Nature of Urban Design: A New York Perspective on Resilience:
At the city level, he’s thinking of New York’s coastal defenses. Many Baroque cities have master plans that include perimeter fortifications. New York City does not, and that raises a different set of questions if you look at the city “like a bee-hive.”
“How can you write the rules — the zoning codes, the building codes, the insurance underwriting requirements, all the unseen DNA of how cities move — how do you write that code so that as individual actions take place they somehow weave themselves into a continuous whole?” he says.
There’s another reason Washburn likes the Bullitt Center. He sees it a model for more green architecture at a commercial scale. Green skyscrapers are great, but why not six-story office buildings? Why not houses? Zooming in, the ideal city to Washburn is one where people can get bonds for solar panels for their individual houses. Zooming out, it’s a city with laws that allow such micro-financing to occur.
“You know, urban design is not just about drawing pretty pictures,” he says. “You can design finance, you can design policy, you can design these things that reverberate throughout a city.”
Many important lessons here for Rhode Island: especially for our I-195 Commission.