According to his personal website, Chris Leinberger’s professional title is “Metropolitan Land Use Strategist,” but among other things he is a developer, author and researcher. He was greeted by a full house at Architecture Hall, University of Washington on February 12th. His presentation anchored on the point that transportation drives development, and that we live in a world where there is great demand for “walkable urbanism.”
Using the historical transportation model developed in post-depression America (highways), Leinberger made a case for seizing the opportunities in the paradigm shift we are presently witnessing. He claims that auto-centric suburban “communities” can and should be restructured into walkable, livable places. Arlington, Virginia presents a valuable case study where a once weakened local economy and fragmented culture is now a vibrant and healthy town because of strategic and concentrated redevelopment featuring mixed uses. In fact, he used many large cities across the U.S. to draw a common thread of problem/solution scenarios.
The presentation was a nice punch of optimism in world where climate change, overpopulation and all the other looming burdens of humankind seem to infiltrate our lives. And as professionals, he is essentially tipping us off to a cornucopia of opportunity. But the words at the same time are not altogether new. There is indeed a growing awareness of the shift towards a more sustainable future. Environmental alarms are sounding the dangers and new economic markets are turning the ship. To paraphrase Leinberger, “We are currently in the midst of a knowledge-based economy [where technology and innovation are expanding]. The next economic ‘layer’ will be based on experience, and this will manifest as walkable urban spaces.”