Looking Forward: Legacy Cities Design Forum Recap, Part 4

A Legacy Cities network

Despite a fully packed schedule, energy remained high at the end of the second day of the Legacy Cities Design: Bruner Loeb Forum 2013. Maurice Cox (LF ’05) said, "There are so many challenges on the ground for those of us doing this work; most of the time we have our heads down and don’t look up. To see the successes around the country, see people reinventing infrastructure, going from concept to realization – it’s quite dramatic. It will help us to develop a database to track the emergence of doers in the right kind of cities facing the challenges we have in New Orleans.”

"In this room we all know each other. One way to show the power of network is if regular contacts build stronger knowledge,” said Dan Pitera (LF ‘05). "It’s so hard to know all the varying conditions, but if we can catalogue them we may begin to work together and better.”

Snapshot of the lessons

  • Design should be asset-based and interdisciplinary.
  • Use the space and time available to test innovation. Don’t fear failure.
  • Regarding scale: it’s not always the whole city. Some cities have legacy neighborhoods.
  • Design for and with people. Local activism, participation and engagement are the roots of stewardship.
  • Think about neighborhood residents today and in the future.
  • Create new landscapes and pay attention to new movement and settlement patterns.
  • Funders can be critical in supporting visualization and shifting the focus from problems to future possibilities.
  • Networks make for stronger advocacy.
  • Regulatory mechanisms facilitate innovation and change.
  • Catalogue the cases, successes and failures. Analyze the results.

Vision and the role of design

In revitalizing Legacy Cities, a master plan is ideal but not always possible. But a number of the Forum speakers alluded to the importance of vision, even in the absence of means. Their turnaround message was that when political will, planning, economic realities and community engagement have failed to produce action, design can play an important role. (The speakers did not say that the answer is money. Sorry, Sam Butler ["The Impotence and Megalomania of City Design,” New City].) Rather, the message was: design can demonstrate what’s possible, test innovation and create a shared vision. It can mobilize community engagement and sustain hopefulness to begin to coalesce the forces to move forward.

Peter J. Park (LF ’05) described overseeing the removal of Park East Freeway as Milwaukee’s planning director. His team developed vision and plan up front, long before any action was feasible. The city was prepared for the moment when the resources were there; it had seen what was possible when the highway was removed. "There’s hope for other cities,” said Park. "It takes vision; implementation strategies addressing regulations, infrastructure and partnerships; community support; leadership. If it can be done in Milwaukee you can do it elsewhere.”

Pitera summed it up. "Policy and design are chicken and egg things, they’re dependent on each other and they impact each other. The intersection is where the epiphany will occur.”

Missed any of the Legacy Cities Design Forum photo essays?

Use these links:


Legacy City Design: Bruner Loeb Forum 2013

Detroit Future City

J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City

American Assembly

Bruner Foundation, Rudy Bruner Award, and Bruner Loeb Forum

Detroit Collaborative Design Center

Next City blog, a new media partner for the Forum


First Container and Collision Works

Eastern Market


Tagged , , , , , |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *