Model cities, modeled dreams


Glass City, by James Rojas of PlaceIt!

What we love so much about the model cities by James Rojas and PlaceIt! is that they are as much magical representations of cities as they are an opportunity for everyday citizens to dream about, and participate in the making of, their ideal city. The conventional approach to soliciting community input on a development project (re: plans and drawings are presented at a meeting, attendants comment, some months later new plans and drawings are presented with some changes, it’s approved or voted down) is limited in its lack of a real-time opportunity to render changes to a project. Additionally, it compels participants to focus solely on one project site and not on a neighborhood or city as a whole entity. Very much in contrast, Rojas’s model cities and accompanying workshops transcend these limitations by allowing participants not only to modify the models Rojas constructs but also to construct their own personalized models of their ideal city. While these exercises may not lead directly to the generation of planning documents to guide development, they begin the very necessary process of generating a new discourse on planning and design in which community participants are encouraged to think beyond the parcel level and simply opposing a particular project. Instead, participants are encouraged to think as urban designers and visionaries who play a direct role in the shaping of their city. The more people who participate, the more hope we might have of generating a citizenry with forward-thinking visions about city form a not a citizenry that simply reacts (negatively) to proposed development projects.

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