Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Innovation and the American Metropolis

We hear the word innovation a lot these days. But the word’s ubiquity in contemporary discourse speaks to the undeniable surge in new ideas of how to make complex systems, like cities, work better. Many of these ideas rely on recent technological advances that enable the capture of huge amounts of data and the interconnection of large networks of individuals. Regional Plan Association (RPA) has been in the business of coming up with new ideas to make the New York metropolitan region work better since 1922. A few months before the Wall Street Crash of 1929, RPA released a plan for the region that helped to pave the way for the systems that supported New York’s recovery from the Great Depression and subsequent growth. Two other long-range plans, in 1968 and 1996 have argued persuasively for coordinated planning across municipal and state boundaries that integrates community design, open space, transportation, housing, and economic and workforce development.
On April 16th, 2010, business, civic, philanthropic, media and government leaders will convene at RPA’s annual Regional Assembly. This year, the theme is “Innovation and the American Metropolis” and the event seeks to ponder the impact of emerging trends in technology and data on new approaches to the design and management of cities and regions (check out the day’s agenda here). Urban Omnibus recently sat down with Tom Wright, RPA’s executive director, and Rob Lane, director of the Design Program at RPA, to talk about the meanings and uses of innovation in the context of the history and future of RPA and the metropolitan region itself. -C.S.

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