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Slow Urbanism

The next chapter of this GREEN | URBAN | SMART story is to say that architecture happens in cities. We all enjoy a barn in a field, we celebrate Versailles on a great lawn, but then we’re back in the specialty of the Landscape Architects, and that is to say, the farmers, the gardeners, those who sow the field.  Architecture, the work we do, is in the city, our work is the urbanity, the grid, adjacency to the transportation network, a group of residents and patrons who chose to collaborate in real time.

Even to the farmer’s barn, his story is the day when he goes to town and sells his stock and buys his wares (I watch too many Paul Thomas Anderson films!) We like the city, we like the store, we like the carriage ride into town. We will design a barn, if it gets you ready for the city.

Urbanism is where it’s at. Infrastructure, agreement, commerce, and coffee shops. Collaboration that is more important than traffic, more vital than parking. Let the planners consider the causeways, let others plan and debate and consider eminent domain for the in-betweens. We’ll be there when the train stops, and that’s when the city starts.

But on another theme, the note that came to mind this week is that Architecture is slow. Every day, we live and move by deadlines, we make promises perpetually, we move the ball to the end zone, we are anxious, we are over-worked. We worry for our goals and much more for our commitments to our clients. But Architecture is slow.

My best meeting this week was with a warmed-up acquaintance who met me last more than ten years ago. We talked about the booming development in the cities around Raleigh! We said the same words we said back then, the last time we met. The developments are still booming, the outskirts are still growing. The new Town Center we were sure was ready to start back then is still on the table, and we talked about it again. Now is the time to collaborate!

My fear is that the return of this conversation is the return of that old economy, that this optimism for momentum is a symptom of that old disease, it’s the return of a day when I’m sitting in a coffee shop and talking about ideas: two people on the sidewalk with nothing better to do.

Those were good days. Those were dark days. We were broke. We were GREEN! We were ambitions, and we wanted to talk about it all over coffee.

And this time through, I don’t doubt the ambition, I don’t doubt the opportunity, but l’m late for another meeting, and this time I know the architecture will wait. We have our irons in the fire. We have our teams ready, and maybe, dare I say it, were learning to wait.

We’re not starving, (we never were) the other players won’t get there first (they’re too busy) The destination is not to do the first thing, it’s to do the better thing-and let’s keep debating that question! To be first is to be a prophet. To be better is to be part of the Spirit in motion.

I look at development in Cary, (NC) I think it happened overnight, I hope there’s enough empty space left for someone to still call our number for support. And growth is happening fast, and creativity appears to be exploding on cure, in a municipality we had resolved would never change, in a township we always assumed would remain contentious and beige. And look where we are now!

But the conversations we’re having now are the same conversations we had then. The introductions are warmer, the leverage is more comfortable, the young movers are not that young any more, and they have much more backing behind their good ideas.

We haven’t moved. We’re slow. Architecture is slow.

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Osterlund Architects is a full-service architecture and interior design firm, committed to our clients and their work from concept through construction, and through to their next opportunity. Our firm has expertise in all project phases, including programming, pre-design and planning through construction administration and closeout, as well as interior design, including furniture, fixtures and equipment (FFE) services.

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