Planners Book Club
Discussing planning books with your peers is a great way to grow professionally and stay up-to-date on the latest issues affecting the field. APA's Planners Book Club will offer resources for you to start a book club in your office or your community. Each month we'll feature a book that could change the way you do your job and the way you see your job.
Up from Zero is the September selection of APA’s Planners Book Club.
The World Trade Center was destroyed seven years ago, and visible progress in rebuilding on the site has been made only recently. Given the processes, personalities, and many agendas involved, can Ground Zero be redeveloped sensibly? What have been some of the principal obstacles? Paul Goldberger’s Up from Zero offers the ultimate insider’s perspective on the decision making that went on during the first three years of the project.
You might discuss the perils of large-scale or high-profile development, how personality is a significant and often undervalued element in any planning process, or whether there are fundamental conflicts among democratic populism, good design, and good planning. Here are some questions to get your discussion started:
1. What are some of the inherent conflicts between design considerations and public policy? Is it just that architects don’t "get" planners and that politicians often have other priorities? Or are there fundamental aspects of how architects, planners, and politicians consider land use that entail conflicts?
2. What do architects bring to discussions of planning practice? When do their perspectives and values create problems, and when do they change perspectives in productive ways?
3. Is a public "listening" process valuable? Should the public have had a say in the design and planning processes as Goldberger describes them? How do planners listen to people without merely paying lip service to the concept, while also not sacrificing professional planning and design standards?
4. At the time it was built, the World Trade Center superblock was generally seen as good planning. Was it? Do aspects of that design remain valuable today?
5. How can planners reconcile wildly clashing agendas and different value systems? Think about the tension at Ground Zero between fiscal realities and the emotional demands of victims' families; or between demands for bold design and the physical limitations of the site; or between today’s desire for walkable, small-scale urbanism and the need to mark the power, history, and pain of this location.
6. Do you agree with Goldberger’s conclusion that "planning at Ground Zero began with a sense of unique mission, and ended up being far more like other large-scale building efforts than anyone had expected"? What might have been done differently? Have the length of time and the complexities involved been reasonable or ridiculous?
7. Imagine you need to redevelop a similar site in your municipality—not on the same scale, probably, but with some of the same emotional components and physical constraints. How would you proceed? Whom would you ask to be involved? What lessons would you take from this case study?
More about Up from Zero
Past Planners Book Club Selections
The Good News About Takings
Planners and Politics
Cities in the Wilderness
The Geography of Opportunity
Smart Growth in a Changing World
The High Cost of Free Parking
The Old Neighborhood
A Street Through Time
The Image of the City
Fair and Healthy Land Use
Learning from Las Vegas
The Right to Transportation
Toward Sustainable Communities
Maps and Mapping