The latest edition of the Journal of the American Planning Association commemorates the life of David Godschalk, FAICP.
Professor of city and regional planning and a planner, architect, elected official, JAPA editor, and mentor, Godschalk is remembered in JAPA (Vol. 85, No. 1) for a wide range of contributions as a prolific scholar and collaborative practitioner.
In “David Godschalk: A Planner’s Lifelong Search for the Sweet Spot,” Philip Burke and Daniel Rodriguez consider the scope of his career. In six additional commentaries, colleagues remark on how he transformed the planning field in the realms of civic participation, urban governance, comprehensive planning, and risk and resilience.
Burke and Rodriguez delve into this “sweet spot” Godschalk searched for. He believed the planner must balance conflict and possibility, navigate sticky disputes and seek collective solutions. Over the course of his career, Godschalk advocated for planning not as a “zero-sum game,” but as an endeavor for harmonic moments of balance and collaboration.
Burke and Rodriguez walk through Godschalk’s four primary areas of contribution — further illustrated in articles throughout the edition:
- participatory planning
- comprehensive and land use planning
- resilience in the face of natural disaster and climate change
- creating planning institutions
Here readers get a glimpse of just how transformative Godschalk’s contributions were across the field. He advocated for collaborative, community-based planning as the foundation of conflict resolution, demonstrating how planners and researchers alike can find channels for understanding.
In a commentary, “With, Not For: David Godschalk and Citizen Participation,” Bruce Stiftel describes this legacy, remembering how Godschalk created a community coalition to drive decisions when he was the planning director of Gainesville, Florida.
Considering how Godschalk shaped comprehensive planning, Burke and Rodriguez recount how Godschalk led APA’s “Sustainable Places” initiative, to redefine how plans can be evaluated through with a set of sustainability metrics.
In “Reflections on David Godschalk’s Contribution to Comprehensive Planning,” Yan Song and Zhendong Luo expound on the evolution of Godshalk’s comprehensive planning contributions, showing how he tied community-based planning to indicators of sustainability.
Godschalk’s role in climate resiliency and risk management remains equally transformative. In “David Godschalk, an Indispensable Resource,” Jim Schwab, FAICP, describes how Godschalk was a “pioneer” in urban resilience, advocating for protecting communities from natural disasters as early as the 1980s. Burke and Rodriguez share how he shaped national policy, most notably through his contributions to the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000.
Finally, Godschalk is celebrated for spearheading planning institutions, creating partnerships between practitioners, professors and students alike.
Chairing the University of North Carolina planning department, he is remembered not only for large-scale projects — such as designing a main campus plaza — but for investing in his colleagues and students: offering life advice, editing other’s papers, serving as a generous mentor. He also edited JAPA from 1968 to 1971.
Turn to this commemorative edition of JAPA — including a lengthy section on Godschalk from outgoing Editor Sandi Rosenbloom — to glean inspiration from the life of a talented practitioner, scholar, mentor, and friend, from whom there continues to be so much to learn.
Top image: David Godschalk lecturing circa 2010. Photo by Udo Reisinger; used with permission.
About the Author
Margaret Haltom is a Master in Urban Planning Candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.