Balancing Green and Brown in Urban Design


My title is that of a public lecture I gave the other day at the Aurora History Museum. My first speaking visit to the Aurora museum was about underground archaeology at the Ludlow Tent City; this one was about “above ground” archaeology in Denver and its suburbs.

Aurora History Museum (D. Saitta)

Aurora History Museum (D. Saitta)

The lecture was my first opportunity to present, to a group of citizens, some ideas about what Denver area urban planners and architects might consider when designing for environmental and cultural sustainability.  The slide show (posted to the Presentations page of this website) draws on the Intercultural City ethos that informs many of the essays on this blog. It also synthesizes observations made by students conducting original fieldwork for my Culture and The City course.


Denver Viewed from Red Rocks State Park (D. Saitta)

The lunchtime audience of “brown-bagging” seniors and folks on lunch break from local offices was engaged and animated. They appreciated the idea of designing public spaces to accommodate cultural diversity, even if this meant sacrificing serene, manicured, leafy parks and squares for the messy multi-functionality of “hard plazas” (like the one in Barcelona featured  in the slide show).  They seemed to like the idea that parking lots are not always visual blights and can be important mechanisms for sustaining informal urban economies.  They agreed that the Great Walmart War at the 9th and Colorado infill site in central Denver tragically derailed a potentially fruitful conversation about how corporations and citizens can make common cause to create better and more sustainable urban places.

In short, it was a lively and enjoyable event that reminded me why I love getting out of the ivory tower and into public arenas where you can learn from, and be inspired by, fellow citizens.


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