On the Bookshelf
New prof share vision for urban development
By Carolyn Gonzales
Stephen M. Wheeler, new faculty in the School of Architecture and Planning, arrived from Berkeley, Calif., this past fall and brings expertise in planning for sustainable development. His recent publication, “The Sustainable Urban Development Reader,” Routledge, 2004, brings together the voices of those who paved the way for recent discussions on sustainability and offers visions for future urban development.
“We have to look at all scales of planning and design – regional, national, city, neighborhood and develop a coherent framework that makes sense,” Wheeler said.
Questions on land use and urban design are the focus of some of the writings pulled together in the text. How can more compact and walkable neighborhoods be designed? What forms and densities of housing are appropriate for transit-oriented development? How can streets and public space work better for people?
Wheeler and co-editor, Timothy Beatley, University of Virginia, include sections on transportation in the urban environment, urban ecology and restoration and energy and materials use. A piece by Dolores Hayden, a recent visitor for the School of Architecture and Planning’s John Gaw Meem Lecture Series, is included in the section on environmental justice and social equality.
The editors bring together pieces on sustainable urban development internationally and identify case studies on urban sustainability. They also present visions of sustainable communities, including one from Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic science fiction novel, “The Dispossessed.”
Wheeler and Beatley present some examples of urban sustainability at the neighborhood or district scale including Village Homes in Davis, Calif., a model since the late 1970s providing a network of community green spaces and walkways, small homes grouped in clusters, solar access, “edible landscaping,” fruit trees, a vineyard, orchard and community garden.
Since the 1940s, neighborhoods have not been built to be conducive for walking or biking, Wheeler said. He sees possibility locally. “We can make Albuquerque a healthier place to live by designing areas for active living,” he said. He will teach an interdisciplinary course next semester on Town Design and Public Health, co-taught with Kristine Suozzi, Bernalillo County Department of Public Health. He points to parking lots and shopping centers as “opportunities for future use currently littering the landscape.”
Wheeler’s second book, “Planning for Sustainability,” is scheduled to be published by Routledge in August.