Michael Mehaffy – “Place Networks”: Healthy Streets and Sidewalks

Michael Mehaffy, Executive Director of the Sustasis Foundation spoke about the urgency to find a better way of building our cities than we are doing at present because in the next 50 years we will produce more urban fabric than in the last 5,000 years.

“What have we learned?” asks Michael. We have learned that to create a truly livable, healthy city is all about facilitating connective relationships at different levels. We need to think about urbanism as a “place network”. The way the built environment is designed facilitates interaction in many subtle ways between the public realm, people in the street, and the private realm, people in the surrounding buildings.

We also need to think about the operating system that allows a healthy dynamic of growth and adjustments in the urban fabric over time, and understand why ours works so poorly at the moment. “This is key to understanding how we can make favelas and slums much more humane, if we don’t try to fight this dynamic but actually empower it”. The places we love and feel comfortable in, asserts Michael,  have a rich, finely detailed sequence of interacting spaces that facilitate human interaction and diverse activities – the “Sidewalk ballet” as Jane Jacobs used to say…