Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cities Create Design Centers

More and more cities are creating design centers to remain competitive in the new global economy. Architects and planners are working together to create city design centers as a major part of the economic development plan of many cities.

Paris has one. Copenhagen has one. San Francisco just opened one and Baltimore and Cleveland are thinking about developing design centers as they seek ways to improve the quality of architectural design and urban planning in their cities. The idea is to create a place where people can learn about and discuss design issues in a forum that's not possible at present.

Baltimore, like many cities, has many different organizations whose members care about architecture and urban design issues, including the American Institute of Architects, Neighborhood Design Center, Urban Land Institute, Baltimore Architecture Foundation, Citizens Planning and Housing Association, the local chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, Baltimore Heritage, Preservation Maryland and even virtual communities such as the EnvisionBaltimore listserve. Design issues are also important to college students at Morgan State University, the University of Maryland, College Park and Maryland Institute College of Art, among other campuses.

But, as in many cities, even with all this activity, there is no central location where people can educate themselves about a pending design issue or planning effort, or see design exhibits the way they can in Chicago or New York.

Some design centers are primarily commercial settings where designers and clients select furniture, fixtures and textiles, but what is envisioned by new design centers is a place for exploration and communication and exchange of ideas. Design centers should be places where the next generation of architects and planners come together and help map a city's future.

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