One Mayor’s Downfall Killed the Design Project That Could’ve Changed Everything
Public Interest Design’s Wild Ride into City Hall
The Lab was the brainchild of a world-renowned architect and the pet project of a mayor who wanted social change and believed urban design and planning could be the means to achieving it. Philanthropists were standing by to offer their support. The concept behind the Lab — a cadre of designers embedded in the mayor’s office, with the power to revive public spaces around the city and launch a broad campaign of civic engagement — was unique in North America, and almost unimaginable in conservative San Diego. It seemed to answer the long-held desire of architects, especially, for designers to play a role in the decision-making that shapes cities…
This emphasis on urban design and the built environment was unique. …The regular duties of the “design strategists” on staff would include urban research, visualizations, and the design and execution of public spaces. The design work was not about the superficial beautification of San Diego; the intent was to forge a highly participative process that could improve social equity by transforming physical space.
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