The French President and Paris

The sustainability and urban design world is all abuzz about the results of a design competition sponsored by the French president. The charge to architects: remake Paris. You can see some of the entries here in a slideslow.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff here, from a scholarly point of view. This reminds me of the early days of model cities, where designers behave as though cities are as malleable as clay on a potters’ wheel. I’ve actually written about model cities: in particular, the Futurama and the Democracity from the 1939 World’s Fair, though it’s pretty far from what I work on now. The trouble for all of us with our models is in implementation–the difficulty associated with trying to manage incremental change into cohesive whole. It’s much easier to dispense with what’s here and start over. That would be keen. In my own efforts at self-reform, I would start over at age 24 and make myself a size 4. 🙂 And then there’s the autocracy. There’s nothing wrong with making models, per se, but how many places are there where we could even think about cities entirely remaking themselves, or cropping up as a cohesive whole? There’s Paolo Solieri’s Arcosanti–which is out in the middle of the desert because he couldn’t derive it in the middle of a functioning metropolitan region. Then there are the cities of the UAE, like the carbon neutral city, driven via rigid power hierarchies and volumes of liquid cash.

Which brings me to the point about governance. Can you imagine President Obama sponsoring such an event for an American city? No. The fact that the French president is acting like the mayor of Paris in some regards here is an interesting note on the centrality of cities to federal politics elsewhere in the world. In some respects, this president has been very smart: in highlighting one of the jewels among world cities, he’s basically used the same strategy as leaders in Dubai–he’s trying to sponsor the eco-city of delight–and in so doing, he’s gotten himself a lot of international ink. He’d never get such ink pursuing new federal health care reforms in France.

Sad news for travel behavior research

This is very sad news for the world of travel behavior research.

Invitation to Symposium Celebrating the Life and Work of Ryuichi Kitamura

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

We were all grieved at the untimely passing of Ryuichi Kitamura in February, and continue to mourn the loss, not only of a brilliant and creative scholar, but a generous mentor and treasured friend. The University of California at Davis (where he spent the first 15 years of his professorial career) and Kyoto University (where he spent the second 15+ years) are joining together to sponsor a symposium in Ryuichi’s honor, aptly titled “The Joy of the Journey: Celebrating the Life and Work of Ryuichi Kitamura”. The planning committee hopes you can join the symposium gathering on this poignant occasion.

This symposium will be held June 29-30, 2009, on the UC Davis campus. There will be a reception the evening of June 28, and an optional excursion is planned to Napa Valley on July 1. The symposium itself will fill both days of June 29-30, with a banquet on the night of June 30 at which Ryuichi’s family will be present. The banquet will feature an “open microphone” period during which attendees will have an opportunity to share stories of Ryuichi, recount memories, offer condolences to the family, and speak of his influence on their work and the profession at large.

Complete details about the symposium, including the program/agenda, online registration procedures, and hotel accommodation information, are now available at the website that UC Davis has established for this symposium and to commemorate Ryuichi. Please check the website frequently for updates and further information.

Thank you very much and we look forward to seeing you in Davis to celebrate the life and work of Ryuichi Kitamura.

Planning Committee:
Patricia Mokhtarian, UC Davis, Chair,
Cynthia Chen, City College of New York,
Satoshi Fujii, Kyoto University,
Kostas Goulias, University of California, Santa Barbara,
Akira Kikuchi, Kyoto University,
Hani Mahmassani, Northwestern University,
Ram Pendyala, Arizona State University,
Owen Waygood, Kyoto University,
Toshiyuki Yamamoto, Nagoya University,
Toshio Yoshii, Kyoto University,