As planners, developers and designers made their way into the exhibition hall at last week’s APA National Planning Conference in New Orleans, they passed a large model that looked, in passing, like a craft table. But if you looked closer, as I did, you could see that the model, loaded with toys, bright plastic pieces and found objects, was actually an urban plan — a fantastical, wildly improvisational one, but still a plan. It was brought to New Orleans by James Rojas, a Los Angeles-based transportation planner who takes a particularly democratic approach to planning with his “Place It” workshops.
Rojas, who also founded the Latino Urban Forum, travels the country to host small sessions in which participants use found and recycled objects to build impromptu, collaborative models of a dream city. While in New Orleans, he headed to the University of New Orleans and led a group of students, mostly future planners, in a “New Orleans 2050 Interactive Workshop.” The workshop asked the students to create their version of New Orleans in 2050 by building a 3-D model. They could use any scale, and address any or any issue — they just had to assemble their models in 10 minutes. The students tackled water issues, transit gaps and open space — and envisioned a bright future indeed.
Here is a slideshow of the different models created by students at the University of New Orleans.