Rethinking Our City Streets

ENV students and faculty merge urban environments

By James Brasuell

People walking on the streetWhat do you get when you cross the congested roads of Los Angeles with the tourist-friendly streets of Berlin?

The College of Environmental Design asked that question at a conference and workshop to produce a street-centric vision for the cities of the future.

The “Re:Street” conference grew from an ambitious partnership between ENV, Bauhaus University Weimar in Germany (a branch of the school famously synonymous with the influential Bauhaus architectural style of the early 20th century), and the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles, a German cultural institution.

The event, held April 5-6 at the headquarters of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority in downtown Los Angeles, gathered design professionals and policymakers from Germany and Southern California to think up new approaches to designing streets.

“By juxtaposing the different trajectories of urban development in the United States and Europe, we will
discover new ways to design streets that continue the process of urban renewal,” says Associate Professor of Architecture Axel Prichard-Schmitzberger. The professor was one of the event’s key collaborators, along with ENV Dean Michael Woo and Professor Wolfgang Christ from Bauhaus University Weimar.

The common characteristics of Southern California and Germany’s development since World War II include neglect for urban neighborhoods. Southern California’s history of building outward and prioritizing the car remains one of its most famous attributes. Meanwhile, cities in Germany tailored their urban centers toward tourism.

Recent demographic changes have made urban environments popular again, requiring both regions to
face a common challenge: how to reformat urban streets to accommodate healthy lifestyles and improve the quality of life for local populations. “‘Re:Street’ asked participants to reimagine streets as places for living and working, rather than just for driving,” Woo explains.

“‘Re:Street’ takes the Southern California environment, which our Cal Poly Pomona students think
they already know, and imports a European perspective, which could produce new ways of thinking about our streets and cities,” Woo says.

Along with the German officials, a group of students from Bauhaus also made the trip to participate
in a weeklong, collaborative workshop with ENV students from the departments of urban and regional
planning, architecture, and landscape architecture.

The ENV students, led by faculty from both universities, devoted their spring break to an intense
week of exploring the streets of Los Angeles and drafting a “manifesto” that will guide the creative activities and academic exploration of future “Re:Street” events.