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AIA PERSPECTIVE: People Make Places
Mickey Jacob, FAIA / ARCHITECT / November 2013
I had the privilege of attending last month’s Remaking Cities Congress in Pittsburgh, where more than 300 global leaders from North America, the U.K., and Europe gathered to collaborate on an agenda for the healthy, sustainable, and prosperous future of cities. The event, chaired by Charles, Prince of Wales, represented a historic moment: This broad group of international participants discussed and shared ideas for the post-industrial challenges facing cities on both sides of the Atlantic—places as diverse as Bilbao, Spain; Germany’s Ruhr Valley; Manchester and Liverpool; Rotterdam; and Turin, Italy. Case studies in the United States included Detroit, New Orleans, Milwaukee, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh.
The decision to host this event in Pittsburgh was no accident. This year’s congress marked the 25th anniversary of the groundbreaking Remaking Cities Conference in 1988, which was held in Pittsburgh and also chaired by Prince Charles. One of the greatest legacies of that conference was the replication and adaptation of a bold idea pioneered by the AIA, the innovative Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team (R/UDAT) process.
Begun in 1967, the R/UDAT process was built on a simple but powerful idea: Architects and other design professionals should be invited into a community not to dictate, but to listen. In this act of listening, they should lead a forum for ideas generated by the people of the community. With R/UDAT, the AIA did something no other professional body had ever done—we affected the way citizens perceived their capacity to generate change from within.