urbanism. walkability. social change. These are the themes of the latest Cite magazine released by the Rice Design Alliance entitled “Houstopia 2035”. If there one dominating topic in the architecture realm of the United States as of late it would be the whole “green movement” that has caught wave like the latest venti mocha at Starbucks. In fact, it is rather interesting that Starbucks’ primary identity tone is green. But in Houston, the primary topics for architecture propaganda tends to revolve around making a city that is more walkable. Of course this is an issue than many cities throughout the US and the world are trying to tackle, but Houston’s scene is of course unique to it’s utter dependance on the automobile. A lot of the talk I hear about is regarding to giving up our dependence on the automobile and living similar to the Europeans. They talk of great social interactions and health benefits that come from this. They make the dream of a walkable city seem so utopian. These are the same fantasies that I once had as a young architecture student living in Houston. After 2 years of living in a European city without an automobile I can truly say… that life without a car is crap.
Creating superior areas of walkability are unquestionably a positive. But the city of Houston is created for the car. We can create zones of walkability, but it is already vastly too large and continuing to expand for mere public transport and nikes. The best bet is to create pockets of crossover-urbanisms. places that allow people to both use their personal mode of transportation as well as get from interest point to interest point without using such high carbon modes of transport. Current schemes using this type of ideology are sporadic throughout Houston but gaining momentum. This may be the only hope the city will have; schemes that University of Houston professor, Susan Rogers, calls Houston’s desire “to have it’s urbanism both ways.”