Weekend Graphic: The Origins of “Dumb Growth” (1946)

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The summer after my sophomore year, I interned at Partnership for Smarter Growth, a non-profit in Richmond devoted to containing the sprawl and reinvesting in the core. During this summer, I discovered a vocabulary to help me define what it was about new cities that I didn’t like. “They’re just not cool,” I thought in high schoool, “and there just aren’t any people.” After the summer at PSG, concepts such as connectivity, the human scale, walkability, mixed-use, access, density and others began to shift my mind to what we called “smart growth.” I have always been an advocate of smart growth, I just never knew what to call it

This perspective is why I found the graphic for this weekend particularly moving. I stared at these two pages in disbelief. I had found the origins of what I guess you could call “dumb growth” in Richmond. I don’t want to make it personal if you live on a cul-de-sac … it’s not about that it’s about how the city functions as a whole. During the 40s, Richmond embarked on a planning process to move the city into the twentieth century. As a part of this proces, the planning firm, Harland Bartholomew and Associates, developed this “bad/good” depiction of urban forms.  Over sixty years later, many people are still busy working to undo the spirit of this graphic and its affect on the American city: curvy roads, culs de sac, congested arteries, and a general disconnect between most segments of metropolitan society.

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