The Curitiba Experiment

Grafite em Curitiba - Fernando Rosa - 1-18-2013 -

Grafite em Curitiba (Photo: Fernando Rosa, January 18, 2013)

How would cities look if urban planners, not politicians, were in charge?

Recycle City: The Road to Curitiba (New York Times, May 20, 2007)

Planning from the Outside

The long history of the city of Curitiba, in southern Brazil, demonstrates that it is perhaps the most heavily planned city in the western hemisphere. The layout of the original town, like many such colonial developments in the Americas, had been heavily influenced by the Laws of the Indies — a set of precepts from the 16th Century that dictated much of the governance of Spanish and Portuguese land holdings; which included rules for town planning. And, though Brazil gained independence from Portugal in the 1820’s it’s various cities were still governed by many of the land use laws inherited from its former European ruler. Continue reading


Megastructure shmegastructure

“(A Mega-structure is) a large frame in which all the functions of a city or part of a city are housed. It has been made possible by present day technology. In a sense it is a man-made feature of the landscape. It is like the great hill on which Italian towns were built.” Fumihiko Maki (1964, Mega-structure: Investigations in Collective Form, the first published use of the term)

Shmeg: 1. Secretion of the male reproductive organ, a slang for semen (Urban Dictionary), 2. A derivative of the Yiddish word “shmegegge”, meaning baloney; hot air; nonsense (

downtown - combined

Boise’s 1963 proposal for a downtown “megastructure” (Atkinson Associates, Comprehensive General Plan – Boise City, Idaho 1985)

I first visited Boise in 1984 when I was a young architecture student, interested to see where my parents had moved after my dad’s retirement from the military. After leaving college, my wife and I (and our two-year old son) decided to relocate from Minneapolis to Boise. The architectural job market was hot, there was a lot of construction (especially around the recently opened Boise Towne Square Mall), and I was able to land a drafting job fairly quickly. I began to hear stories about the strangely deserted downtown, about its failed urban renewal history and its lost Chinatown. But what interested me most was the idea that Boise’s leadership had been pursuing the construction of a massive downtown shopping mall. Further, it seemed the only thing they managed to construct was the connector from the interstate to the central business district, and an oddly shaped single-story convention center with a curiously vacant adjacent plaza. Continue reading

Overlooking the potential effects of national policy.

Warren - Wikipedia, 04/09/2014

Warren – Wikipedia, 04/09/2014

When the history of Idaho is counted and retold, there are some elements that are hardly ever missed. The Oregon Trail, Lewis and Clark, Native American tribal affiliations, immigrant settlements – all of these tend to be covered and recalled without much under-representation. Another of these historic staples is Idaho’s mining industry. What do perhaps get overlooked, perhaps if only in the context of building and sustaining communities, are the national policies that affect economic efforts in the states. Idaho is no stranger to this. Limitation Order L-208 in 1942 is an example of how a national policy, and perhaps international war and conflict, can disintegrate a burgeoning town or settlement overnight. We should look at the histories of places like Warren, Idaho if we intend to learn a thing or two about planning for unexpected change in economies and policies. Building resiliency into communities should include not under-estimating the impacts of national interests and policy decisions. Continue reading

The Tribes of Idaho: A Missed Part of Idaho’s Planning Narrative

“I have created you Kootenai people to look after this beautiful land, to honor and guard and celebrate my creation here.”  — Kootenai peoples covenant with their creator, Quilxka Nupica

The Kootenai Valley, which includes Bonners Ferry and much of Boundary County. The land the Kootenia vowed to protect. Accessed from The Spokesman Review

The Kootenai Valley, which includes Bonners Ferry and much of Boundary County. The land the Kootenia vowed to protect. Accessed from The Spokesman Review

In 1974, tribal chair woman, Amy Trice, out of a desperate cry for help, declared war on the United States Government. This has gone down in Idaho’s history books as Idaho’s Forgotten War. Looking at this historically, through a planning lens the main issue is communication between jurisdictions. It seems as though the planning narrative in Idaho has missed the connection of this underrepresented group. In this blog I explore the reasons why tribes in Idaho are ignored, underrepresented, and in this case of the Kootenai, forgotten.

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In Boise’s Collister neighborhood, subdivisions and shifting land use


The Sycamore Neighborhood, a district of large lots within the larger Collister Neighborhood Association Boundaries. In red, the “Collister Center” shopping development. In yellow, the approximate site of Dr. Collister’s 20-bedroom mansion (now the site of Boise City Fire Station No. 9). City of Boise Advanced Property Research. Accessed 3/8/2014.

Water and agriculture played prominent roles in fostering growth in the Collister neighborhood, a bucolic ‘burb nestled against Boise’s foothills. But it was through transportation and urbanization, through an electric streetcar line threaded through Collister Station, mixed with an influx of business and new residents, that later solidified the characteristics of this unique area.

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A “Small Community” within the Community?


Boise City Comprehensive General Plan (City of Boise, 1963)

“In the consideration of residential areas, the neighborhood is usually considered to be the basic unit. It is generally conceived of as a small community within the community having more or less homogenous physical character and interests. The preferred pattern for a neighborhood centers about the elementary school site and play area and is designed to be free of unnecessary vehicular traffic.” (Boise City Comprehensive General Plan, 1963)

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Cemeteries and fairgrounds.

graves 291

Morris Hill Cemetery, personal photo taken 3/4/2014

graves 286

Morris Hill Cemetery, personal photo taken 3/4/2014

Boise’s Morris Hill Neighborhood has a rich history, including having the Western Idaho fairgrounds located within its boundaries from 1902 to 1967. The annual Western Idaho Fair was a cultural event that drew large crowds and excitement to the Morris Hill area, providing residents with the opportunity to socialize and enjoy the events. The fair continues to this day in its current location on Glenwood Street. The Morris Hill Neighborhood shares its eastern boundary with the Morris Hill Cemetery, established in January of 1882 which makes it one of the oldest cemeteries in Boise. This cemetery also has a long history, and is the final resting place of some notable characters in Idaho’s history – among them, Joseph A. Albertson, Moses Alexander and Frank Church. Although the Morris Hill Cemetery serves its original purpose, it also creates a valuable green space for the surrounding neighborhoods. The cemetery has persisted, more or less, unchanged since its original development, but the surrounding area has changed drastically. Originally the cemetery was considered to be on the outskirts of town, but as time went on Boise continued to annex outward. Both of these places are important as they provide a historic identity to the Morris Hill Neighborhood. Only one of these places remain today, but imagine how different Morris Hill would look had the fairgrounds stayed.


“Boise Idaho State Fair 1952”, accessed 3/4/2014,

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