The Dirt has a lengthy interview conducted by Pierre Belanger with Joe Brown, chief executive of planning, design, and development at AECOM, the architecture and engineering firm that swallowed EDAW (formerly the world’s largest firm primarily focused on landscape architecture, if I recall correctly). The interview covers a wide range of issues, from the “need to [develop] metrics for… performance-driven, technology-driven planning and design… at the middle scales”, to the potential role of public entities, universities, and private companies in dealing with mass migration and infrastructural reconfiguration driven by climate change, to the emergence of landscape architects as the coordinators of “systems of integration… where site systems interface with spatial experiences and connect with ecological processes”. Some of it — judging by the comments collected so far — may be controversial, particularly digs at New Urbanism (“helpful” but “superficial”) and small firms (“partitioning and fractioning… goes ‘against the grain of [interdisciplinary] cooperation’”), but Brown offers a tantalizing glimpse of a totalized and highly rational approach to the design of infrastructure and the planning of cities, as well as an entirely different role for landscape architects. It’s impossible to know at this point whether the AECOM experiment will be successful or not, but it’ll be worth following, if only for its massive ambition.
[For extra entertainment, contrast the approach to infrastructral intervention described by Brown with that summarized by faslanyc in his post “Tactics vs. Strategy”, and then cross-reference with Varnelis on Banham in Los Angeles, infrastructural decay produced by the severe extension of “neoliberal individual rights”, and “complexity [as] the failure point for post-Fordism” — the last of which is directly challenged by Brown’s vision of totalizing and rationalized infrastructural urbanism; also, I hope I don’t need to bother outlining the images of corporate dystopia prompted by the implication that urban planning ought to be the exclusive domain of a handful of very large design and engineering firms, but they’re there.]