May 31, 2019

A Night with Jeff Speck: Cars Moving Slowly, Deep Walkability & Recreating the Traditional American Town

“There are places we love, and places we hate…at a certain point, we made it illegal to make the places we love anymore, and we were only allowed to make the places we hate.”

So says Jeff Speck, one of North America’s top urban designers, and a leader of the new urbanism movement, in a recent visit — his first — to Vancouver.

As co-author of 2010’s Suburban Nation with his mentors Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk (of architecture and town planning firm DPZ Partners), Speck reached a new level of mainstream urban nerd renown in 2012 with Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time.

Next came its follow-up, a tactical guide for planners, activists, and even the odd engineer, 2018’s Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places. As part of a speaking tour to promote the book, Speck accepted an invitation from Canada Lands Company and MST Development Corporation to make his first visit to Vancouver, and present at the Inspire Jericho Talks series on May 23.

As a sneak preview, he joined us for a Price Talks soiree, our third such live recording with Gord and friends. Speck covers a variety of topics, including: the formative roles played by Duany and Plater-Zyberk and their early work at Miami-based Arquitectonica in influencing his career choice and trajectory; his early interest in helping to recreate Florida’s throwback vernacular architecture (think Seaside, the un-ironic setting for The Truman Show); the bad news about ride hailing…and the worse news about autonomous vehicles; and, of course, what he means by ‘deep walkability’.

“My audiences tend to self-select”, he says modestly — and while this may be true of his clients, once the The Wall Street Journal calls one of your books “the urbanist’s bible”, such self-effacing statements no longer hold water.

Turning Speck’s own words back on him — if you’re interested in urban design, find this guy.

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