Future Bike Keynote Announced!
A single session at the 2013 California By Bike Summit radically reframed my perception of urban planning. In the final round of workshops I was drawn to an intriguing title: “Creating your own Biketopia: Community engagement workshop through play.” Presenter James Rojas didn’t disappoint.
Put simply, the urban planner, artist and founder of the Latino Urban Forum has found a way to bring planning to the people. And we couldn’t be more excited to have him present and facilitate at Future Bike on September 11.
While we often lament the difficulty of engaging community members in public input, but we don’t step back and question the process. Led by engineering experts and displayed in hyper-technical, two-dimensional terms it’s not suprising “public” input can feel largely disconnected from the way people interact with their environments. With his Place It workshops, Rojas gives folks the opportunity to solve problems or bring to life their ideas using recycled art supplies and interactive models. Liberated from the constraints of linear planning, participants are able to develop an understanding of how the use of space influences their experience of their community — and come up with ways to make it better.
With this “participatory urban planning” model, Rojas has successfully engaged a wide range of stakeholder from Latino kids in Pasedena to top transportation officials in New York City. Though the workshops feel like play, the outcome is actionable, injecting community vision into a planning process that is often a numbers game. “This process isn’t about numbers,” Rojas says. “It’s an open format for creativity and involvement.”
Read more about Rojas below and register for Future Bike today! Tickets are just $25 and space is limited
James Rojas holds an MA in City Planning and an MS in Architecture Studies from MIT. He works as a city and transportation planner, and is the founder of the Latino Urban Forum, a non-profit dedicated to increasing awareness of planning and design issues facing low-income Latinos. He has written and lectured extensively about how culture and immigration are transforming the American front yard and landscape, and, through Place It!, has organized an impressive number of on-site model installations and interactive workshops.
In his own words
“Combining visual arts with my urban planning knowledge and skills, I aspire to create responsive cities through an inclusive, socially conscious art practice that taps into the basic human need to create. Through facilitated workshops, I provide a level playing field and safe space for public dialogue and creative collaborations. I give participants the tools and knowledge to take control of the world around them by reflecting upon, exploring, participating in and crafting urban communities.
Participants experiment with everyday objects—choosing from thousands of small, colorful, non-representational objects—to build three-dimensional interactive models of cities that create a sense of place and community. The improvisational exercise taps into their everyday experiences, emotions, imagination, and problem-solving skills to develop a deeper understanding of urban environments.
The hands-on activities make urban planning accessible to the public and bring urban planning principles and practice to unconventional spaces like parks, sidewalks, streets, schools, galleries and train stations. Through their own creative and collaborative process, participants document and re-imagine the shape of urban communities and articulate their individual and collective needs and desires to improve their environment. This process culminates in a temporary installation that mimics the dynamic and collective nature of urban life.”