URSC 494 Final Paper

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  1. 1. Brian Campbell Retrospect of an Amazing Internship URPN 494-550 11/27/12 1
  2. 2. Introduction This semester, I completed an internship with the City of Fort Worths Planning & Development Department. Specifically, I worked in the Preservation and Design Division and my supervisor was Mr. Randy Hutcheson. I first began seeking out an internship during the fall of 2011. During this time, I attended the Conference of the Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association in Austin with fellow members of Future Leaders in Urban Planning. There, I came into contact with Mr. Dan Boren, who worked for the citys Planning Department. When I inquired about internships, he suggested I speak to Ms. Dana Burghdoff. After a few email communications and an in- person meeting, she helped put me in contact with Mr. Hutcheson. After an in-person meeting with him, I had been hired. Little did I know, I was in for the experience of a lifetime! Through the course of this internship, I would be given several big projects to work on as well as some smaller tasks. Even though Mr. Hutcheson was my supervisor, I spent a great amount of my time working with other planners in my division, especially Liz Casso and Sevanne Steiner. My primary role was to assist all of them in any way I could. They opened up their world to me and I learned quite a bit of new things while having things I learned in previous coursework being supplemented and reinforced. I also got to demonstrate my proficiency with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. In addition, Mr. Hutcheson assigned me two interesting books by William H. Whyte, a man I would come to admire. Overall, I got the opportunity to do a wide variety of things and I never imagined my internship encompassing such a broad range! What I Did During My Internship 2
  3. 3. One of the main projects I took on was direct observation of three of Downtown Fort Worths busiest places: the plaza of the A.D. Marshall Municipal Court Plaza, Bennett Park, and the plaza of the Trinity River Campus of Tarrant County College. It was my job to observe and make notes about the people in this area: where they were walking to and from, where they would stop to socialize, how many people were in the area at a particular time, and the like. I would record all of my observations in a journal. Afterwards, I would input this data into an Excel spreadsheet and type up some comments about my visit in a Word document. Mr. Hutcheson explained to me the reason for this was because he felt it was an important step in improving the overall look of the downtown area. He was a firm believer in the teachings of William Whyte, who worked for New York Citys Planning Commission and spent much of his life watching people in urban settings and studying their behavior. Mr. Hutcheson wished to have time to do this himself, but larger projects always occupied his attention. Over the course of these visits, I would make some interesting observations. For example, I noticed that the traffic light situated by the crosswalk connecting the TCC campus to downtown was broken (It was not lit at all). The city might want to consider fixing this so pedestrians will have an easier time crossing the crosswalk. Hopefully, my research will have proven valuable in the future development and betterment of Downtown Fort Worth. Mr. Hutcheson also assigned me with reading two books by William Whyte. Before he began working in planning, he worked at Fortune magazine. It was there that he would write several articles on the phenomenon of working in the corporate world during the 1950s, a phenomenon that alarmed him. The culmination of all of these articles would be the 1956 book, The Organization Man, which I read. In this book, he describes 3
  4. 4. to a great extent how working in a corporate setting caused one to lose his or her individuality. He felt that people here became completely engrossed in this world and that careful planning and lack of outside-of-the-box thinking became a way of life for these people. Basically, he felt everybody working for a corporation was the same in that they were all married, owned a car, owned a house, had children, and other similar characteristics. On the surface, it may not have felt like this book was very relatable to urban planning, or the workforce in general given that today has shown that things have changed drastically. However, this book got me to thinking about how I view planning. Specifically, that it is an ever evolving field that should always welcome new ideas. One chapter in particular was a perfect example of what I do not think planning should become. This was Chapter 16, titled The Fight Against Genius. In this chapter, Whyte explains that corporations at this time were known for discouraging creative ideas. The heads of these companies were primarily interested in a healthy bottom line and they felt a structure in which day to day operations were always the same was the best way to achieve this. I was surprised that the Montesano Chemical Corporation had actually put out a documentary with the message that Industrial Chemistry was described this way: No geniuses here; just a bunch of average Americans working together (Whyte, 1956). Planning may not be in danger of such bland generality now, but I felt that this chapter helped motivated me to do everything I can to keep this from happening. I believe that creative ideas will continue to solve the problems cities face. The other book I read by Mr. Whyte was The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. This book was the result of the years and years Whyte spent directly observing and studying people in urban areas. It served as a guide for the kinds of things I was to watch out for 4
  5. 5. and study during my own field trips. Through this book, Whyte says that more appealing urban spaces can be developed by observing what the people like. To quote him: What attracts people, it would appear, is other people (Whyte, 1980). He uses Seagrams Plaza in New York City to illustrate his examples on the specific elements that should be part of any urban area including walkability, food, places to sit down, and environmental consciousness. I came to appreciate his views very much, especially after getting to perform research very similar to his own. I believe any city could benefit from implementation of his ideas because cities are supposed to be designed for the people who inhabit them. I felt he did a very nice job of illustrating the importance of the environment in a persons enjoyment of urban space in Chapter 3: Sun, Wind, Trees, Water. Here he observes that, in general, people enjoy the warmth of the sun, the comfort and protection provided by trees, view wind as an adverse condition and like the coolness of water. Whytes approach to urban planning is like giving people what they want without actually having to ask every single person in a city what they would like. That is definitely an idea I hope to champion in my career as a planner. There were a couple of other books I enjoyed very much this semester. One was Great Streets by Alan B. Jacobs. I found this to be a wonderfully awesome book all about streets. Jacobs goes into great detail about what goes into making good streets. He reinforces his views with wonderful illustrations of his own accompanied by notes. A wide variety of specific streets from all around the world are discussed, including Market Street in San Francisco and the Grand Canal in Venice. This is a book I read for pleasure and one from Mr. Hutchesons own collection that he was gracious enough to let me borrow whenever I pleased. The other book was American Architecture: An Illustrated 5
  6. 6. Encyclopedia by Cyril M. Harris. This was a really great guide about architectural terms and came in very handy for a project I had involving expanding the list of definitions to be part of a new guide for the Fairmount Historical District. I really enjoyed how many of the words had both definitions and illustrations to show how they were applied in the real world. I would highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a better understanding of architectural terms. In addition to all of these books, I had the opportunity to enhance my scholarly experience even further in this internship through reading very intriguing articles and watching videos about planning and architecture in general on the Internet. One interesting article I read came from the website The Atlantic Cities and was titled These Nifty Solar Panels Can Transmit Sunlight Underground to the Lowline. This piece was about two friends named James Ramsey and Dan Barasch, creators of the company Lowline. Their main goal was to someday create an underground park for the residents of New York City. Their prototype for a special solar panel that could reach plant life underground and help them to thrive would help achieve this goal. I really liked this idea! Anytime the greenery of a city can be enhanced was a great thing. That coupled with the development of a new park with limited environmental impact that would relieve the pressure of the vast amount of people using New Yorks above ground parks was something truly extraordinary! I watched a great video about architectural design and planning from the educational website Ted. The video was called Why architects need to use their ears. In it, Julian Treasure, who advises businesses worldwide on how they should use sound, discusses why architects need to learn to design and build not just with their eyes, but with their ears as well. His use of hospitals and schools demonstrated this 6
  7. 7. message very effectively. He explained that hospitals are often very noisy and that this could lead to mistakes by the staff with regards to dispersion of medication and hindered a patients ability to effectively rest and recover. With respect to schools, Treasure explained that the acoustics in a classroom often made it difficult for students to pick up on everything a professor was saying. He played two audio clips to demonstrate the difference between a classroom with bad acoustics and one with good acoustics. I was very intrigued when he asked why there were no urban sound planners and went on to say that many people lost sleep from the noise within city. I agree with this point very much and feel planners should also use their ears. People would surely benefit from reduced city noises. A city itself could be improved through building some of its more important structures in areas with reduced noise levels or even pleasant sounds. I attended quite a few meetings and events throughout my internship. I really enjoyed the meetings of the Historical and Cultural Landmarks Commission, the major commission under the division within which I worked. One of the other major projects I was tasked with doing was to create the PowerPoint presentations to be used in these meetings and it was very satisfying to see something I created being used publicly in front of an audience that for once was not my fellow classmates and my professor. This was a public meeting held once a month between the commission and City Council to discuss various cases within the historical districts around Fort Worth. Many of these cases involved either approving or verifying renovations or other work that had been done on a home in one of these districts that warranted a break on the taxes owed on the house. Many other cases involved approving the work someone in a historical district wanted to do to their home or business, as there were certain guidelines that had to be 7
  8. 8. followed so that the district would retain its character. I had a more participative role in one of the meetings when I got to call for approval of the tax cases from the City Council. These meetings reinforced many of the concepts I learned about historical preservation in my Planning Law course I took last semester. Other meetings and events I went to include some City Council meetings, which were very informative about what was going on in the city. I attended a meeting of the Zoning Commission, which played out in a very similar fashion to one in College Station/Bryan that I wrote about for an assignment for Planning Law. Right before it, I went to the preliminary meeting where I got to hear an update on the Trinity River Project, a major undertaking that will eventually connect Downtown Dallas with Downtown Fort Worth and see a wealth of new businesses in the Dallas area. I was very excited to hear to hear that it was closer to completion! A webinar on solar energy proved to be very fascinating as I had not realized it was such a complicated area involving several competing interests. I also truly felt like part of the team by getting to take part in our staff meetings. I learned more about the Commercial Board of Adjustment through attending one of their meetings. Finally, I participated in our annual GIS Day. Having had minimal experience in this area, I found this to be especially fascinating as I had always wanted to learn more about GIS and see some real world examples of how it was being implemented right here in Fort Worth. Two of my favorites were the program created just this year to track cases of the West Nile Virus and its use in monitoring sources of stormwater. In addition to all of this, there were several other things I did during my time here. While some of it was menial office work, such as filing papers and scanning photos, others were more stimulating and exciting. I went on a few site visits with Liz and 8
  9. 9. Sevanne and they showed me around several of Fort Worths historical districts while also teaching me about historical preservation and how its different facets specifically apply to the city. I helped Sevanne with revising the guidelines for the Fairmount Historical District in two ways. The first consisted of researching and writing a short piece on the transition from large front yards to large backyards for the American home that took place at the start of World War II. Second, I expanded on the glossary that was to be included in the guidelines by defining architectural terms that may have seemed obscure to the average person and doing the same for other terms that seemed important. It was great being able to expand on my knowledge of architecture in general through both of these projects. Finally, I took on one more project related to Fairmount. I reviewed both an older and a newer list of contributing structures (ones that add to the qualities of a historical district) to see which addresses did not appear on both lists. It was then my job to research why these addresses were not on both lists through looking at photos, paper files, and electronic files. I really felt I got to know my hometown a little better while working on this big project. It was really awesome to have been able to do such a large array of things! Supplementation of Knowledge from Previous...