Back in 1999, Ryan Gravel wrote his masters thesis around a re-imagined Atlanta with less sprawl, more public transit, and a vibrant cultural hub. In 2006, his vision was approved, and since then, the Atlanta Beltline has been credited with revitalizing many of the sity's disparate neighborhoods.
With the economic opportunity the project has generated, Gravel has also been forced to reflect on how revitalization is causing gentrification and increasing inequality. CityLab writer Richard Florida talked with Gravel about this topic at the heart of his new book, Where We Want to Live: Reclaiming Infrastructure for a New Generation of Cities.
Gravel spoke about his concept of infra-culture and how urban planning is responsible for more than just moving people, water, and information around.He says cities are the foundation of our economies and our social and cultural lives.
Instead of addressing culture—or even our local economy—directly, too much of our dialogue about city planning today revolves around large, abstract concepts. People have a hard time translating how they affect their day-to-day lives. Perhaps out of sheer frustration, however, that’s changing. In every city I go to, people are reclaiming obsolete infrastructure—from old railroads to degraded waterways and obsolete roadways—as new conduits for urban life. When these efforts embrace a broad, inclusive vision for what this infrastructure might mean for their lives, they are tapping into the real opportunity for infra-culture.