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Jonathan F.P. Rose Wants Cities Like Louisville To Consider The Future


Jonathan F.P. Rose is at the forefront of designing affordable, green living spaces in cities.

Rose has put his thoughts, theories and experience into a new book, “The Well-Tempered City.” In it, he argues that cities can and should play a vital role in the addressing broader economic, environmental and societal issues of our time.

Rose is in Louisville Wednesday to talk about his ideas with the Nature Conservancy. He spoke with me about his book, implementing his ideas, and how those ideas were influenced by someone you wouldn’t associate with urban planning: Johann Sebastian Bach.

You can listen to our conversation in the media player above.

On drawing inspiration from Bach:

“In the early 1700s, a new way of writing music, of composing called temperament came about. It was actually a way of tuning instruments that allowed every separate key to be integrated into a vast harmony, and Bach used this and created something called 'The Well-Tempered Clavier.' It's such a magnificent piece of music, and it struck me as a fantastic model for the task we have ahead for cities.”

On what a city needs to do first in planning:

“The first one is coherence, what we've actually been talking about. I'm finding that cities around America do not have big visions. They don't have a vision for what they want to become, although I do understand Louisville wants to become a compassionate city. I think that's a fantastic goal.

"What we're recommending now is that cities have a big vision. They figure out: What are the metrics? How do you measure through the terms of health, education, environment, jobs, housing, transportation? How do you set measurements on how you achieve that goal, and then to better use their tools of planning, of regulations, of investments, of incentives, and leadership to aim toward achieving the goals.”

On how these ideas are being implemented:

“For example, in 1986 New York City recognized that it had an affordable housing crisis and set out to solve it. Now I want to put on the table that it has not solved it, but it created an affordable housing program and funding for it, and every single Republican or Democratic mayor since 1986 has continued that affordable housing program.

"And so here we are 30 years later, and what we see is substantial improvement in neighborhoods. The South Bronx is completely rebuilt, Harlem is thriving, Bedford-Stuyvesant, these are all communities that were completely devastated in 1986. And they're all healthy, thriving communities and very attractive communities today.”

Bill Burton is the Morning Edition host for LPM. Email Bill at bburton@lpm.org.

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