I am walking in Memphis with an exceptional group of urban practitioners from across the country at the Place Summit. Two weeks ago, I attended another year of this group coming together to share and explore the issues we are facing are all facing in our communities. Each gathering focuses on the issues we are facing while working in our communities.
The Place Summit is not a conference, it is a working group of professionals who gather for a weekend to talk urbanism. For all of us, our lives and jobs do not allow us the time to step back and evaluate what we are doing, and many of us are the lone “urban designer” in our offices. The attendees of the summit is a tough group of peers. They are talented and demand a lot of themselves. They provide much needed peer review that supports our individual work.
The Place Summit has a simple price for admission: Pecha Kucha. Each participant prepares a 7 minute presentation to share the issues and projects the participants are working on or an issue they are struggling with. This is not about who has the best shinny project, or preparation of packaging an award submission. These presentations are honest and show the good and the bad. They hone the work we are doing, and exposes the weaknesses through constructive peer review. The Summit is the place to grow and improve as a professional. Like I said, it is not a conference for listening, it is a summit where participation is required.
Each of the Place Summits have been hosted in a variety of communities. Each of these locations are living laboratories where citizens are taking actions to improve their own community. The Summit provides the participants the ability to roam the city and explore to see how others are dealing with the built environment. I love these walks because we have shared experiences which lead to insightful debate. I lot of issues can be discussed while pacing off street widths and critiquing frontages.
The other thing that does not happen when a handful of high strung, talented urbanists come together is sleep. It seems that at every Summit the discussions continue well beyond normal hours. We all become fueled on the dialogue and discourse.
Every year, something new emerges out of the Summit. We seem to advance a new idea to improve our work and how we look at Cities. I look forward to seeing what springboards out of the Summit this year.