Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

David Barth, Rest in Peace

David Barth was a parks planner and prolific writer who has had a lot of influence on my thinking about planning and revitalization.  He was a landscape architect who focused on parks planning.

I just found out he died in June (obituary).

I first saw him speak in 2004 at the American Planning Association conference in DC, where he presented about his planning approach call "City Revival" which for him married "City Beautiful" planning ideas about space and place with the pro-city architecture and urban design principles of "New Urbanism."

One of the points in his presentation was the idea that cities should treat streets as linear parks, which I still think is a great point conceptually.  A few communities, like St. Petersburg, Florida, incorporated the City Revival concept into their urban plans.

When I met him he was working for the firm Glatting Jackson, based in Florida, so a lot of his projects were in Florida and nearby states.  GJ got acquired by AECOM and eventually did independent consulting.

In 2010, just after I finished writing the draft plan for the Baltimore County Western Pedestrian and Bicycle Access Plan, and came back from vacation, I happened up a presentation he and Carlos Perez made at the annual Park Pride conference in Atlanta.

I use an image from that presentation all the time, that of the "integrated public realm framework," in thinking about community assets as a network.  It encapsulated what I was trying to express in a concept I called "Signature Streets" in an easy to understand graphic.

It's applicable to most sub-disciplines in urban planning.

I use it in cultural resource planning ("The layering effect: how the building blocks of an integrated public realm set the stage for community building and Silver Spring, Maryland as an example"), sustainable mobility planning ("Extending the "Signature Streets" concept to "Signature Streets and Spaces""), libraries ("Neighborhood libraries as nodes in a neighborhood and city-wide network of cultural assets"), and equity planning ("An outline for integrated equity planning: concepts and programs"), etc. 


I interacted with him after, not sure of all the contacts.  Some by email.  He invited me and I attended a public meeting he was doing for a planning engagement on Columbia Pike in Arlington County, Virginia.

Because I was always enamored of the City Revival concept, I kept encouraging him to expand that presentation into a book. 

I think it was one of the impetuses for him deciding to get his PhD even though he was high in demand as a planner, although his dissertation shifted from the more formal urban planning concept of "City Revival" to a sustainability focus, and he instead studied and wrote about his conclusions on what he saw as the primary factors for producing:

-- "High Performance Public Spaces," article
-- criteria document
-- Presentation

Later, I recommended his firm to DC to do the parks master plan, and they were hired.  And because I always talked him up, Montgomery County Parks had him do some training for their staff and the interested public (including me), including an engagement in the Long Branch district.

I will have to track down and read more of his work, including the book published in 2019, Parks and Recreation System Planning: A New Approach for Creating Sustainable, Resilient Communities.

May he long be remembered. He will be by me.

-- David Barth website

-- List of recent publications

-- Master plans


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