The Culture of Planning

Planning is a routine process for many. From making a grocery list to thinking about where to vacation next, it’s part of everything we do. And like our daily lives, throughout history, the effects of planning have been known to shift dramatically from time to time. In his latest book 194X: Architecture, Planning, and Consumer Culture on the American Home Front, author Andrew M. Shanken details the imperfect bond that architecture and the culture of planning shared in 20th-century America. 

Planning as Culture

While architects and planners experienced anticipation that influenced the shifting in trends in the early 20th century, it wasn’t until the 1930s that anticipation flourished and turned into action. The suspense that overlapped with The Great Depression at the time flooded people’s heads with creativity, innovation and radical ideas, affecting everything from the economy and pop culture to the booming architecture that followed the time. And at a time when shared pursuits for shaping America’s future were booming, planning became an overpowering cultural motto.

While planning certainly existed before this, it wasn’t until the intricate planning projects of the New Deal that pushed the approach to the mainstream. At the time, the word planning became associated with various figurative characteristics, like the future, comfort, stability and ultimately, radical change. From the planning of a single house to that of one of the country’s largest projects, everything had an interconnected tie in responding to the crises at the time. However, it was soon apparent that planning was culturally and historically contingent. 

American urban planner Robert Moses with a model of New York City’s Battery Bridge, 1939, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

The End of Planning

Following WWII in the mid-1940s, Americans anticipated a boom in architecture across the country. However, as the country looked towards the inspiration that came with postwar planning, some began to question the intent behind the approach. And soon after speculations began to rise in 1943, society’s thoughts shifted. 

Preparations for the building boom that was thought to follow WWII quickly reversed. The modern builds architects had designed to express progression were turned on their heads and looked at, like planning, as hindrances. Architects at the time also found it difficult to forge a coherent agenda for post-war architecture and planning, further detaching the culture of planning from the public.

The culture of planning then shifted from mutual anticipation for the future that created inspiration to detached ideas that resisted individualism. However, Shanken believes that America’s passion for planning is ever-present. “This mission rests dormant in American culture, awaiting the right conditions to reassert itself,” he says. “Clearly, the culture of planning still has things to teach us.”

Stay tuned for more on the visionary designs of American architecture across the decades. For those interested in learning more about the wartime vision of postwar architecture, 194X: Architecture, Planning, and Consumer Culture on the American Home Front is available through a number of booksellers online.

Our Signature Vertical Landscaping System

With every project, we ask ourselves how the natural land around us influences, affects and works in tandem with the structures we build. Seeking to holistically integrate the natural and built environments led us to develop our next-generation vertical landscaping system. The lush green element, utilized in many of our Arizona properties, is a cornerstone feature of Optima communities, a key component to our sustainability initiatives and so much more.

Our signature vertical landscaping system at Optima Kierland Center.
Our signature vertical landscaping system at Optima Kierland Center.

Aesthetic Enhancement

On its surface level, our signature vertical landscaping system serves to enhance the natural beauty of our communities. The lush verdure enables a palette of vibrantly colored plants at the edge of each floor to grow both up and over the edge of the building. This creates beautiful, private terrace gardens for each unit in buildings like Optima Camelview Village, Optima Kierland Center, and Optima Sonoran Village. The intense greenery also plays bold juxtaposition to our building’s facade, where concrete and glass work work in harmony to celebrate the relationship between the built and natural environment, with glass blurring the boundaries between indoor and outdoor, home and garden. 

Our signature vertical landscaping system at Optima Sonoran Village.
Our signature vertical landscaping system at Optima Sonoran Village.

Functional, Sustainable Beauty 

Our signature vertical landscaping system isn’t just for aesthetic value — it plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy and sustainable environment. The system, with self-containing irrigation and drainage, provides a haven for urban wildlife, promotes evaporative cooling, re-oxygenates the air, reduces dust and smog levels, reduces ambient noise, detains stormwater and thermally insulates and shields residents from the desert sun, all of which contributes to a sustainable urban environment. Residents also experience the direct impact of being surrounded by nature, with the vertical landscaping system serving as a connection to nature and added source of privacy.

Like all good design, our vertical landscaping system is a natural study in form and function. We’re proud to pioneer a system that contributes to the natural beauty of the environment, and helps preserve it, too.

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