17
Mar

2010

‘Make No Small Plans’

Post by Steven Dale

That’s what the famous American urban planner Daniel Burnham is often-quoted as having said. Make no small plans. We teach our planning students this edict like its religion. But how many big plans, grand plans, enormous plans are ever actually realized?

Few, and rarely as per the original design.

Big plans are cumbersome beasts. They are easily thwarted by political inertia, economic change and elections. Big plans just don’t work in the financial, social and political reality of today.

Imagine if Medellin had tried to plan and build three Metrocable lines all at once. How long would that have taken to plan? How easy would it have been for opponents of the project to simply delay until a new Mayor came into office? What if the Colombian economy collapsed? How likely would that plan have fallen apart?

Instead, Medellin started small. One cable transit line, 1.8 kms long. Simple, easy and modest. Yet even still, from idea through to completion it took 6 years. But they got it done. They were successful precisely because they started small. And because they got it done, because they were successful, now they open a new cable line every other year with ease. Medellin’s a lesson not just for cable, but for public works projects in general.

To realize big plans, you have to accomplish small plans first. Stop planning the big. Start doing the small.



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Thoughts / Urban Planning & Design
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