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Town Hall Seattle: Civics Series

Town Hall’s Civics series highlights everything from local policies to world politics. These events offer perspectives on a range of topics as diverse as Seattle itself—a bustling forum for activism, discovery, and thought-provoking discussion.

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Aug 17, 2021

Somewhere, between character and caricature, there exists an authentic and unique urban place, believes urbanism consultant and author Charles R. Wolfe. One that blends global and local, old and new. Yet, in a dramatically changing world dominated by crises of climate change, maintaining public health, and social justice, finding such places—and explaining their relevance—may be easier said than done.

In conversation with interviewer Steve Scher, Wolfe joined us to introduce a comprehensive method for assessing how and why successful places come to be, with an explicit emphasis on context, as captured in his book Sustaining a City’s Culture and Character: Principles and Best Practices. They discussed how to enact urban change, using the past and the status quo as inspiration rather than a hindrance or obstacle. Wolfe shared his strategies for how we as a society can understand and unlock a public place, neighborhood, or city, using a new tool called LEARN: Look, Engage, Assess, Review, and Negotiate. With real-life examples, Wolfe provided a catalogue of techniques that emphasize “bottom up,” resident-based input about local history, building forms, cultural assets and tradition, and more. For those who seek an urbanism of distinctiveness rather than a bland, generic uniformity, join Wolfe for this singular presentation on how to make that happen.

Charles R. Wolfe is a London-based, multinational urbanism consultant, author, visiting scholar in Sweden, recent Fulbright specialist in Australia for an award-winning project, and long-time American environmental/land use lawyer. He has served as a long-time affiliate associate professor in the College of the Built Environments at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is also the author of Seeing the Better City and Urbanism Without Effort.

Steve Scher is a podcaster, interviewer, and teacher. He worked in Seattle public radio for almost 30 years. He has taught at the University of Washington since 2009. He is Senior Correspondent for Town Hall Seattle’s In The Moment podcast.

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