The Art of Street Design Lecture @ UTSA’s School of Architecture

The Art of Street Design Lecture @ UTSA’s School of Architecture

The Art of Street Design Lecture

Featured guests: John Massengale + Victor Dover

Article by Rene Jaime Gonzalez

The Art of Street Design Lecture Flyer

The Art of Street Design Lecture


On the heels of the release of their new book Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns, John Massengale and Victor Dover stopped by the UTSA College of Architecture to give a lecture on the art of street design to a packed auditorium of students and community members. A book signing followed the free, public event.

Victor Dover aptly dubbed this last week in January as “Street Week” – in addition, Jeff Speck hosted Towards a Walkable San Antonio in front of hundreds of Downtown San Antonio business owners and urban enthusiasts.

With the City of San Antonio recently instituting its Complete Streets policy, Massengale and Dover called for “completer” streets, encouraging us to think beyond the notion of merely adding multiple modes of transportation and start thinking of how we can make streets ultimately sustainable in maintaining human social interaction.

Suburban sprawl was largely absent from this discussion. Instead they chose to exemplify the magnificent potential of city streets. The street, they presented, must become a destination in itself.

Dover began with overviews of streets from around the globe – Strandvagen in Stockholm to Groningen of the Netherlands to Turl Street in Oxford – demonstrating the efficacy of well-planned public streets and squares.

His criteria for walkable streets consisted of 5 elements – to shape, to connect, safety, comfortability, and most importantly, to be memorable. Something more than memorable, the culmination of these elements will create a meaningful experience.

A street must connect places, like a web. Streets must perpetuate a healthy balance of order and disorder, providing an abundant opportunity for chance encounters.

In addition to a history of the emergence and re-emergence of Nantucket, Massachusetts, Massengale focused on the developments in his neighborhood, pushing for a complete(r) redesign of 2nd Ave in New York City.

He warned us to take a closer look at the years of city planning regulating streets in primarily accommodating vehicular mobility, in turn creating a lack of public realm available to citizens.

Street Design Lecture - Victor Dover

Victor Dover, AICP

Q & A

I approached the authors with an inquiry concerning public transportation in San Antonio. Though plans are in motion for a multimodal transit center on San Antonio’s West Side, our current bus system is the singular option for public transit.

Funding for a light rail has been down-voted on a number of occasions, but would the development of an alternative system, such as a rail, be seen as inevitable in pushing us towards a multimodal transit city?

In Dover’s reply he emphasized that the first order of business should be defining precise parameters for the terms rapid transit, streetcar, light rail, and bus, with a clear distinction of each mode’s function. Ultimately agreeing that we should seek to expand transportation to as many modes as possible, residents can begin to envision a new city.

He also made note of our B-Cycle Program, soon expanding to 68 stations with 600 bikes, as healthy transportation serving both tourists and locals. Denver also leads the way in adapting bike sharing at large.

Taking Action

Using their book as a catalyst for activism concerning city policy and planning, the authors have created a petition urging the Federal Highway Authority to reconstitute the boundaries and zoning between Urban, Rural, and Suburban areas.

As Street Week comes to a close in San Antonio, the buzz of community dialogue continues with many citizens eager to take back their streets.

Stay tuned to UTSA’s College of Architecture for future lectures and events!

Street Design Book Cover

Street Design Book Cover

Recommended reading:

Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E.F. Schumacher

Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time by Jeff Speck

The Smart Math of Mixed-Use Development by Joseph Minicozzi for Planetizen

Didn’t get a chance to make the lecture? You can view their presentation from CNU21 2013:


To see more of Rene Jaime Gonzalez’s insights of San Antonio, check out his site LARGE COMM.


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January 31st, 2014