Inga Saffron on “The Grand Adjustment” at TEDx

In November, TEDxPhilly brought together some of our city’s brightest urbanists and performers for a day full of urban inspiration and ideas about The City. As promised, I’m sharing some of my favorite talks here on Eyes on the Street. For this Friday’s installment: Inquirer architecture critic, Inga Saffron who explains – with a dash of skyscraper yoga – why Philly should let go of its skyscraper aspirations, in favor of creating density through mid-rise buildings and high-quality public spaces.

Inga Saffron thinks Philadelphians shouldn’t be losing any sleep because the American Commerce Center didn’t get built during the boom years. While skyscrapers may capture our imaginations, and be seen by some as saviors in the crusade against sprawl, they’re not the only way to build a better city.

“It’s time that we let go of our skyscraper fantasies and concentrate instead on making our mature city a better place to live,” Saffron said. “Instead of focusing on the grand vision, we need to make the grand adjustment.”

In part, the economics are no longer there to build skyscrapers in cities like Philadelphia. So what would that grand adjustment look like? Think more mid-rise and rowhouse-scale developments, and concentrated public investments in park space, transit, and pedestrian and bike infrastructure.

“We need to stop measuring our worth by skyscrapers and megaprojects, and judge ourselves on the quality of our public spaces. We have to stop treating them as a frill that we pay for with leftover change,” Saffron said. “The best way to build density in Philadelphia: build the amenities that make people want to live here.”

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