Lenses of practice: disciplinary terrains and the shaping of Tobacco Road Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Sease, Anthony
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of City and Regional Planning
  • Planners, designers, and others often express dismay and frustration over physical outcomes in the built environment, yet rarely do researchers reflexively examine such outcomes and associated generative actions through the disciplinary lenses of those involved in the making. This research combines exploratory and reflective analysis through a case study of the corridor connecting the downtowns of Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, through the disciplinary lenses of four key professions: architecture, planning, civil engineering, and landscape architecture. Nine specific areas capture a longitudinal transect of American development practices ranging from the downtowns anchoring each end to suburban sites in between. Conditions in the case provide a layered chronology of disciplinary terrains of practice transferable to many other settings sharing similar characteristics of governance, history, planning, and development influences. Through narratives of place and practice, this research explores a reconsideration of overlapping and contested disciplinary terrains, with lessons for practice, education, and research. Findings from the case are several. First, disciplinary expertise as institutionalized in education and licensure fails to align with the diversity of ways and settings through which practitioners work. A related second finding is that disciplinary structures are problematically neutral relative to varied physical conditions and particularities of context, from suburban to urban settings. Thirdly, many members of the respective disciplines have little sense, knowledge, interest, or respect for what the other disciplines do, an aversion that ironically propels disciplinary diffusion and overlapping terrains of practice. Two other findings relate to the effectiveness of multidisciplinary design advocacy groups with deep ties to community leaders, and separately, to insufficient explorations in education and research of power’s role in shaping not just outcomes but practice. Lastly, with respect solely to planning, the research also suggests that design must be re-embraced as a necessarily larger part of the craft of planning if the duality of craft and science in planning is to remain credible, and if planning is to reclaim a commensurate value as part of the multidisciplinary constellation of the physical design of cities.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Campanella, Thomas
  • Lowe, Nichola
  • Godschalk, David
  • Lester, T. William
  • Rodriguez, Daniel
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2015
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
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