Director at Indiana architecture school blames poor urban planning for climate change

An aerial view rendering of the proposed masterplan for revitalization of Farmers Market district in South Bend, Indiana.

Professor Marianne Cusato from Notre Dame University School of Architecture, who is leading the effort to revitalize Indiana’s South Bend Farmers Market district, has identified thoughtless urban planning to be the “disease” responsible for climate change, calling for a shift in the discipline.

Recently appointed as the director of housing and community regeneration initiative led by the School of Architecture, Cusato said:

“The climate change discussion typically only focuses on solutions that treat the symptoms, not the disease. Electric vehicles, solar panels, etc., are all ways to take the edge off the amount of energy we consume. But the disease isn’t a gas-guzzling car, it’s the road. It’s the settlement pattern that requires someone to drive to meet all of their daily needs because there are no businesses within walking distance to one’s home or because the streets are unsafe for pedestrians. The disease is the outdated and failed freeway-like infrastructure of ramps that divide communities and leave vacant land where there were once thriving businesses.”

Together with the school’s Dean Stefanos Polyzoides, Cusato has conducted charrettes with participation from South Bend’s local business owners, community leaders, architectural professionals, and Notre Dame students to come up with a plan for rebuilding the Farmers Market district.

This small neighborhood is plagued by a hulking cluster of cloverleaf interchanges, remains from the city’s 1960s urban renewal project. Designed for the purpose of providing fast downtown access to workers, these ramps leading onto Eddy Street are more appropriate for a highway. They have removed residents’ access to the river and ousted local businesses.

So far, Cusato and the Dean’s efforts have resulted in the city of South Bend getting a federal infrastructure grant for $2.4 million to finalize research and planning for the removal of the cloverleaf interchanges.

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