Urban Design and the Capital City

June 16, 2015

Washington, D.C., has long been shaped as a city of big ideas within a planning framework befitting the image of a capital city. Now well into its third century, the nation's capital is emerging as a vibrant, modern metropolis that has more than lived up to the ambitious plans that have shaped it.

As the city continues to grow, it now faces new 21st century challenges that will require creative thinking and inspiring urban design to ensure Washington remains the enduring model of what a capital city should be. The architecture and urban design firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill recently invested in this challenge by bringing a formal planning presence back to its Washington office, enhancing its long-standing presence as urban designers in this region at the same time that it continues to work at the forefront of designing flexible frameworks for entire new cities all around the world.

Roger Weber, SOM's senior urban designer in Washington, spoke about SOM's work in Washington, linking the local challenges the city faces to the global challenges of urbanization all around the world. He shared his thoughts on some of the big ideas that will allow Washington to continue to compete globally as a model of livability and sustainability, as well as lessons it has wrought for the development of new cities elsewhere.

Roger Weber

Roger Weber

Roger Weber is the senior urban designer in the Washington, D.C., office of the City Design Practice for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. The City Design Practice is a multi-disciplinary studio of architects, urban designers, planners, engineers, landscape architects, and computational experts who respond to a rapidly urbanizing world by creating comprehensive master plans that define flexible, location-specific frameworks of infrastructure and natural systems upon which cities can grow incrementally. While preferring to redesign previously developed areas, the practice follows a set of holistic design principles that generally includes transit-supported, mixed-use densities with walkable neighborhoods and routine access to nature. The efficient use of resources, environmental sensitivity and respect for local culture are guiding values in its designing human habits for the healthful pursuit of happiness.