Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Innovation Economy and Urban Space (cont.)

Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA is one example where this complex mix of innovation and economy seeks to emerge.  For such a thing to flourish, it needs both a culture and a physical environment that supports.  In the way of these efforts, there is no straight-line path forward.  Getting to the right place by following the correct route is impossible when no map exists.  This is an active process of invention and discovery by doing.  Nonjudgmental failure seems as important to this work as does the hope for success.

The combination of physical space and activities is a fascinating one.  What might we say about Kendall Square?  It is a very small geographic area centered around the T stop at Kendall that gives it immediate access to Boston right across the river, and in the other direction to Central and Harvard Squares in Cambridge and points north and west.  Its immediate neighbor is one of the world's great universities, M.I.T. and it sits not far down the street from another one, Harvard.  Boston is home to some of the country's leading teaching and research hospitals, at Mass. General and at the multiple hospitals in the Longwood Medical Area.  

These pieces set the stage but they are only some of the players, and they don't yet account for the catalyzing agents that fill out the whole cast.  To understand this all better, we need to look at more of the pieces:

Institutional players
  • Universities
  • Private and public landholders
  • Institutional investors

Political and regulatory
  • Political structure and efficiency
  • Community politics
  • Public review and approval processes
  • Public regulatory bodies

  • Private capital
  • The housing market
  • The labor pool and the labor market
  • Regional competitors
  • Sources of interest (financial): local, national, international

Public investments
  • Infrastructure: transportation
  • Infrastructure: recreation

Physical characteristics
  • Density and distances
  • Geography
  • Architecture
  • Urban planning and design
  • Climate

This list can in no sense be complete.  But it's a beginning.  (Thoughts and comments about it would be very welcome.)  Seeing how these pieces interact must be the next question.