Support Design Northampton Week, September 7-13

It is our pleasure to publish this announcement from the Northampton Design Forum...

“Design Northampton Week,” the Notre Dame Urban Design Studio project, is rapidly approaching! It begins four weeks from today, on September 7, 2008. The Northampton Design Forum has been hard at work this summer organizing the event and raising the money needed to cover expenses for the group. So far, more than $9,000 has been donated by over 50 individuals and businesses. The Design Forum is now ramping up its fundraising to raise another $7,000 to cover the costs of the project. We thank those of you who have donated and hope that we will get many more contributions, in any amount, from as many people as possible. Tax-deductible contribution checks to support Design Northampton Week should be made out to A.P.E. Ltd, our sponsoring organization. Please write “Notre Dame Design” on the memo line of the check. Checks should be sent to:

A.P.E. Ltd
126 Main Street
Northampton, MA 01060

Please include your email address with your check so that we can continue to update you on progress, and indicate if you want your contribution to be anonymous.

Also, please forward this [message] to anyone who may be interested, including relevant listservs to which you belong. Thanks!

Joel Russell, Chair
Northampton Design Forum

The Design Northampton Week Project

Design Northampton Week (DNW) is an opportunity for everyone in Northampton who cares about the City’s future to come together and work toward a common vision. Graduate students from Notre Dame University, under the guidance of Professor Philip Bess, will work with us to deepen our understanding of design and planning issues and develop creative solutions to some of the most important long-term planning issues that we face. Design Northampton Week will run from Sunday, September 7 (opening presentation at 7 PM at the new Senior Center on Conz Street) through Saturday, September 13 (closing session at 4 PM at the Senior Center). Between those dates, there will be continuous opportunities for citizens to interact with each other and the design team to create this vision at the new A.P.E. Gallery Space on Main Street. Everyone is invited. For more information, go to

After Design Northampton Week, the students will continue working through the fall semester at Notre Dame to produce a fully illustrated report similar to the one they did last year for Cooperstown, New York. That report is available at The final report on Northampton will be presented to the city in December.

Frequently Asked Questions

Didn’t we already do this with the Sustainable Northampton Plan?

The Sustainable Northampton Plan laid out the basic concepts and framework for a sustainable future. Design Northampton Week takes this process the next step by showing visually what this future might look like. DNW also offers an opportunity for citizens to watch and participate in the design process, and to offer continuous feedback during the week to the design team.

How can I participate?

  • Come to the opening and closing sessions (and/or watch them on NCTV Channel 15)
  • Speak with members of the team about your hopes and concerns for the future of our City during their initial visiting hours on Monday and Tuesday
  • Come to the presentations of each day’s work, Tuesday through Friday, held in the afternoon and evening at A.P.E., and comment on the work the design team is doing
  • Observe the work-in-progress during the open studio’s visiting hours each day

Will DNW affect the planning of approved projects or those currently under consideration?

This process will not directly affect any specific projects. It is intended to suggest long-term future possibilities and to engage the community in a productive dialogue about future options. While specific projects will come up for discussion as examples, the purpose of DNW is not to design or re-design any specific project.

How does DNW fit into the City’s ongoing planning process?

DNW supplements this process and gives us a chance to hear an outside perspective, while also providing illustrations of possible future options. Suggestions made during DNW are non-binding and are intended to inform the City’s existing planning process.

Will DNW cost the City any money?

No. Private donations are paying the cost of bringing the Notre Dame team to Northampton.

Northampton Design Forum

See also:

Notre Dame Urban Design Studio Project Slated for September 7-13
Design Forum, whose members include Northampton citizens interested in
fostering quality urban design, decided to invite the Notre Dame
University Urban Design Studio here in September. The Notre Dame group
will consist of six graduate students led by Professor Philip Bess, who
described the program at a public presentation held on June 2. The
students will spend a week engaging with the community and offering
design recommendations following the principles of sustainability and
traditional urban design.

Video: Notre Dame Urban Design Studio Presentation

Notre Dame Pitches Urban Design Studio to Northampton

Grasping the Sustainable Northampton Vision: We Need Pictures
In all the 78 pages of the draft Sustainable Northampton Plan
(PDF), there is only a single graphic. It’s the Future Land Use Map, an
abstract, top-level view of the city. That’s unfortunate, because
without drawings, pictures and illustrations, it’s difficult to
envision how the Plan will change the look and feel of
Northampton. James Kunstler, an advocate of New Urbanism, discusses
this problem in “Home From Nowhere”, published in the September 1996 issue of The Atlantic Monthly:

object of the charrette [public design workshop] is not, however, to
produce verbiage but to produce results on paper in the form of
drawings and plans. This highlights an essential difference between
zoning codes and traditional town planning based on civic art. Zoning
codes are invariably twenty-seven-inch-high stacks of numbers and
legalistic language that few people other than technical specialists
understand. Because this is so, local zoning- and planning-board
members frequently don’t understand their own zoning laws. Zoning has
great advantages for specialists, namely lawyers and traffic engineers,
in that they profit financially by being the arbiters of the
regulations, or benefit professionally by being able to impose their
special technical needs (say, for cars) over the needs of citizens —
without the public’s being involved in their decisions.

town planning produces pictorial codes that any normal citizen can
comprehend. This is democratic and ethical as well as practical. It
elevates the quality of the public discussion about development. People
can see what they’re talking about. Such codes show a desired outcome
at the same time that they depict formal specifications. They’re much
more useful than the reams of balderdash found in zoning codes.