Thinking up a Master Plan
One of my earliest memories of father-son bonding was being in the car together driving home after one of my soccer practices listening to Paul Harvey and The Rest of The Story between 5:55 to 6:00 PM. While I was too young to be aware of his political leanings at the time, this five-minute segment truly resonated with me and fulfilled my desire to learn the lesser-known facts behind commonly accepted stories. Six nights a week, Paul Harvey would explain the “mysteries of history”, while always leaving out some key person or piece of the story until the very end, like a short radio version of a Quentin Tarantino movie.
Around the same time, I recall my mother being frustrated with me for continually asking the age-old question so many parents find infuriating: “Why?”. After a few attempts at answering my questions, and my taking the inquiries further down the rabbit hole after each response, my mother would eventually get fed up and just say, “I just don’t know, Jamie!”. Of course, this was before the internet even existed, if only I could have just said “OK Google” or asked Alexa all my burning questions, everyone would have been so much happier.
At Colgate University, when I decided to add a geography minor to my economics major during my junior year, I ventured into Prof. William Meyer’s classroom and then proceeded to take every course he offered until I graduated. My first class with Prof. Meyer, Urban Environmental Issues, actually became the premise for a book he wrote later, The Environmental Advantages of Cities: Countering Commonsense Antiurbanism, that disputed urban environmental myths. Later, a senior year seminar on the history of campus planning introduced me to Paul Venable Turner’s Campus: An American Planning Tradition, which helped provide clarity on the look and feel of academic campuses.
And then at the University of Michigan, one of my first classes in graduate school was the History of Urban Form with the man, the myth, the [architectural history] legend: Prof. Robert Fishman! He introduced me to Spiro Kostof (The City Shaped: Urban Patterns and Meanings Through History) and Lewis Mumford (The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects), providing me with a greater understanding of why our cities look and feel the way they do.
More recently, I have discovered podcasts to accompany me on long drives to project meetings. Admittedly I am late to the game here, but I am happy for this discovery as they are a great source of answers to all my still burning questions. One of my favorites is 99% Invisible, which “is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world”. These podcasts resonate so much with me as I enjoy diving deep into what some may call random facts, but are things that I find incredibly interesting.
So, in addition to being a repository for Simchik Planning & Development’s company and project updates, this blog will be home to periodic stories on the widely accepted, but largely overlooked, aspects of our built form.