Jesus Lara Addresses Urban Design Challenges in OSU Alumni Magazine Interview

At The Ohio State University, we’re hardwired to think ambitiously. The Ohio State Alumni Magazine asked a dozen experts across the institution, including Jesus J. Lara, associate professor of city and regional planning, how they would tackle a big problem if they were given unlimited time, money and resources.

More than half of the world’s population — and 80 percent of U.S. citizens — are city dwellers. Yet cities often are not well designed, leading to urban isolation, segregation, and lack of access to nutritious food, jobs, recreational opportunities and more.

While there may not be a single solution to solve all these problems, there is a good approach: urban design solutions created in collaboration with residents, foundations and local governments. This kind of synergy is difficult and rare. But it is extremely important to hear all voices, particularly those of marginalized residents, in order to create cities that are welcoming and valuable to all.

For example, students in one of my classes spent time talking with residents of west Columbus. Many of the children they spoke with had never been in a forest. Residents expressed a desire for access to open spaces and recreational facilities, more social interaction with their neighbors, and places where they could feel safe and secure.

We proposed the location of a new park and suggested it include bike paths, bike racks and picnic tables. Today — thanks to a collaboration involving our class, residents, business and community leaders, and local government —Wilson Road Park is serving an area five miles west of downtown.

We must be committed to moving great ideas beyond reports and recommendations and into the world. These solutions will look different for every community, because residents have diverse interests, desires and needs that span many generations. But we all benefit when we implement solutions that respond to local conditions in environmentally, socially and economically appropriate ways.


This article originally appeared in the May-June edition of Ohio State Alumni magazine.

Edited from a conversation with writer Erin Peterson. Illustration by Matt Collins.

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