Featured in Town Planning Review 93.1: Trendy urbanists, innovation laboratories and best practices: in pursuit of ‘progressive’ urban planning in Mexico City

The editors of Town Planning Review (TPR) have selected the following paper as the Featured Article in TPR 93.1.

This paper will be free to access for a limited time:

‘Trendy urbanists, innovation laboratories and best practices: in pursuit of ‘progressive’ urban planning in Mexico City’ by Ryan A. Whitney

When asked to describe the paper and highlight its importance, the author stated the following:

Cities around the world are increasingly adopting urban planning ‘best practices’ to create more livable, sustainable, and equitable cities. Indeed, city governments are using innovation laboratories to foster more democratic and participatory planning practices, bike lanes and pedestrian streets are increasingly common to foster more walkable and bikeable neighborhoods, and urban ‘sustainability’ is now a common pillar of urban and town planning.

In this article I explore the disconnect between globalized urban planning ‘best practices’ and their real-world outcomes. Theorizing from a government innovation laboratory within Mexico City, I use the term ‘trendy urbanists’ to describe the privileged professionals that aspire to be on the cutting edge of urban planning. I argue that while their preferred best practices are often sold as increasing urban ‘sustainability’ and ‘equity’ for all, trendy urbanists often reproduce established histories of urban development in Mexico and Latin America that reflect the needs and desires of the privileged.

While I theorize from Mexico City, the power of this article lies in its applicability to diverse cities around the world. Trendy urbanists do not only live and work in Mexico City; they can be found in the public, private, civil society, and academic institutions in cities around the world often pushing for the uptake of similar sets of best practices. Recognizing this, I ask who the urban sustainability agenda is really designed to benefit, and if the evolving best practices that are commonplace within urban planning are creating more ‘sustainable’ and ‘equitable’ cities for all.

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