Kaid Benfield Archive


The World’s Best Job (hint: it involves placemaking, but not in the US)

Kaid Benfield

Posted November 19, 2008 at 4:18PM

, , , , , , , , , ,


A few years ago, my friend and then-transportation-guru Hank deserted those of us who had befriended him in DC and scampered off to New Mexico, where he had some property, and built an organization that became Reconnecting America.  Shortly thereafter, he deserted them, too (not to worry, since they remain in very good hands with Shelley Poticha).

But who can blame him?  Hank left, after all, to move to London and take The World's Best Job (tm).  I'm writing about him this week because we recently saw each other, while Hank was back in town to give a presentation at the National Building Museum.

Poundbury rooftops (by: Duchy of Cornwall)I will keep you in suspense no longer.  Hank is now working for the Prince of Wales, as CEO of The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment.  The World's Best Job (tm) basically entails working with a staff of extremely dedicated and talented people in a highly creative way to engage in showcase projects for sustainable development.  With, it must be said, a decent base of funding support.  Or, as Hank puts it:

"The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment seeks to improve the quality of people's lives by teaching and practicing timeless and ecological ways of planning, designing and building.  As urban designer and master planner we learn by participating in real life exemplars of sustainable communities.  Through these exemplars, we develop tools and techniques for solving problems like climate change adaptation, affordability, greener transport and sustainable local economies."

Not bad.  The Building Museum is hosting an exhibit of the Foundation's work this week and, if you want to catch it, you'll have to move fast.

Pummery Square, Poundbury (by: Duchy of Cornwall)Probably the best known of the Prince's projects is Poundbury, a new town built in the traditional English style adjacent to the pre-existing town of Dorchester.  Poundbury was initiated by Prince Charles in 1993 and is being developed by the Duchy of Cornwall.  I'm not a fan of so-called "new towns" in the US, which experience teaches us are much better in theory than practice:  most of them become just somewhat better-organized forms of automobile-dependent sprawl and attract horrible new development just outside their original boundaries.  But land use controls work a little better when under the supervision of a monarch-in-waiting.  :)

It's hard not to like Poundbury, some images of which accompany this post (along with one of Walthamstow, noted below).  It is highly walkable and Poundbury aerial (by: John E. Lamper, creative commons license)beautiful, contains a demonstration project of green homes, and is bounded by preserved land.  Poundbury is expected to be fully completed by 2025 when it will have added approximately 5,000 to the population of Dorchester (16,000 as of 2001), along with 2,000 jobs in the non-polluting factories, offices and general facilities across the site.

Some other nifty projects of The World's Best Job (tm) include:

  • Walthamstow -- sustainable, transit-oriented neighborhood revitalization in London
  • Rose Town - revitalization of one of the poorest sections of Kingston, Jamaica, with affordable housing "reflecting the local vernacular and climate" and that "employs local skills, materials and well-tested architecture to help build a lasting, sustainable community"
  • Upton - adjacent to Walthamstow High Street (by: Prince's Foundation)pre-existing suburban development in Northampton, "Upton achieves higher densities than comparable developments and, critically, it will incorporate commercial uses, community facilities, high environmental standards, [and] a unique and advanced sustainable drainage system"
  • Valuing Sustainable Urbanism - a report that "provides robust evidence that developments built incorporating principles of sustainable urban design achieve higher commercial returns in the long run"
  • Building Crafts Apprentices - to address a shortage of skilled craftspeople, a program offering eight months of "courses and work placements, during which [apprentices] will be given the opportunity to develop their craftsmanship and use their skills in a broad, holistic building context alongside other building professionals'

There's lots more, but I'll just direct you again to the website where you can follow your whims and/or let Hank tell you all about it in this brief video:

By the way, you probably think I'm kidding about this common-law trademark I'm claiming for The World's Best Job (tm), but I'll have you know that my spouse is an intellectual property lawyer of considerable knowledge and skill.  This sort of thing is dinner-table conversation at our house.  I figure I can license it back to Hank and make some money.