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Distinguished Speaker Series

Next: Jarrett Walker

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Houston Tomorrow invites Distinguished Speakers every year to bring important voices from across the nation to inform Houston leaders and decision makers on the best practices and emerging ideas in urban planning, transportation, and quality of life. The events are free and any interested persons are encouraged to attend.

Lectures normally begin at 7 pm and are preceded by a free reception at 6:30 pm.  Check event details, as times are subject to change.

Please contact Jay Blazek Crossley at 713-523-5757 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) if you are interested in co-sponsoring a particular speaker or reception.


Jarrett Walker, transit expert and author of the book Human Transit, will be the keynote speaker at a symposium call Houston’s Transit Future and the Distinguished Speaker at a public forum on May 14. The symposium will be from 8:30 am until 1 pm and will cost $55. The Distinguished Speaker event will be free. Both events will be held at the new Asia Society building. Registration will open later this week.


February 16, 2012: John Nielsen-Gammon, State Climatographer and Regents Professor in Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University, presented on the outlook for more heat and drought this year as climate change effects kick in on top of the dreaded La Niña effect.

January 18, 2012: Steve Mouzon, architect, urbanist, photographer, and author of “The Original Green.”  He discussed the timeless qualities of sustainable buildings: nourishable, serviceable, securable, accessible, lovable, durable, flexible, frugal.

November 3, 2011: Dean Frederick Steiner, dean of the School of Architecture and Henry M. Rockwell Chair in Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin discussed his latest book, Design for a Vulnerable Planet and his ideas for a sustainable future based on new regionalism, a theory of design which holds that structure and landscape should be inspired by the surrounding ecosystem.  Steiner has been an important researcher in the evolution of the Megaregion concept, focusing on the Texas Triangle megaregion that includes Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Austin, and San Antonio.

May 3, 2011: Gregg Logan, Managing Director at Robert Charles Lesser & Co, (RCLCO) is an expert on economic development and large metro job cores. He presented his findings on Houston’s big job centers on May 4th as part of Houston Tomorrow’s Distinguished Speaker Series.

March 25, 2010: Emily Talen is a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. Her recent book, Urban Design Reclaimed: Tools, Techniques and Strategies for Planners, is for anyone who believes that the design of the built environment is central to urban life and community well-being, according to Dr. Talen’s ASU website.  The book offers step-by-step instruction on how to observe, analyze, and design places that are civic-minded, well-functioning, and pedestrian-oriented, which she discussed in an interview on the APA YouTube channel.

In addition to her Distinguished Speaker presentation, Talen will also spend time with the City of Houston’s planning department taking a tour of the Montrose area, analyzing MyCity data about Montrose and Houston, and exchanging information to help the city prepare for its presentation at the American Planning Association’s national conference in New Orleans, April 10-13.

October 30, 2009: Andrés Duany, a founding principal at Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, discussed what he calls agricultural urbanism. Agricultural urbanism is much more systematic and planned than urban agriculture, and it applies the New Urbanist idea of transects to food production. According to this system, the edge of the city would be heavily agricultural, and arable plots would become progressively and methodically smaller and more urban toward the center of the city.

September 30, 2009: John Norquist, the president of the Congress for the New Urbanism and former mayor of Milwaukee, spoke about the fall of urbanism in the 20th century and the rise of New Urbanism in the last 15 to 20 years. Norquist said that streets serve transportation, social, and economic functions, but that US policies have ignored the last two and focused on speeding the flow of traffic and reducing congestion. However, he said, busy streets - so long as they are pedestrian-friendly - are economic engines. During his tenure as mayor, Milwaukee became one of the few US cities to actually remove a portion of a freeway.

July 21, 2009: Stella Chao, the Director of the City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, spoke about Seattle’s community planning methods that involve an explicit role for neighborhoods within the City government. She explained the neighborhood plans which guide City efforts in general as well as in each neighborhood, how citizens have been empowered to improve their neighborhoods through matching grants and institutional support, and important lessons learned as the City enters a second round of neighborhood planning efforts.

June 18, 2009: Richard Jackson, MD, MPH discussed how the urban form affects health, including striking increases in obesity, diabetes, and asthma. Jackson is chair and professor of Environmental Health Sciences at UCLA’s School of Public Health. He is a former CDC department director and advisor to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Jackson is currently analyzing the human health implications of existing public policy on farming, education, housing, and transportation.

April 29, 2009: Jim Charlier spoke about how to design walkable streets, stating that walking has numerous health and social benefits and is a boon to businesses. Charlier is a nationally recognized transportation planning professional with over three decades of experience in local, regional and statewide settings across the country. He is a certified planner (AICP) based in Boulder, CO, and is active in the Congress for New Urbanism, the Urban Land Institute, the American Planning Association and the Institute of Transportation Engineers.

January 22, 2009: Peter Newman discussed how to create resilient cities in the face of peak oil, climate change, and the current economic collapse. Newman is a professor of sustainability at Curtin University in Western Australia and director of the Curtin University Sustainable Policy Institute. He recently co-authored a book entitled Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change.

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