Jeff Speck

Speech Topics:
The Livable City
Design for Humans
Saving Ourselves from Suburban Sprawl
Protecting an Endangered Species: the Pedestrian
Why No-one Walks Anymore
Ten City Design Resolutions for Mayors—and Everyone Else

Jeff Speck is a city planner who works with civic leaders to make their communities more livable. Through design work, lectures, writing, and federal service, he has contributed to an international movement that seeks to re-center the practice of urban design around humanist principles.

In 2003, Speck was appointed director of design at the National Endowment for the Arts, a post he held through May of 2007. In this position, he managed more than $5 million dollars in grants to non-profit organizations while overseeing the Endowment's two leadership initiatives in design: the Mayors' Institute on City Design, and its rural counterpart, Your Town: Changing its Future. Over four years, he convened more than 20 sessions of the Mayors' Institute, each of which brought together eight mayors and eight designers for three days of intensive discussions around the most pressing design challenges facing each mayor's city.

Recognizing that many cities' design challenges were profoundly impacted by state policy, Speck created a third NEA Leadership initiative, the Governors' Institute on Community Design. Co-funded by the EPA, the Governors' Institute works with state leaders and their cabinets to create programs and policies to encourage and implement smart growth. In his final months at the Endowment, Speck started one more leadership initiative, Open House America, which attempts to address design literacy at the grassroots level. Its plan is to create a national network of programs similar to Open House New York, in which each city, for one weekend a year, becomes a living design museum, with dozens of normally inaccessible buildings and landscapes open for visits free of charge.

Prior to his federal service, Speck spent 10 years as director of town planning at Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ), where he helped the firm solidify its status as the leading practitioner of the New Urbanism, a global effort that seeks alternatives to suburban sprawl and urban disinvestment. During Speck's tenure, DPZ completed designs for more than 150 new towns, regional plans, and community revitalization projects. More than 40 of these were either led or managed by Speck, including influential designs for Rosemary Beach, Florida; Cornell, Ontario; and Loreto Bay, Mexico; as well as downtown master plans for Fort Myers, Florida and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

While at DPZ, Speck conceived and co-authored with Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, the book Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, published March 2000 by Farrar Straus Giroux. Called “the bible of urbanists,” by the Wall Street Journal, it has sold more than 80,000 copies and is taught in universities across the U.S. and overseas.

Now returned to private practice, Speck lectures nationally, serves as a contributing editor to Metropolis magazine, and works as a city planner for public officials and private developers.

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