Johnny Sanphillippo has been a regular contributor for Strong Towns since 2014. He is an amateur architecture buff with a passionate interest in where and how we all live and occupy the landscape, from small rural towns to skyscrapers and everything in between. He travels often, conducts interviews with people of interest, and gathers photos and video of places worth talking about (which he often shares on Strong Towns). Johnny writes for Strong Towns, and his blog, Granola Shotgun.
PODCASTS Johnny IS FEATURED IN:
No name better symbolizes idyllic 1950s suburbia than Levittown. How these massive, master-planned communities—the epitome of America’s suburban experiment—have fared over 70 years tells a less rosy story.
Trying to navigate opaque bureaucracies, just to get permission to build something that used to be legal everywhere, is like eating Jell-O with chopsticks: tedious and unsatisfying. No wonder people find pragmatic work-arounds instead.
Bringing a neighborhood back from the brink of ruin, one building at a time, is hard, thankless work—like raising bees when you could just go buy a jar of honey. But when it works, each successful project helps “pollinate” the surrounding area with the seeds of revival, in a virtuous cycle.
The newer generation of public housing projects offer a superficially pleasant facsimile of a New Urbanist neighborhood. But these are places built all at once, to a finished state, and deeply dependent on fragile institutional arrangements.
The allure of a silver-bullet economic development project is like that boat you buy for a low, low down payment. You know, the one that ended up sitting in your driveway under a tarp for years. Just ask Memphis.
Our collective willingness to maintain infrastructure that has outlived its economic rationale will evaporate in due course. Only the truly productive bits will survive the fullness of time.
Change may come, but it isn’t going to be planned or voluntary. Instead we’re all going to absorb a variety of unintended consequences.
One of the reasons Ocean Grove, New Jersey has endured intact is the presence of a religious community that had a higher calling and a longer event horizon than the dominant secular culture. There are lessons to be learned here even by people who may not identify with the church.
Everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Our current institutions are in the process of failing and are unlikely to be reformed. Once the dust settles, we’ll create new institutions and a fresh cultural consensus that respond to pressing needs on the ground.
Affordable housing can take many shapes and show up in surprising places. These places aren’t subsidized or government-run, but they house millions of Americans.
Bozeman is becoming the new frontier for tech workers who don’t want to slog it out in the Bay Area. What does that mean for the city?
You can put up all the signs you want, but your community will still be vulnerable to a myriad of external shocks.
Housing options become even more scarce when the value of property is no longer tethered to the local labor market.
The housing crunch leads families to make hard trade-offs in order to live affordably. A quick chat in an airport lounge reveals some unique examples.
The rise of technology is slowly emptying out our malls and business parks. They could be put to better use... if we actually wanted to solve the problem.
Can the co-working model be applied to housing?
As a nation, we have multiple, profound predicaments that we need to come to grips with. This isn’t going to end well if we don’t pull together.
Your town isn’t a dress rehearsal. This is it, folks.
The way we finance new developments in suburban communities is one giant Ponzi Scheme, but no one seems to realize how doomed the whole thing is.
The key to building a stronger town is cultivating dynamic household economies. Cities across the globe have mastered this. Why can't we?
A couple years ago, I bought a $15,000 uninhabitable shack in Cincinnati, Ohio, hoping to renovate it into a nice two-story duplex for renters. Here's what went wrong.
In the wake of the California wildfires, what happens next? Will these communities rebuild or abandon?
Better transit is badly needed in the Anaheim region but rather than provide that, the regional government spent millions on a shiny, new auto-oriented facility.
In a California town, Main Street is preserved while everything around it shifts and the conditions that built Main Street are destroyed.
In a world where brick-and-mortor stores are increasingly hard to maintain and afford, mobile businesses fill an important niche for both business owners and consumers.
Stop fearing the end of civilization as we know it, and start learning from the people who have already experienced it.
A futuristic civic building still inspires awe, but that's muted by the changing suburban landscape around it.
Most people load themselves up with massive amounts of debt in order to live the way they believe they’re supposed to. But there's another option.
Ugliness isn’t the problem and newness isn’t any kind of solution.
We’ve got the built environment that we have and the overwhelming majority of it isn’t going to change.