Episode 5. More than Math: Living with Intention in Our Stronger Towns

We’re doing something unique this week. We're releasing one episode every day and inviting special guests to commandeer the Strong Towns podcast microphone to talk with Charles Marohn, Jr. about his first book, Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity, which releases Tuesday, October 1.

You don’t want to miss a single episode. To stay current, subscribe to the Strong Towns podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts (Google Play, Stitcher, Overcast, etc.). You can also check back here, which is where we’ll be posting every new episode. For more information about the book—and to take advantage of soon-to-be-expiring bonus offers—visit strongtowns.org/book.

One favor: if you’ve been following Strong Towns for a while, and you like what we’re all about, would you mind recommending the podcast to a friend this week? We think this podcast series is going to be a great opportunity to bring new listeners up to speed on what makes the Strong Towns approach so different from—and preferable to!—conventional development. Thank you so much! This is your movement too, and we hope you’re as excited as we are about bringing it to new people and new places.

Episode 5. More than Math: Living with Intention in Our Stronger Towns

Rachel Quednau returns for this very special episode of the podcast, the finale of our weeklong series inspired by Chuck Marohn’s new book, Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity.

After catching up on what Rachel has been doing since moving to Boston, the two friends talk about the evolution of the Strong Towns conversation. Strong Towns initially focused almost exclusively on planning and engineering, but now it goes beyond “the math” too, asking essential questions about how we cultivate rich and abundant lives in our stronger neighborhoods.

Chuck and Rachel talk about the challenges and rewards of healthy conversation in our politically-charged times. Chuck also recalls the time he spent living with Hasidic Jews in New York City, and he reflects on how many of us are now faced with the challenge of living out our values despite our surroundings rather than in cooperation with them.

This warm conversation between friends is a fitting way to wrap-up an exciting week.

Episode 4. Minimum Viable Development? How We Let the "Perfect" Be the Enemy of the Good

In episode four of this weeklong podcast series, Chuck Marohn talks with Andrew Burleson — software engineer, Strong Towns board chair, and frequent podcast guest — about the difference between a problem and a predicament, why conventional development can't pay for itself, and how auto-oriented cities are built on the assumption of never-ending sunny days. They also discuss how stretching our towns and cities are weakening the “gravity" that holds people and places together, as well as the ways in which we are filling the gap with artificial energy.

Then Chuck and Andrew tackle maybe the most controversial element of the Strong Towns approach: incrementalism. How was the incremental approach used by town makers of the past? And why has incremental development become standard operating procedure for tech companies in Silicon Valley — but not for the cities in Silicon Valley?

This discussion is inspired by Chuck’s new book, which released earlier this week. The response we're getting to the book has been amazing. If you don’t have your copy yet, you can find information about it here.

Episode 3. Building Productive Places (and Showering Them with Love)

Another mash-up edition, this time featuring the It’s the Little Things podcast and Strong Towns podcast! In this episode, Jacob Moses, host of It’s the Little Things, and Strong Towns president Chuck Marohn discuss a couple of Jacob’s favorite chapters from Chuck’s brand new book, Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity, which just released yesterday.

Jacob and Chuck reflect on the moments throughout Chuck’s life that inspired the Strong Towns movement, including the fist bump that began Chuck’s long friendship and collaboration with Joe Minicozzi of Urban3. Jacob and Chuck also discuss what we can learn from our forebears about productivity (as opposed to merely “growth”) and why communities need to make maintenance an obsession.

They go on to talk about the importance of observation, a practice given too little attention among professional engineers and planners, but which seems to be a common characteristic of people who really love their places. As Chuck puts it: “The merging of places that are healthy and strong financially, and places that are healthy and strong from a human standpoint, is the exact nexus that the Strong Towns approach is designed to get us to.”

Episode 2. Breaking Free of the Infrastructure Cult

In episode two of this weeklong podcast series, Charles Marohn, Jr. is interviewed by Strong Towns board member John Reuter. The two longtime friends go in-depth on Chuck’s book, Strong Towns, which releases today!

Specifically, Chuck and John look at the “infrastructure cult” that has arisen since World War Two. American leaders on both sides of the political aisle look to big infrastructure projects to spur development and create jobs. But they do so while overlooking the longterm cost of these projects, not to mention the backlog of unfunded maintenance on existing projects. Chuck and John explore where this mindset comes from, the enormous toll it is taking on our local communities, and how to finally break free of the alluring but ultimately destructive infrastructure cult.

Also discussed:

  • Why poorer neighborhoods make the best investments

  • How the mutual-validation loops of the modern development pattern resemble the Greek oracles

  • The ways in which we sacrifice stability for the sake of efficiency and growth

  • Why generations of consumption have likely made a generation of "corrective sacrifice" inevitable.

Episode 1. Spooky Wisdom: What Lessons Should We Be Learning from How Our Ancestors Built Cities?

This is a special mash-up edition of the Upzoned and Strong Towns podcasts! In this episode, Kea Wilson, host of Upzoned, and Strong Towns president Chuck Marohn discuss the “spooky wisdom” contained in the cities of our ancestors, reflecting the ways in which humans and human habitats have co-evolved with each other. What lessons should we be learning and how did we come to throw away that ancient wisdom so casually and so completely?

Kea and Chuck explore why so many North American neighborhoods built after the Great Depression may have been designed by humans but can’t be said to have been designed for humans. They also talk about the difference between complex systems and systems that are merely complicated, why a massive influx of resources isn’t always a good thing, and about the power of incrementalism.

Top photo of Boston by Alex Iby.