Maurice Cox at Center City Commission

As Maurice Cox, NEA Director of Design, told the audience at yesterday's Center City Commission luncheon, "the goal is beautiful, livable, and integrated cities." The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) stands for excellence in art, one of which is urban design, and supports the growth and availability of art to all Americans.

He told the audience that "the collective dignity of Memphis begins at the river" and encouraged Memphians to "preserve the riverfront as a public living room of Memphis at all costs." Here are some highlights from his talk and suggestions for Memphis along with audio recordings.

Mr. Cox stressed that there is often a gap between people's values and the reality of how we are living that requires critical thinking and new learning. He gave examples from the Mayor's Institute program and from his own city, Charlottesville, VA. Faced with outward migration and strangulation by its growing suburbs, the community came together to define their values, refocused on creating an urban pedestrian downtown, and has today become one of the best places to live in America.
( Entire talk 36 mins, 6.3 MB )

Toward the end of his talk he gave some specific examples and ideas for Memphis. Three short clips for your consideration:

Louisville waterfront (2.5 mins, 425 KB)
He used Louisville as a success story. There, the Mayor held the line on development and turned the brownfield along the river into 100 green acres of public park.

Lessons for Memphis (2.5 mins. 442 KB)
Specific suggestions for Memphis.

Memphis Riverfront (1 min. 155 KB)
He closed with these words...
And then, lastly, the most memorable moment for me, visiting Memphis, was looking out at your extraordinary natural resource, and that's the river. And I would encourage you to preserve your riverfront as a public living room of Memphis - at all costs. [Applause] Because the collective dignity of Memphis begins at the river, and you should give it back to the public to whom it rightfully belongs. And with that I say to Memphis, thank you, and go out and please shape your world. Thank you.

Maurice Cox
Director of Design, National Endowment for the Arts

In addition to his role as NEA's Director of Design, Maurice Cox is an Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Virginia School of Architecture and is a 2004-05 recipient of the Loeb Fellowship at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design.

He recently completed eight years on the Charlottesville (VA) City Council with the last two years as the City's mayor. As mayor, professor, and urbanist he was widely recognized as the principal urban designer of his City.

His reputation as a design leader and innovator led to his being featured in Fast Company, as one of America's "20 Masters of Design;" on CBS news magazine "60 Minutes;" in the documentary film This Black Soil; and in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Architecture Magazine -- all for his groundbreaking use of design as a catalyst for social change.