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With walls covered in colourful sketches and a central table overflowing with drawings and maps, the urban design division of New York City’s Department of City Planning feels more like an art school studio than a dreary municipal office. “When I first got here I asked people to draw what they thought things should look like and some of them responded by saying they hadn’t drawn anything in three decades,” says Amanda Burden, the city planning commissioner. “Now what we do first, before we even talk about zoning, is draw.”

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