Smart Growth And New Urbanism

I was interested to hear a statistic on the news that despite rising population levels we could all fit into one mega city. In fact that would be more sustainable. That seems to be what new urbanism is making a case for. The hard part is obviously just doing it…together.

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One thought on “Smart Growth And New Urbanism

  1. Well, kind of…

    New Urbanism is a bit of a two-faced animal. New urbanists push a lot of fundamentally good concepts that make a lot of sense to improving our quality of life. Notions like walkability, density and sustainable building practices are all very positive. The mantra claims to be community-driven, with proximity providing the opportunity for interaction and connections. Another by-product is safety. For many of us (especially architects) there is little to argue with in such a list.

    The departure point though is that New Urbanism isn’t really all that urban. If you look at the snazzy water color renderings, they revolve largely around buildings that are 6 stories or less in height with street trees and nice brick-paved sidewalks. The idea really revolves more around achieving that “small town feel”. The birth of New Urbanism arguably came from husband-and-wife architecture team Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk. Two of the best examples are the planned communities of Seaside (featured in the Truman Show) and Celebration. Not cities by any means.

    The other sticking point is that New Urbanism tends to align itself with a retrospective aesthetic that is in no way inherently tied to the concepts that the mentality is trying to instill. This is as pleasing to some as it is disheartening to others and the movement could arguably be better off without an aesthetic devotion. In short, I definitely agree that urban development is by far the most sustainable, but New Urbanism is not a reflection of that. It’s more of an improved suburb–or rather, if you had to have suburbs, it’s more like what they should be.

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