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Thread: New Urbanism -- prettier suburbanism?

  1. #1
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    New Urbanism -- prettier suburbanism?

    On May 5th, the New England chapter of the Congress of the New Urbanism held its inaugural event, a panel discussion and cocktail reception. The turnout was excellent as was the quality of discussion. You'll find a write-up of the event on our website, www.cnunewengland.org

    During the panel, some discussion was devoted to the risk of New Urbanism being "prettier suburbanism" (in part a reaction to the images scrolling on the projection screen during the discussion.) Do people think this is a valid concern? How comfortable are we with the appropriation of the term by such a wide variety of developers?

    Lilly

    Lillian Shuey Picchione
    CNU New England

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    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Is there a discussion about it on www.cnuforum.com yet?

  3. #3
    Quote Originally posted by Lilly
    On May 5th, the New England chapter of the Congress of the New Urbanism held its inaugural event, a panel discussion and cocktail reception. The turnout was excellent as was the quality of discussion. You'll find a write-up of the event on our website, www.cnunewengland.org

    During the panel, some discussion was devoted to the risk of New Urbanism being "prettier suburbanism" (in part a reaction to the images scrolling on the projection screen during the discussion.) Do people think this is a valid concern? How comfortable are we with the appropriation of the term by such a wide variety of developers?

    Lilly

    Lillian Shuey Picchione
    CNU New England

    Having been through hundreds of iterations of this discussion over the past eight or nine years I normally don't comment on it. But when I do I have to turn it around and ask the person presenting it to define exactly what suburbanism is, and then evaluate the development which is being commented on by those criteria.

    Does suburbanism mean simply away from the center? By that criteria nearly every neighborhood in the country was once suburban. Residential dispersal began as soon as cities formed.

    Does it mean that New Urbanists are designing snout houses on two acre lots with no sidewalks and dressing them up with porches? I've heard variants on this charge, but I know of no one who really considers themselves to be practicing New Urbanism who is doing this.

    I'd have to see the photographs which draw this charge to comment much further, but if the charge is that too much attention is paid to aesthetics, I'd have to ask, upon what should New Urbanists model their work, urban pawn shops?

    What specific traits did the buildings or neighborhoods have which were drawing that charge, and what made those traits "suburbanism"?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Lilly
    During the panel, some discussion was devoted to the risk of New Urbanism being "prettier suburbanism" (in part a reaction to the images scrolling on the projection screen during the discussion.) Do people think this is a valid concern? How comfortable are we with the appropriation of the term by such a wide variety of developers?
    I think its a valid concern. Look at the RI examples, Wickford Point, and the new development off Rt. 14, and they are essentially prettier suburbanism. In my mind they're an improvement - they're more walkable (internally) with better design. But Wickford Point isn't within walking distance of much else and is probably pretty expensive. I think New Urbanism is more successful when it focuses more on urban areas and less on suburban areas where its a drop in the bucket.

  5. #5
    Yeah, new urbanism's failure is in its inability to assess the environment where the "project" is laid out and its lack of a plan for interfacing with the pre-existing environment. People have grand schemes for self-contained idealic communities but then they place them on a tract of farmland by freeway exits. In this respect, it is just suburbanism that looks urban. People park their expensive cars in the lot before they go walk around the little fake city, then they get back in their car and zoom elsewhere. I think that's what's "suburban" about them, not the aesthetics.

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