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Thread: Garreau v. Duany

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Emeritus Perry Norton's avatar
    Aug 2001
    Tucson, Arizona

    Garreau v. Duany

    In response to: Garreau v. Duany posted by Jeffery Scott on 21 January 1999 at 15:40:22:

    I think Mr.Scott asks the seminal question. If most citizens do not want sprawl, why can't that be translated into action?

    The answer may be in the lack of authority. And if the answer is there, do we want it?

  2. #2

    Another Problem

    In response to: Garreau v. Duany posted by Perry Norton on 22 January 1999 at 15:18:03:

    I assume you're asking do we want authority(?)

    Well, I agree with you that action, which means politics, and authority, which means governance, are the essential ingredients in land planning and urban design. This is not something new to our century, or our country (USA), but is something that we have to recover if we expect to make any progress in building and protecting good places.

    One thing that always strikes me in any discussion about land planning is the carefree use of a language that once carried much more nuance and meaning. Specifically the terms "urban" and "city". I believe that we can begin to understand what's going on in SUB-urban development if we pay more attention to the way we use words. Mr. Garreau was only one of several writers in the last decade to try to invent new words for SUB-urban development. Ex-urbia? Edge Cities?(!) Do we really know what we're saying? I think not.

    The word "city" shares its root with the words civil, citizen and civic; that is, the Greek root "CIVITAS", which is most closely translated as REGIME, which itself is used to describe the agreed-upon customs under which a community conducts itself. The laws and the government are part of that, but so is the economy and speech and religion. A city, therefore, is its citizens. It is a community of people who come together, for whatever reason, and form a relationship based on agreed upon principals of civility and governance.

    Notice that a "city" has nothing to do with density, or shopping districts or transportation networks. That where the "Urban" part comes in. "URBS" is the Greek root of that word, and describes the stuff we need to build to support the city. It is not the city itself. Urban planning is designing for a city, the way house planning is designing for a family.

    Now then, where in SUB-urbia is the city? Most suburban locations do not have cities (or to use a more familiar term: citizenry, or a polity) Certainly Tyson's Corner does not. There is no political foundation, no polity to determine the rules of civility. That's the reason we call it SUB-urban, it is less than Urban. It is stuff we've built, but it does not support a regime. There is a County board of Supervisors, or a County Planning Commission, but we can all agree that these are not sufficiently representational to guide a small community, or represent its unique political will.

    How do we translate desire into action? How do we claim the authority to act? We cannot, unless there is a citizenry, a community which cares to govern itself. Much of suburbia lacks the political will (the will to political discourse) that is needed for a true city to exist.

    How do we solve that problem?

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