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Thread: With Gilded Eyes: Utopian Urbanism

  1. #1
    Jul 2005
    Austin, TX

    With Gilded Eyes: Utopian Urbanism

    If anyone is interested in a different take on the New Urbanism I have posted at Urban Paradoxes With Gilded Eyes: Utopian Urbanism: A critque of the New Urbanism. Not wanting to take up too much space here I will just share the opening paragraph:

    When I first came across the Congress of New Urbanism, I have to admit, I was impressed by the scope of their vision. Lately, however, as I have watched the New Urbanism unfold, particularly in light of post Katrina and Rita rebuilding I have begun to view New Urbanism is a different light, one that is increasingly making me suspect New Urbanism’s motives. To be honest, I like much of what the Congress of New Urbanism has to say in their Charter document. What I have a problem with is the utopian premise that “authentic urbanism” as defined by CNU “increases human happiness” because it has the inherent ability to solve urban ills.

    I would appreciate hearing your comments and thoughts on the issues.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
    Nov 2002
    Ocean to the east, land to the west

    Design as Destiny?

    Quote Originally posted by Urban Paradoxes
    What I have a problem with is the utopian premise that “authentic urbanism” as defined by CNU “increases human happiness” because it has the inherent ability to solve urban ills
    This is the heart of my problem with NU- the architectural determinism of it. Good design is very important, but so are good public services and education. OTOH, rebuilding New Orleans does provide some unwanted opportunities that NU might be able to use to at least fix some of the physical problems in that city.

  3. #3
    The chaos and social ills experienced in housing projects and other modernist experiments have shown that urban form affects social behavior. If it can affect behavior adversely, it can also affect behavior positively. The essence of New Urbanism is the recognition that the classical urban form affects behavior positively, and is thus a relatively more desireable approach than the alternatives.

    The label 'utopian' is loaded. Anyone who cares about good urbanism is utopian. The alternative to being utopian is being dystopian, and aside from especially delirious architects (Rem, Gehry, Eisenman, Libeskind) no one actually wants to create disorder. So why has 'utopian' earned such a bad rep? The reason so many 'utopian' ideologies have been catastrophic was because they assumed that human nature could be altered to create a new man, instead of taking human nature for granted and working with it. So we had utopian disasters like communism and Bauhaus. However the philosophies that preceded them, liberalism and classicism, were no less utopian. They succeeded at creating a better world because they envisioned a better world.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
    Mar 2005
    London, UK
    I'm not sure NU types claim they can cure all of society's ills at one urban planning stroke. They can, however, create better places in which to live. That helps improve society. Clearly, if all other aspects are dysfunctional, it will not suffice.

    In the rare cases where even the most appalling Corbusian towers are inhabited by particularly stable, productive populations they are not, per se, pernicious enough to engender social breakdown. But they help.

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