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Thread: New Urbanism: is it the new architecture?

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    New Urbanism: is it the new architecture?

    I'm sure everyone is tired of reading and hearing about New Urbanism, however, I'm just wondering if it is really the new architecture of this century. I'm a planner in an area that acutally has a new urbanist development and I must say it's impressive to visit. It brings more than just another neighborhood.

    This being said, is this form of design over rated, is it just Disneyworld without Mr. Toads Wild Ride?

    The walkable and neo-traditional aspects are great, but there seems to be a little
    more that makes these places actually special.




    CrabKey is the island where James Bond met Honey Ryder while she was collecting shells and they thwarted the evil Dr. No.
    Last edited by Crabkey; 16 Feb 2007 at 5:04 PM. Reason: spelling

  2. #2
    This is the new architecture.

    It's nothing more than a scientific foundation for the old architecture, however it does discredit contemporary architectural design (not the same thing as architecture).

  3. #3

    new urbanism, drink the kool-aid

    Crabkey, try posting your comment over at PRO-URB on the UGA listserv and you'll be trounced. i've been on that list for 4-5 years. It's a passionate religion to these folks, a design approach (Transects) which can solve all of society's ills.

    Lot's of brilliant minds there who have high degrees from crit class and boy will they show you through their response postings. They have taught me though-and made me a better opponent.

    It sure seems DIFFERENT here. I almost can't believe 'planners' frequent this site..as all I ever knew were NU'ers...

    -T

  4. #4
    Cyburbian JNL's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Crabkey View post
    I'm a planner in an area that acutally has a new urbanist development and I must say it's impressive to visit. It brings more than just another neighborhood.
    I'm curious to know what you found impressive and different about it? Can you describe a bit more about your impressions?

  5. #5
    NU is a great thing, but isn't completely the answer. But it's the best thing we have at the moment. At least we still aren't headed towards the idiotic planning (or lack of it) involved in sprawl.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by T O'Hare View post
    It sure seems DIFFERENT here. I almost can't believe 'planners' frequent this site..as all I ever knew were NU'ers...

    -T
    I am curious.... do you believe that the planners posting on Cyburbia somehow represent a different view, more views, or a wrong view of planning?

    I do not know whether your use of 'planners' is meant to be offensive (kinda sounds that way).
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Reductionist's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by T O'Hare View post
    Crabkey, try posting your comment over at PRO-URB on the UGA listserv and you'll be trounced. i've been on that list for 4-5 years. It's a passionate religion to these folks, a design approach (Transects) which can solve all of society's ills.

    Lot's of brilliant minds there who have high degrees from crit class and boy will they show you through their response postings. They have taught me though-and made me a better opponent.

    It sure seems DIFFERENT here. I almost can't believe 'planners' frequent this site..as all I ever knew were NU'ers...

    -T
    Hi Terri,

    I've been on Pro Urb for the last four years (under my real name) and I'm quite familiar with your contributions to the recent debate on accessibility.

    Pro-Urb is structured as a graduate seminar for urban design issues with some of the most brilliant minds in the profession contributing, so it isn't really the place for those with a neophyte's understanding of NU. Cyburbia, on the other hand, is informal and laid back, sort of an online social club for professionals and non-planners who have a general interest in planning issues.

    So If you're looking for real world solutions and an honest debate regarding accessibility issues, I'd stick with the former.
    "I believe in pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. I believe it is possible. I saw this guy do it once in Cirque du Soleil. It was magical!" -Stephen Colbert

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    Hey, you mean were on the wrong board? Sh*t ! I knew it was too informal..... I knew nothing worth wile was happening on this here board. I gots to get over to the good planning board with all of the brilliant academics. Shoot fire...

    Then again, I had enough higher education to make my eyes brown.

    I belive that Cyburbia offers a lot of useful information and perspectives. Those views are coming from many professionals (although some what jaded professionals) working in the planning field. I tend to get more from an honest professional than most academics.

    - signed the NU neophyte.
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Planderella's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Reductionist View post
    Hi Terri,

    I've been on Pro Urb for the last four years (under my real name) and I'm quite familiar with your contributions to the recent debate on accessibility.

    Pro-Urb is structured as a graduate seminar for urban design issues with some of the most brilliant minds in the profession contributing, so it isn't really the place for those with a neophyte's understanding of NU. Cyburbia, on the other hand, is informal and laid back, sort of an online social club for professionals and non-planners who have a general interest in planning issues.

    So If you're looking for real world solutions and an honest debate regarding accessibility issues, I'd stick with the former.
    Not to derail this topic, but I have to respectfully disagree with your oversimplified assessment of Cyburbia. This site has its fair share of "brilliant minds" that can hold their own on subjects much broader than just New Urbanism. Cyburbia has global appeal to planners, engineers, architects, developers, students, etc. "Real world solutions" and "honest debates" occur daily on this site. One of the big differences between Cyburbia and a typical listserve is that dissenting opinions are welcomed and encouraged. The admins and mods work hard to maintain that sense of balance.
    "A witty woman is a treasure, a witty beauty is a power!"

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Reductionist's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Flying Monkeys View post
    Hey, you mean were on the wrong board? Sh*t ! I knew it was too informal..... I knew nothing worth wile was happening on this here board. I gots to get over to the good planning board with all of the brilliant academics. Shoot fire...

    Then again, I had enough higher education to make my eyes brown.

    I belive that Cyburbia offers a lot of useful information and perspectives. Those views are coming from many professionals (although some what jaded professionals) working in the planning field. I tend to get more from an honest professional than most academics.

    - signed the NU neophyte.
    Pro-Urb consists of a few academics, but it's mostly architects, builders and developers (i.e. those who have real world experience developing NU projects). By neophyte I was referring to this first post, which most certainly was a oversimplification of what NU is about.
    "I believe in pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. I believe it is possible. I saw this guy do it once in Cirque du Soleil. It was magical!" -Stephen Colbert

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    You know, y'all could educate us neophytes....

    For instance, one of the NU tenants is that the NU mixed-use environment will capture more auto trips that would normally be produced by a non-NU development . This has long been preached by the development community, who claimed that a 50 percent internal capture rate was achievable. This would do the world a lot of good by reducing greenhouse emissions plus a many other green type benefits (not to mention reducing our colective waistline). Amazing. However, I have seen some recent studies done on these NU developments and the trip rates are actually around 5 to 10 percent. How do you explain this? Is there collected data available to show how beneficial this concept has been? Please share with this neophyte so that I may partake of the kool-aide also.
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Reductionist's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Flying Monkeys View post
    You know, y'all could educate us neophytes....

    For instance, one of the NU tenants is that the NU mixed-use environment will capture more auto trips that would normally be produced by a non-NU development . This has long been preached by the development community, who claimed that a 50 percent internal capture rate was achievable. This would do the world a lot of good by reducing greenhouse emissions plus a many other green type benefits (not to mention reducing our colective waistline). Amazing. However, I have seen some recent studies done on these NU developments and the trip rates are actually around 5 to 10 percent. How do you explain this? Is there collected data available to show how beneficial this concept has been? Please share with this neophyte so that I may partake of the kool-aide also.
    Not sure with what this has to do with what I posted, as I was responding to Terri's comments about NU and accessibility.

    However, responding to your straw man I will say that your analysis is meaningless without context. I'm guessing the developments you're referring to are greenfield NU projects surrounded by CSD, and are thus both dependent on and heavily subject to the negative externalities of a car dependent land use and transportation pattern.

    Interesting how you blame NU for this shortcoming and not contemporary planning practice, as this is a bit like blaming the victim. I'm always puzzled why planners such as yourself take such glee in bashing NU while cheerfully downplaying how conventional development patterns debase our environment and undermine alternative choices.

    I'm not a big fan of greenfield NU because of this very issue, but I really don't know what the alternative is. I'm curious to hear what your solution is, so by all means enlighten me.
    "I believe in pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. I believe it is possible. I saw this guy do it once in Cirque du Soleil. It was magical!" -Stephen Colbert

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Reductionist View post
    However, responding to your straw man I will say that your analysis is meaningless without context. I'm guessing the developments you're referring to are greenfield NU projects surrounded by CSD, and are thus both dependent on and heavily subject to the negative externalities of a car dependent land use and transportation pattern.

    I'm not a big fan of greenfield NU because of this very issue, but I really don't know what the alternative is. I'm curious to hear what your solution is, so by all means enlighten me.
    What you may not understand is that when the NU community proclaims that NU can save the world by reducing auto trips, the development community goes in to spastic fits of joy. Any impact they can reduce is money in their pocket, they are doing what they do best, maximizing profit. They will spouts NU 'junk' science showing the benefit of NU design principles in reducing their impacts.

    So, conventional development does not have the fanatical backing to produce a new 'study' ever three days to show how wonderful it will be for the world at large. Developers who swear to build along NU guidelines however can save a bundle. Most industry outsiders just see the 'studies', such as;

    People Who Live in NU Developments Lose 10 More Pounds on Average!
    NU Developments Reduce Runoff by 104 Percent!
    NU Developments See Increase in Community Love!
    More Goat Boys Born in Conventional Developments!

    None of the headlines say, 'Only Infill NU Will Reduce Traffic." or 'Study Finds Greenfield NU Development Actually Increases Traffic'.

    Nobody is 'cheerfully downplaying' conventional development impacts. I am just tired of developers using the NU principles to beat taxpayers out of millions of dollars.

    So, you did not answer my question.... I will re-phrase it.... why should I give a NU development traffic impact reductions worth millions? Teach me.
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Reductionist's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Flying Monkeys View post
    What you may not understand is that when the NU community proclaims that NU can save the world by reducing auto trips, the development community goes in to spastic fits of joy. Any impact they can reduce is money in their pocket, they are doing what they do best, maximizing profit. They will spouts NU 'junk' science showing the benefit of NU design principles in reducing their impacts.

    So, conventional development does not have the fanatical backing to produce a new 'study' ever three days to show how wonderful it will be for the world at large. Developers who swear to build along NU guidelines however can save a bundle. Most industry outsiders just see the 'studies', such as;

    People Who Live in NU Developments Lose 10 More Pounds on Average!
    NU Developments Reduce Runoff by 104 Percent!
    NU Developments See Increase in Community Love!
    More Goat Boys Born in Conventional Developments!

    None of the headlines say, 'Only Infill NU Will Reduce Traffic." or 'Study Finds Greenfield NU Development Actually Increases Traffic'.

    Nobody is 'cheerfully downplaying' conventional development impacts. I am just tired of developers using the NU principles to beat taxpayers out of millions of dollars.

    So, you did not answer my question.... I will re-phrase it.... why should I give a NU development traffic impact reductions worth millions? Teach me.
    You shouldn't unless the project is in a centrally located infill site that takes advantage of underutilized infrastructure and where the proximity to services and transit will realistically reduce trip amount or trip lengths. But you probably aren't allowed to distinguish between to the two as your comp. plan probably treats suburban and urban areas the same.

    Is it safe to assume you're a transportation planner? If so, my question to you is what are you doing to facillitate good urban form at the macro level (e.g. city, county, region)? The type of piecemeal planning you described above is reactionary by nature and tends to have a centrifugal effect on urban form. So please enlighten me how the modern transportation planning profession is addressing the issues of global warming and atrophy induced obesity?
    "I believe in pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. I believe it is possible. I saw this guy do it once in Cirque du Soleil. It was magical!" -Stephen Colbert

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Reductionist View post
    So please enlighten me how the modern transportation planning profession is addressing the issues of global warming and atrophy induced obesity?
    First, you have to answer my question: you still have not offered anything to support even your claim that 'NU in the prefect setting' will in fact reduce impacts.

    Second, saying that the transportation industry is somehow even remotely responsible for 'atrophy induced obesity' is like saying that if I take away all the guns, no one would ever be killed. Transportation goals usually center on the 'safe and efficient movement of goods and people' type. Not, 'how do I move your organic vegetables without using a truck' type of goal.

    I await your answer to my previous question.

    P.S. I can answer your transportation question and give you specifics, after you answer mine.
    Last edited by Flying Monkeys; 06 Apr 2007 at 10:50 AM. Reason: added P.S.
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Reductionist's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Flying Monkeys View post
    First, you have to answer my question: you still have not offered anything to support even your claim that 'NU in the prefect setting' will in fact reduce impacts.

    Second, saying that the transportation industry is somehow even remotely responsible for 'atrophy induced obesity' is like saying that if I take away all the guns, no one would ever be killed. Transportation goals usually center on the 'safe and efficient movement of goods and people' type. Not, 'how do I move your organic vegetables without using a truck' type of goal.

    I await your answer to my previous question.

    P.S. I can answer your transportation question and give you specifics, after you answer mine.
    Au contraire the modern transportation planning profession, and yes I said "profession", not "industry", has had a tremendous impact on the land use patterns within this country and directly shaped the choices that we as Americans have (or rather don't have).

    As an example, last year I purchased a home in a traditional neighborhood, with a pre-war street layout precisely because of this phenomena. The "alternative", if you want to call it that, was to buy a a house 15 miles mile out in a isolated cul de sac where I had to drive everywhere, including recreational activities at the local county park 4 miles away. Now I can walk to work, walk to Walgreens, walk to Saturday morning market downtown and walk to one of the many great parks the city has provided. That range of choices has certainly influenced my physical activity patterns and my driving patterns. Instead of filling up 2 - 3 times a month, I fill up once a month (or less). All of my daily needs (grocery, pharmacy, barber ,etc) are within a 1 mile radius. This includes work, so I can actually come home for lunch.

    I generate two less trips per day on the congested arterial roadway that I used to travel, as I can get everywhere I need by taking the local street network. Overall my communting distance is 1/15th the amount that it used to be when I was living in a cruddy garden apartment in the suburbs.

    Not that the bean counters care, but my quality of life has improved greatly with reduced stress, more free time and more opportunities to natrually walk and receive exercise.

    I don't see why a neo-traditional neighborhood couldn't replicate this pattern on distressed property in one of our many CRAs. Of course there is no way to guarantee the everyone who buys a home will have a job downtown and replicate my lifestyle choices, but at least we're giving people a choice, which can't be said for CSD.
    "I believe in pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. I believe it is possible. I saw this guy do it once in Cirque du Soleil. It was magical!" -Stephen Colbert

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    Deflecting the issue to the transportation 'industry', 'profession', 'savior of the free world', or 'the reason you can afford that house', is not going to cut it.

    Answer my question....show me the meat....give me the data.....show me why I should buy what you are selling. (it might be to much to ask, but do it with a minimum of buzzwords.)

    Then I will explain transportation to you.
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

  18. #18
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    C'mon now, studies comparing urban, suburban and exurban average VMT can't be that hard to find. Are Reduc's anecdotes so hard to believe?
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Flying Monkeys's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by boilerplater View post
    C'mon now, studies comparing urban, suburban and exurban average VMT can't be that hard to find. Are Reduc's anecdotes so hard to believe?
    No I completely believe his anecdotes and I am with him on the concept of offering mode choice. In fact, I like NU and I know its principles and believe in most of the benefits inherent in this type of development.

    However, as my posts note; the movement has been co-opted. I think that in the zeal to sell 'basic planning principles', the NU movement has moved in the realm of fanaticism. And that blind zeal has had unintended consequences.

    So, with all planning, show me facts. And just for an aside, I know of some who are conducting studies this year on NU type capture rates and on age-restricted capture rates.

    So....show me the meat....I really am interested.
    What’s in a name? – Your reputation….:)

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    From my point of view, dealing with development proposals in a 400 year old town, the new emphasis on historically compatible architecture and site design is a very good thing. I'm sure New Town proposals here and there can be cheesy, but there are a great deal of existing urban and small town locations that are benefiting from NU put into practice.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian
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    My question again : New Urbanism is it the New Architecture?

  22. #22
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Crabkey View post
    My question again : New Urbanism is it the New Architecture?
    What does that even mean? I read your original post and I still don't know what you are specifically asking.

    At the very least, it is the latest fad within the land development and land planning world. It's not really architecture, it's land planning.

    Architecture and urban design are related, but not the same thing. You could have a traditional designed house in a 1970s loop and cul-de-sac neighborhood and a front loaded garage snout house in the middle of a walkable urban city.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  23. #23
    Cyburbian
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    The idea is to think of new urbanism as a new form of design of neighborhoods, communities, towns and cities. The idea is based on principles of planning and architecture that work together to create a more human, more walkable space for people to live in. The architecture that dominates many cities is obviously older and aging, however, new urbanism attempts to bring an approach to distinguish itself as a change to the decline of America’s cities and create the rebuilding of denigrated infrastructures. As a design, neo-traditional, new urbanism is often cleaner look for a city. Yes, in 10 years it is not new, however, it still looks clean, and with the combination of houses, commercial areas, workplaces and parks it will remain a destination for many. Imagine a painting made of vibrant colors, like the works of Monet, this impressionist look still holds today, the idea of new urbanism being at first fresh colors that can last and still maintain its beauty for decades.

    Using modern architecture as an example, it is fading and being forgotten in most cities. Nothing new has emerged that catches the eye nothing that people seek to be around and make a destination. Modernism is predictable. It was old before it was new. Bringing the design elements of new urbanism and the approach to neighborhoods and communities and there you have something not only new but it has many layers and elements to it. There is a new urbanism development in my city and when you drive into it you immediately feel a sense of being somewhere and there are a lot of things to see. I think new urbanism is the new architecture I think there is not anything else at the moment that can make that claim. Yes, it’s a design for communities, and not an erect modern building, but the new urbanism design is something to look forward to seeing. Currently in my city a 7 story 1960's era modern building is going to be torn down to be replaced by a 10 story mixed used new urban style center.
    Last edited by Crabkey; 12 Apr 2007 at 4:32 PM. Reason: word, space

  24. #24
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    The idea is to think of new urbanism as a new form of design of neighborhoods, communities, towns and cities. The idea is based on principles of planning and architecture that work together to create a more human, more walkable space for people to live in.
    Crabkey, I am an architect. I value precision - not that I'm the best at it; but it is my aspiration. So I will try to step back and respond.

    Why do you even care whether this is the New Architecture? Let's touch on a few examples of the tradition sometimes known as The New Architecture. Unite d' Habitation? House X? Brasilia? Is that really the tradition of the "new" that you esteem? All of them have long ago been debunked, depite recent scenic rhapsodies to the contrary. Why then would you want to put on such a mantle as "the new", especially in the realm of urban design, where the aftermath of fashion inflicts itself on people long after its newness evaporates?

    Is "new urbanism" really new anyway? Didn't DPZ use specific models to generate the "new" model for Seaside et al? Didn't they explicitly look to a carefully determined range of relatively recent city forms, ones that had grown from industrialization but had not had many automobiles, e.g. late-nineteenth/ early-twentieth C. New Orleans, for dimenionsal models? That wouldn't make "New Urbanism" a false moniker, would it?

    The architecture that dominates many cities is obviously older and aging, however, new urbanism attempts to bring an approach to distinguish itself as a change to the decline of America’s cities and create the rebuilding of denigrated infrastructures.
    As a design, neo-traditional, new urbanism is often cleaner look for a city. Yes, in 10 years it is not new, however, it still looks clean, and with the combination of houses, commercial areas, workplaces and parks it will remain a destination for many.
    Why would new urbanism necessarily result in "cleaner" than another development idea? Why not make changes in signage and transportation regulations? "New urbanism" can't be the only way to have a "cleaner" city. As one tiny example, I've seen photos of inner London from the 1970's that seem like a stage set until you realize there are almost no traffic signs. A cleaner city might be as simple as rethinking the impact of signage, even without rethinking any other aspect of the built environment.

    Imagine a painting made of vibrant colors, like the works of Monet, this impressionist look still holds today, the idea of new urbanism being at first fresh colors that can last and still maintain its beauty for decades.
    While I appreciate the implications of scale and vibrance of impressionist painting, I honestly think a more accurate and evocative analogy of what I think you're advocating - and with which I actually agree - would be anything that has more than three dimensions. A coral reef? An atom, with all its constituents? Images that convey transparency, overlap, and general complexity in time would be so much more appropriate (and inspirational?)...or do we need images making the city more like the order and symbols of a old Flemish still-life?

    Using modern architecture as an example, it is fading and being forgotten in most cities. Nothing new has emerged that catches the eye nothing that people seek to be around and make a destination. Modernism is predictable. It was old before it was new.

    Bringing the design elements of new urbanism and the approach to neighborhoods and communities and there you have something not only new but it has many layers and elements to it. There is a new urbanism development in my city and when you drive into it you immediately feel a sense of being somewhere and there are a lot of things to see. I think new urbanism is the new architecture I think there is not anything else at the moment that can make that claim. Yes, it’s a design for communities, and not an erect modern building, but the new urbanism design is something to look forward to seeing. Currently in my city a 7 story 1960's era modern building is going to be torn down to be replaced by a 10 story mixed used new urban style center.
    I think I understand why you say modernism is so predictable. I make no defense of this.

    It is an amazing thing to me that a group of people have claimed and now posess the term "mixed use", an abstract concept, as the equivalent of "new urbanism", a brand of development. You've got to be kidding me, to equate the two, as if "new urbanism" is the only way to make good places to live.

    Please don't misunderstand. In the end, I would like to be able to espouse complexity - the layers and elements you mention - of the oldest urban traditions, but outside the assumption of "traditional" suburban villa architecture in the USA. I know that shorthand, or branding, or lingo, or whatever, makes it easier to discuss large ideas in terms of "New Urbanism" or "Other". But I think referring to "New Urbanism" as the "new architecture" gives undue credit to the term, and does a disservice to the oldest and best traditions of making great cities.

    Wow, what a crank, eh? I've never been a troll before today.
    JS

  25. #25
         
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    Why do you even care whether this is the New Architecture? Let's touch on a few examples of the tradition sometimes known as The New Architecture. Unite d' Habitation? House X? Brasilia? Is that really the tradition of the "new" that you esteem? All of them have long ago been debunked, depite recent scenic rhapsodies to the contrary. Why then would you want to put on such a mantle as "the new", especially in the realm of urban design, where the aftermath of fashion inflicts itself on people long after its newness evaporates?
    In the world of art, "new" has a very specific connotation of attempting to be original and breaking from all that preceded you. I always think of Robert Hughes' "Shock of The New" TV series.

    However, in urban circles, new does not mean new per se, or in the art sense, but rather "adapted". For example, New London. CT was intended to be a version of London, settled by Londoners for Londoners. (a bit of a stretch, since I didn't check my history, but you get my drift)

    New in New Urbanism does not refer to a totally original set of concepts, but rather a rebirth and an adaptation of traditional principles of cities for the current way of life. Obviously, taking a chunk of Rome or Paris, dropping it outside Cleveland, and telling families to live there would probably not work. New Urbanism attempts to mesh recent developments like autos and large square footage with the traditional principles of city-building.

    I know that shorthand, or branding, or lingo, or whatever, makes it easier to discuss large ideas in terms of "New Urbanism" or "Other". But I think referring to "New Urbanism" as the "new architecture" gives undue credit to the term, and does a disservice to the oldest and best traditions of making great cities.
    While I am also somewhat disgusted by the packaging of traditional concepts into the fad-like "New Urbanism", I'm gonna put the burden on you to suggest how else the status quo of development in America may be changed.

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