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Thread: The failure of 'new urbanism'

  1. #1

    The failure of 'new urbanism'

    I work for a private planning firm in California that has partnered in the past with large, well-known firms who are prominent in the New Urbanism movement. (One of our former principals was a founding member of the Congress of New Urbanism and an FAICP.) One of these firms has produced dozens of New Urbanist plans for communities all over the state, at least one dozen of which we've been privy to how things have played out because we "were there."

    In almost all the cases we've been a part of, the plans have essentially disintegrated despite initial community support, political momentum, and at least some financial interest from the development community. And this has happened not just since the market meltdown... but in each case it occurred after a certain amount of time had passed, usually shortly after or during environmental review. just a couple of days ago, I got a seemingly innocuous email from one of our clients, letting us know in a gentle fashion that the City Council is going "back to the drawing board" now that we're only a couple months away from EIR certification for an 800-acre New Urbanist development. The reason? Developers and financiers don't think it's viable, and the community just doesn't like it anymore.

    We've had many conversations in our company about how and why this has happened. By reviewing these plans (in most cases they have taken the form of Specific Plans), it's often apparent that, despite an internal coherence, they are still islands of New Urbanism in seas of sprawl. So for instance, although there might be mixed uses that theoretically encourage people to shop, live, and work in the same neighborhood, thus reducing traffic-related impacts, the entire development is still an island that cannot support many of the needs of that population, and the anticipated reductions in traffic are never that impressive, if they show up in the model at all.

    Now, I know that there are successful cases of New Urbanism. However, in every successful case I've seen, they happen where there is enough market demand for developers to build the dense environments required (e.g. Arlington, VA). What I've more often seen in California, however, is a forcing of these dense tracts into communities that have not, and probably never will, support denser environments than absolutely necessary. And if there's a way for the market to succeed without as much capital investment, it will happen that way.

    For me, I have additional reservations about New Urbanist developments. The fact that they try to replicate a type of development that was borne out of hundreds and even thousands of years of gradual village growth in Western European nations in a packaged format is particularly disturbing. It's as if American architects traveled to Italy, Spain, and France, fell in love with the way of life in those places, and then made the enormous mental leap that if we replicate some of the physical aspects of those environments, we'll have that way of life here, too. So we have books showing us how facades should provide jogged variation, how windows should look down on pedestrian promenades, and how outdoor cafes should creep down onto the street. Cars are always anathema, and appropriately so, since those European neighborhoods were built before automobiles. So you have architects enamored with these places trying to recreate them in this country, with different people, different market realities, different physical environments, and most notably, vastly different times. I don't begrudge them for trying; I think those places are cool, too. But to think that a physical re-creation can bring about the level of cultural, environmental, and, essentially, temporal change responsible for those environments in the first place is folly. And without those foundational components, that reality will never come about--if the place is built, it ends up being a hollow re-creation, like a Disneyland exhibit.

    It's a lack of authenticity.

    I'm in a funny situation. Here I am working for a company who once had a well-known New Urbanist at the forefront of these ideas. He took long sabbaticals to the Italy countryside, touring as an accomplished amateur photographer, and, since I now work on his computer, I can see all these photos he took, all these places he studied, places that no doubt inspired him in his visions for what form-based codes could do to integrate New Urbanism with Euclidean zoning frameworks. And I love those places, especially since I can see them through his eyes. I don't look down on his idealism; in something that lasted throughout his lifetime, it was pure, it was authentic.

    But I do believe there is risk in sacrificing potential to see the great futures possible in unique places themselves, and to foist another vision from another time and place into communities that are just not the same. I think we can focus so much on other places that we become increasingly, irrevocably disenfranchised with the cities and neighborhoods we grew up in, and fail to see how those communities can build on what is already there to make a seamless transition from their own history.

    Lastly, I think New Urbanism encourages an overly-simplistic approach to planning. As if we can just pull out our tool box and go to work. It's a package of ideas, ideals, and functions, more often used as a marketing tool, not just to sell planning services to local governments, but to bring new planners into the professional associations that encourage such a framework. As they say, to the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
    Last edited by chocolatechip; 28 Jan 2010 at 1:59 PM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    I work for a private planning firm in California that has partnered in the past with large, well-known firms who are prominent in the New Urbanism movement. (One of our former principals was a founding member of the Congress of New Urbanism and an FAICP.) One of these firms has produced dozens of New Urbanist plans for communities all over the state, at least one dozen of which we've been privy to how things have played out because we "were there."

    [snip]
    Well said. Aaa-men.

    Two straight CNU national conferences have rejected my presentation proposals, which are heavily pro-green infra oriented and address GI shortcomings in typical dense developments, and how to overcome these shortcomings without sacrificing ecological benefits. Funny how others - including Seattle's NPSG conf next week - will listen but architects won't. Anyhoo,

    In my view you can - and should - try this stuff as a framework and fix it as you go along. The lack of an attitude of "try and fix and do the best job in learning about arranging spaces" is fatal to this crew, and they are hand-waving and doing all they can to hide the shortcomings.

    There are some good ideas in there, but the arrogance and attitude that this is the be-all and end-all and lack of attention to important factors will resign this idea to the dustbin or shelf art.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian stroskey's avatar
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    Every NU development I've seen is at a a highway off-ramp surrounded by Euclidean suburban zoning. Thoroughfares need to go through these developments, not around them and a whole chunk of land needs to be zoned for NU even if the current development is only one small piece of the overall land. To really make it work I think the community needs NU as a goal and thus not allow typical suburban development at all. It's not one of those things you can really do halfway - either take the plunge or don't. Like someone said, you shouldn't plan out the whole development right away. Build a few phases and then let it grow organically.

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    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    Do you work for Calthorpe, cc? I have a couple of his books. Never mind, I don't expect you to answer that if you want to keep yourself anonymous here.

    The reason? Developers and financiers don't think it's viable, and the community just doesn't like it anymore.
    Not being viable is something you could say about hundreds of projects that started their planning during the boom years. The finance people ask where the buyers and loans will come from, the community asks why build more houses when there are already so many vacant ones around. Its not necessarily a criticism of New Urbanism, but of development in general.

    I worked for LRK for a short time and I would have to agree with your contention that most of the projects are isolated, not connected to any existing urban fabric, thus requiring a lot of driving to get around. In 2001 I drove to the large NU development known as The Kentlands in Virginia. A resident saw me taking photos and figured I had some kind of interest in the planning of the development. He voiced some similar concerns, that you still have to drive places for shopping and that many of the residents worked jobs that required long commutes. Another point he made that I thought was interesting was that he noticed a lot of residents had purchased SUVs which did not fit well into the small garages the homes sported, and many had complaints about that and had enlarged garages where they could. People would rather upsize their garages than downsize their cars. Of course, this is before the gas price spikes and greater environmental awareness. I imagine that by now they are following the national trend of moving to smaller cars.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  5. #5
    Quote Originally posted by boilerplater View post
    Not being viable is something you could say about hundreds of projects that started their planning during the boom years. The finance people ask where the buyers and loans will come from, the community asks why build more houses when there are already so many vacant ones around. Its not necessarily a criticism of New Urbanism, but of development in general.
    True, but NU makes them less viable than conventional development, and that's their Achilles Heel. In any case, this stuff was happening before the crash.

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    really?

    Most current (performing) TOD's are new urbanist in their design (whether or not they call themselves that). I agree that the suburban ones sometimes look Disney, but not all are suburban... The form is no more European than it is 'old time American town' - the irony of the "new" appliqué to the name can't be missed. It's just good, traditional, walkable design, and is certainly better under any set of criteria than the alternative f the past 40 years, don't you think?

  7. #7
    Quote Originally posted by Desirepath View post
    Most current (performing) TOD's are new urbanist in their design (whether or not they call themselves that). I agree that the suburban ones sometimes look Disney, but not all are suburban... The form is no more European than it is 'old time American town' - the irony of the "new" appliqué to the name can't be missed. It's just good, traditional, walkable design, and is certainly better under any set of criteria than the alternative f the past 40 years, don't you think?
    On paper, yes. The reality is often very different.

  8. #8
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Excellent post. I respectfully disagree with the title line that New Urbanism is a total failure, but its implementation has been less than ideal. Considering the Charter of New Urbanism, new urbanism is intended to be more than just a label for a particular type of development, but rather a broad, holistic school of planning that ideally should not be applied piecemeal. As a form of development, I think new urbanism has proven to be successful; consider just the market reaction, and compare home prices in NU development versus those in adjacent conventionally developed subdivisions. (Unfortunately, many have been priced out of NU projects, which is contrary to the Charter's intent.) As far as the big picture painted in the Charter goes ... maybe it needs more time. Planning movements don't take root overnight.

    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    Now, I know that there are successful cases of New Urbanism. However, in every successful case I've seen, they happen where there is enough market demand for developers to build the dense environments required (e.g. Arlington, VA). What I've more often seen in California, however, is a forcing of these dense tracts into communities that have not, and probably never will, support denser environments than absolutely necessary. And if there's a way for the market to succeed without as much capital investment, it will happen that way.
    A while ago, I posted a list of reasons any New Urbanism has failed to take root in the Rust Belt. You describe one of those reasons; there's really no market incentive to propose a NU development when land is priced so cheaply, One can record and improve a large-lot subdivision, and builders can make a profit even with moderately priced houses.

    For me, I have additional reservations about New Urbanist developments. The fact that they try to replicate a type of development that was borne out of hundreds and even thousands of years of gradual village growth in Western European nations in a packaged format is particularly disturbing.
    It's better than the New Town movement of the 1960s and 1970s, though, in that ideal NU projects are designed for more granular development, just like the Main Streets and speculative subdivisions of the pre-Depression/WWII era. The granularity allows neighborhoods to develop more organically than with a conventional "planned community" with its pods and superblock lots, or suburban greenfield with conventional zoning.

    It's a lack of authenticity.
    "Authenticity" comes with time, I think. In the Buffalo area, urbanists place a great deal of emphasis on the region's "authenticity" as a selling point. They might point to pre-WWII era neighborhoods, with mature trees, and houses with "character". However, mass-produced tract housing in Buffalo dates back to the late 1800s, and the social commentators of the time derided such development as being the equivalent of monotonous sprawl. Just a couple of examples I found with Google Books:

    "The last house built being always the vulgarest and ugliest, till one is beginning now to think with regret of the days of Gower Street, and to look with some complacency on the queer little boxes of brown brick which stand with their trim gardens choked up amongst new squares and terraces in the suburbs of London? It is a matter of course that almost every new house shall be quite disgracefully and degradingly ugly, and if by chance we come across a new house that shows any signs of thoughtfulness in design and planning we are quite astonished, and want to know who built it, who owns it, who designed it, and all about it from beginning to end; whereas when architecture was alive every house built was more or less beautiful."

    -- William Morris, Art, Wealth and Riches, 1883

    "The outskirts of London are full of villas, but life there is said not to be social. For no purpose can the dwellers of those villas be brought together. The man goes up to town by the morning train, spends his day in business, comes home to dinner and after dinner reads his paper. For a couple of months in each year the pair go off to lodgings by themselves at the seaside. Such is the description given by those who know suburban life well. More enjoyment might be had at a less price than that for which the master of the villa spends his days in toil, and here again we seem to see that what is called progress, that is, increase of wealth, is not necessarily increase of happiness."

    -- Goldwin Smith, A Trip to England, 1892
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Desirepath View post
    . The form is no more European than it is 'old time American town' - the irony of the "new" appliqué to the name can't be missed. It's just good, traditional, walkable design, and is certainly better under any set of criteria than the alternative f the past 40 years, don't you think?
    These are true but personally I was reacting to the decrying of the attitude and such with the NU people. Anything is an improvement on much of the post-WWII garbage out there. It is important to understand what works and what doesn't, but I don't get that anyone in that movement is on board.

  10. #10
    It's better than the New Town movement of the 1960s and 1970s, though, in that ideal NU projects are designed for more granular development, just like the Main Streets and speculative subdivisions of the pre-Depression/WWII era. The granularity allows neighborhoods to develop more organically than with a conventional "planned community" or suburban greenfield with conventional zoning.
    I don't know about the granular development notion. Whereas the original communities NU tries to replicate were developed gradually over hundreds of years, NU in America is done project by project, where a project may be hundreds of acres and thousands of units. So instead of this organic progression, you still have development occurring as it has in the country since the 40s, 50s, etc.; chunk by chunk. At least that's what I see in California. And in order to get the developments approved in the first place, most jurisdictions use Specific Plans, which in California are pretty much just master planned communities with General Plan authority over land use.

  11. #11
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    I don't know about the granular development notion. Whereas the original communities NU tries to replicate were developed gradually over hundreds of years, NU in America is done project by project, where a project may be hundreds of acres and thousands of units. So instead of this organic progression, you still have development occurring as it has in the country since the 40s, 50s, etc.; chunk by chunk. At least that's what I see in California. And in order to get the developments approved in the first place, most jurisdictions use Specific Plans, which in California are pretty much just master planned communities with General Plan authority over land use.
    Wasn't development in "chunks" a part of town planning in the Midwest and West around before World War II? In the Los Angeles area, there was a history of large-scale subdivision before WWII, where large orange groves in close proximity to streetcar and interurban lines were subdivided into residential tracts virtually overnight. Granted, they weren't planned communities, but just speculative subdivisions, but still, these were forms of "projects", in a way. Also, there's no shortage of great places were built before World War II in "chunks", such as Shaker Heights outside of Cleveland, Country Club Plaza and surrounding residential areas in Kansas City, and Riverside outside of Chicago.

    NU is more feasible in the drier West and Midwest, thanks to the presence of large, unbroken tracts of land, than in the lusher Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and South, which is outside of the PLSS region, and the land division pattern makes it difficult to assemble property for larger projects.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  12. #12
    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Wasn't development in "chunks" a part of town planning in the Midwest and West around before World War II? In the Los Angeles area, there was a history of large-scale subdivision before WWII, where large orange groves in close proximity to streetcar and interurban lines were subdivided into residential tracts virtually overnight. Granted, they weren't planned communities, but just speculative subdivisions, but still, these were forms of "projects", in a way. Also, there's no shortage of great places were built before World War II in "chunks", such as Shaker Heights outside of Cleveland, Country Club Plaza and surrounding residential areas in Kansas City, and Riverside outside of Chicago.

    NU is more feasible in the drier West and Midwest, thanks to the presence of large, unbroken tracts of land, than in the lusher Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and South, which is outside of the PLSS region, and the land division pattern makes it difficult to assemble property for larger projects.
    The point is not that we've planned in chunks for a long time here... it's that the places NU tries to replicate were not done that way.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    Every NU development I've seen is at a a highway off-ramp surrounded by Euclidean suburban zoning. Thoroughfares need to go through these developments, not around them and a whole chunk of land needs to be zoned for NU even if the current development is only one small piece of the overall land. To really make it work I think the community needs NU as a goal and thus not allow typical suburban development at all. It's not one of those things you can really do halfway - either take the plunge or don't. Like someone said, you shouldn't plan out the whole development right away. Build a few phases and then let it grow organically.
    EXACTLY RIGHT

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Howard Roark's avatar
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    I am not much of a New Urbanist, but have wrestled enough with it to respect aspects of it.

    You make some good criticisms along with some generalizations, you also dance around a larger problem, which is beyond a designers or planners control, which I will throw back to you to figure out.

    First – NU is about 20 years old (in broader application), too early to call it a success or failure.



    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    It's as if American architects traveled to Italy, Spain, and France, fell in love with the way of life in those places, and then made the enormous mental leap that if we replicate some of the physical aspects of those environments, we'll have that way of life here, too. So we have books showing us how facades should provide jogged variation, how windows should look down on pedestrian promenades, and how outdoor cafes should creep down onto the street. Cars are always anathema, and appropriately so, since those European neighborhoods were built before automobiles. So you have architects enamored with these places trying to recreate them in this country, with different people, different market realities, different physical environments, and most notably, vastly different times. I don't begrudge them for trying; I think those places are cool, too. But to think that a physical re-creation can bring about the level of cultural, environmental, and, essentially, temporal change responsible for those environments in the first place is folly. And without those foundational components, that reality will never come about--if the place is built, it ends up being a hollow re-creation, like a Disneyland exhibit.
    Well, architects like the way those places work, not sure if they love they way of life or not (specifically what do mean by way of life?) Fact is most NU doctrine would be pretty alien in Europe, it really is more of an American creation. My question to you is what do you find in NU developments that you will not find much of outside the US?


    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    It's a lack of authenticity.
    Very good point, this is the Achilles Heel of NU, I have to laugh when I see new Midwestern or New England small towns popping up in the deep south or far West, Duany has commented in the past about cultural and climatic appropriateness, but as the central idea has melted into the culture relevance has bee forsaken for image sake, which has occurred in every style movement since the notions of architectural orders were first formulated (if you want to label NU a style rather than a philosophy, which was inevitable)

    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    Lastly, I think New Urbanism encourages an overly-simplistic approach to planning. As if we can just pull out our tool box and go to work. It's a package of ideas, ideals, and functions, more often used as a marketing tool, not just to sell planning services to local governments, but to bring new planners into the professional associations that encourage such a framework. As they say, to the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
    Keep in mind that NU is an evolving science, it can paint with a broad brush, but it is pretty well thought out it a lot of aspects, but not necessarily on track with the rest of society, as most new schools of thought are. If any thing I would say that its biggest sin is not simplicity but trying to do too much too soon, without considering the realities of the short term.

    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    The point is not that we've planned in chunks for a long time here... it's that the places NU tries to replicate were not done that way. .
    If you are implying that NU tries to replicate organic growth in European cities and fails you need to do some more study on both development in Europe and NU. Large tract development has been around since before Monks were transcribing scrolls and is evident in some aspect in most European cities even the ancient ones.

    Conclusion, it is at best a flawed creature, and the only true movement with in the US that seems like a viable option to the 40 years of chaos that preceded it
    She has been a bad girl, she is like a chemical, though you try and stop it she is like a narcotic.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by stroskey View post
    Every NU development I've seen is at a a highway off-ramp surrounded by Euclidean suburban zoning. Thoroughfares need to go through these developments, not around them and a whole chunk of land needs to be zoned for NU even if the current development is only one small piece of the overall land. To really make it work I think the community needs NU as a goal and thus not allow typical suburban development at all. It's not one of those things you can really do halfway - either take the plunge or don't. Like someone said, you shouldn't plan out the whole development right away. Build a few phases and then let it grow organically.
    This failure is not a function of NU per se. And finding individual places to build places onesy-twosy until (if) it catches on isn't a failure of NU.

    I, personally, can't wait until fewer cr*ppy McSuburbs are built and I hope their replacements leave good patterns and make good places. I just wish NU developments in general were better test beds.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    We've had many conversations in our company about how and why this has happened. By reviewing these plans (in most cases they have taken the form of Specific Plans), it's often apparent that, despite an internal coherence, they are still islands of New Urbanism in seas of sprawl. So for instance, although there might be mixed uses that theoretically encourage people to shop, live, and work in the same neighborhood, thus reducing traffic-related impacts, the entire development is still an island that cannot support many of the needs of that population, and the anticipated reductions in traffic are never that impressive, if they show up in the model at all.
    I think this is the key problem. NU only works where it is at least somewhat similar to what is around it, rather than being very different. That leaves you with areas around the inner metropolitan core where NU can work.

    While I think that often a NU suburban development may be better than straight-up suburbia, I don't think it makes much of a difference overall. The key to good planning is to reuse developed area and their infrastructure rather than reinventing it. Growth will have to occur due to population growth, but it doesn't have to take the place of the "old urbanism."

    Another beef I have with NU (which, despite my complaining, I think has a role in planning) is that it is what Dolores Hayden called "architectural determinism"- that is, if you get the built environment right, everything else will fall into place. I don't agree. Nice built environments don't result in affordable housing, clean energy, good jobs, etc. and that is all part of planning.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally posted by Howard Roark View post
    I am not much of a New Urbanist, but have wrestled enough with it to respect aspects of it.

    You make some good criticisms along with some generalizations, you also dance around a larger problem, which is beyond a designers or planners control, which I will throw back to you to figure out.
    I didn't know i was dancing around a larger problem. Please enlighten me.

    First – NU is about 20 years old (in broader application), too early to call it a success or failure.
    I see these projects failing right before my eyes. I perform the environmental review, so I think I have a pretty good vantage point, since this is the "last stop" before approval and permitting. As I brought out, we do have some experience with this, at least in California.

    Well, architects like the way those places work, not sure if they love they way of life or not (specifically what do mean by way of life?) Fact is most NU doctrine would be pretty alien in Europe, it really is more of an American creation. My question to you is what do you find in NU developments that you will not find much of outside the US?
    When I talk about "way of life" I'm referring to just about everything that makes people unique: where they live, work, how they work, how they go about their day, the pace of life, the foods they eat, how they eat, how they gather, what they do when they gather, etc.

    I don't really understand your question... could you expand?

    If you are implying that NU tries to replicate organic growth in European cities and fails you need to do some more study on both development in Europe and NU. Large tract development has been around since before Monks were transcribing scrolls and is evident in some aspect in most European cities even the ancient ones.
    So does NU attempt to replicate the slow, organic aspects of European cities, or the large tract development you say has been around for millenia? I get one implication from Dan, another from you.

    Regardless of the pace of development NU is supposed to replicate, it often fails in execution. One of my primary contentions is that through the very act of replication it fails. Because it is often not authentic; not borne out of the community itself, from its own people, culture, and environments.

    Conclusion, it is at best a flawed creature, and the only true movement with in the US that seems like a viable option to the 40 years of chaos that preceded it
    If I would give credit to NU, it's that it has helped disseminate some of the important planning issues to the general public; it has helped people (public officials, elected officials, even general public) be more aware of some of the things that could be improved in their community. I believe this is a product of marketing it to those communities as a packaged vision.

    However, I cannot subscribe to the notion that it constitutes a singular "viable option", as if it can be applied in a packaged format, or that it in anyway represents the best paradigm to use, or that it even deserves to be thought of in terms of paradigms. To make it work in existing communities, you have to end up picking and choosing which ideas you'll work with, and at that point, you're not doing anything different than applying some of the same good planning principles that have been around for decades longer than DPZ, Calthorpe, M&P, et al. slapped a name on it, published books in praise of themselves, and founded CNU to give it some sort of imaginary legitimacy. A certain prominent, NU-founding firm that shall remain nameless uses blatant, one-size fits-all templates for applying NU to communities all over California. We have been privy to the vastly impractical, hasty, irresponsible, and slap-dash approach... and the result is as I've explained in the OP.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally posted by Masswich View post
    Another beef I have with NU (which, despite my complaining, I think has a role in planning) is that it is what Dolores Hayden called "architectural determinism"- that is, if you get the built environment right, everything else will fall into place. I don't agree. Nice built environments don't result in affordable housing, clean energy, good jobs, etc. and that is all part of planning.
    LOL... that perspective is a classic sentiment from the architectural (and to a lesser degree, planning) community. That all you need to do is provide the right environment, and everything else falls into place. Environmental determinism is probably one of the crustiest, most false paradigms ever perpetrated on academia.

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    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    t all you need to do is provide the right environment, and everything else falls into place. Environmental determinism is probably one of the crustiest, most false paradigms ever perpetrated on academia.
    I made a former employer very grumpy by not following that paradigm, BTW. I'm not sure it will do to say things like that out loud too often around folks who sign your checks...

  20. #20
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    My community adopted a SmartCode over its historic center (really, the entire original town plat), and thus far it has served very well to preserve and promote the mixed use and building form. New Urbanism doesn't always involve new periphery developments. This might be an example of what Dan noted about granular development, only in this case it's granular redevelopment.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    New urbanism's most visible projects are the large scale suburban developments but I think the movement's biggest success is changing people's mindsets regarding preservation and revitalization of existing urban areas. It's more common now for residents and local officials to see the value in their downtown areas.

    I think planners often narrowly define "new urbanism" as the large suburban developments while the more well planned, urban developments get called something else - "Smart Growth" maybe.

  22. #22
    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop View post
    New urbanism's most visible projects are the large scale suburban developments but I think the movement's biggest success is changing people's mindsets regarding preservation and revitalization of existing urban areas. It's more common now for residents and local officials to see the value in their downtown areas.

    I think planners often narrowly define "new urbanism" as the large suburban developments while the more well planned, urban developments get called something else - "Smart Growth" maybe.
    Huge single developer / designer projects, no matter how they are designed, are inherently not New Urbanist. Real urbanism is obtained organically over many years by many people. It cannot be created Disney style in a 2 year span I was in (I think) Florida many years ago. There were 2 "new Urban" developments constructed side by side within a few years of each other. They did not relate to one another in any way. They each were entered of a main highway and none of their roads connected. Ultimately they were nothing but a dressed up version of a typical failed and unsustainable sprawl style subdivision.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian beach_bum's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by steel View post
    It cannot be created Disney style in a 2 year span I was in (I think) Florida many years ago. There were 2 "new Urban" developments constructed side by side within a few years of each other. They did not relate to one another in any way. They each were entered of a main highway and none of their roads connected. Ultimately they were nothing but a dressed up version of a typical failed and unsustainable sprawl style subdivision.
    Exactly the problem with planned new urbanist communities...I know many of the NU communities in Florida. The overall growth management machine (cough, concurrency, cough) in Florida is partially to blame for that and the fact that the communities were designed by 2 different firms, with two different ideas for their designs.

    With all its faults, NU is better than the suburban sprawl/cul-de-sac/single use subdivisions. See builders/developers think you can build a few houses and instantly create a community (or so their marketing people will tell you). Community is not just the built environment, but the social environment as well that interacts and reacts to its surroundings. I'm preaching to the choir here, but I think planners are much more intune with that fact than developers and builders are.

    Like any planning movement, there are parts of NU that will be integrated in many communities and parts that will fail and be replaced by other implementations of planning theory. In my opinion, those parts are paying more attention to architecture and form, bringing buildings to the street, and making places more pedestrian-friendly.

    I have this chart of the evolution of planning theory...its interesting how we have circled back to more design-based planning more recently, I wonder what the next paradgm shift will be?
    "Never invest in any idea you can't illustrate with a crayon." ~Peter Lynch

  24. #24
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by beach_bum View post
    With all its faults, NU is better than the suburban sprawl/cul-de-sac/single use subdivisions. ...

    ...

    I have this chart of the evolution of planning theory...its interesting how we have circled back to more design-based planning more recently, I wonder what the next paradgm shift will be?
    Good comment.

    IMHO we will be orienting our patterns in reaction to the disappearance of cheap energy and to capture free energy - tilted grids, solar house orientation, right-to-light siting, closer services, etc. Not exactly new ideas here, but a shift in thinking for America anyway.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian
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    Well, why do we HAVE to keep improving our land as huge chunks? Whatever happened to returning to the practice of surveyors subdividing land, laying down right-of-ways on a grid, and developers improving the land one lot at a time or one block at a time? In some ways, new urbanism is just a new window dressing for a different type of large-scale development. We have millions of unused bedrooms across the country. We do not NEED to keep building and expanding. Of course, that would put most of the developer and several branches of planning permanently out of business. This has bothered me for over a decade, and one of the big factors that contributes to planning profession's perpetual instability.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

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