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Thread: Article: Walking Back to the Days of New Urbanism

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Article: Walking Back to the Days of New Urbanism

    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Nothing new in the article. Same old statistics and same old ideas.

    I live in a walkable area. I appreciate it and can't imagine living in an outer suburb where I'd have to drive everywhere. But I'm pragmatic enough to know that Americans love their cars. They vote with their dollars to live in low-density, car oriented suburbs. The only way you're going to get a large scale movement back to higher density and walkable areas is to put a tax so high on cars that it becomes cost prohibitive to own them.

  3. #3
    This article sounds like it was copied from student papers written in 1999 and now presented in a complete vacuum, obliviously unaware of anything that's happened in the last 5 years. For example, one of the cited benefits of New Urbanism is that mixed use housing commands 15-20 % more market price. I'm pretty sure that statistic was generated prior to the market crash. Now we have people being ejected from their homes due to overextended mortgages and plummeting housing value, zero housing development growth, declining property tax revenue, and the child author of this article talks about how New Urbanism is great because it creates more expensive housing. Excuse me? Where are the jobs supporting these most desirable housing purchases? New Urbanism was a glossy magazine of the future as it was imagined in 2005. Mixed use neighborhoods have been around for eons. Suburbs have been around for almost as long. The car is here to stay forever. They might not run on gas for another hundred years, but they're here to stay. Highways are here to stay. Pretty sure a good amount of strip malls, in some shape or form, are here to stay. "New Urbanism," however, is dead, and will be joining the dustbin of Marketing Ideas Architects Came Up With To Sell Pretty Pictures.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by chocolatechip View post
    This article sounds like it was copied from student papers written in 1999 and now presented in a complete vacuum, obliviously unaware of anything that's happened in the last 5 years. For example, one of the cited benefits of New Urbanism is that mixed use housing commands 15-20 % more market price. I'm pretty sure that statistic was generated prior to the market crash. Now we have people being ejected from their homes due to overextended mortgages and plummeting housing value, zero housing development growth, declining property tax revenue, and the child author of this article talks about how New Urbanism is great because it creates more expensive housing. Excuse me? Where are the jobs supporting these most desirable housing purchases? New Urbanism was a glossy magazine of the future as it was imagined in 2005. Mixed use neighborhoods have been around for eons. Suburbs have been around for almost as long. The car is here to stay forever. They might not run on gas for another hundred years, but they're here to stay. Highways are here to stay. Pretty sure a good amount of strip malls, in some shape or form, are here to stay. "New Urbanism," however, is dead, and will be joining the dustbin of Marketing Ideas Architects Came Up With To Sell Pretty Pictures.
    You raise some good points, especially about housing cost. As I work in affordable housing, we are aware of and sensitive to the kinds of amenities people are and are not willing to pay extra money for. The current economy, at least in my area, is very tight, wages are not increasing, and housing values have not dropped significantly. This means, a significant wage gap continues and, because of future uncertainty, people are less willing to invest up front in things that will save them money in the longer run. This impacts both close-in urban developments vs. outer edge affordability as well as energy efficient design vs. more affordable but less efficient design. In some cases it doesn't make a lot of economic sense for people to make some of the decisions they do, but unfortunately, it is the way people behave (meaning they opt in to poorer quality housing that costs more to get to and from every day).

    In the same way that bad economic times could really take advantage of workers like planners and what we know about "good design", our society could also take advantage of more efficient, higher density housing development as a way of curtailing future costs for both municipalities (less infrastructure to develop) and buyers (lower operating costs for both home and car). But these are different enough from the previous norm that I think it feels like a chance or a risk to many. And when times are tight, people take fewer risks (or at least what they perceive of as risks). Its another factor that plays into the high rate of rental housing right now. People are uncertain about the future and are reticent to become encumbered with a home, a loan, and a neighborhood that might improve, or might take a dive. It just seems too risky to many.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    I agree that New Urbanism is dead. Even before the housing collapse the desirability of NU (or whatever was being passed for it) was being greatly exaggerated by the planners and architects of these projects.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I never understood new urbanism. If people liked it so much then why are they moving out of the same types of land uses in the center of cities?
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Plus Whose Yur Planner's avatar
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    While there are a few die hard NU's, the movement has pretty much stagnated. In fact, APA has moved on. Will there still be some new NU develops, sure. By the same token, there will still be some TODs. At the end of the day, NU simply did not live up to it's hype. Further, the NU proponets never acknowledged the fact that it wasn't for everybody.
    When did I go from Luke Skywalker to Obi-Wan Kenobi?

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    NU died a final, horrible death as an intellectual movement at CNU 20, when, after much rhetorical fireworks, carping and cat-fighting between the founders of the movement, Daniel Solomon finally declared, "“Andrés Duany creates an intellectual straightjacket that others wear, but that he won’t even put one arm in. This made me ask the question: If Duany doesn’t wear his straightjacket, why should we?” Thus ended a movement. RIP. Truth is though, the beginning of the end came a long time before even the onset of the depression. I remember one elder statesman of a professor I had at MIT, in the early 2000s, called one of his lectures - focusing on NU - "The Flatulence of Leon Krier."

    The simple reality is that no urban design movement dependent exclusive on two dogmatic extremes - form-free polemicist rhetoric on the one hand and global zoning code universalization and legislation of form on the other - was going to survive for long. A theory of design relies more on everything in between these two extremes .. a universe of theory, precedents, tectonics, and trial-and-error design experimentation. You can't just say, "Cars bad, pedestrianized streets good. Thus the world should be classified into zones T1 through 6, with every typological and formal detail of those zones pre-ordained for the whole bloody planet" and expect to be very convincing for long. The real theory of NU lies between those two statements, and yet the movement's leaders never bothered filling in this massive chasm of a gap.

    Thus, they became the Pharisees of urban design, instead of its apostles, dictating what is good and what isn't without the slightest explanation of the whys and wherefores thereof, much less a sound empirically-based defense. Show me the evidence for why porches have to be this wide or this deep? Explain to me why streetwalls can't be broken before X feet have elapsed? Why this many intersections are needed in your street grid over Y area instead of that many intersections? Show me studies, evidence, human behavior, precedent.. nah. Can't be bothered. Just do what you're told. We'll do your thinking for you.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 30 Jan 2013 at 4:10 PM.

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    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Looks like Duany realizes that the movement as we knew it is done and is now making an attempt to salvage NU:

    http://helmofthepublicrealm.com/2013...-new-urbanism/

    If nothing else, I still must admit the whole concept of the rural to urban transect changed the way I thought about the built environment.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally posted by Cismontane View post
    NU died a final, horrible death as an intellectual movement at CNU 20, when, after much rhetorical fireworks, carping and cat-fighting between the founders of the movement, Daniel Solomon finally declared, "“Andrés Duany creates an intellectual straightjacket that others wear, but that he won’t even put one arm in. This made me ask the question: If Duany doesn’t wear his straightjacket, why should we?” Thus ended a movement. RIP. Truth is though, the beginning of the end came a long time before even the onset of the depression. I remember one elder statesman of a professor I had at MIT, in the early 2000s, called one of his lectures - focusing on NU - "The Flatulence of Leon Krier."

    The simple reality is that no urban design movement dependent exclusive on two dogmatic extremes - form-free polemicist rhetoric on the one hand and global zoning code universalization and legislation of form on the other - was going to survive for long. A theory of design relies more on everything in between these two extremes .. a universe of theory, precedents, tectonics, and trial-and-error design experimentation. You can't just say, "Cars bad, pedestrianized streets good. Thus the world should be classified into zones T1 through 6, with every typological and formal detail of those zones pre-ordained for the whole bloody planet" and expect to be very convincing for long. The real theory of NU lies between those two statements, and yet the movement's leaders never bothered filling in this massive chasm of a gap.

    Thus, they became the Pharisees of urban design, instead of its apostles, dictating what is good and what isn't without the slightest explanation of the whys and wherefores thereof, much less a sound empirically-based defense. Show me the evidence for why porches have to be this wide or this deep? Explain to me why streetwalls can't be broken before X feet have elapsed? Why this many intersections are needed in your street grid over Y area instead of that many intersections? Show me studies, evidence, human behavior, precedent.. nah. Can't be bothered. Just do what you're told. We'll do your thinking for you.
    One of the best arguments for focusing on form is the old study done by William Whyte on The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces.
    You can watch it for free on vimeo: http://vimeo.com/6821934

  11. #11
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by imagineverything View post
    One of the best arguments for focusing on form is the old study done by William Whyte on The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces.
    You can watch it for free on vimeo: http://vimeo.com/6821934
    I never argued against Whyte's work or on focusing on form. I am an urban designer, after all. What I'm arguing against are overly proscriptive systems with rules expurgated without the slightest credible or empirically defensible reference or justification. Planners and architects are thinking professionals. We don't like codes that can be executed by trained monkeys. My world cannot be generated sim-city style by rules for 6 zones from T1 to T6.

  12. #12
    It's really very simple. It call comes down to urban density. It doesn't matter how you design or structure the town, if it's not at a density where people can pragmatically walk from A to B, then they will drive. And as soon as people prefer to get into their cars, rather than walk, then the whole concept of mixed use is dead.It's a choice that people make:- large plot of land, car-bound, have to drive everywhere, zoned city(no mixed use) and no public realm to speak of, etc- smaller plot of land, walkable, mixed use, etcThe urban density threshold is around 50 dwellings per hectare (gross), which is very high by US standards.See - www.urbandesignideas.blogspot.co.uk - for a full exploration.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Here's a link to an op-ed piece on New Urbanism, inspired by the recent CNU conference in Buffalo, NY:

    NU and Urban Reality
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

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