Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Volume 1, Issue 3

By Michael Alexander

I really enjoyed the previous two issues of the New Urbanism so I thought I might submit an article. Don’t get me wrong, the previous articles have been very enlightening pop-culture critiques but they never actually discussed what New Urbanism was. I will try to do that.

What is New Urbanism

The About New Urbanism website says:

“The New Urbanism is a reaction to sprawl. A growing movement of architects, planners, and developers, the New Urbanism is based on principles of planning and architecture that work together to create human-scale, walkable communities. New urbanists take a wide variety of approaches — some work exclusively on infill projects, others focus on transit-oriented development, still others are attempting to transform the suburbs, and many are working in all of these categories. The New Urbanism includes traditional architects and those with modernist sensibilities. All, however, believe in the power and ability of traditional neighborhoods to restore functional, sustainable communities. The trend had its roots in the work of maverick architects and planners in the 1970s and 1980s who coalesced into a unified group in the 1990s. From modest beginnings, the trend is beginning to have a substantial impact. More than 600 new towns, villages, and neighborhoods are planned or under construction in the US, using principles of the New Urbanism. Additionally, hundreds of small-scale new urban infill projects are restoring the urban fabric of cities and towns by reestablishing walkable streets and blocks.

“On the regional scale, the New Urbanism is having a growing influence on how and where metropolitan regions choose to grow. At least 14 large-scale planning initiatives are based on the principles of linking transportation and land-use policies and using the neighborhood as the fundamental building block of a region.”

According to the website of New Urbanism, New Urbanism is “Creating Livable Sustainable Communities.” They also say that it is the practice of “Giving more people more choices about where and how they want to live” I think that is what the previous contributor was trying to say we needed when he/she was saying that Sprawl has a disturbing lack of difference. There is only one way to live in the suburbs, and mostly that life revolves around the car. New Urbanism posits a new way to design communities, one that encourages diversity instead of conformity. But most new urbanism projects look old. That is because New Urbanism isn’t really new at all. It is a rediscovery of the value of time proven methods and traditions for the creation of sustainable communities.

The Transect

The bottom line, as I see it is that sprawl and all associated aspects of our civilization effected adversely by technological advancement, from our built environment, to the food we eat, is not sustainable. They are not self-sustaining but instead require subsidies to stay in existence. A healthy civilization should be able to support itself indefinitely.

For instance, our modern day agricultural methods, thechnologized to “feed the world,” are so impoverished that if the federal government stopped subsidizing farmers they would all go out of business and all food production would stop. This is because farmers buy seeds that cost more than the food they produce will sell for! Instead, we need a sustainable industrial method, one applied to all aspects of modern life. Communities, farms, factories should all be sustainable without public subsidizing.


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