|urban and community design innovations|
following material is excerpted with written permission from How Smart
Growth Can Stop Sprawl, a briefing guide for funders by David Bollier.
(Washington, D.C.:Essential Books), 1998.
The New Urbanism and Other Community Design Innovations. In the early 1990s, a new urban planning and design movement called the "New Urbanism" burst on the scene, proposing some striking departures from traditional urban design, neighborhood layout and architecture. Essentially, the New Urbanism rejects the norms of suburban, car-dependent, single-use development and promotes artfully designed mixed-use urban neighborhoods that host diverse income groups and races, stores and restaurants, and useful public spaces.
Among the New Urbanism's leading champions are Peter Katz (The New Urbanism: Toward an Architecture of Community); Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk (Miami-based architects and urban planners), Peter Calthorpe (The Next American Metropolis); Philip Langdon (A Better Place to Live); and James Howard Kunstler (The Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere). The style of urban design championed by this group goes under a number of names: neo-traditional planning, traditional neighborhood development (TND), Transit Oriented Development (TOD), and the New Urbanism (the term we will use here). The different names simply reflect varying emphases.
A good introduction to the New Urbanism can be found at http://www.cnu.org, the website for the Congress for the New Urbanism. Another resource is the Design Center for American Urban Landscapes at the University of Minnesota: http://www.cala.umn.edu/dcaul/Mission/DCAUL/ Mission. html.
A number of major experiments in New Urbanism have been built in recent years, eliciting largely favorable reviews. These include Seaside, a retirement community in Florida; Kentlands, a neotraditional 19th century design in Montgomery County, Maryland; and Laguna West, a 2,300-unit development in Sacramento that combines park-centered neighborhoods with a town center and businesses.
Some critics have charged that the New Urbanism amounts to "subdivisions masquerading as small towns." They charge that it is an architectural stylism that fails to grapple with the more fundamental problems of land use, and thus leaves people as dependent upon cars as ever.1
But in fact, some of the latest examples of the movement are solving a number of urban design problems at once. In the struggling inner-ring suburb of Englewood, Colorado, for example, New Urbanist principles are guiding the redevelopment of Cinderella City, one of the Denver region's first postwar suburban shopping centers and an abandoned eyesore for years. Built around a new light rail station, the mixed-use development will have shopping, compact residential areas and transit all within easy walking distance. Another redeveloped mall site, The Crossings in Mountain View, California, achieves similar results.
1 Alex Marshall, "Putting Some 'City' Back in the Suburbs," The Washington Post, September 1, 1996, p. C1.