Thursday, April 30, 2009

New Urbanism Lingo?

Hooked on Houses is hosting her "Hooked on Friday's" blog party: today I'm hooked learning about New Urbanism. For most of us who live in car dependant suburban areas, some of these ideas are difficult but very intriguing. For me it's 2 simple ideas: will I have to move from this place I love when I'm no longer able or interested in driving; will I live in a cool enough place that my children and grandchildren will want to live nearby?

I've collected some of the catch phrases and buzzwords a few paragraphs down.

Andrés Duany is a founding principal of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company (DPZ) the planners who did Seaside. The Atlanta Regional Commission hired him to organize a charrette this winter. It's all more than I can explain but in the course of the event Mr. Duany gave 2 talks that you can watch on the web.
There are 2 great things about the talks for me. First Mr. Duany is the premier "explainer" of new urbanism. Second, he talks specifically about Atlanta where I've lived for 40 years.

Now each talk lasts about an hour. If you are an Atlantan you should watch. Here is they are. But I'm going to save you some time.

      From Mr. Duany

      Prior to 1950, there were no retirement communities in the world

      Everything is about retrofitting suburban sprawl (Atlanta) is not Seaside...

      Housing went out first, retailers moved out independently 10 years later and because it moved out separately, it landed separately; retail and housing were no longer integrated... shopping centers had a curtailed edge so you couldn't even walk to them

      Essentially there is no choice in the suburbs. Everybody has the same lifestyle...Everybody drives everywhere for everything...

      In the '80's the business park was invented - where you have lunchtime congestion - you have to drive to lunch

      Suburbia works only for people in their middle years, with enough money to buy one car per adult

      Traffic congestion makes driving really a bore... (not like the car commercials)

      Everybody thinks that developers always had a bad name. Developers are like the most embarrassing thing you can have as a dad for example. That wasn't always so.

      Can a young person now be stolen from you - young talent - by a cooler city?

      The alley is a very nice social space where you can be messier...

      Guys especially have no male space in the American House

      You can build the most beautiful park in the world and if the edges are dead, the park is dead and unsafe. The trick of designing open space is what's around it.

      (Malls are) spaceship landings surrounded by parking.

      NORC - Naturally Occurring Retirement Community

      Millennials - Grew up in the suburbs and for them the suburbs have no magic. They did the mall, they did the cul-de-sac and they love cities.

      From Ellen Dunham-Jones, author of "Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs" April 16, 2009

      "Drive 'til you qualify" for a home loan - current model or affordable home ownership.

      A "drive-to" walkable experience. Belmar's Lakewood Colorado, Disneyworld, Atlantic Station

      "Grayfield" - the parking lot around a dead or dying mall. A place or new urban redevelopment / retrofit

      "Spin Farming" "S-mall P-lot IN-tensive" urban farming

      "Reinhabitation" - dead malls reinvigorated often by immigrant communities. Burford Highway in Atlanta. Also by gentrifying

      Instant Urbanism, Faux Urbanism. Seaside, Disneyworld, Atlantic Station, Glenwood Park. A criticism. "real" urbanism take time. Ms. Dunham-Jones says that some of the best of "old urabanism" was built over a very brief period.

      Flexibility of the Grid - New York's grid has worked for everything, every density, and every period. It's the most flexible design.

      Fist Fights over Everything. It's very hard.

      Edge Cities.

      Leap Frogging. Most "inner" suburbs and malls have been leap frogged by more distant suburbs and malls. The more distant ones get leapfrogged again. Most inner suburbs decline. Now the inner suburbs are more central and (denser, closer to transportation) ripe for retrofitting. In Atlanta think North Lake (still in decent shape), Gwinnet Place, then Mall of Georgia.

      The suburbs dominate job growth.


      Architecture Tourists in Atlanta should visit Glenwood Park to see why new urbanism is so appealing.Glenwood Park, Atlantaglenwood113

      Photo by Valerie Watson


      1. Very interesting read.

        Although we live in the suburbs, we can walk or ride our bikes to a lot of places -- grocery store, hardware store, restaurants, bank... and we're just a short drive from our workplaces (also in the suburbs) and downtown.

        I don't think I could ever live right in the city -- too many people and not enough space. I'd like to stay right where we are :-)

        Kelly @ DesignTies

      2. That was good! Malls...spaceship landings surrounded by parking.

        So full of great thoughts and tidbits!


      3. New urbanism ideas came from examining places where folks of all ages enjoy living beginning with The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs A very few of us live in such places. We had a Toronto visitor whose grandmother could make it from her apartment to the Netherlands without even going out of doors.

        One of Mr. Duany's points was that bank lending policies were different in Canada. US banking favored lending for new suburban housing. Canadian lending wasn't so biased toward suburbs. That's hardly all of the story but lending policies played a roll.

        You'd have to watch the video but new urbanism doesn't require high rises or even townhouses everywhere. Things get denser toward the "middle" and towards transportation. The edges are single family houses, folks there just have to walk a bit further. So when I get older I'd move closer in and still be near my lifelong friends and family. Seems a better choice than to a Sun City miles and miles away, if I have the choice.

      4. We are reluctant suburbanites. We have three dogs and we had to seriously consider space for them. I'm pretty sure where I live is very uncool. ;) I'm still trying to make it fun and fashionable for my family.
        Mrs. Petrie @

      5. This is something they have preached about since the mid-80s I believe. Duany & Plater Zyberk have designed many new town communities such as Seaside, FL. The whole concept behind it is to create livable communities where one can live and work in a relatively close proximity. Great stuff! Design is always a good thing as Sprawl is the alternative.

      6. I've been a fan of Duany dating back to my days at the ad agency where I worked on Seaside interactive campaigns. I especially enjoyed hearing about his new projects. After the storm, Duany gave us wonderful, expandable residential designs called Katrina Cottages - they're charming and human. It's a shame Louisiana didn't place more attention on them in the early rebuilding days as Mississippi did. I love this synopsis - what a cerebral look at the way we live now. I can't wait to watch the videos.


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