Saturday, September 26, 2009

New Urbanism

New Urbanism is an urban design movement, which promotes walkable neighborhoods that contain a range of housing and job types. It arose in the United States in the early 1980s and continues to reform many aspects of real estate development and urban planning.

New Urbanism is strongly influenced by urban design standards prominent before the rise of the automobile and encompasses principles such as traditional neighborhood design (TND) and transit-oriented development (TOD). It is also closely related to Regionalism and Environmentalism.

The organizing body for New Urbanism is the Congress for the New Urbanism, founded in 1993. Its foundational text is the Charter of the New Urbanism, which says:

“We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.”

New urbanists support regional planning for open space, context-appropriate architecture and planning, and the balanced development of jobs and housing. They believe their strategies can reduce traffic congestion, increase the supply of affordable housing, and rein in urban sprawl. The Charter of the New Urbanism also covers issues such as historic preservation, safe streets, green building, and the redevelopment of brownfield land.

Until the mid 20th century, cities were generally organized into and developed around mixed-use walkable neighborhoods. For most of human history this meant a city that was entirely walkable, although with the development of mass transit the reach of the city extended outward along transit lines, allowing for the growth of new pedestrian communities such as streetcar suburbs. But with the advent of cheap automobiles and favorable government policies, attention began to shift away from cities and towards ways of growth more focused on the needs of the car.

This new system of development, with its rigorous separation of uses, became known as "conventional suburban development" or pejoratively as urban sprawl, arose after World War II. The majority of U.S. citizens now live in suburban communities built in the last fifty years, and automobile use per capita has soared.

In 1991, the Local Government Commission, a private nonprofit group in Sacramento, California, invited architects Peter Calthorpe, Michael Corbett, Andrés Duany, Elizabeth Moule, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, Stefanos Polyzoides, and Daniel Solomon to develop a set of community principles for land use planning. Named the Ahwahnee Principles (after Yosemite National Park's Ahwahnee Hotel), the commission presented the principles to about one hundred government officials in the fall of 1991, at its first Yosemite Conference for Local Elected Officials.

Calthorpe, Duany, Moule, Plater-Zyberk, Polyzoides, and Solomon founded the Chicago-based Congress for the New Urbanism in 1993. The CNU has grown to more than 3,000 members, and is the leading international organization promoting new urbanist design principles. It holds annual Congresses in various U.S. cities.

New Urbanism is a broad movement that spans a number of different disciplines and geographic scales. And while the conventional approach to growth remains dominant, New Urbanist principles have become increasingly influential in the fields of planning, architecture, and public policy.

The principles of New Urbanism are:

1. Walkability

  • Most things within a 10-minute walk of home and work
  • Pedestrian friendly street design (buildings close to street; porches, windows & doors; tree-lined streets; on street parking; hidden parking lots; garages in rear lane; narrow, slow speed streets)
  • Pedestrian streets free of cars in special cases

2. Connectivity

  • Interconnected street grid network disperses traffic & eases walking
  • A hierarchy of narrow streets, boulevards, and alleys
  • High quality pedestrian network and public realm makes walking pleasurable

3. Mixed-Use & Diversity

  • A mix of shops, offices, apartments, and homes on site. Mixed-use within neighborhoods, within blocks, and within buildings
  • Diversity of people - of ages, income levels, cultures, and races

4. Mixed Housing-

  • A range of types, sizes and prices in closer proximity (Duplexes, Small Lots, Condos, Townhouses, etc)

5. Quality Architecture & Urban Design

  • Emphasis on beauty, aesthetics, human comfort, and creating a sense of place; Special placement of civic uses and sites within community. Human scale architecture & beautiful surroundings nourish the human spirit

6. Traditional Neighborhood Structure

  • Discernable center and edge
  • Public space at center
  • Importance of quality public realm; public open space designed as civic art
  • Contains a range of uses and densities within 10-minute walk
  • Transect planning: Highest densities at town center; progressively less dense towards the edge. The transect is an analytical system that conceptualizes mutually reinforcing elements, creating a series of specific natural habitats and/or urban lifestyle settings. The Transect integrates environmental methodology for habitat assessment with zoning methodology for community design. The professional boundary between the natural and man-made disappears, enabling environmentalists to assess the design of the human habitat and the urbanists to support the viability of nature. This urban-to-rural transect hierarchy has appropriate building and street types for each area along the continuum.

7. Increased Density

  • More buildings, residences, shops, and services closer together for ease of walking, to enable a more efficient use of services and resources, and to create a more convenient, enjoyable place to live.
  • New Urbanism design principles are applied at the full range of densities from small towns, to large cities

8. Green Transportation

  • A network of high-quality trains connecting cities, towns, and neighborhoods together
  • Pedestrian-friendly design that encourages a greater use of bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, and walking as daily transportation

9. Sustainability

  • Minimal environmental impact of development and its operations
  • Eco-friendly technologies, respect for ecology and value of natural systems
  • Energy efficiency
  • Less use of finite fuels
  • More local production
  • More walking, less driving

10. Quality of Life

  • Taken together these add up to a high quality of life well worth living, and create places that enrich, uplift, and inspire the human spirit.
Click here for more information about New Urbanism: The New Urbanism: Toward an Architecture of Community by Peter Katz.


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I just wanted to take a moment to send a personal message out to all those in the fields of Landscape Architecture, Gardening, Horticulture, and Urban Planning/Urban Ecology. I created Landscape Connections for the purpose to share my love and passion for Landscape Architecture and Design, and Urban Ecology. I was a Landscape Architecture Major at Utah State University and currently study Urban Ecology at the University of Utah. I am working to compile as much information in the four previously mentioned fields as possible. If you have any further information, or would like to either add information or see information posted to landscape connections please let me know.