All the recent talk of Agrarian Urbanism has sent me down a tangential thought process. The difference between life and lifestyle. Lifestyle has come to mean how we spend our money on the weekends – or maybe squeeze in after work – before we get back to the grind. Things that often have more to do with entertainment than community. Over the last 50 years or so, shopping and golf have become central national pastimes.
What if, instead, life became a little more organic again?
Next week, the 19th annual gathering of New Urbanism cultists takes place in Madison, Wisconsin. I’m one of them, and I’m sorry not to be making the Congress this year. This has the feel of one of those turning-point moments.
First, the good part. A lot more folks have bought into the New Urbanist perspective for building and enriching community through thoughtful design. Federal and state policy-makers, even the slow-to-change Department of Transportation types, now talk about integrating land use and transportation. And requests for proposals from regional planning agencies routinely reference principles embodied in the Charter for the New Urbanism, even if the authors of those RFPs are clueless as to where they got the ideas. So there’s reason to celebrate.
Still, as the evidence mounts that we’ve got piles of work to do, we’re too easily distracted by food fights that sap energy and waste time.
Over a decade ago Andres Duany of DPZ taught me that, more times than not, NIMBY opposition stems from a sense that proposed development is not of equal or greater value to what would be lost.
Tony Nelessen, the inventor of the Visual Preference Survey, confirmed this lesson a few years later when he came to my town and conducted one. Continue reading
It’s officially over.
The flush era for planners and designers, when utopian villages and new towns could grow from dreams and piles of private sector cash? Long gone. Now comes the revolution.
What the revolt will look like is under debate. And not surprisingly, the most intense discussions are joined by those who have always been arguing about one thing or another, even as they designed and built places that, at least in part, defined neighborhood and community character during the flush times.
Just about anybody remotely interested in how the world’s most admired places earned their adulation is going to love Dhiru Thadani’s new book: The Language of Towns and Cities. In it, Dhiru subtitles the book “A Visual Dictionary,” but as L.J. Aurbach points out in his blog review, it’s really an encyclopedia. And it couldn’t come at a better time. Continue reading
This week I’d like to share a few thoughts on infill and sustainability that coalesced while preparing this week for another Pecha Kucha presentation on Retrofitting Suburbia.
I’ll begin with a little background. My daughter came home from her International Baccalaureate Elementary School with a new sticker in her daily planner proclaiming her an “Eco-Warrior!” Continue reading
According to a new report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development — more commonly known for crunching global budget and employment numbers — the United States is on track to be 75% obese by 2020.
3 out of every 4. And if you check with researchers at Johns Hopkins University, they’ll tell you to expect 86% by 2030. Continue reading