Tuesday, March 20, 2007
New Urban Myths Numbers 1 & 2: New Urbanism is just for the suburbs; New Urbanists are just a bunch of traditional architects.
THE PRINCIPLES of the New Urban Charter work at the scale of the region, the city, the town, the neighborhood, the block, the street, the building, the farm, the forest and the rural preserve. You can find the text of the Charter here.
The New Urban Transect works from the Wilderness, T-1, to the Urban Core, T-6.
Here's a recent New Urban design, for the tallest building in Philadelphia. It's one of thousands of T-6 and T-5 New Urban projects, and as you an see, it's not traditional. New Urbanism is about making walkable, sustainable places, not style.
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There are some New Urbanists I've met who need convincing on T6.
One I spoke to said nothing should be built more than 5 stories.
Another -- a recent millionaire-turned-developer -- told me that it makes more sense to build an entire development at a time, rather than one building at a time. When I suggested to him that it would make more sense for him to build more densely and closer to transit stations, he completely dismissed the idea.
Atlanta's NUs need a lesson in NU. If you ever come this way, bring a message of profitability in T6.
Posted by: Joeventures at Mar 20, 2007 8:21:42 AM
New Urbanism is a set of principles, laid out in the Charter. If people don't follow those principles, then what they're building is not New Urbanism.
One of those principles is "communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car." Another is "appropriate building densities and land uses should be within walking distance of transit stops, permitting public transit to become a viable alternative to the automobile."
It's always difficult to discuss generalities about unknown people and unseen situations, but regarding your examples I can comment that simply saying one is a New Urbanist doesn't mean that's true. You have to walk the talk.
There is no Charter principle that says cities must have towers or that cities may not have towers. Some New Urbanists promote T-6 towers, some think they're good for places like Manhattan but not London (or residential Brooklyn), and some think all cities should be 8 stories or less, as some of our best cities are. None of those beliefs qualify them or disqualify them as New Urbanists.
Posted by: john at Mar 20, 2007 8:50:28 AM
Portland, OR's Hoyt Street Yards development within the larger Pearl District and the newly developing high rise South Waterfront are also New Urbanism but rarely are called New Urbanism. They are large urban scale infill projects and with everything from rowhouses to 30+ story towers. Also there's Vancouver BC's Yaletown with its tall point towers on podiums providing action at the street level. Portland's South Waterfront is modeled after this. I think New Urbanism is most successful the more urban the location.
Posted by: KJ at Mar 20, 2007 11:38:21 AM
So what exactly makes this building New Urbanist? It sounds like any building in a downtown area, or T-6 transect, would be defined as NU, because it would be walkable. Is it just due to the sustainability of the architecture that makes this one building in particular NU?
Also, glancing at the principles, I'm curious why what are the most important points (to me) addressed with "cans" instead of "shoulds." One example is: "a broad range of housing types and price levels can bring people of diverse ages, races, and incomes into daily interaction..." Lacking the should, it doesn't sound like a principle and therefore could be easily ignored by those following the Charter and calling themselves New Urbanists. Why not say: "a range of housing types and price levels should be provided to bring people of diverse ages..."?
Posted by: John at Mar 21, 2007 8:17:33 AM
You probably know that the building we're talking about is the Comcast Tower by Robert Stern Architects. It follows LEEDS and LEEDS ND (Neighborhood Design) principles, the new sustainabality standards written by the USGBC, the CNU and the NRDC. It follows all the principles of the New Urban Charter, and it was designed by the largest and one of the most active New Urban firms.
It follows New Urban principles and it was designed by New Urbanists: if we can't call it New Urban, what can we call New Urban? Are you unintentionally sliding us down the slippery slope in which only greenfield TNDs can be called New Urban, which of course is the main criticism academics level against New Urbanism? Sounds like Catch 22.
Posted by: john at Mar 21, 2007 9:24:31 AM
No covert intentions in my comment, just trying to find out what makes one hi-rise NU and another one not NU. It follows from my little knowledge of the CNU that almost any urban hi-rise could fit. The fact it's LEED helps me to understand, though I don't see how authorship is relevant.
It sounds like investment in downtowns is the point, and not plopping down mega-block, suburban-style developments (a la Jon Jerde) is to be commended. But coming from my experience in Chicago and now New York where investment in downtown isn't hurting -- but is actually forcing out lower- and even middle-class occupants -- it seems that a stronger stance on diversity (my second question in my comment above) is what's lacking.
Posted by: John at Mar 21, 2007 8:12:50 PM