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New Urbanism

In: Social Issues

Submitted By stella204
Words 1043
Pages 5
James Howard Kunstler, American author, and social critic gave his thoughts on American urbanism in his TedTalk addressed: How Bad Architecture Wrecked Cities. He stated that there is an “immense ugliness” in our everyday environments and argues that we’re going to have to start innovating and getting back to our roots if we would like to continue civilization in America. He believes that our society’s suburban sprawl is the “greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.” The industrial design of our suburban landscapes lack a sense of place. Kunstler argues our landscapes lack a sense of place; places that are meaningful quality and character (Kunstler). This can all be re-modified with how we mold our space with buildings in particular. Kunstler’s informative speech begs the question: how can we make places that are worth caring about again? The main problem with our society’s architecture is the degradation of the “public realm”. The public realm in the United States consists of two entities: its dwelling areas of civilization and our civic life (Kunstler). When the public realm is destroyed or tarnished, the well-being of public life is taken down with it. We no longer have the cathedral plazas or market squares of older cultures. Some of that has to do with the fact that our country was in constant expansion for quite a while when our nation was young and developing in my opinion. Our body of culture is argued to have stopped post World War II. Our society should be designed more with the purpose of defining where we are geographically and culturally. I agree that most of our country’s architecture lacks a core value depicting what is important in our lives or what we are proud of, defining us as people. Perhaps, however that is exactly what we are doing. Our country is so enthralled with the idea of industry and making money that we have failed to take pride in our appearance in substitute for industrialized, life barren areas whose sole purposes are to make money, money, and more money. In doing so we have thrown out the idea that public places are meant to serve the public and give citizens areas to interact with the freedom to exchange ideas and visions. We have more parking lots and highways than town squares, adding to our absence of identity. Urbanism has destroyed our relationship between business and footfall due to un-welcoming designs such as the Boston City Plaza. It is one of the most iconic cities in America, yet its very center of town where the heart of the city is supposed to be represented lacks any temptation for social interaction.
Town squares need to be revitalized, giving definition to an area through the use of public space. We need a “permeable membrane” (Kunstler), areas that promote goods, people, and activity to go in and out of it. Architecture needs to endorse areas where people enjoy being and spending time for no other reasons than them just desiring to be there. Kunstler believes that we will inescapably have to change our behavior. He notions that much of our society was built in part of the huge oil era. As times change and we move away from fossil fuels we are going to have to re-scale, down scale, and re-size almost everything that we do. He believes life will have to become more centralized again, with food being grown and consumed more locally, people living closer to their areas of work, decreasing miles between products. New urbanism is the hope for this he states. New Urbanism is an approach to designing cities, towns, and neighborhoods that reduce traffic and eliminate sprawl. Clusters of homes and businesses in villages with shops, businesses, theaters, schools, parks and other services are located together rather than sprawled apart. Walkability and connectivity is at the basis of this. Pedestrian friendly street designs where a hierarchy of narrow streets, boulevards, and alleys decreasing the need for cars and traffic are essential. There is an 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 creating more pride in one’s environment. Transect planning is pushed to conceptualizes mutually reinforcing elements, creating a series of specific natural habitats and/or urban lifestyle settings in New Urbanism’s methodology with public space and higher densities at the nucleus of town, progressively getting less dense towards the edge (Principles of Urbanism). Green transportation and sustainability become very important as well in this design. Pedestrian-friendly design that encourages a greater use of bicycles, rollerblades, scooters, and walking as daily transportation reduces the need for energy production (Principles of Urbanism). Due to the lessened use of finite fuels, more eco-friendly technologies become viable and efficient. All of this helps enforce the professional boundary between the natural and man-made lessening, enabling environmentalists to assess the design of the human habitat and the urbanists to support the viability of nature. Residents gain higher quality of life with healthier lifestyles. Businesses grown due to increased sales with the help of more foot traffic and closer proximities between dwellings and markets. Developers gain through more income potential from higher density mixed-use projects due to more leasable square footage, more sales per square foot, and higher property values and selling prices (Principles of Urbanism). Municipalities become more stable, escalating the tax base due to less money spent per capita on infrastructure and utilities than classic suburban development with compact, high-density nature of projects. No amount or combination of alternative fuels is going to allow us to continue running what we're running, the way we're running it (Kunstler). We're going to have to do everything very differently. With increased emphasis on green environments and the need as society to break free fossil fuel usage, New Urbanism creates more sustainable life while promoting places that we can once again care about.

Works Cited * Kunstler, J. (n.d.). How Bad Architecture Wrecked Cities. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/james_howard_kunstler_dissects_suburbia/transcript?language=en#t-1098000 * PRINCIPLES OF URBANISM. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.newurbanism.org/newurbanism/principles.html *

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