What is… New Urbanism? [Duany, Prospect New Town, Suburbia]

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jan 26, 2009
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Latest in my What is… series on ‘the mindful life’—elephant journal’s editorial mission—comes this lil’blog on New Urbanism, a new-yet-classic, popular architectural style built around people instead of cars:

“Giving people many choices for living an urban lifestyle in sustainable, convenient and enjoyable places, while providing the solutions to peak oil, global warming, and climate change.”

“The most important collective architectural movement in the United States in the past fifty years.” ~ New York Times

New Urbanism is about building community by building on time-honored architectural styles, as well as Modernism, to once again center our mundane everyday lives around interaction instead of suburban isolation. Gone are big yard and front-and-center garage doors…instead, there’s big parks where neighbors meet one another in casual, unintentional manners…cars are housed in alleys, even mailboxes are all in one spot.

A few miles away from my old, now-greened Victorian is a community called Prospect, which was featured on the cover of DWELL a few years back under the title: COOLEST NEIGHBORHOOD IN AMERICA. It’s gorgeous, well-planned out, with (seemingly) 80 different architectural styles jumbled all over each other. It’s a fun, cheerful joy to walk (or, yes, drive) through…a brilliant example of what happens when we build an intentional community, instead of a fast-and-cheap one. Funny thing about Prospect—while it encourages green living, and the houses are all gorgeous, it’s actually a good deal, too—home keep their value, and there’s never a shortage of folks wanting to buy and move in.

Okay, over to the experts:

Another video, with intro text:

As population and pollution problems continue to develop in our world, new solutions to existing obstacles must be cultivated. Instead of expanding roads and building more bridges for more cars to congest, we must move to a different standpoint. New Urbanism sets out to make cars a source of secondary or even tertiary transportation in an interactive setting where people can prosper together healthily and ecologically. Getting to work in today’s world involves high levels of stress, and poor use of time, not to mention the virtually eliminated element of social interaction. In a New Urbanistic environment, all amenities are within about 10 minutes of walking distance from either home or work. Roads are hidden behind properties in slow speed alleys, promoting walking, bicycling and other sustainable methods of transportation. In such an environment where social interaction is encouraged and sustainable lifestyles are both implemented and encouraged, a healthy culture can emerge and prosper. New Urbanism, in a small area, brings together people of all age, income, culture, and race, setting a standard of equality among all humans, regardless of background. It is imperative that new ideas such and New Urbanism are explored and provided for people to assess for themselves. In this manner we can move forward as a whole society, leaving no one behind.

In Prospect New Town, near my home in Boulder, Colorado, there’s a bold solar development built by some acquaintances of mine:

The Truman Show featured Seaside, the first New Urbanist community.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


2 Responses to “What is… New Urbanism? [Duany, Prospect New Town, Suburbia]”

  1. Evan Ravitz says:

    Unfortunately, “New Urbanism” is also being used to “greenwash” fabulously energy-inefficient development, and to get regular variances to zoned height restrictions.

    The luxury condos going up right across Canyon Blvd. from Boulder City Hall are an example. There’s nothing solar, they have underground parking (which is fabulously expensive and energy-intensive to build, and will accommodate mostly luxury SUVs), etc.

    Another example is the Washington School development, which a Boulder citizen referendum has halted. In the original form, it was so tall it would have put the solar Red Arrow apts. in the shade!

    This faux-green scam uses an unscientific meaning for “density” to sucker wishful thinkers: they claim density means units per acre. But every scientist knows density really means something per CUBIC measure. REALLY dense units means SMALLER units, not stacking up luxury ones. Smaller units save energy, not stacked ones.

    Just before I moved to Boulder in 1978 I worked for the NM Solar Energy Assoc. Part of my work was documenting all 120 solar homes around Taos (Boulder, 10X bigger still doesn’t have that many) Taos had the first Federally-funded solar homes. I presented my report and expertise to Boulder’s energy office and THEY WEREN’T INTERESTED. Many of these homes are FAR more energy-efficient and FAR cheaper than what we’re being sold as green here.

    You can see my summary report, published as the lead article in the High Country News at: http://evanravitz.com/solar

    If the City had paid attention then to our free research, our town would now be a real green model, not a greenwashing one.

  2. elephantjournal says:

    The one that started it all: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seaside,_Florida featured in Truman Show…