January 26, 2009

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

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.

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