Arrol Gellner: New Urbanism resorting to clichés

When I first saw this article, based on the title, I was afraid I would have an argument against it.  As I actually read it though, I found that I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Gellner’s position.  New Urbanism, in it’s historical approach, often employs historical architectural styles: Victorian, Craftsman, Mediterranean, etc.  Unfortunately, some people confuse historical architecture for New Urbanism, which is in itself much more.  Some developers are trying to sell their projects as New Urbanist when really they are entirely car dependent and all they’ve done is added a Victorian tower to a suburban home.  Often times developers aren’t even true to the style as a whole, creating strange franken-houses that are Ranch houses with a Craftsman porch and a Mediterranean roof, or something similarly disgusting.  New Urbanism isn’t really about style, it’s about functionality.  Does the development mix uses?  Does it create a sense of community?  Does it get people out of their cars?  If it doesn’t, then it isn’t New Urbanism, it’s cheap historicism, and people need to know the difference, because people who criticize New Urbanism are often aiming their aggression at the wrong target.

One response to “Arrol Gellner: New Urbanism resorting to clichés

  1. Sometimes what is needed for New Urbanism is not a new community with new homes, porches, streets on a grid, etc., but a new approach by the folks living in the area. I agree with you, NU is more about function. Too many NU developments do not function in an NU manner. I have brought NU into my life by putting the accent on neighbourhood. I walk to the grocery store, to the mall, to the restaurant and I do it all while living in a traditional suburb – one that increases density with the additon of modern condos. I can often get by without a car – I sold the car I used for work when I retired. Getting people out of cars is more attitude than architecture.

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