Dilworth Crescent by Jim Gross
Where New Urbanism Goes Wrong
(Continued from Urban Design: What New Urbanists Get Right)
From its very Seaside roots, New Urbanism expressed a tincture of Ludite ideology. The vast majority of Seaside’s homes, in response to a ukase issued by designers Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, are architecturally associative, anachronistic period pieces in a modern age. New urbanists deliver limited rationale for their preference for neo-traditional architecture, so one must assume that the thinking is that if traditional planning is better, than traditional architecture must be as well. The rejection of one technology, the automobile, seems to then be the basis for rejecting all new technologies.
Yet while the automobile arguably dismantled a planning normative that was in, in many ways, well refined and highly effective, and replaced effective standards with often random, arbitrary and ineffective dictates, it is a non sequitur to opine that the same is true concerning the impact of architectural technologies on the modern home. While it may be true that it is difficult for modern architecture to provide the charm and warmth of authentic traditional forms, materials and spaces, it is also clear that many improvements to modern buildings, from expanses of glass to open footprints, from energy efficiency to a plethora of environmentally friendly products, from efficient kitchens and baths to security to smart house efficiencies and a myriad of machines to make life simpler, improve lives and provide a more efficient and pleasant lifestyle.
Further, while in the past the charm of traditional buildings was rarely achieved by modern structures, it is also true that we, as a design architects, are getting much better at creating captivating architecture with scale, warmth and even occasionally a measure of charm. At the same time one can argue that associative, neo-traditional architecture rarely rises to the standard of warmth and charm associated with genuine traditional architecture, but instead often creates a poor facsimile of traditional structures, often seemingly mocking that which it intends to celebrate.
WRT I Solomon E.T.C.
The anachronistic planning geometries typically adopted by New Urbanists are subject to a similar critique. As noted above, New Urbanists have studied, absorbed and applied to great advantage the principles of traditional town planning. Yet here again in their rejection of one technology, the automobile, they seem to have rejected all – including the technological tools to survey, plan and build cities, streets, plazas and structures that are non-Cartesian in nature.