3 April 2011


110403 *urbanism
The Urbanism Battle

"Landscape architecture continues to experience a professional flowering based on the growing significance of sustainability and ecological issues as they relate to planning the broader built environment. But awareness is also growing among architects that they are no longer kings of the mountain. Gwen Webber scouts the perimeter of a possible turf war in the making"

Evidently,  not everyone is pleased with the direction of something like this.

Without a doubt, architect Andres Duany is a pivotal figure in creating a less car-dependent, more walking-oriented American landscape—the kind of human-scale, personally navigable, tight developments that seem to have sturdy green roots and point, generally, toward a more urban lifestyle. Certainly, densely-settled cities have what Duany and his cohorts have been advocating for 30 years. But now as these cities begin to re-engage with nature, to create their own, healthy and life-affirming environments, surprisingly (at least to me)  Duany is not cheering, he’s jeering. He seems to equate the new “dogma of environmentalism” (my quotes) with the recent changes at the Harvard GSD, where the old Urban Planning and Design department is giving way to Landscape Urbanism. And so I must ask this, is he just looking for a fight, or is there a constructive dialogue to be had here?”

New Urbanists believe this urban to landscape is a return to
Le Corbusier’s Ville Contemporaine.

Every design school has its disciples urging everyone else out there to get on board with the Universal Truth.
The places where we live become the battlegrounds for a design moral authority.

There are broader, more basic truths about the design of cities then can be captured in one theory or design movement. Even if you are a rabid proponent, or even if you’ve 'invented' a design methodology, if you're honest, it takes someone else about a minute to determine some of the ways to contradict your ‘manifesto’.

How about these universal truths:

  1. Creative minds will always be trying to think of new ways to do things
  2. Cites have always come together in an accumulative way; one thing is built upon another and another. Even when vast portions of it are ripped out to allow for something new.
  3. We will continue to do good things, and make great mistakes as we build. This is true of all schools, camps, and manifesto writers.

It is amusing that different schools of design seek a deep oposition to another; they really don’t need to be. Places conceived over time, envisioned by different designers with opposing design viewpoints intersect often turn out to be (God forbid!) the most interesting and effective urban places.


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