Saturday, February 2, 2008

Explaining 10 myths of urban design

The London Free Press recently ran an opinion article about the 10 myths of Urban Design.
Here is there list below:

10. It's all about front porches. Indeed, building more houses with front porches is important, but it's really about making friendly buildings and attractive street-scapes.

9. It wants to eliminate the back yard. Back yards are important for privacy, but urban design reminds us not to forget the front yard as a place of activity and usefulness.

8. It's all about density, density, density. It's about providing variety and diversity, allowing people to grow up in a single-family home, move to an apartment, then a townhouse, then back into a single- family home, then back into an apartment as their life progresses -- all in the same neighbourhood.

7. It expects everyone to walk everywhere. It's about providing friendly streets and sidewalks and public transit and other infrastructure to entice people to walk more. Nobody expects the car to be eliminated.

6. It is just about the rear laneway. London is fearful of the rear laneway (for reasons nobody is sure of, considering they are all over Old North and Old South, for example). Some can be unpleasant, but there are examples of attractive back alleys in new urbanist developments across North America. Not everyone wants a big house with a big back yard.

5. It will not fit into a "normal" person's lifestyle. What is normal? People may want to drive to the supermarket for the big shop, but do they want to get in the car and face traffic just to pick up a loaf of bread or litre of milk? People want options. They want variety in the kinds of buildings they interact with, variety that makes the experience of living in a community richer.

4. It is just about creating pre-war housing architecture. It's not about replicating Victorian architecture; it's about eliminating repetitive architecture that saps identity from a neighbourhood.

3. It is all about new urbanism or placemaking. New urbanism a catchphrase, but it's about old-fashioned, grid-style developments with a diversity of home types and architecture. Placemaking involves integrating all industrial, commercial, residential and retail areas.

2. It is just about what the buildings look like. No, it's about how we deliver our walking spaces, our driving spaces, our open spaces. It's more than just architecture and landscaping.

1. It is not economically viable. New urbanist communities are thriving across North America. New ones are being built every day. They're sought after by home buyers.

For the rest of the article, click here.

The biggest fears that we encountered locally from developers and communities about Urbanism would be myths 6 and 7. People fear that planners are going to take their struggling suburban commercial corridors and instantly turn them into inner-city corridors.

I also take notice with myth 4, even though good urban design is supposed to make varied styles and sizes to buildings and neighborhoods, too often New Urbanism makes everything the same with the same standard retail chains with very little independent local stores.

Lastly, I agree with the critique of myth 3. Good Urban Design is about placemaking, making a built environment that is healthy and one that attracts people to visit.

What is your opinion of the 10 myths?

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