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the new urbanism « Previous | |Next »
May 21, 2011

Have we hit the limits in car use in the city in that car use per capita is beginning to trend down? Is it that our cities--- eg., Sydney--- are grinding to halt in their traffic flows, and we are beginning to think about transport differently? Are we shifting to a greater reliance on public transport? A shift away from suburban sprawl?

HoldenwreckVH.jpg Gary Sauer-Thompson, Holden, near Victor Harbor, South Australia

If there is a limit in cart usage, then our cites, which were increasingly designed around cars (the ever expanding suburbs), are starting to be designed around people. One of the reasons for less car use in our aging cities is that older folk often move back into inner city from the suburbs and so are less car dependent.

This is the new urbanism; one that promotes the reform of the design of the built environment, that aims to create and restore of diverse, walkable, compact, vibrant, mixed-use communities.

These new inner city communities contain housing, work places, shops, entertainment, schools, parks, and civic facilities essential to the daily lives of the residents, all within easy walking distance of each other.In many ways New Urbanism is a movement that promotes neo-traditional neighbourhood-based urban design” (with an emphasis on a pedestrian based town centre and on sustainability. It was initially a reaction to sprawl and is now a basis for addressing physical health and social well-being and for sustainable urban growth and smart growth.

The basic element is of a walkable neighbourhood which, besides a variety of housing choices, can consist of a corner store, child care centre, post box, bus stop and several small businesses which provide a walkable focus for the local community . Generally, the neighbourhood has a 400 metres walkable radius and its design provides for chance meetings and privacy. This is usually dismissed as tediously nostalgic.

New urbanism can be seen as a tangible response to the failed Modernist planning that has resulted in unchecked suburban sprawl, dependence on the automobile, and the abandonment and decay of our inner cities. The excesses of American-style suburban development and its low-density "anonymous" subdivisions, and disenchantment with Corbusier-inspired large-scale high-rise housing blocks opens the door to the new urbanism.

As cheap energy winds down the car-dependent lifestyle of the Australian suburbia middle class will start to change as aging boomers are torn from their cars. Then the drifting wreck of suburbia will require salvage work. This is the great design challenge of the 21st century.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:26 PM | | Comments (3)


The flight from the inner city in the mid 20th century to suburbia was shaped the middle class notions of domesticity, which sought picturesque retreats from the dismal places of industrial work. It was often based on fantasies of craftsman bungalows, mini-mansions, or other miniaturized references to the lives of landed gentry.

the flight to suburbia after WW2 was based on a rejection of the inner city as unhealthy, polluting, and disease-ridden working class neighborhoods.

Over the remainder of the 20th century, gentrification of the inner city meant a gradual and systematic purging from our neighborhoods of the livelihoods needed by lower income households.

The new urbanism restores the idea of mixed inner city neighbourhoods---work and home; low income and high income; different ethnicities as well as classes.

the new urbanism in Australia means the revitalization of the inner city.