Saturday, March 23, 2013

Nathan Lewis about New Urbanism

The "New Urbanists" have the right idea, sorta, maybe, but they remain a rather befuddled bunch. This is shown in their work, the actual places they build. Most of them are laughably pathetic. So this is what we are going to do today: we are going to laugh at how pathetic these "New Urbanists" projects are, and compare them to the great City Design accomplishments of prior generations.
Much of the New Urbanists' confusion stems, it seems to me, from the inability to distinguish between the Tradtional City, a walking-based design with Really Narrow Streets, and the 19th Century Hypertrophic City, with its super-wide streets and residential areas that are identical to today's Suburban Hell. For Americans, the 19th Century Hypertrophic City seems "traditional." However, because the 19th Century Hypertrophic City is in fact the model for Suburban Hell -- Suburban Hell is basically the 19th Century Hypertrophic City ("Small Town America") with more parking -- these "New Urbanist" designs tend to have a rather spooky similarity to the Suburban Hell that they are supposedly trying to avoid. - Nathan Lewis

Today, we have become so disgusted with the strip-mall horror of Suburban Hell that people in the U.S. are beginning to migrate back to the city again. However, they are again adopting either the failed 19th Century Hypertrophic pattern, or the even more failed 20th Century Hypertropic pattern. We already did this for decades and centuries, so we know it isn't going to work. If it didn't work for a hundred and fifty years, why is it going to work now? It won't work this time either, even if you call it different names like "transit-oriented development" or "New Urbanism" or whatever. These are just new labels for the same old shit that doesn't work.

It's really easy to do this stuff. Start with the Really Narrow Streets. Everything follows naturally from that. We have thousands and thousands of successful real-life examples of Traditional City environments with Really Narrow Streets, such as the photos shown right here. This is not a fantasy. It is not my "creative new idea." It is something that works fine, and has worked for hundreds and indeed thousands of years. You can get on a plane and go there, and see that it works.

How about if we do something that works, instead of something (19th Century Hypertrophism and 20th Century Hypertrophism) that doesn't work. Seems sensible to me. But, people are really dumb. Really really dumb. I suppose I am talking only to that tiny fraction of you who are capable of understanding what I am saying. - Nathan Lewis

More by Nathan Lewis: Traditional City/Heroic Materialism Series Archive

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