Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Friday, April 6, 2012

A bright future for New Urbanism???

Built in 1995 overlooking the Gulf of Mexico on Florida's Panhandle, Rosemary Beach was based on the principles of neo-traditional design and new urbanism. (John Handley, Photo for the Chicago Tribune / March 23, 2012)

Is there a bright future for New Urbanism? We´ll need years ahead to find out, though Andrés Duany and wife are optimistic: 
 "There has been a long dry spell in new urbanism developments because of the economy," said Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, dean of the school of architecture at the University of Miami. But she sees better days ahead: "The new urbanism product has maintained its value, and going forward there will absolutely be a resurgence. New urbanism is still a model for the future. It's exactly what the boomers want." Her opinion carries weight since she and her husband, Andres Duany, were among the pioneers in new urbanism.¨ (Chicago 

 I´m not a fan of New Urbanism. I can accept the walking distances, and the town like neighborhood, but these developments will never become real ¨barrios¨, like the ones we used to live in. New Urbanism projects are big scenography and if you´ve seen The Truman Show movie, you´ll perfectly understand what I mean. Do we need to copy old styles in plastic, foam board, stucco, to be happy? Ridiculous. 
Many years ago, I´ve also read that Celebration, the neighborhood with the Disney stamp, was not full as expected, and though the advertisements showed black and white people, the residents were all white. You understand what I mean. And I don´t know other cases of mixed populations, again, too similar to The Truman Show. 
  ¨The movement arose as an antidote to sprawl, promoting the use of mass transit and encouraging walkable neighborhoods, like those that were built years ago, rather than the drive-everywhere neighborhoods of suburbia. This glorification of the past meant copying vintage housing styles. At Rosemary Beach, for example, the more than 600 residences reflect the historic architecture of the West Indies; Charleston, S.C.; St. Augustine, Fla.; and New Orleans. Neo-traditional design hit a peak of popularity in 1996 with the opening of Celebration near Walt Disney World in Florida. The 4,900-acre development by Walt Disney Co. was created to resemble small-town America of the 1930s and before. Victorian and Colonial Revival styles predominated in the 2,500 residences. Though Celebration ranks as new urbanism's most famous project, the trend was launched on Florida's Panhandle in 1981 at Seaside, not far from where Rosemary Beach is today.¨ (Chicago 

Let´s see the following four pictures I´ve selected from Celebration´s web page: do you see anybody walking, navigating? (!!!)

 Is anybody here to feed the ducks?
Where are the children and pigeons?

Also, our life style has changed, I don´t see too many children playing outside and leaving their electronic games, and front porches are always empty, unless you are living in a latino neighborhood. The fans of New Urbanism design remembering their lives as kids, but it can´t be so any more. 
 ¨Not everyone is a cheerleader for old-style houses with front porches. Among the critics is California architect Barry Berkus. "Neo-traditional design looks back, not forward. New urbanists think all good architecture was done before 1940. But society has moved on," said Berkus, founder and president of B3 Architects and Berkus Design Studio in Santa Barbara. "New urbanism has been promoted as the great answer to housing needs and urban sprawl. But it's not for everyone. Before air conditioning, there were reasons for front porches. People in summer would sit on porches until the house cooled down. That's not the way people live today," he said. John McIlwain, senior fellow for housing at the Urban Land Institute, agrees with Berkus on front porches. "Going forward, there will be changes in new urbanism, and it will continue to be part of master-planned communities. Some core elements will remain, but characteristics like front porches may become marginal," McIlwain said. "Expect future new urbanism projects to include more rental, high-rises and open spaces, but fewer single-family homes." (Chicago

 I absolutely agree with arch. Berkus and Mr McIlwain. 

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