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December 04, 2002

Flash New Urbanism

Friedrich --

National Geographic online has created a Flash animation that provides an introduction to some of the principles of the New Urbanism. It's not that good, honestly, unless you're either about 14 years old and expected to turn in a short paper on the subject, or you're a fretful soccer mom. But I appreciated the effort and enjoy Flash animations generally, so what the heck. It's watchable here.



posted by Michael at December 4, 2002


You almost tempt me to go watch it but I hate Flash. Whenever I come upon a site that uses Flash I always leave as quickly as possible. I'd probably feel differently about if I didn't have the world's slowest connection.

Posted by: Lynn on December 4, 2002 9:55 PM

Good grief. You do the average soccer mom and 14yo a disservice. Explaining trees and the corner grocery? Is that really necessary?

Don't answer that.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin on December 5, 2002 1:13 AM

Pretty bad, huh?

The funny/sad/tragic thing is that, in high-end architectural circles, it's quite a risky and controversial thing to assert that trees on the street, corner groceries, and porches are generally good and desirable. Do it, and you're likely to find yourself being assailed as a reactionary, if not a fascist.

Sad but true. Still, that Flash display should be better...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on December 5, 2002 10:31 AM

One of Harry Browne's favorite slogans in the 2000 presidential race was "government is good at breaking both of your legs, then handing you a pair of crutches and saying 'See? If it wasn't for me, you wouldn't be able to walk'".

This "New Urbanism" seems an awful lot like the "old urbanism". The town shown in the Flash presentation looks like something out of the late 19th century updated with modern styles.

Those kinds of towns were destroyed by the zoning and planning movement which insisted that land uses must be carefully segregated and regulated by law. The modern suburban sprawl is very much a product of planning.

Now they want to put everything back the way it was, as it had naturally developed, but using zoning and planning as the means to get there!

It makes me wonder if land-use laws were nothing more than a successful attempt to undermine property rights simply for the sake of strengthening the state.

Posted by: Anonymous on December 5, 2002 7:48 PM

Anonymous -- I think you've got it exactly. As I understand it, an argument the New Urbanists make is that zoning and other kinds of intrusion destroyed our old intuitive knowledge of how we like to live and how towns and neighborhoods might suit that. And that, given that such knowledge has been vaporized, the task has become to reassemble that knowledge -- which is something we're now forced to do consciously, ie., through study, and better (life-enhancing rather than life-sapping) use of zoning laws.

I think some of them would claim that what they're trying to put in place aren't in fact traditional zoning laws but something more like a genetic code for healthy growth. Something open-ended and not restrictive but instead oriented towards flourishing.

Not that I'm qualified to judge, but, for what it's worth, I find the argument (against traditional zoning) persuasive, the rhetoric attractive, and have found the couple of New Urbanist towns and neighborhoods I've visited pretty attractive and pleasant. A little Disney? A little make-believe? Sure. But a lot better than your average new suburb. A fair number of people seem to agree, and a fair number of the New Urbanist developments have been quite successful -- developers can charge a premium for 'em.

Posted by: MichaelBlowhard on December 6, 2002 10:16 PM

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