Thursday, January 26, 2006

The New Urbanists Are Coming, The New Urbanists Are Coming!

This Sun Herald article makes it sound like New Urbanists are decending upon the Mississippi Gulf Coast like a hoard of developers and Reed Kroloff is in full Paul Revere mode.

It's also stirred up a simmering backlash among other architects, who say New Urbanists, while correct in building denser cities where people can walk, produce a "one-size-fits-all" model that confines its solutions to the past and isn't open to new ideas.

"This is a very conservative, very waspy ideology," said Reed Kroloff, dean of the Tulane University School of Architecture and head of a New Orleans rebuilding committee. "There's no doubt that a fair amount of New Urbanist principles have found their way into the embrace of the American right... . They call themselves neo-traditionalists. Neo-traditionalists and neo-conservatives make a very happy marriage."

Now I don't know how Republicans enter the mix, and speaking as one, I have some reservations about imposing New Urbanis ideology into every community but some of their ideas could be usefull in rebuilding New Orleans. The trick is deciding which ideas work where.

While I do think that urban planners and architects should play a vital role in the rebuilding of the region, we should keep in mind that the people should be allowed to rebuild their own communities. Our role should be one of advising and suggesting possible solutions and let the citizens decide what they like. That doesn't mean we can't sell our ideas, but if people get the impression that we are imposing on them what we think their ideal community should be like, we will get the same reaction in New Orleans with the BNOB proposal.

But based on the article, some of the ideas sound pretty good such as changing HWY 90 to some kind of boulevard. I've been to the MGC (Mississippi Gulf Coast) many times but what really turns me off is the fact that if you stay in one of the beach side hotels, you have to play a real-life game of Frogger to get to the beach.

In New Orleans, architects and planners are talking about New Urbanism like it is the second coming. Again, some of their ideas in one manestifasion or another might improve neighborhoods but we need to sit down and figure out what people like about their neighborhoods and what they don't and try to keep the good and change the bad for the better.

New Orleans is not a small town, it is a city of neighborhoods and any successful urban plan will be one which maintains that neighborhood atmosphere, not create a mosaic of villages in the image of Seaside. Like when contractors try to change our design on the pretext that they did that design elswhere and it worked just fine, therefore it should work here. I don't need to tell you what my reply was.

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