Published 10 January 2010
Andrés Duany and the co-founder of Miami architectural partnership Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, were instrumental in creating the new urbanist Florida village of Seaside in the 1980s, went on to found the Congress for the New Urbanism and, in 2001, wrote their defining argument, Suburban nation: The rise of sprawl and the decline of the American dream.
Metropolis magazine contributing editor Jeff Speck co-wrote the 2001 book and teamed again with Mr Duany to produce The smart growth manual, out last October.
Articles & interviews in December on the Planetizen website, Metropolis magazine & Builder magazine outline why they wrote their new book and, according to Mr Speck, why “planners aren’t going to like it.”
They say the new book is a go-to resource for people who have joined the fight against sprawl, laying out how people should plan, circulate, live & work for a healthier life & climate.
Mr Duany, in the Metropolis interview: “This is a response to the empowerment of citizens in planning. The public process has become very broadly based – it’s expected now [that citizens will participate in charettes] and often the outcome is questionable. That has to do with expertise. So this manual is for elected officials & for citizens who participate in the [planning] process.”
Mr Duany again, on cars: “Cars are wonderful things. What we’re against is what makes them a rudimentary prosthetic device in which every single thing, including getting a cup of coffee, requires a car trip.”
And Mr Speck on the challenge of transforming towns: “The incredible thing is to look at the number of new urban or smart-growth communities that have sprouted up in the past decade and – probably more significantly – the way that our cities are becoming more populous, more bikeable. A lot of cities are building new railway systems – and the cities that are winning are the ones that are doing this. So cities that want to be the next Portland will do what Portland did: build rail and concentrate on street life.”
And in Builder magazine, Mr Duany on decision-making: “There is a theory of subsidiarity that considers at what level a decision is properly made. Most of today’s planning decisions – large & small – are made at the wrong level. Take transit. You do not ask the neighbour next to a 16-mile bikeway whether they want a bikeway in their back yard because they will say no. That’s a decision that needs to be made at the regional level.
“Citizen participation in the planning process is probably the biggest roadblock. If you ask people what they want, they don’t want density. They don’t want mixed use. They don’t want transit. They don’t even want a bike path in their back yard. They don’t want a grid that connects, they want cul-de-sacs. They can’t see the long-term benefits of walkable neighbourhoods with a greater diversity of housing types. This book is a quick read and is dedicated explicitly to them. It’s for the people, not for planning professionals.”
And on spreading the message: “There’s no shortage of elected officials betting their legacies on smart growth. Cities are increasingly embracing it as a way to curb sprawl, reduce greenhouse emissions and build healthier communities. But the big question most have failed to address is how to turn the grand vision into a reality that has both momentum & traction.”
Jenny Sullivan, a senior editor at Builder, drew Mr Duany further forward in a discussion on over-building: “You have the real estate crash, and the economic crash of over-consumption, and then the environmental crash, which is psychic. Together, these crises will change the marketplace. Developers have to know that in 3-5 years, this is going to be the new reality of the buyer. It will be as uncool to have a McMansion or a Hummer as it is right now to smoke cigarettes, which are no longer glamorous.
Ms Sullivan: What will happen to all those uncool McMansions?
Mr Duany: Some can be retrofitted, depending on the design. We just did a study for AARP & the Atlanta Regional Council on how to retrofit the suburbs for an ageing population. McMansions were one of the building types we looked at. We identified, for example, one developer who had a 4-bedroom, 4½-bath plan that we could easily turn into an 11-bedroom, 11-bath boarding house for senior citizens, all in the same envelope. We are writing this up in a book called Suburban retrofits.”
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Attribution: Planetizen, Metropolis, Builder, story written by Bob Dey for the Bob Dey Property Report.