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New Urbanism: Principles and Examples in Planning and Architecture

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Humans love to live in communities because we require a sense of community, and that sense of community binds us to the numerous relationships we form. We are surrounded by neighbors who have similar ideals. This factor may have contributed to the development of new urbanism during the Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa civilizations, which are said to have been the most precisely planned ancient communities.

“The city is not a tree; it is a connected network of streets.”

Christopher Alexander

The idea is at the heart of New Urbanism.

Public space in Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C. Source:© Chris Whitis
Public space in Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C. Source:© Chris Whitis

Due to the rapid population expansion occurring through the ages across the world, New Urbanism seems to have lost part of its original meaning, and many are starting to favor staggered development. 

As cities have grown safer and more luxurious, people are attracted to the busiest parts of dense urban centers.
As cities have grown safer and more luxurious, people are attracted to the busiest parts of dense urban centers.

It is therefore critically important to bring back neighborhood planning, transit-oriented development, and traditional and cultural aspects of human existence that have been drastically curtailed or abolished as a result of the unequal expansion.

The objective of New Urbanism is to create communities that are as liveable as possible while also providing comfort and solutions for a good quality of life. Some tenets have proven to be true, such as the fact that people prefer and appreciate cities with walkable neighborhoods, many public parks and open spaces, and a more human scale. 

New Urbanism is a reaction to the spreading out of cities.

The Transect is a unifying theory, which serves as a framework for the various disparate fields affecting urban design
The Transect is a unifying theory, which serves as a framework for the various disparate fields affecting urban design

The principles that have driven the development of cities and towns since antiquity—walkable blocks and streets, close proximity of homes and businesses, and open public spaces—form the basis of the development and planning approach known as "New Urbanism."

Principles of New Urbanism:

  1. Walkability
  2. Connectivity
  3. Mixed Use and Diversity
  4. Mixed Housing
  5. Quality Architecture and Urban Design
  6. Traditional Neighborhood Structure
  7. Increased Density
  8. Smart Transportation
  9. Sustainability
  10. Quality of Life

1. Walkability 

Most demands may be satisfied by walking 10 minutes to work from home. Due to the proximity of the buildings to the street and the use of porches, windows, and doors, the street design is pedestrian-friendly. 

2. Connectivity

It has a vital role as the basic concept of New Urbanism is walkability. A network of interconnecting streets spreads out traffic and promotes walking.

3. Mixed use and Diversity 

A variety of residences, apartments, workplaces, and retail establishments should be present throughout neighborhoods, buildings, and blocks. Every ethnicity, culture, socioeconomic class, and age should be allowed to live in the area.

4. Mixed Housing 

A variety of dwelling kinds, including a wide range of costs, sizes, and varieties, must be permitted to be built near one another under zoning regulations.

5. Quality Architecture and Urban Design

The buildings have a strong focus on convenience, attractiveness, aesthetics, and a sense of community. Steel construction, public art, and well-designed, eye-catching public places are all part of the purpose of public spaces.

6. Traditional Neighbourhood Structure 

Public areas are located close to the heart of neighborhoods, which have distinct cores and boundaries. Within a 10-minute walk, each neighborhood offers a variety of uses and densities.

7. Increased Density

To make walking convenient, all of the businesses, apartments, amenities, and services need to be nearby. Residents can appreciate their local life more when resources are used more effectively.

8. Smart Transportation 

For the purpose of connecting neighborhoods, towns, and cities, the public transportation system must be of the highest caliber. To encourage inhabitants to commute more frequently on scooters, rollerblades, foot, and bicycles, the design should be pedestrian-friendly.  

9. Sustainability

The community for environmentally friendly technologies and natural systems should be respected, including limiting environmental effects via energy efficiency.

10. Quality of life: 

By incorporating areas that inspire, uplift, and strengthen the human spirit, the design aims to guarantee that people have a pleasant existence.

New Urbanism Examples

New urbanism is attainable. Several case studies of cities serve as proof of concept. Cities like:

1. Harbour Town, Tennessee, USA

Location and availability of land play a major role in the realization of these neighborhoods. Harbor Town, Tennessee, United States
Location and availability of land play a major role in the realization of these neighborhoods. Harbor Town, Tennessee, United States

• Previously unutilized land was transformed into a residential project. 

• Envisioned a densely populated, human-scaled, and officially designed residential area that aided in the growth of the local community and promoted quiet village life.

• This development pattern increases walkability, and accessibility, and creates opportunities for organic community engagement. 

• Within walking distance are small-scale retail businesses, a school, grocery, amenities, sports facilities, eateries, etc.

2. Cornell, Markham, Canada

Due to the development occurring at the urban fringe, it cannot take advantage of pre-existing developments, commercial centers, or transit networks and must navigate these in isolation. Cornell, Markham, Canada
Due to the development occurring at the urban fringe, it cannot take advantage of pre-existing developments, commercial centers, or transit networks and must navigate these in isolation. Cornell, Markham, Canada

• Designed to be a dense, highly pedestrianized, and well-connected residential village. 

• This includes the organizing of streets along a grid, in contrast to the curvilinear, cul-de-sac patterns found in suburban towns.

• Townhouses and detached houses are lined up in rows situated within small lots with front porches and balconies. 

• These provide a variety of housing types buffered by wide sidewalks and porous block structures that increase the accessibility and walkability of the neighborhood.

3. Navi Mumbai, India

 Cities such as Mumbai have found alternatives in the development of new towns and suburbs in expanding sprawls and can rescind the principles in full capacity in such spaces.
 Cities such as Mumbai have found alternatives in the development of new towns and suburbs in expanding sprawls and can rescind the principles in full capacity in such spaces.

• Throughout Mumbai's history, city planning has been detrimentally organic, with clustering zones having a large influence on land usage and unused spaces.

• Due to Mumbai's current jammed fabrics, the adoption of new urbanism concepts is extensive and cannot completely work there. 

• However, in order to embrace this feature in some areas of Mumbai, the planning authorities considered a few concepts, including walkability and transportation options, diversity, and placemaking.

• Diversity is an essential feature in the new development because it generates opportunities for engagement and community-driven spatial zones.

An ideal neighboring unit should include:

A. A center and an edge to connect and isolate.

B. Reducing the sizes to a quarter-mile radius from the center

C. A balanced combination of life, activities, work, shopping, education, recreation, and worship.

D. An integrated network that connects the streets and organizes the placement of buildings and traffic.

E. Priorities are given to the design of public spaces and appropriate positioning of urban buildings

Perry's Neighborhood Unit (left), the new urbanist idea of traditional neighborhood compared to sprawl (center), and Doug Farr's updated Sustainable Neighborhood Unit.
Perry's Neighborhood Unit (left), the new urbanist idea of traditional neighborhood compared to sprawl (center), and Doug Farr's updated Sustainable Neighborhood Unit.

There are other ideas that influence how cities evolve in addition to new urbanism. A related idea is the Guggenheim Effect, according to which a city or neighborhood begins to grow when a focal point for a site of interest is established. Although new urbanism offers a lot of potentials, there have lately been some problems with the way these communities are built in terms of density. 

Given their density, how will residents be able to preserve some degree of privacy? Even though they are crucial elements of city planning, human-centered design, walkability, community, and sustainability principles require further testing and development if New Urbanism is to truly promote resilience in our communities, even if it is on a smaller scale. It will not be long until additional localities implement policies that support dense, walkable development.

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