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Andres Duany's Editorial Brawls and Agricultural New Urbanism


New Urbanism’s Andrés Duany is no stranger to editorial brawling, back in December I followed a progression of stories sparked by a his unveiling of a 64-point litany of mistakes that have been made by British architects and planners over the last 50 years. He charged architects with being infantile and too focused on ego and prestige, that they were “heedless of technical and social dysfunction and widespread lack of popularity” of their modernist designs. Well architects are a pretty sensitive bunch, and the flood gates opened; modernists struck back with an equally harsh criticism of Duany’s new urbanism. In the opening line of an article titled Thou shalt not follow Duany’s architectural gospel he is called the ‘Billy Graham of American architecture.”  The modernists claim that Duany with his strict guidelines for design and faux traditional styling lead to settlements more tailored to ‘wannabe Stepford Wives’ then real people. Next came an article by Stephen Bayle, and the gloves really came off when Bayle wrote  a scathing review of Poundbury, Duany’s British version of Seaside.

“To visit Poundbury is to be delivered to the furniture floor of a provincial department store in 1954, translated into architecture. It is fake, heartless, authoritarian and grimly cute.”  Then there were some salvo’s back by David Brussat who stated that “Prince Charles and Andrés Duany are making it harder for the modernists to whistle past the graveyard.”

Then today I came across another article in ARCADE where the magazine was good enough to reprint an exchange between Trevor Boddy and Andrés Duany from the editorial section of the Globe and Mail.  Duany has been selected to lead a design team that is heading up a plan by the Century Group for the Southlands project in the Vancouver suburb  of South Delta. Mr Boddy is most definitely not impressed with Duany’s plan and starts off an exchange between the two of them.


The 56th Street Interface A lake fronting on 56th Street will form the foreground of a pleasing vista over the open farmland. The lake will function as a reservoir for natural drainage and irrigation water. image courtesy of the southlands project — www.southlandsintransition.ca

I have to admit that while I generally agree with the principles of New Urbanism in terms of compact walkable communities after reading this exchange I don’t really understand how Duany’s position and plan for this town is in fact urban.

“Southlands, which is designed specifically to embody food self-sufficiency, devotes 42% of the land to agriculture and keeps 26% open for other purposes. That kind of diversity — and not a crude single standard — is what authentic urbanism calls for.”

42% of the land for agriculture? This sounds more like a farming town then an urban environment. He then goes on to specify that residences will have a significant amount of this space FOR agriculture. Of course specifying that the open space in your back yard is for urban agriculture does not by any way shape or means guarantee that it will actually be USED for agriculture. Sure food self sufficiency is an important direction for cities in the future but to assume that everyone is actually going to plant and tend a full garden in these yards is just a little naive. As a general rule people are just way too lazy for that, what happens when homeowners don’t decide to make use of these agricultural spaces? My guess is that it looks a lot like a lawn. Furthermore what is stopping existing suburban municipalities from claiming that they meet these qualifications for new urbanism, just convert those vanity lawns into gardens and you’ll be well on your way to new urbanism.

I know  I am over simplifying things  but I don’t think I’m too far off the mark . Take a look at the linked articles, decide for yourself, and please comment  if you have a different opinion. I would love to hear other perspectives on how you think we should build our cities. I think I should mention , I don’t think that the Southlands project is bad, it looks like a pretty nice place to live, I just dispute the statement that it is urban. It looks a lot like my grandmother’s town.

Not everyone agrees with me though; to read the perspective of people who love Southlands new  urbanist project go here: http://www.southlandsintransition.ca/

Neighbourhood News: Monday March 2nd

The New Yorker

Toddlin’ Town: Daniel Burnham’s great Chicago Plan turns one hundred.


Rendering of Burnham's vision for Chicago

Burnham was famous for the dictum “Make no little plans,” and Jules Guerin’s alluring watercolor renderings in the published “Plan of Chicago” gave this vision an ethereal cast.
In the mid-eighteen-nineties, Daniel Burnham, then the most prominent architect in Chicago, met with a young architect named Frank Lloyd Wright. Burnham had been impressed by Wright’s talent but felt that he could use some seasoning. He offered to pay Wright’s tuition at the École des Beaux-Arts, in Paris, to support his family, and to give him a job when he returned. Wright turned him down. It was one of the few times that Burnham, who was probably the most successful power broker the American architectural profession has ever produced, didn’t get his way, and he told Wright that he was making a mistake: the Beaux-Arts style, of which Burnham was a leading exponent, was taking over the country, and Wright was deluded if he thought that his modern approach, with its open spaces and horizontal lines, would ever amount to much.

Burnham and Wright went their separate ways, but their paths kept crossing, because if you had anything to do with American architecture around the turn of the century you inevitably ran into Burnham. He designed the Flatiron Building, in New York; Union Station in Washington, D.C.; Orchestra Hall in Chicago; Selfridges department store, in London; and more banks and office buildings than you could count. He got the train tracks that had despoiled the Mall in Washington for much of the nineteenth century removed and headed a Washington planning commission that, among other achievements, set the location for the Lincoln Memorial. Most important of all, a hundred years ago, in 1909, Burnham completed work on a document with the unassuming title “Plan of Chicago” that remains the most effective example of large-scale urban planning America has ever seen. Assisted by the young city planner Edward H. Bennett, he laid out the shorefront of Lake Michigan, quadrupling the amount of parkland and thus insuring that the lakefront would forever be public open space. He created the Magnificent Mile, the double-decker roadway of Wacker Drive, and the recreational Navy Pier, which extends into Lake Michigan. Envisioning Chicago as the anchor of an enormous region, he drafted a rough outline of highways to connect the city to the places around it. Quite simply, Burnham determined the shape of modern Chicago. Continue Reading

From sub-urban to urban, Tysons Corner's 30 year plan

The problem of what to do with suburban edge cities with their mega malls, inhospitable pedestrian environments, and thousands of parking spaces will be one of the biggest challenges facing urban environments in the coming decades. Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia has been used as the perfect example of an edge city, springing from its status as a census designated place, with no discernible center other then its collection of malls and office parks. What makes it different though, is that it is an edge city with a plan, when the Washington, DC metro rail system arrives in the next couple of years the city has laid out a vision for the future that is very different from its present.


“This is your classic drivable suburban place that is anchored by a regional mall, just like Perimeter Center in Atlanta; King of Prussia, outside Philadelphia; Schaumberg, west of Chicago; Newport Beach; and Costa Mesa south of Los Angeles,” says Chris Leinberger, a developer turned academic and urbanist who is now at the Brookings Institution. “This is, however, one of the biggest, if not the biggest concentration of retail, office and hotels in the suburbs, in the country.”
“This is something that we the people wanted very badly,” he says. “What we didn’t know is as you build more of it, you decrease the quality of life.”

The city has woken up to the fact that in today’s world, and more importantly marketplace, people want walkable, livable, urban environments. The city plans to capitalize on its connection to the Washington metro by turning itself into one of these environments, a city in its own right. Building off the success of previous developments like the Bethesda metro center, the city is planning a drastic a redesign of the urban environment.


Bill Lecos, who runs the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, admits that Tysons was designed for cars, not people.  “About 17,000 live here and about 117,000 — give or take — come to work here every day,” Lecos says. “So that incredible imbalance is why you have the absolute commuter nightmare of trying to get 117,000 people in, in one period of time in the morning, and out again at 5 o’clock.” S

Tysons Corner Today


In order to fix this imbalance the major goal of the plan is to increase residential housing stock in a big way. Plans call for the construction of enough housing units for 100,000 people, but in order to create the livable environment the city will need more than just new housing stock it means a complete redesign of the city with no love for pedestrians. Things like pedestrian lights that are too short, sidewalks to nowhere, and acres and acres of parking will need to be changed.

Tysons Corner's Potential Future

Tysons Corner's Potential Future

The plan calls for a grid of streets, shorter blocks, and better public transportation linkages. What’s different about this urban plan is that there are no plans to restore the former vibrancy, because in this case it didn’t exist. By the looks of things that entire area will be rebuilt, it doesn’t appear that many structures have made it from the before to the after pictures. However, the city hopes to be a model for how to transform these former edges cities into livable urban environments. Time will tell, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

Open Source Sketch Books

As the end of this year rolls around and I realise that I have only about one more semester to choose a direction for my thesis proposal I have been keeping an eye on some other projects. The first one to make mention on here was the Miniature Activism post and today brings another. While still in an embryonic state, A Stage For The City is an interesting concept for collaboration and public consultation while exploring ideas in public space.


A stage for the city
The use of urban space fused together with the access of technology. This blog is an Architectural Design Thesis for Adam Lee, Leeds Metropolitan University. The idea is that I will post my design research and development allowing Internet collaboration, acting as an “open sketch book”. This will be submitted as part of my overall research.

'Flip A Strip' at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

The strip mall is an architectural from that is pretty much universally disliked, mention one and the mental image is usually of a set of second rate shops. Architects and planners pretty much universally dislike them. The problem however, is that they are a fully established part of our cities, and as such we need to find a way to deal with them, so the question becomes how? Enter the ‘Flip a Strip’ competition at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

“The very mention of Strip Malls tends to incite disregard, if not outright disdain—particularly among people accustomed to the main streets of mid-western towns or the urban cores of east-coast cities. Yet in the west, and in post-war suburbs across the country, Strip Malls are a fact of life. They are ubiquitous and familiar to the point of invisibility; they are the wallflowers of thousands of streetscapes that millions of people travel daily. I cannot grab a cup of coffee, buy a loaf of decent bread or have a good ethnic meal without going to a Strip Mall. When I first moved to Phoenix, the Valley’s sea of Strip Malls seemed to me a strange and slightly melancholic artifact, lovingly eccentric yet annoyingly ugly. After a while, I just became numb.

This competition, Flip a Strip, asks how we can reject numbness. How might we re-think and newly envision the potential of the Strip Mall (a building stock of which we have a cross-continental abundance)? With collective energy and creative design expertise, we know there are many ways to transcend the non-descript status quo of the Strip Mall—ways that are aesthetically compelling, economically feasible and communally smart. What models, complementary mixed-usages and social experiences might result? This project hopes to inspire city planners, developers and entrepreneurs here and elsewhere. It is a call to action.”

The Genetically Modified Strip

The Genetically Modified Strip

Merit Award Winner

The Genetically Modified Strip, 2008
Avery Architecture & Design

Site: Phoenix: 17236 N. 28th Street (faces Bell Road)
Design team: Richard Avery, Wendy Avery in partnership with the design firm giffin’termeer [Jess Giffin, Jim TerMeer] (www.averyarch.com and www.giffintermeer.com)
Estimated construction cost: $2.65 million
Features: co-op ownership, locally owned small businesses, expansion and live/work potential

The Genetically Modified Strip harnesses the strip mall’s much-valued flexibility in a new way: it primarily serves the needs of the tenants, rather than the developer. The design team restructures the strip mall with the small-business owner in mind, architecturally and economically, to shape a new model for sustainable growth. The proposal also nurtures the energy, ambitions and the palpable neighborhood spirit that already exist around Bell Road Center. The designers opted to harness the special character it found in place: “The guys on Sunday afternoon in the back with the garage doors open, hanging out working or just cleaning the truck.” They asked: “What if the center had the additional ability to grow and evolve?”

This project structurally reinforces the buildings and creates a modular infrastructure so that individual units can expand or contract as needed with shifting occupants or phases of a business. The size and configuration of the square footage can fluctuate with a business over time. Second stories could be built onto the units, to provide possibilities for live/work space, showrooms, production facilities or even rental income. Read More



Award of Excellence Winner (2nd)

Un-strip, 2008
AEDS Ammar Eloueini

New Orleans, Louisiana
Site: Scottsdale: 2200 N. Scottsdale Road (near Oak Street)
Design team: Ammar Eloueini, Megan Cook, Gregoire Diehl, Melissa Urcan, Félix Wetzstein, Marcel Wisznia (www.digit-all.net)
Estimated construction cost: retail spaces and lofts: $3.5 million; parking tower: $3 million
Features: robotic parking, artists’ lofts, public art, green roof, improved access

Un-strip admits that it is most unlikely we will abandon the convenience of our cars anytime soon to fully embrace the optimistic “new urban” smart-growth solutions of bike paths and walkways. Instead, the project addresses the problem of parking boldly and directly, as a central feature. It reorganizes the strip mall in four phases, with major landscaping revisions incorporated in each: revising current parking, enhancing present retail, adding a second story of artists’ loft housing andÑin a grand finaleÑadding a robotic, vertical parking structure. In all, the project increases the footprint of retail and “green” on the site, reduces the footprint of parking and introduces many energy-saving features. Read More



Penumbra: Lite-Mall/Light-Market 2008
Studio Luz Architects

Site: Tempe: 524 W. Broadway Road (near Roosevelt Street)
Design team: Hansy Better Barraza, Anthony Piermarini, James Henry www.studioluz.net, with consulting engineer Christopher Bull, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island
Estimated construction cost: $3.75 million
Features: fabric roof structure with photovoltaic panels and “roof pond” convection-cooling system, interior passageways, sidewalk activity, 24/7 usage

The work of Studio Luz [light] aptly reflects the firm’s name: its proposal for Flip a Strip tames and dapples the harsh desert light by capping the strip mall with an innovative eco-friendly roof-and-shade system. (A penumbra is “almost shade”Ñand the term used by Isaac Newton [1643 Ð 1727] for the shadow given by a partial eclipse.) Penumbra: Lite-Mall/Light-Market captures usable sidewalk spaces for each tenant and establishes a vibrant, peopled zone between parking and shopping.

The architects created interior passageways in the buildings to increase retail access and frontage. They suggest a mix of occupants to ensure synergy and 24/7 usage (for example, a ballroom dance studio, an exercise or yoga facility, a juice bar, restaurants, small retail and professional services). Studio Luz imagines a range of communal events under the luminous, cooling roof canopy: craft sales, farmer’s markets, music and art fairs. Read More

Photos on flickr

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