Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Urban Resources Vol. 3

I had planned on blogging some news yesterday, but unfortunately wasn't able to dig up anything relevant in the spirit of the blog. Reading on the bus on the way home today I decided that a literature post of the very book in my hands would be a good midweek topic.

Patterned after The American Vitruvius: Civic Art, Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Robert Alminana's The New Civic Art: Elements of Town Planning is this generation's exposition of excellent urban design. The work is more pictoral and diagramatic in nature as 1,200 illustrations would suggest. Over 1000 of those figures are explained or enriched with original text from the authors.

The scope of the diagrams changes over the course of six major chapters. These chapters are The Order of the Region, The Transformation of Urbanism, The Pattern of Urbanism, The Public Realm, The Private Realm, and Design At All Scales. A hidden gem for the emerging armchair urbanist is located early in the 3rd chapter. The "Neighborhood Unit" of 1929 by Clarence Perry (pictured) is noted as being the "best-known urban planning diagram of all time." It really explains itself and shows how the ideal neighborhood contains a balanced range of living, working, shopping, recreational, and education opportunities.

The work continues on in this fashion showing everything from successful large-scale factory conversions in Brazil, to the reconstruction of European cities after World War II, all the way to the condemnation tactics used to generate the land parcels to create our great American Capital. It is not always easy to follow the diagrams having not been trained as a planner, but the explanations make intuitive sense. The beginning of Chapter 3 is also notable for graphically laying out the fundamentals of Traditional Neighborhood Design (TND), Transit Oriented Designs (TODs), and the Australian Livable Neighborhood.

Andrés Duany is a founding principal of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, Town Planners and Architects (DPZ, who helped me with the idea of a Power Point presentation for the New Urbanist kickoff). Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, also a founding principal of DPZ, is dean of the University of Miami School of Architecture. She and Andrés Duany were co-founders of the Congress for the New Urbanism. Robert Alminana is an architect and consulting town planner based in Northern California.

I've added the tome to the Urban Resources sidebar and will apologize in advance for holding the only copy in the Monroe County Library system from the public. I will be returning it on May 8th.

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