Neighborhoods are a common element in our day-to-day lives. Citizens are free to choose which neighborhoods they want to live in. When it comes to neighborhoods, there is a wide range of choices. People are free to live in suburbs, high-rise buildings, condominium complexes, gated communities, and ranches. I have always assumed that neighborhoods are supposed to ‘happen’ spontaneously in accordance with human needs. However, I recently came across an article that was touting the concept of neo-urbanism or new urbanism. According to the article, the concept of new urbanism defines a method of developing neighborhoods that does not rely on spontaneity.
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Therefore, every aspect of a new urban neighborhood is preplanned including the number of its residents, the location of amenities, the traffic flow, and the occupations of its residents. Moreover, the planner of a new urban neighborhood outlines all the improvements and additions that can be made on a neighborhood. I found the new urbanism concept quite interesting and I took some time to do more research on it. I have gained considerable insight into the new urbanism concept but I still plan to explore it further.
New urbanism is not only a concept but it is also a movement. New urbanism promotes the development of simplified neighborhoods that encompass walk-friendly neighborhoods. In addition, new urbanism promotes neighborhoods that contain specific housing concepts. In some instances, new urban neighborhoods are tailored to meet the needs of a specific job group.
New urbanism dates back to the 1980s and it has since become a wide spread concept among urban planners, real estate developers, and administrators. Most aspects of new urbanism are influenced by the problems that were being faced by urban dwellers between the 1950s and 1970s. Therefore, new urbanism solves problems such as sprawling in neighborhoods, traffic jams, unplanned infrastructure, and environmental pollution. New urbanism is closely connected to other modern concepts such as environmentalism, regionalism, and smart growth. All these concepts and movements attempt to solve human problems through controlled activities.
The organization that is behind new urbanism helps to unravel this concept by offering several explanations about the concept. According to the new urbanism charter, the aim of this concept is to develop neighborhoods that can accommodate big and diverse populations. In addition, this concept aims to accommodate pedestrian, transit, and commuter activities. Another aim of new urbanism is to make use of the available public spaces efficiently. When urban growth is uncontrolled, it is likely to under-utilize the available spaces. For example, some areas can accommodate tall buildings but when development is uncontrolled, residents can end up building short buildings. The new urbanism movement insists on thorough use of architectural and landscape designing skills. Interestingly, the new urban concept recognizes the need to celebrate the history of neighborhoods through architecture and development.
There are several elements that outline the basis of new urbanism neighborhoods. First, new urbanism neighborhoods have to have a central point. According to new urbanism, the position of a central point in a neighborhood is defined by the inclusion of a transit centre. Therefore, all the residents of a certain neighborhood have to be aware of the location of this central point. Some new urbanism neighborhoods patent their central points by giving them a memorable name, associating them with a significant historical event, or by planting a distinct green landscape on them. Another element of new urbanism neighborhoods is their ability to have a wide range of houses.
Consequently, new urban neighborhoods can accommodate different sections of the population. For instance, in new urbanism neighborhoods the elderly, the young, married couples, single individuals, the rich, the poor, and the religious people would easily find residential sections that suit them. In other types of neighborhoods, the residents have to conform to their areas of residence but not the vice versa. Before I became familiar with new urbanism, I had always assumed that people found neighborhoods to live in and a single locality cannot attract all types of people. Modern residents are very specific about their neighborhood-needs.
For example, parents who are raising children look for neighborhoods that are family-friendly. On the other hand, some single people often look for neighborhoods that have few children. The new urbanism concept takes note of specific residential considerations and incorporates them in its neighborhood design. The designs in new urbanism neighborhoods are also meant to accommodate the various residential-design tastes. Consequently, new urbanism neighborhoods will often have row houses, apartments, and other types of house designs.
Another element that is common in new urbanism neighborhoods is their proximity to the central point. Most urban designers ensure that all the residents who live in a certain neighborhood are not more than a quarter-mile away from the central point. The accessibility of a central point is helpful to both planners and residents. For example, residents can be able to access means of transportation easily. In addition, new urbanism neighborhoods usually have supply stores in this central point. Therefore, residents can be able to access the stores without requiring an additional means of transportation. Neighborhoods can have offices, eateries, shops, and other basic businesses.
New urbanism neighborhoods do not permit remodels, additional developments, and bold exterior redecorations. However, in some instances residents are allowed to have garage apartments in their backyards. Development of other small and conspicuous establishments such as hobby shops can also be allowed. This controlled development is the hallmark of new urbanism. In other types of neighborhoods, residents are at liberty to develop additional structures within their houses when they acquire the necessary permissions. On the other hand, new urbanism strictly forbids additional establishments and not even the right authorities would allow residents to develop additional structures.
The needs of an individual resident are applied to all residents in new urbanism. For example, elementary schools within a neighborhood are established within a walking distance. Consequently, there are no vehicles for picking up schoolchildren and they can all walk home. New urbanism neighborhoods are also meant to be aesthetically pleasing. Therefore, the designs in the front lawns of houses have to be regulated and adjudicated. Moreover, structures such as car garages are usually situated at the back of the houses. Previously, I was not aware that neighborhood administrations/committees are a product of new urbanism. Under new urbanism, neighborhoods are self-governed through formal associations that include all residents. Currently, this concept is widespread across the United States.
New urbanism is a concept that unearths some of the practices that are common in most modern neighborhoods. Previously, I had assumed that these concepts came about naturally. However, it is now clear that most of the practices that are common in modern neighborhoods were strategically developed. I intend to do more research on new urbanism and its associated theories.