Monday, December 12, 2005

The Difference Between New Urbanism and Suburbanism

Another review of Bruegmann's book, Sprawl: A Compact History, this one by Scott Timberg in the LA Times.

Timberg notes some of the more interesting stuff, "Like London, whose unchecked growth was denounced by the intellectuals of its day, Los Angeles was deemed a sprawling, tacky, man-made disaster. ... But LA was on its way to becoming highly dense, and greater LA is now, at more than 7,000 people per square mile, the densest urban area in the United States. (Unlike most East Coast cities, even LA's outlying areas are very tightly packed.)"

"By contrast,(Bruegmann) argues, the 'smart growth' policies of Portland have been ambiguous. Portland is eminently livable, but has not reduced sprawl and remains a low-density city."

Much of this leads me to conclude that suburban growth is inevitable, and thus much work should be done to make the suburbs better -- New Suburbanism, as Kotkin calls it.

But what is the difference between New Suburbanism and New Urbanism? After all, both call for mixed use, walkable developments, etc.

My examination leads me to conclude that New Urbanism focuses on the design of particular developments or even areas of communities. It does not really address such issues as infill or primacy of the urban core. New Suburbanism encompasses much of what is included in New Urbansim, and instead of advocating the traditional urban core and minimization of fringe development, its emphasis is on creating new "urban" centers in the outlying areas, with walkable commercial centers, community centers, arts venues, etc.

That is what the new Kennecott Land master plan is to me.

Update: The Urban Land Institute has put together an excellent document on this topic, called "Ten Principles for Smart Growth on the Suburban Fringe." Before you click on, be forewarned it is a large PDF file and may take a while to download. Good stuff, though. I'll quote some sections in upcoming blogs.


At 8:02 AM, Blogger floodplain said...

"It does not really address such issues as infill or primacy of the urban core."

To the contrary, more than 50 percent of new urbanist developments are infill. For a links list of developments, see

As for urban cores, the CNU Charter says:

"We stand for the restoration of existing urban centers and towns within coherent metropolitan regions, the reconfiguration of sprawling suburbs into communities of real neighborhoods and diverse districts, the conservation of natural environments, and the preservation of our built legacy."


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