Wednesday, May 24, 2006

New Urbanism in Chicago: Glen View

"New Urbanism" is a lot of things, but at its heart is the idea that towns and cities should be built around human needs, at human scales, and to human tastes. Human tastes are often quite plebian and include white picket fences, a WalMart, and golf courses, so when "new urban" towns appear true architects, who think Architecture is Art, criticise them for being comfortable and pleasant to humans.

Many new urbanist developments seem pleasant but odd, often feeling like a cross between an appartment complex and a mall, and while it feels a little fake and cheesy but there is no denying that it's fun and convenient at the same time. Let a decade or two knock some of the freshness off and it will feel like any old neighbourhood that has a lot of chain stores.

Some friends of mine moved from downtown Chicago to Glen View, and new urban development up close to O'Hare a couple of years ago, and they like their new location. They realized that they didn't want to live somewhere that had 100 restaurants, they wanted to live somewhere that was walking distance to 10 restaurants, and Glen View was it.

I thought of this as I read this very condescending piece on the project.

UPDATE: By buddy and boss Mark Hurst points to this NYTimes Magazine article on Biloxi, MI, and it's post-Katrina, New Urbanist recovery effort there.


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