Public Space – New Urbanism

A project on the use of public space in New Urbanism communities (Kentlands, Gaithersburg, MD, USA).

Conceived to be an urban-design counterpart to Urban Sprawl, the extensive spreading of mono-functional areas such as single family houses and business parks, New Urbanism has become one of the most popular design concepts in the United States of America in the last few decades. Developed in the 1980s, this integrative design concept favors clearly marked areas, e.g. centers, as well as hierarchal structured street networks combined with dense, and multi-functional land use.  Special attention is paid to the design of public realm, its common use, and symbolic meaning.

Contrary to an often criticized “sense of nowhere” of urban sprawl, which can be understood as (sub)urban fabric without character, without recognition value, but as a place of living in anonymity, New Urbanists try to create a “sense of community” through designing public spaces according to traditional urban design concepts of European cities.

Public realm, in most American cities predominantly designed for the automobile, shall now be given back for pedestrian use. Sidewalks, pedestrian friendly shopping areas, central squares and recreation facilities such as parks within walking distance shall get people out of the car, and back “into community”. The New Urbanism claims to foster interaction and communication among people through its specific urban design, and by that creating the prior missed “sense of community”.

New Urbanists’ critique of Urban Sprawl has therefore a strong social approach, since the “Cookie Cutter” house design promotes the degeneration of society through pro-automobile design, and mono-functional urban areas.

(Project Contact: Claudia Christen)

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