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Urban Design

Plan for Spontaneity

Plan for Spontaneity

It’s a paradox, but cities can set the stage for the unscripted. These playful surprises cater both to young and the young-at-heart, and they endear the community to visitors and residents alike.

The Streets of Paris

The Streets of Paris

The United States isn’t France, but there are still plenty of lessons to be learned—and myths to be busted—by looking at the way their streets are designed to build wealth.

How Better Design Can Help Solve Parking Problems

How Better Design Can Help Solve Parking Problems

Giving valuable space in cities over to cars isn’t great for building walkable or productive places. But for now at least, our urban neighborhoods need some parking. This an area where thoughtful design can help us solve multiple problems at once.

Why We Should Build Cities for Our Unconscious Brains

Why We Should Build Cities for Our Unconscious Brains

Traditional architecture has evolved through millennia of trial and error to harmonize with our unconscious impulses, make us feel comfortable and encourage positive social behavior. Modernism too often throws those lessons out the window—and one architect thinks the trauma of World War I had something to do with why.

De-Suburbanizing Suburbia: Is It Possible?

De-Suburbanizing Suburbia: Is It Possible?

What’s the most suburban kind of place you can think of? If you said an outlet mall, you’re probably not alone. Is there a path to incrementally retrofit these malls to a more human-scaled environment… and even if there is, is it worth the trouble?

The Tax Burden Footprint of Tax-Exempt Properties

The Tax Burden Footprint of Tax-Exempt Properties

Tax-exempt properties have a significant fiscal footprint. Do we understand the impacts we create through the too-often wasteful way we design and build public facilities such as city halls, schools, libraries, and parks?

What is Traditional Development?

What is Traditional Development?

We use the phrase “traditional development pattern” in dozens of Strong Towns essays. Here’s your one-stop-shop explainer article as to what that means.

A City Shaped by Many Hands

A City Shaped by Many Hands

Incrementalism is not an end in itself. It’s not about stubborn insistence on some sort of small-is-beautiful aesthetic for its own sake. Incremental development is a practical means to the end of resilient, financially sound places.

We Used to Do This Everywhere

We Used to Do This Everywhere

We’ve destroyed so many traditional, human-scale neighborhoods in America that we tend to think of the ones that remain—like New Orleans’ famous French Quarter—as inherently exotic, the kind of place you love to visit but certainly wouldn’t live. Let’s stop treating timeless, great urban design like it’s only for tourists.

How Did We Get Used to Out-of-Scale Cities?

How Did We Get Used to Out-of-Scale Cities?

What exactly is the “human scale”? And have you ever thought about just how little of the public space in your city is designed at that scale—even in places you think of as walkable?

Can We Afford a Better Alternative to Suburbia?

Can We Afford a Better Alternative to Suburbia?

Forward-thinking developers are building communities that take into account the hidden long-term costs of suburban development, and offer a more resilient alternative. But what if that alternative results in homes that are too expensive to be within reach of most Americans? And does it have to?

Savor Your Small Parcels, and Create More of Them

Savor Your Small Parcels, and Create More of Them

It matters what size chunks we build our cities in. Making room for many small-scale development projects on small lots is the universal historical model for a reason, and modern cities could stand to get back to it.

The Problem with Helicopter Urbanism

The Problem with Helicopter Urbanism

It is important when we design a building or a neighborhood to look at how it feels and interacts with the street. Too often, new development feels designed from a helicopter’s-eye-view.

How Suburban Infrastructure Got More Expensive Over Time

How Suburban Infrastructure Got More Expensive Over Time

The suburban development pattern is not inherently too costly to maintain: early suburbs sat much lighter on the land, with narrower streets and less public maintenance obligation. Let’s take a look at how the American suburb has evolved over time.

Why Urban Design Should Come From the Bottom Up (Part 1)

Why Urban Design Should Come From the Bottom Up (Part 1)

Professional planners are trained to yearn for tighter urban design controls, as if cities without comprehensive, top-down planning would devolve into chaos and disorder. In reality, cities evolve according to mechanisms that allow us to gradually discover optimal urban design across time.