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Urban Design

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.

Aiming for Imperfection

Aiming for Imperfection

When we aim for perfection, imperfections will disturb us. But, when we aim for imperfection, other imperfections build character.

We Regulate the Wrong Things

We Regulate the Wrong Things

Most cities’ zoning and development regulations obsess over things that are easy to measure, like building height and density, at the expense of the things that actually determine whether we’re building quality places.

Novelty Colonies: Demerits and Distinctions

Novelty Colonies: Demerits and Distinctions

Novelty Colonies are unusual, themed settlements that promise the resident an alternative to the vinyl-sided raised ranch houses of suburbia. However, the charm of these settlements is superficial, and the good ideas they do offer would be better incorporated into our existing towns.

Wide Streets as a Tool of Oppression

Wide Streets as a Tool of Oppression

Wide, straight, monumental streets have always served the interests of those in power. They allow for the mobilization of military force, subordinate the unplanned chaos of the city to grandiose visions, and have been used to dispossess and displace small businesses, the poor, and racial and political minorities.

Can You Build a Resilient Place from the Ground Up?

Can You Build a Resilient Place from the Ground Up?

Can a master-planned community be consistent with Strong Towns principles of iterative, bottom-up placemaking? We take a tour of Serenbe, Georgia, an experiment in New Urbanism and eco-conscious living on the far outskirts of Atlanta.

Methodist Urbanism: Ocean Grove

Methodist Urbanism: Ocean Grove

One of the reasons Ocean Grove, New Jersey has endured intact is the presence of a religious community that had a higher calling and a longer event horizon than the dominant secular culture. There are lessons to be learned here even by people who may not identify with the church.

Remaking Akron's Main Street

Remaking Akron's Main Street

Akron, Ohio’s Main Street Corridor project will produce a safer and more attractive street, with more space for people, activities and public art. But this dramatic, expensive overhaul is not an end in itself. If it’s going to deliver on its promises, it must be viewed as a beginning.

Learning to Love a Humble Neighborhood

Learning to Love a Humble Neighborhood

Perhaps we should spend more time trying to understand and appreciate the humble, marginally better neighborhoods that are already tucked away in our cities. Here’s one such neighborhood in Lexington, Kentucky.

Seeing the Forest Without the Trees

Seeing the Forest Without the Trees

The scale and value of what we’ve sacrificed in order to build parking lots and highways is staggering. Only by understanding that loss can we figure out how to build stronger towns.