The New Tradition

The New Tradition

Cottage_Court_002American Urbanism provides us many lessons on how to make great places. New development and buildings should recognize the local context and contribute to the living tradition of  the neighborhood in which it is built. This is the new tradition.

A Tradition is defined as a continuing pattern of culture beliefs or practices.  This is the sharing or the handing down of a behavior or activity. Traditions are living practices, and each generation adds and builds on these traditions. The same is true in our cities.

American Urbanism is historically rich and includes patterns that we can all learn from. As practitioners, we are part of this living tradition where we continue these urban patterns, and continue to add and enrich these traditions.

Traditional urbanism and architecture is not prescriptive. The traditions found in our cities provides us descriptive lessons that we can continue to grow and develop.


Concord Riverwalk

Concord Riverwalk in West Concord, Massachusetts, is new project that encapsulates the new tradition. Concord River Walk is a Pocket Neighborhood which grew out of the work and research of Ross Chapin. This pattern of housing is not new to American Urbanism.

Pocket Neighborhoods became outlawed with the adoption of Euclidian Zoning and the mechanization of the home building industry. Through the research of traditional urban patterns, there has been a revival of this housing type.


Urban Renewal

Urban Renewal

The study of American Urbanism includes both what to do and what not to do. This week the American Urbanism has been in Detroit, Michigan, engaging the Congress for the New Urbanism.

Detroit has many lessons both good and bad. One of these lessons is the impact of Urban Renewal on a city and a community. Below is a before and after image of the Black Bottom neighborhood. This community has been permanently deformed and destroyed in the name of progress.

The University of Michigan has written extensively on the history and impact of this and other renewal projects on the City of Detroit. I encourage you to read the article, where the above picture was found “Urban Renewal and the Destruction of the Black Bottom” 

There are very few words that can express the impression of this image, and the countless other images of the neighborhood both before and action. I would like to point out that these were publicly funded projects with the intent to improve a community. Billions later, we now can see the result. Compare this to the cost if this same money would have been used to improve and/or renovate housing one lot at a time.

Here is a map of all of the Urban Renewal projects in Detroit. In the 1960’s these policies were popular and very attractive to local government. We must never forget the impact and results of these projects.