Ever since the end of World War II, America’s population has been moving away from the big cities and into areas of sparser, quainter living. Suburbs began popping up in the 1950s and by the 1970s, American suburbia became something of a revolution. As the need for open, integrated, and family-friendly living continues to dominate over the once-preferred city living, designers and architects have transformed neighborhoods with the modern design movement known as New Urbanism.
A philosophy in neighborhood and community planning, New Urbanism takes the benefits of both urban and rural dwelling and combines it into a modern, traditional way of living. It promotes a balance of jobs and housing in a gated community of sorts. While the community is completely interactive with those around it, New Urbanism allows for easy and affordable living while putting forth a community of beautiful landscape and peaceful indifference.
The development of New Urbanism grew in the late ’70s and early ’80s, as traffic congestion was at an all-time high in most of America’s major cities. City life began pouring into suburban life, where many residents began craving the idea of living that involved staying within the neighborhood. At the time, most suburbs required its residents to commute to the city for their daily needs (including work, shopping, entertainment, etc.), and this is exactly what New Urbanism set out to change.
New Urbanism brings together two main concepts: walking and variety. Everything in the neighborhood is close-by and within walking distance, while a variety of homes, architecture, and businesses are offered. Many qualities and elements clearly characterize a New Urbanism neighborhood, including the most prominent – a connected network of streets, providing numerous routes of travel to all buildings throughout the community.
Not only does this allow for no traffic congestion, but the streets are narrow and shaded, usually running 25-30 mph, which is perfect for walking and bicycling on the sidewalks. Buildings are found close to the street, in most cases attached. Businesses are small and quaint, many family-owned, while trees, benches, gardens, water fountains, and beautiful landscape is found outside of them.
The town usually has an easy-to-locate “center,” which can be anything from a large building to a busy to a beautiful green or garden. A variety of housing options are found around the center, including normal houses and apartments, but also row-houses and duplexes. Garages are normally found in the backyard and almost never attached to the house. Shops, buildings, and offices that are crucial to the daily and weekly needs of the household are found at the end of the street, or are set up in the business portion of the community.
New Urbanism encourages walking and exercise. All businesses, schools, parks, and jobs are found within the community, a walking distance from all areas of living. Beauty and tranquility are keynote features in communities like this – they’re perfect for families or couples looking to get away from the troubles of the city. Communities are self-governing, meaning weekly or monthly meetings are held by its residents to decide on important issues.
Although they’re not gated communities, they represent a part of America that is often lost in the shuffle of American urbanism. The principles set forth by New Urbanism indirectly represent what America suburbia once was and what it’s growing to be. Its increasing popularity is evident as more neighborhoods in its nature are popping up across the country. Offering an ideal nature of peace, ease, tranquility, and near-isolation, many people are turning to New Urbanism to leave behind the stress-filled conditions that the big city offers.