New Urbanism (Sometimes known as Neo-Urbanism or Neo-Traditionalism) is a growing movement, which originated in the USA as a response to urban sprawl. New Urbanism promotes the creation and restoration of compact, walkable, mixed-use cities. It is a noble attempt to rescue town planning. A community is a place where people live, work, shop and play. In many parts of the world today town planners have succeeded in prohibiting mixing these functions, arguing that they are incompatible with each other. In fact, they ignore the success of Paris, Amsterdam and Rome, which succeed for the very reason that these “incompatible” functions exist side by side. Actually, any city that fails to merge these functions is not a city in the traditional use of the word.
New Urbanism is the best hope today for urban planning and light years ahead of urban split and sprawl, but what passes as a “fine pedestrian environment” reveals its weakness in the word “pedestrian”. New Urbanism differs from the Carfree Movement because it concedes the public domain to the automobile and proposes that a mixed-use, walkable environment is all that is required. One could say that much of the difference between New Urbanism and Carfree is shown in this section, “Lost Community”, (in the contrast between the community around San Giacomo, Venice, and the retro-fitted, transit community of Dolphins Barn, Dublin). However, Dolphins Barn is far from New Urbanism’s ideal environment, so we should take a look elsewhere.
Above is a picture of Sandymount in Dublin, a traditional neighbourhood centre. In Sandymount buildings front the street line, retail and residential uses are mixed, the road is four lanes wide of which two are set aside for parking, it is walkable and served by transit. This is very close to New Urbanism’s ideal environment. However when compared to the CarFree picture of San Giacomo, we can see how Sandymount’s community space has been replaced by the car. San Giacomo, remains a living community, because here people are “people”, not just “pedestrians” and the community space is not reduced to a sidewalk. The human habitat should be a livingspace: A place created for people and not just an automobile environment which has been modified to permit the presence of pedestrians.