|Walkable communities a pedestrian
"The East Coast and West Coast brands are a little
different," he says. "The West-Coast version tends to emphasize
environmental friendliness and connectivity with mass transit. On
the East Coast, it's more about traditional architectural styles
and values. You could say the West Coast new urbanists came out
of a hippie background, while their East Coast counterparts look
toward Europe and are more conservative."
California architect Barry Berkus, president of B3
Architects and Planners and Berkus Design Studio, and a nationally
recognized speaker on city planning issues, sees a tendency among
new urbanists to impose a single formula for community design on
"A lot of it has nothing to do with the quality of
the land," he says, "but with imposing a pattern, no matter what
Berkus also thinks new urbanism goes too far by embracing
Mayberry-like design elements in pursuit of aesthetically pleasing,
pedestrian-friendly environments. He questions common neotraditional
design touches such as front porches and rear-alley access to garages
on single-family-home lots.
"Porches were great when people had to sit outside
until it cooled down," says Berkus. "Alleys were fantastic when
people had coal delivered to the rear. There was a certain amount
of practicality involved. Now the first thing people are concerned
about is security. They're worried about people gaining access through
the back of the house."
Too much attention to the small-town look, says Marshall,
often produces neighborhoods that "are really conventional suburbs.
In trying to copy the feel of a small town, you lose some of the
good things about conventional suburbs."
For example, he says, because TND relegates parking
to alleys behind homes, "the houses don't have good backyards. They
compromise with a ceremonial front yard that doesn't serve the same
But if new urbanism is unrealistic in some respects,
even its critics agree it's playing a significant role in finding
workable ways to loosen the stranglehold of the automobile on modern
"There's no black-and-white solution," Berkus says.
"All this started because the subdivisions developed in the city
were not very pretty. Somebody needed to raise a red flag. The new
urbanists did, and rightfully so."
"Even though I think they don't work as advertised
in many respects, neotraditional communities do attract those interested
in community living where they're friendly with their neighbors
-- and those people are quite happy in them."