Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.
I love the state of being immersed in nature, yet I admit that I love the hustle and bustle of the concrete jungles. While it seems like these two desires are contradistinct, there is a way to reconcile them into coherent way of living by the help of Urbanism. It is not just a large-scale architectural design but also a consideration of social, cultural, political and economic factors influencing our life and environment. This concept is far more challenging than architecture as it deals with public domain: those huge resources which can be very successful places for everyday life such as, sidewalks, parks, streets and etc.
Since 1920s when city planning became a profession, Urbanism has been associated with wide movement focusing on the best options for people and the planet.
According to Michael McGinn, former mayor of Seattle:
At the core, urbanists want more people living in cities, so they support more urban housing of all types. They prioritize walking, biking and transit, and support a high quality shared public realm. Parks, nightlife, theaters, transit and taxis can replace backyards, TV rooms and private cars. That way we can live well with less stuff, sprawl and pollution.
I’ll go a little further, and say urbanists prefer bottom up, granular, and seemingly chaotic innovation to top-down planning and mega-projects. Think the “Main Street” of neighborhoods with food trucks and lots of little stores, as opposed to tax-subsidized big box stores with legally required massive parking lots. Bike lanes, crosswalks and plazas instead of public garages and new highways.
Urbanists believe that mixing people and ideas creates wealth in a city. Why else would people choose to live so close to each other? Cities, therefore, should be open to people of every background, ethnicity, race and class to maximize the potential from our human capital.
As Scott Bonjukian stated in his article “Why I call myself an Urbanist?”:
Most urbanists are also environmentalists at two scales. At the smaller scale, urbanists are interested in public infrastructure that uses water, energy, and building materials efficiently. They also promote natural methods for cleaning stormwater, disposing of solid waste, and providing recreation space. At the larger scale, urbanists know that urban living is a net positive for the environment because it reduces society’s impact on natural landscapes and ecosystems.
That’s completely true that turning to Urbanism and setting walkability, public space or sustainable use of resources may be beneficial to our well-being.
People will be given the opportunity to enjoy convenience of mass public transit, growing public resources (i.e. parks, libraries, community pools) and housing (duplexes, apartments or semi-detached houses) instead of expensive alternatives. For instance, there are lots of people dwelling in cities and paying high rents despite having limited income. In fact, ditching a car could make it possible to afford more as commuting by car is huge expense. Urbanism gives solution to such problems by demonstrating sustainably and adoptive resources.
Another great advantage of incorporating Urbanism is escaping monotonous appearance of old city construction style: highways, big box stores, abundance of driving and scarce of bicycle tracks or public transit, insecure communication with your close people. It doesn’t correspond to the growing value of mobility, socializing and having vast kaleidoscope of experiences. It is difficult to find time for entertainment with folks or family when driving is prevailing over other thing in our daily routine. Needless to say that the conditions of paths aren’t always sufficient and people have to rely on those unsafe roads in addition to not having transit services.
More and more people are craving for excitement which is intangible in the environment wherein they don’t have enough room for spontaneous diversity on a daily basis. They want to be exposed to new people, ideas and meetings. Such level of multiplicity can be achieved by the help of resilience of Urbanism notion.
Forming strong relationship with your community neighbors, finding those with similar interests or just coming across with your schoolmate at the local coffee shop are moments making our life colorful.
In the era when only constant thing is change, a city can be a solution for lots of issues when it’s designed right.
The article on Urbanism can be found here