Transforming the suburbs

Sprawling housing in Edmonton, Canadaimage: yotung.wordpress.com/

Sprawling housing in Edmonton, Canada
image: yotung.wordpress.com/

If you haven’t been paying attention, there is a bit of a housing boom happening right now.  For the past few years during the real estate slump we have been hearing about something called “the new normal”.  The new normal was supposed to mean smaller homes, multigenerational housing products, budget conscious buyers, abandonment of the ex-urbs.  However the latest housing boom is very, well, normal.  The suburbs are booming with large homes on large lots intended for single family occupancy.  It appears that if buyers can get a loan, they are going big again.  It is difficult to know how long this boom will continue and if it will again be met by a bust, but the question is: how can we, the designers of residential environments, better challenge the conventions of homebuilding industry this time around?

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RAISING THE BAR IN URBAN REDEVELOPMENT

East Hills community in Pittsburgh

East Hills community in Pittsburgh
image: Jim Schafer

There is an enormous body of evidence to support the fact that exercise, fresh air, and contact with nature are important to one’s health and well-being. Those of us who have experienced the joys of playing in streams, hiking forest trails and collecting fireflies need no statistics to understand the benefits of spending time outdoors. Yet these experiences are foreign concepts for many people in urban neighborhoods, where green space is scarce and the world beyond their walls is riddled with real and perceived dangers.

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What “Urbanism” is most appropriate for landscape architects?

Ladera Ranch in Orange County California

Ladera Ranch in Orange County California
image: Kristian Kelley

Hypotheses are plenty when the discussion turns to urban or suburban design, the segment of landscape architecture we find ourselves engaged in.  Every decade, it seems, is met with a new notion that promises to transform development patterns into utopia.

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Reconnect Urban Communities and Environmental Systems

Floodplain at Allegheny Riverfront Park

Floodplain at Allegheny Riverfront Park
image: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc.

In recent years, authors and educators have identified a growing gap between urban culture and the natural processes that sustain it.  The internet and other technologies provide instantaneous access to once-elusive environmental processes, eliminating the need for natural exploration.

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New Urbanism vs. Landscape Urbanism

Vickery Master Plan

Vickery Master Plan
image: Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh & Associates

A “street” fight has begun between proponents of New Urbanism and Landscape Urbanism. New Urbanism is a movement known for promoting walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods and sustainable communities as an alternative to suburban sprawl. Landscape urbanism focuses on landscape as the organizing element for urban space. As someone who is both a new urbanist and a landscape architect, I feel the need to come to the aid of New Urbanism.

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