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    Jason T. Radice

    Interesting article on New Urbanism vs. Landscape Urbanism


    Noah Mabry

    HA! I think you’ve got the gist of it with your post title Jason. I suppose this means we all have to take a side and dig in huh?


    Maybe I haven’t read quite enough, but why is it that these are are only two options and we must go for one or the other 110%? This sort of reminds me of the split between modernism and mchargism (for lack of a better term)…ie form vs ecology. Why cant they meet based on the problem at hand.


    I love living in the city and on the whole like new urbanism, but at no point will everyone live in the city so lets deal with that reality the best we can. And on the other hand the best landscape urbainsts (Corner especially) are producing some of the most beautiful, genius landscape work ever, at least in my opinion.


    I guess I am just glad the story made such a big deal out of LAs, and the fact that they mentioned the landscape urbanism bullshit generator (allbeit with a fit for print name).



    Trace One

    I completely disagree that landscape languished prior to 1980, and I also disagree that U of Penn ecological design was happening in ‘the late eighties” – Ian McHarg started the school in the sixties, and his ideas did not change.

    Just factual inaccuracies, but it is like people were BORN in 1980 – good grief, we MUST include history in our professional certification, it is a travesty not to..

    As for the two theories, I don’t know why New Urbanism is supposed to ignore the ecological systems – isn’t that the basis for siting new towns?

    And none of this means jack in the real world, IMHO..I’m not saying zoning is great, but you cannot have the market dictate everything, the state has to be responsible for the preservation of nature..Not sure Harvard wants ONLY market control,  but it does seem a slippery slope..

    We are getting a new 2,400  lot subdivision in the toxic, polluted, dry flatlands of the california central valley, just approved today..It will have a retail area (according to the plat) and work with  public transportation..HA! Is it new urbanism or landscape urbanism, or whatever?

    Neither..It is the developer paying himself some big bucks because of the tax structure that he use, to build this..

    Change the tax structure, you will change development..

    We have NO water here in the Central Valley, what theory will stop the population from burgeoning, and the paving of the landscape from being almost total..?


    And finally, Noah, what in the world is so great about Jim Corner designs? I don’t see it..


    Excuse my ignorance, but has Corner built anything yet?

    Thomas J. Johnson

    “What you’re seeing is the New Urbanism about to swallow the landscape urbanists,” Duany said. His plan now, he said, is to systematically “assimilate” the language and strategies that have made his opponents such a white-hot brand. “We’re trying to upgrade ourselves.”

    Duany pretty much sums it up right there… he essentially wants to turn New Ubanism into Landscape Urbanism by adopting LandUrbs terms and processes. He recognizes that they need to upgrade themselves which is in itself an admission of inferiority.

    Argument over.

    Personally though, I don’t see the argument between NewUrbs and LandUrbs as being so cut and dry. The manner in which humans desire to live is as varied as humans themselves. Some people prefer to live on 20 acres and go into town once a week. Others prefer to live in a three flat and have their finger on the pulse of the neighborhood. Never shall the two meet, nor should we attempt to force them to. That is where LandUrb wins every time. It’s not about dictating how people live, it’s about acknowledging our connection to the earth and placing a priority on preserving natural processes.

    This approach can be applied to dense urban centers as well as suburbs and rural areas. It can be used in future planning or for retrofitting existing development. Protecting and restoring sensitive environments is not only good design, it’s essential for the long-term health of the earth and its inhabitants, including human beings. Righteous design is not about density, it’s about priorities. By putting the earth first we will enhance our own existence, now and for future generations.

    At the heart of the matter is population, not population density. We can all live at a very high standard if there are fewer of us. It’s simple math. The earth has finite resources (energy, water, space, raw goods). The more of us there are, the less of those things we can have and the faster they will run out. Less people equals higher standard of living for a longer period of time.

    If the objective is an ever expanding population (which appears to be the case at the moment) then there is no choice but higher density living. Picture the entire earth developed as a suburb. Add more people and it gets more dense until the only option is building up and density increases further. People don’t like to hear it but there is a fixed number of people that the earth can support. I suspect we’ve already surpassed it. As we continue to develop every square inch of the world, the least we can do is not crap in the kitchen, if you will. 

    Thomas J. Johnson

    Isn’t he a designer not a builder? 😉

    Trace One

    We definitley have surpassed the  number of  people the earth can support for many species, that have been sacrificed to human population growth – more species every day..The river dolphin of china, the kakapo flightless parrot, tasmanian devils with their cancer..there was a hideous article in the New Yorker on the southern european capture of the annual migration of songbirds, for their favorite six-songbird pies..the devastation this habit (the author didn’t think the pies very tasty, just traditional..) is wreaking on the songbird population of europe..almost total..

    I don’t know why humans are so privledged, that we have to pave the earth to drive on the exclusion of everything else..I geuss one could say the wheels of justice grind slowly but they grind exceedingly fine – I can see in a million years the layer of trash that will be the geological remnants of the reign of humans on the earth..A few more million years and even that layer will be almost undetectable..

    Noah Mabry

    I agree that the article paints LAs as arranging shrubs until 1980….that makes no sense.


    And as for your direct question….I guess I’m just a sucker for the highline and fresh kills.


    I’m not sure a handful of projects qualifies as ‘building like a beaver,’ but whatever floats your fresh kills.


    Personally, probably alot more than Corner, lol.


    My point is that Corner and Waldheim are academians that need to bring their overly contrived theories to the built environment. Someone said once that if you can’t explain your ideas so that your grandma understands, then you probably don’t undertsand what you’re saying either.


    I’m tired of the over-intellectualization of the craft of architectural design. I’d bet that half of the members of land8 couldn’t explain what landscape urbanism is in 50 words or less–because they dont understand what the hell corner and waldheim are talking about either. If we dont understand, how can we expect our clinetele to understand? What are the incentives, specifically? It’s great that Corner may be able to find a few clients smart enough and conscious enough to ‘get it.’ But if the theory is to become practice, it needs to be quantifiable, and clear. Most of the clients the vast majority of la’s are dealing with don’t think they have time to listen to a landscaper spew about ‘systems design.’


    Sure, I’m all for the theory of ‘systems design’ in the planning theory. But it’s not like ignorance of the environment is the basis for NU. With a little investigation we can see that truly traditional town planning was based very much in consideration of natural systems-siting towns in close proximity to water, natural shelterbelts, out of the floodplain, fertile soil, and along trade routes (transportation corridors).


    It hasn’t been until late with the advent of the automobile and building and communications technology that we have been able to basically ignore the natural landscape–We can doze hills, straighten rivers, clearcut forests, and lay concrete and asphalt like there’s no tomorrow.


    I give Corner and Waldheim and others credit for advancing the role of landscape architects in the built environment, but it’s time to put theory to practice. Duany and NU’ists have formed organizations such as the congress for NU, published extensive practicable material on form based code, and thoroughly infiltrated both the APA and building community. LU’ists are so far from any of that in my view. Could you picture Corner speaking to the NIHB?


    Architecture is moving in the direction of ‘design-build’ in a sense. Architects are getting closer to their work in my view, while LA’s are fighting so hard to shun the image of the landscaper that we are losing sight of our true objectives.

    Noah Mabry

    Nick, oddly enough I was recently talking with someone about my annoyance with designers over-intellectualizing of projects (mostly just to look genius-er than thou) and one of the points I made was that the highline is not that at all. I suppose if you gave Corner 5 uniteruppted minutes that my point could easily be proved null, but I really think the concept and execution of that project was extremely straight foreward. Also I did recently see a talk where he went way deep into construction process.


    Anyway, my main point was that this seems like some sort of silly playground “my theory can beat up your theory” argument. The two ideas (in my view) just aren’t polar opposites. They seem like strategies, not paradigms.

    Thomas J. Johnson

    Yup, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Environmentalism isn’t about protecting the earth, it’s about preserving the human race. We can wipe ourselves off the face of the earth and it won’t matter one bit. In a few thousand years, you’ll hardly be able to tell we existed. The earth will heal itself. We just won’t be around to see it… Or we can acknowledge our dependence on the fine balance of natural systems and give them the respect they deserve when planning and designing for human needs. The less we mess with a perfectly evolved machine, the happier we’ll be in the long run.


    I had no idea until now that the two camps were fighting.  I don’t think of their ideas as being mutually exclusive.  Like Thomas said earlier, can’t the landscape urbanism principles be applied to new urbanist thinking, and vice versa?


    Personally I think a lot of landscape urbanism writing is ridiculously steeped in obscure “systems-speak” and that it often doesn’t have a point, really.  But I also think that on the flip side new urbanists need to update their ideas a little bit, and become more flexible to different realities.

    mark foster

    Landscape urbanism? Huh?  From what I read, it’s just a sugar coated landscape architecture pill.


    The Play:  Bill and Ted’s most excellent Architecture. 

    Opening Scene:  2 architecture students are at studio,  talking 


    “This new urbanism stuff really sucks–I’m sick of straight lines and circles”.  

    ” Yeah, it’s all like flat too.  I think I just wiped out a couple of streams.

    We should like pay attention to like hills and the environment and stuff. 

    Yeah!  Just like what those landscape architecture dudes are doing!

    Yeah! but I can’t change my major–my dad would kill me.  Hey, we gotta call it something else!  

    Uh hmm, I know–we’ll call it it landscape urbanism! 

    Dude, that rocks.

    End Scene


    Thomas J. Johnson

    Yeah, it has to be interesting at the GSD getting the LandArchs, Archs and UrbPlanners to play well together… not to mention the new research based programs they have. If everybody is on the Landscape Urbanism page then it could be quite powerful and carry a lot of momentum, truely reshaping the way we approach design. If, on the other hand, they are practicing different schools of thought then it’s probably pretty comedic watching them butt heads on issues.

    If Landscape Urbanism is the agreed upon mantra then where do Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning differentiate themselves? Isn’t one of them essentially eliminated? Or is it still the old, UrbPlanners create the big picture and LandArchs fill in the details? It seems that in order to have an effective approach to Landscape Urbanism it needs to be a comprehensive plan / vision from conception to construction. I.E. if a “system” is to be truly functional then the choice of materials,vegetation and micro-grading (details) is just as important (or more so) than the arrangement of buildings, space and usage patterns (big moves). And if that is the case, then shouldn’t our profession be organized accordingly with Landscape Architecture as the title with various sub-categories representing more specific aspects of the profession? Does the existence of both Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning detract from one another by creating conflict that otherwise wouldn’t exist? If an Urban Planner practices Landscape Urbanism and a Landscape Architect practices Landscape Urbansim how do they differentiate themselves?

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