Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Welcome to the Old Urbanist! I've started this blog to set down and share my thoughts on urbanism and urban planning. My perspective is not that of a professional urban planner, but of a former graduate student and now attorney whose awareness of the urban environment and its contribution to the quality of one's everyday life steadily sharpened over the past several years.

The title of course is a play on New Urbanism. It reflects a belief on my part that the best urbanism is often the spontaneous or minimally planned type, which operates under names such as free market or emergent urbanism. It is not a nostalgic position, but due to 20th century planning developments many of the best examples of it are to be found in older cities and neighborhoods. As the authors of The Smart Growth Manual put it in their preface:

"[W]e believe that new places should be designed in the manner of existing places that work.  Humans have been building settlements for a long time, and there is much to be known about their success and failure.  The most spectacular failures of the recent past were attempts to replace time-tested models with unprecedented inventions.  While we sometimes wish it were otherwise, planning is a technique more than an art.  As in medicine or the law, its evolution should be constant but must occur atop a foundation of knowledge collected through the centuries."
Exploring this angle on urbanism -- particularly the issue of whether a complete and successful city or neighborhood can really be "designed" at all -- will be a particular point of interest for this blog. A second point of interest is the great story of the revival of American cities that has taken place slowly but surely over the past 40 years. Any and all other topics relating to urbanism are fair game as well.

Thanks for visiting the blog and please feel free to comment!

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