The hottest topic in urban design and planning is “new urbanism”. Creating a sustainable, pedestrians centered community that isn’t dependent on automobiles is the main idea of new urbanism. Urban sprawl and rampant suburbanization in the United States and Europe has made people question the appeal of these burgeoning cities. Some claim that the rise of strip malls and big-box stores and shrinking downtown areas has weakened community bonds and interactivity. There is even a Congress for the New Urbanism which prides itself on promoting shared spaces -“plazas, squares, sidewalks, cafes, and porches” – which facilitate community building and pride.
Metropolis Magazine released an interesting article a few weeks ago highlighting two urban design projects – the State Center Complex in downtown Baltimore, MD and the Great River Park Project in St. Paul, MN. Both projects are governed by ideas of new urbanism – hoping to increase pedestrian interaction in the city scape and promote urban environmentalism.
The Balitmore Project hopes to reverse the effects that the State Center (a major transportation hub) had when it was constructed in the 1960’s. It “replaced a vibrant urban neighborhood with a 28-acre, single-use campus of government office building”. The firm plans to create a multi-purpose community which blends residential and commercial buildings – creating a pedestrian friendly sector in the city. The Great River Park Project focuses on reviving the waterfront of St. Paul – which has been such a vital element in the city’s growth due to trading along the Mississippi. Now designers hope to link the downtown core with the waterfront. The main purpose of the project is to incorporate St. Paul’s modern multicultural identity in the park’s architecture/design and to bring city inhabitants closer to nature.