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Leccese, Michael and Kathleen McCormick, eds. Charter of the New Urbanism. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000 (194 pp.). This is a helpful primer for anyone wanting to know the history and basic philosophy of the New Urbanism movement. It includes dozens of short essays by practitioners, mostly architects and city planners, divided into three chapters: "Region"; "Neighborhood, District, and Corridor"; and "Block, Street, and Building." Some of the most well-known New Urbanist advocates are represented here, such as Andres Duany and Peter Calthorpe. Most of the discussions focus on the physical design of space, whether itís the street, park, region, or building façade. In all of their approaches, at any level, New Urbanists tend to privilege people over cars, density over sprawl, small over large, and unique over bland modern. They argue that reverting to a more historic version of city planning is not only good for residentsí sense of place and connection to their neighbors; itís also good for the economy. One thing that the book makes clear is that New Urbanism is not just about adding awnings, narrowing roads, or planting trees, as itís often described by critics Ė little more than window dressing. At its best New Urbanism is a political and social movement that tackles inequalities in housing, class issues, and jobs. As extensive as the list of essays is, some of them are far too short and only touch the issue superficially. Likewise, none of the writers addresses the economic and political structures that continue to feed the sprawl they scorn. The media, for example, have a vested interest in things remaining as they are. They are part of the growth industry because more people means more papers sold and higher advertising revenue. Likewise, political policies often encourage sprawl, whether itís new roads instead of downtown revitalization, rebates for large SUVs, tax incentives for shopping centers, or competitive mortgages for new home construction. Clearly, this group of architects and designers cannot change many of these policies, but it would have been helpful to see some recognition of these forces among the essays. Likewise, the book is all but silent on the issue of museums and history in general; the "place" thatís described here is about the built environment, not so much the story of the people who inhabit those building. The two are interrelated and more could have been done with this issue. Finally, there is virtually no mention of tourism, even though that industry is responsible for much of the ugliness, sprawl, and traffic that New Urbanists criticize. These are very helpful starter essays, for anyone looking for a basic understanding of New Urbanist philosophy, and the articles are filled with numerous photos and case studies that serve to illustrate their points. Many of the essays deserve more space (go to the authorsí books for that), and there are some causes and conditions that are just not touched upon. Still, itís a highly readable and interesting exploration into the history of city design Ė why towns looked as they did in the past, why their patterns changed after WWII especially, and what we can do to bring back a sense of community and place in our towns, large and small.


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