The New Urbanism: Designing Community
The material standard of living enjoyed by people in the western world is far higher than was ever possible in the past. Our hot running water, efficient sewage systems, electricity, instant communications technology and fast, easy travel are just the most obvious advantages we have over the elite of the past.
However, trends in urban design over the last 75 years have also had negative implications on how we live, pushing more and more towards isolation, disconnection and the breakdown of traditional community units. The New Urbanism is a reaction to this sprawl: the environment is scaled for people rather than for vehicles driving through at highway speeds.
Principles of New Urban Community Design
In New Urban design, the focus is on the neighborhood rather than the individual house, with consideration for how people will live and interact with each other and the natural environment. Its goals include aesthetics, convenience, social integration and a more sustainable way of developing communities.
Other characteristics include:
- An emphasis on convenience for pedestrians
- The integration of shops, services, and amenities into the community near residences
- Higher building density for efficiency and to allow for preservation of meaningful open space such as parks, plazas, golf courses, or beach club houses
Traditional Design Influences at Gran Pacifica, Nicaragua
The New Urbanism borrows much from traditional planning and traditional architecture. Neighborhoods take cues from the best 1930s neighborhoods, where houses and apartment buildings face the street, wide, shaded sidewalks provide a pleasant pedestrian environment, and the messy necessities – parking, garbage, and utilities – are hidden behind the houses in alleys.
At Gran Pacifica Nicaragua we have combined the Nicaraguan Spanish Colonial Architecture of the Colonial Cities of Leon and Granada with modern amenities (golf courses, fiber optic, and underground electricity). Buildings use traditional materials and are designed to emulate and blend with the regional style.
Modern Practicality: The Importance of Quality Infrastructure
New Urban design is, however, not simply nostalgia, seeking to replicate old communities with all their disadvantages; the designs must meet the demands of the marketplace. Successful New Urbanism performs a difficult balancing act by maintaining the integrity of a walkable, human-scale neighborhood while offering modern residential and commercial development to compete with conventional rivals.
- New houses within neighborhoods must provide modern living spaces and amenities that consumers demand.
- Stores and businesses must have sufficient parking, modern floor plans, and connections for pedestrians, cars and public transport.
The New Urbanism includes traditional architects and those with modernist sensibilities. All, however, believe in the power and ability of traditional neighborhoods to restore functional, sustainable communities.
Designing for Real Community
We like the New Urbanism planning philosophy because it helps create community. Community is easy to promise, but very difficult to achieve.
However, we believe that if we design the spaces to encourage interaction we are half way towards achieving our goal of building an upscale beach community in Nicaragua's Pacific Coast.