It is often said that New Urbanism is “agnostic” as to style. Even the charter of the Congress for the New Urbanism says so. Rob Steuteville, who edits the urbanist journal Better Cities & Towns, has written an essay, The Four Stages of New Urbanism, that deftly maps its growth since the late 1980s. It notes that New Urbanist architecture has grown “more varied and robust” since the early years, when the NU brand of traditional streets emblazoned itself in the public mind, creating considerable financial success and great hope for new beauty in America’s cities, towns and suburbs.
I would debate half of Rob’s characterization, but would rather merely ask which street most people would want to live on. One is affordable housing in Philadelphia and the other is a new suburban town in the Maryland suburbs of Washington. It is hard to afford, but that is true, in part at least, because traditional, pre-war streetscapes are still illegal in many places. Let more of it bloom and its price will decline. But as a purely aesthetic matter, it cannot be supposed that people seeing these two places will be “agnostic” as to where they’d rather live. Agree? Disagree?
Rob Steuteville’s article is on the PDF below.