Not so long ago, I wrote a blog post and received a comment in reply from “leveveg.” (I am not sure that’s his name, or even whether he’s a he.) Anyway, I visited his Norway-based website, dedicated to sensible urbanism, and its impressive page Naturkonservativ: Resilience after modernism. Although the quarter of my blood that is Norwegian has not endowed me with the least fluency in that language, the illustrations clearly signaled congeniality, or at least congeniality to those who favor sensible urbanism.
Now, in the wake of my recent blog posts on gentrification, he has sent me a string of comments (in one of which he kindly corrected my misdirected link to my own post). He included a link to another website, Market Towns NZ, this one originating in New Zealand (hence in English), that also partakes of sensible urbanism. I have in turn linked this post to a part of that website called “Beautiful Architecture,” from which readers should navigate back to the site’s main page, “Development Patterns: Reinventing local planning for seven generations,” and thence to other segments. Scroll down toward the bottom of the main page, for example, to learn the principles behind the market-town concept (which hails from the Europe of earlier centuries).
Market Towns NZ rolls out a vision of sustainable development for the 21st century that is far, far broader than my own narrow focus on architecture’s style wars. It seems to be simpatico with the New Urbanism in America. Its economic prescription is as follows:
The Internet and its converging technologies change everything, including how we design communities. First the net was email, then social networking and e-commerce. Next is the Internet of things, [such as] 3D printing. These technologies make global markets local. But as humans we still need face-to-face. Social networks are not enough. We still need real society.
To get there requires a new development pattern based on a very old one: the historic market town, a legal term originating in the medieval period for a settlement that has the right to host markets, as distinguished from a village or a city. It is called a 21st century market town, whose economy is based on fiber-optic broadband, not the ancient economy of surrounding farms.
Not that there’s anything wrong with surrounding farms, whose existence outside market towns is everywhere on the Market Towns NZ site.
Especially interesting to me, in addition to its acknowledgment of the importance of beauty and tradition’s role in its creation, is that a market town’s family would store its car, if it had one, outside of the town’s walls – yes, walls (good fences make good neighbors). I spent five years living without a car in Providence, and discovered that getting around was much easier than I’d expected, and a lot more interesting. Of course, the population of Providence is not the 10,000 or fewer that is supposedly optimal for a market town, wherein all destinations are walkable. (Providence seems to be expanding its center – at any rate what it defines as its center – putting its famous walkability at risk.)
Not sure where I’m going in this post. Its aim is merely to introduce my readers, by way of thanking Leveveg, to this remarkable urbanist website from New Zealand.
[Update: Leveveg left another comment, informing me of his name, Øyvind Holmstad, and of Market Town NZ’s founder in New Zealand, Claude Lewenz, and of a sister blog in the United States, Piscataquis Village Project, in Maine. Holmstad says that leveveg means “way of life” in Norwegian.]