Market town, New Zealand

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Illustration of a market town from the Market Towns NZ website.

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.]

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The Placa de la Constitucio, in Alcudia, Mallorca. (Market Towns NZ)

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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3 Responses to Market town, New Zealand

  1. leveveg says:

    “My definition of an urban environment is one where it is easier to not own a car than to own one. New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Singapore fit this description. Oddly enough, it is not necessary to be in a big city to be in an urban environment. There are many small towns/cities around the world that also fit this description, like the aforementioned Italian hill towns, or maybe little towns on the sea in Greece. Note that I said it is easier not to own a car, meaning that one can go about the business of life (going to work, shopping etc.) without a car. It may well be more fun to have a car, if you can afford it, which is also the case for New York, but even in this case the car tends to be used only every other weekend.” – Nathan Lewis

    Like

  2. J. Hovis says:

    The town in the photo at the bottom of the post is Alcudia, Mallorca. Specifically the Placa de la Constitucio.

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  3. leveveg says:

    Market Town used to call themselves Village Town, I think they changed the name to strengthen their connection to the Medieval market towns. Anyway they have a sibling in Maine, USA, the Piscataquis Village Project: http://permaliv.blogspot.no/2011/12/piscataquis-village-project-slide-show.html

    (Currently I’m blogging at PermaLiv, my oldest blog.)

    “Primus motor” of Market Towns is Claude Lewenz. He wrote some books on the topic and too has some nice presentations.

    The point of Market Towns is to make them function complete and function compact, using timeless patterns: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiS7nJ7hS00

    LeveVeg means “way of life”. It can too be written LeveVei. A guy hosting the blog LeveVei made a nice interview with Salingaros: http://www.levevei.no/2013/10/episode-84-creating-built-environments-that-support-life/

    Thank you for promoting Market Towns!

    Kind regards,
    Øyvind Holmstad

    Like

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