When describing a high level of frustration with the suburban development patterns and construction quality prevalent in the US, a friend suggested the New Urbanism. The first step taken in the research was the reading of Jim Kunstler's Home From Nowhere. It is probably as good a starting point as any, since it so cleverly describes the problem and several remedies. Another indispensible read is Jane Jacobs. Fifty years old and still hits the bulls eye.

One of the greatest challenges to building places of distinction is the tendency to think of each aspect of smart development as a special interest. We've got the environmentalists, the cyclists, the rail advocates, the farmers markets, the live-work proponents, the car-haters, the affordable housing lobby, and many, many more. It could be argued that each and every one of these groups has a valid point to make, but what seems to happen too often is the creation of new places where the sum of the parts becomes greater than the whole. Yes, a great place should address many issues, but if it isn't a truly pleasant place to visit, work, play or fails. What is needed is a thread that stitches it all together. That thread seems to be what Christopher Alexander calls "The Quality Without a Name." An assemblage of beautiful houses and buildings does not always guarantee the creation of a great place, but places with mediocre or self-serving architecture always betrays even the best of intentions. A book worth seeking out is Gordon Cullen's Townscape. A very English-oriented work is that of Thomas Sharp. Of course there are many terrific architects, and many of them can be found here. Other terrific, highly influential organizations are INTBAU and the Prince's Foundation.


© Steven Craig Kelly 2013