30 July 2012


Definition: Urbanism refers to the body of knowledge about the organization, arrangement, and human functions of cities as well as the ways of life of city inhabitants.  Originally derived from the French word for city planning, it now also refers to a philosophy that recognizes the positive intellectual, social, and physical benefits of life in well functioning urban areas. 

Examples: Features of urbanism include 1) diversity of residents, in terms of age, ethnicity, and walks of life, 2) high density, favoring the potential for social contact and innovation, 3) availability of public transportation or arrangements that favor pedestrian access, 4) access to business, shops, entertainment, as well as work and school.  

Built over natural history of lower east side Manhattan. B. McGrath
Classic figure ground argument of the modern city of blocks in a "green space" of Le Corbusier's plan for St. Die and the traditional figure ground of Parma.
Why important: There are many models of urbanism, some of which emphasize the risks and vulnerabilities of urban living, and others which emphasize the benefits.  New urbanism, green urbanism, sustainable urbanism, and ecological urbanism are some of the models of urbanism in current circulation as ways to improve life in cities and suburbs.  Benefits extend to human quality of life and lowering environmental impact and conversion of wild or rural lands to human settlements.  Social and economic equity are also concerns of contemporary models of urbanism.

For more information:
·   Beatley, T. 2000. Green urbanism: learning from European cities. Island Press, Washington, DC.
·   Talen, E. 2005. New urbanism and American planning: the conflict of cultures. Routledge, New York.
·   McGrath, B. 1994. Transparent Cities. Lumen Books, Santa Fe.
·   Jacobs, J. 1961. The death and life of great American cities: the failure of town planning. Random House, New York.
·   Spirn, A.W. 1984. The granite garden: urban nature and human design. Basic Books, New York.

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