Hampton University (Mark)



Sep '06 - Dec '09

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    By Mark_M
    Feb 21, '07 6:55 PM EST

    I just realized today that I haven’t worked on a project by myself since our first studio project in the fall. The Professors were discussing what our groups should be producing on Friday and it dawned on me that I was in a group once again. It’s not that I don’t like working it groups it’s just that our studio always brainstorms together, well most of us. We feed of each other and bounce ideas back and forth. It makes for a “healthy” studio as one of our professors would say. Even though I would like to work by myself I like the happy little accident that I fell into. My two teammates are always upbeat and ready to work. I think I’m paired up with the two most opinioned people in class. Which is great for our project because we are just bouncing away with ideas but not agreeing on a cohesive program is becoming quite a nuisance.
    For our group evaluation we are to identify our weaknesses and work to build these skills up, whatever they maybe. Not to toot my own horn but I think I’m balanced in my skills. I can draw, model, sketch, and formulate ideas satisfactory but I’m not “GREAT” at any particular skill, which I would like to be. I think I want to work on drawing skills even more from last semester. One can’t over practice right? I know I can’t express my ideas in architectural terms consistently. You know like point, line, plane, and volume to describe the features you used to create your architecture. I usually use the “column here, an arch there, or this triangle here” method of describing things. Looks like I need more Unwin in my life right now. I found out recently that I have to un-teach myself certain things that I have learned in the past but I’m confident that it will benefit me in the future.
    On another note I have been preparing a discussion that I want to bring up with my first year Professor who is definitely a fan of Seaside, Florida, a model town for New Urbanism. I just found out that approximately 30 families live there year round. The rest of the time it’s vacation homes. What kind of community is that? I thought these towns were supposed to encourage “community.” Is this the model for a New Urbanist town? Half the families are not even there for more than half the year. It’s this in-fill housing project and my constant discussions with my boss about building more affordable housing that has got me thinking on how to implement these ideas into Urban Towns. I know that the initial agenda for these planned communities are to incorporate mixed used units but it doesn’t always end up that way. For example, East Beach in Norfolk, Virginia was designed by UDA to be a mixed used community. However, it didn’t turn out that way. These homes started turning out to be around the $500,000+ range. Well what middle average income family could afford that? It ended up gentrifying the community. I mean across the GIANT field they decide to separate themselves from the rest of the community is a strip club. Platinum the Gentlemen’s club. So I decided to read up to prep for this discussion. This will be weird since I’m a New Urbanism fan but I’m starting to see holes in the way they implement their ideas. This requires more research on my part. Maybe I’ll turn this into my thesis but that’s still a ways off but certainly not a bad topic to argue.


    • Arjun Bhat

      It's certainly a hot topic to tackle. I'll admit, I've always been skeptical of the feasibility of New Urbanism in practice, your examples in your post above being a case in point.

      I guess one of my qualms with New Urbanism is that I don't think its a valid strategy on a global scale, specifically in instances of accelerated urban population growth. I know it may not be in the scope of New Urbanism to deal with those situations specifically, but it seems rather esoteric to insist upon a model of urban development that really has only been "successfully" applied to upscale, small communities. I know flag bearers for NU have insisted that this type of planning can be applied at all scales of town development, but what serious applications do you think New Urbanism has at larger scales and/or in a non-western setting, if any? (i'm largely ignorant of examples of new urbanism save in case study projects i.e. Seaside, so if there are larger scale examples, i'd be eager to look at them).

      It seems that many of the tenets of NU are honorable enough, but the forms they've taken thus far have done little to promote an image of NU as anything more than good intentions.

      Any rate, good luck with studio, and with your discussion.

      Feb 21, 07 8:16 pm

      seaside is not a good example, but there are (quite a few actually) others.

      calthorpe does a nice and direct presentation of a few in the booklet/book called "new urbanism ; peter calthorp vs lars lerup" pblished by u michigan (robert fishman was editor) an interesting exchange, though not deep. lars lerup came across to me (as he always has) as an architect struggling to do something that will never have to deal with reality, while calthorpe seemed to be genuinely interested in building and dealing with reality, even if it means it doesn't always work. i like that latter approach, much better than most academics doing shit for all except complain about wal-mart and developers...

      for antidote to the nu approach though i def recommend reading the new realism stuff about suburbs...for example "the new suburban history", edited by kevin m. kruse. it is for academics, not polemical architects, so may not appeal, but it does show reality of suburbia in an interesting and new light, going a long way towards explaining why suburbia is so hard to alter, and how it is really imbued with important racial and economic issues that make new urbanism look like a bit of a joke (cuz the problems are social, and the suburbs are a goal and something hardfought over by many, so giving up in favor of nu is not really ever going to happen for a lot of people)...

      Feb 21, 07 10:28 pm
      Arjun Bhat

      In regards to the latter statement as to how the suburb and suburban life have become such coveted rewards/ideals - i couldn't agree more. I simply don't think NU could pull enough of a "market share" to become a viably competitive solution to problems dealing with sprawl and sustainability, to name a few. Seems like its only concrete market would be in designing retirement communities ...

      Feb 21, 07 10:57 pm
      vado retro

      a half million bucks is an affordable home...

      Feb 21, 07 10:59 pm

      i don't think new urbanism is really intended to be least not in the environmental sense, whatever the rhetoric might imply.

      i see it as more of a social ideal than anything...which is, as you say, why it does not have such a large chance of success. actually david rusk has some good insights into that aspect...especially about the barriers suburbs set up to make sure there will never be anything new urbanisty going on that is not also exclusionary...very enlightening, if you trust his data.

      funny you should say sprawl. i have come to share bruegmann's view that sprawl is meaningless. as a term it was first used to describe the (very new urbanist and dense) housing areas that grew up around london during its first real big boom in modern times...basically sprawl means "the kind of housing that is ok for the elite, but not attractive at all when EVERYBODY gets to join the show.."

      Feb 22, 07 3:53 am

      first, it takes a lot of guts to admit to being a "fan" of The New Urbanism on this forum...

      second, The New Urbanism is by no means new... we just forgot how to build cities, towns and neighborhoods for about 100 years...

      third, please read Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities if you haven't already... the new urbanists like to twist her ideas to fit their own agenda... go to the source...

      fourth, as jump has already alluded to, there are a few different factions of The New Urbanism... i think that Peter Calthorpe is much more convincing than the more prevalent Duany/Plater-Zyberk camp... check out his book The Next American Metropolis

      fifth, i haven't read it yet, but you should also check out The Seaside Debates: A Critique of the New Urbanism

      sixth, check out the entire Michigan Debates on Urbanism series, including the Everyday Urbanism and Post Urbanism one...

      Feb 22, 07 10:20 am

      good comments architphil. i'd add that, after checking out those things, you might pick up some alex krieger. he bursts some n.u. bubbles - and he's really smart. i think he's represented in 'the seaside debates'.

      Feb 22, 07 5:02 pm

      that is indeed a very good series, architphil. as is the jane jacobs book. kunstler (an extreme new urbanist) once interviewed jacobs for metropolis magazine and kept asking leading questions that she routinely shot down, showing a balanced and nuanced approach to the city that new urbanism sometimes lacks.

      not so sure we have forgotten how to design cities though. new urbanism is indeed old urbanism, but the automobile, shrinking household sizes (not as many extended families), and other changes make the old urbanism unsuitable/mismatched with reality as much as anything. calthorpe goes on about new urbanism being new because it has regional planning (through the transect and so on) built into it...but that doesn't require NU at all, as rusk and others have shown. what we may need is something actually new, instead of the same old old...

      Feb 22, 07 5:11 pm

      Wow guys. Thanks for the thorough response. I have the Jane Jacobs book and the seaside debates. I read The seaside debates for our Urban design project in first year. I have heard that Jane Jacobs ideas were relating to inner citiy neighborhoods in Philadelphia and not necessarily towards building urban communities. I still have to start start reading the book. It is some heavy reading. Right now I'am reading Spiro Kostov's City Assembled. His theory on city design is ideal for someone like me who is still learning the basics of architecture. I believe we can have a stronger impact in a healthier community by building great places to live, New Urbanist or maybe an even better solution. I thought Calthorpe based his communities on transit. Public transportation was key in his design of communities.

      What do you guys think of Leon Krier?

      Feb 22, 07 10:04 pm

      See noodles...I am not alone and your getting closer to the truth keep charging.

      My question to those that think we have forgotten how to make cities and urban places, is it that or better yet, have we forgotten how to advance ideas. Have we lost boldness as public servants to seek a better more sustainable and peaceful world through the designs we propose instead of a greater real estate value. We have a moral responsibility to sustain a healthy environment for those to come after us at the same time as advancing what we know is true.

      It is true the world is warming. We faced a similar problem during the oil crisis of the seventies. Designers embraced the limited solar technology of the time and brought primitive and timeless typologies parallel with new paradigms of digital computation and it encouraged innovative communities. Innovation in solar respect. Innovation in material conservation. Innovation in community support and energy co-op's. Places that did rely on form and style to sustain only land value and curb appeal but volumes, details and city patterns that sustained a growing progressive place eager to see science grow.

      I have not been convinced that NU is a sustainable polemic to our real crisis. What NU does do well is control economies, an economy not typically concerned with long frontiers but with small horizons of five to eight years, the typical length of time a home is owned by one family before changing hands.

      A better question we should ask ourselves is When will the empty chatter of style end (NU vs. Mod) so our design voices can be heard as solutions to the measurable problems of homelessness, disaster relief, hunger, energy disparity, obesity, accessibility and so on. All are influenced by the built environment we design.

      "Now is the time we must do what is right and not what is easy." (J.K. Rowling via Albus Dumbledore in Goblet of Fire)

      It is easy to retreat.

      Feb 25, 07 11:49 pm

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