New Suburbanism is an open dialogue about the evolution of Community Planning, Design & Development in metropolitan areas. The term was used in diverse ways during its first decades. People used it to describe specific ways of seeing cities and regions, development and governance. Common to much New Suburbanism writing is an interest in the whole metropolis, the urban, suburban and rural.
To us, "NS" is about an active engagement with the emergent, acentral city. New Suburbanism could be considered a revived response to a reviving New Regionalism. Whereas New Regionalism supports academic and governmental analysis of areas, New Suburbanism supports participation in place planning based on publicly accessible analysis, commentary and critique. New Suburbanism is both critical and active in the the making of society and spaces. New Suburbanism is defined as an open conversation about regional growth and renewal across the globe.
With the establishment of the New Suburbanism Research Group, diverse ideas about the practices and policies of metropolitan placemaking are being brought together from around the globe, from both the far and recent past, and the near and far future. With its base in Scarborough District, the NSRG draws inspiration from the motto of the City of Toronto ("Diversity Our Strength") as it works to connect and catalyze conversations about about the planning, design and development of places of shapes and sizes.
Up until the establishment of the NSRG, the literature about New Suburbanism remained extremely diverse and oftentimes divergent. By virtue of the NSRG's establishment, there will inevitably be attempts to synthesize and make sense out of the great diversity of ideas and analysis. We're beginning down this road slowly and cautiously, since we recognize that it is the diversity of ideas and approaches to Community Design which makes "New Suburbanism" a valuable dialogue.
Below are some early attempts at defining and describing New Suburbanism as an apprch to the study and discussion of metropolitan communities, with a focus on suburbia aka the Middle Metropolis.
WHAT IS NEW SUBURBANISM?
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Text Drafted by NSRG:
1. New Suburbanism is an approach to thinking about and (re)developing suburban communities - based around the integration of diverse community planning and design ideas. Towns, cities and counties grow sporadically, leading to unique patterns of settlement and suburbanization. New Suburbanism posits "suburbia" as the new centre of our urban-to-rural regions. It celebrates what is often associated with suburban (i.e. low-intensity) areas: convenience, open spaces, privacy, safety, adaptability, and other desirable characteristics that the suburban experience offers. It calls on suburban communities to leverage their current governmental, physical, economic, social, and environmental conditions so as to enhance their existing quality of life, along with that of the urban and rural relams that suburbia exists between.
2. In its most pragmatic sense, New Suburbanism is an integrative community planning theory and practice that, if implemented, resets how planners guide growth and land-use changes within metropolitan communities. Each region is objectively viewed as "an emerging ecology of communities", possessing unique local and global interdependencies and specializations. New Suburbanism represents the emergence of a much needed rethinking of how we plan and live life in the peripheries of cities, and how the "middle landscape" or "middle metropolis" can better today's professional conversations and regional communities.
1. New Suburbanism looks at the valued characteristics of suburban areas that can be reproduced and enhanced through a range of planning paradigms. For example, New Suburbanism is different from New Urbanism, an urban design movement which is rooted in the perception that urban neighbourhoods are the most desirable form of community life. In parallel with New Suburbanism, New Urbanism advocates for neighbourhoods that are walkable, offer diverse amenities, contain a different house types, and provide a variety of employment opportunities.
Rather than seeking to replace suburban design or adopt urbanization, New Suburbanism extends beyond the discipline of urban design and identifies pragmatic ways to build and improve suburban communities1. In her book, entitled “New SubUrbanisms”, Judith K. De Jong states:
New Suburbanism of the turn of the twenty-first century operated from the point of view that there is intellectual, cultural, and formal value to suburbia and the suburbanized metropolis – even as there are also substantial issues – and that one must understand and accept this urbanism for what it is. Perhaps counter-intuitively, however, understanding it for what it is required a new conceptualization about space and form because convention was not providing ways to move forward productively....Flattening [of metro areas] challenges architects, landscape architects, and urbanists to think beyond conventional, typically exclusive stereotypes of urban and suburban and to recognize the increasingly hybrid nature of an American metropolis that is both. Flattening also produces opportunities for innovation in new sub/urbanisms, which are new formal and spatial practices that combine and re-configure conventional understandings of urban and suburban (New SubUrbanisms, 185-186).
2. New Suburbanism also challenges the belief that the urban centres are primal to a fully functioning city-region system. It acknowledges the synergistic role of urban, suburban and rural communities as part of a city-region system. New Suburbanism involves rethinking the historical structure of the city-region and its non-urban areas. Philosopher, Henri Lefebvre wrote, ‘is suburbanism (dispersion) a phenomena equal and always co-existent with urbanism (concentration)?’ Ever since mankind began developing places, unique urbanisms (settlements) have grown based on novel conceptions of each place’s suburbium (surrounding territory). In places where new visions of ‘suburbia’ have emerged and influenced spatial development, new types of city-regions have come into existence and profoundly influenced the course of human society.
3. The relevance of New Suburbanism varies from one city/region to another because they have evolved differently around the world. In US cities, areas of poverty are traditionally in the city centre and suburban areas are home to affluent communities supported by institutions, head offices and industries. In European cities, we see the London-ization of urban areas where the cost of suburban lifestyle becoming equal to that of an urban lifestyle. By contrast, in Canadian cities, the affluent population are generally in the downtown areas that receive public investment while those in poverty live in the suburbs.