Not so traditional

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House at Seaside in Florida

House at Middleton Hills in Wisconsin

New Urbanism has been criticized for building sugar-coated suburbs as nostalgic recreations of American small town life. It is true that many of their spatial ideas are taken from older towns, and it is clear that much of the attraction stems from the hope of recreating an earlier sense of community. But the result is not a traditional town.

New Urbanist developments are not as traditional as they are praised (or accused) for being. Despite the marketing rhetoric, they are making new kinds of places, whose grammar differs from that of traditional towns. Even their spatial patterns and their general look are somewhat less traditional than they seem at first. New Urbanist developments do what many of our new places do, mix and match to enlarge possibilities. That they do this with a traditional vocabulary, and if their sales rhetoric stresses a traditional image of community this should not obscure the ways in which they are not simple returns to the past.