Meme-Watch: Greenbelts plus a touch of new urbanism

In Rescuing the Rural Edge, Miller-McCune explores how in seeking to tackle the problems of rapid urbanization  and disappearing rural lands, Fresno and elsewhere are trying “a new approach to regional planning“.

To me however, it sounds like a combination of greenbelt policies and the application of new urbanist planning principles. Essentially scaling new urbanism up from one (planned) community to multiple (and more dense) communities (or villages). A sort of regional, new urbanism. This development could be seen in two ways I think. As the logical extension of the new urbanist use of historical models for community planning or perhaps as a response to Duany’s criticism or dialog with landscape urbanism? For more on that exchange see here, here and watch an exchange between Charles Waldheim and Andres Duany in the Closing Plenary of CNU 19.

As Jonathan Lerner writes in Miller McCune “Though the particulars differ, they all share the basic approach of building compact towns or villages as a way to avoid consuming undeveloped land. This kind of planning is equally applicable to protecting places where agriculture is not present, such as desert or wetland environments. But it directly addresses today’s concerns over the sources and security of our food. These new villages would offer ready markets for adjacent farmers — especially small producers.

The piece then goes on to discuss key concepts like the legal mechanism called transfer of development rights (TDR), try out buzz-words like “agricultural urbanism”, “agrarian urbanism”, “agriburbia” or  “new ruralism” and the role played by the long championed by new urbanists “form-based code”.

Also see this Archinect news post Hottest new development trend: Broadacre City for more on agriburbia .

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3 thoughts on “Meme-Watch: Greenbelts plus a touch of new urbanism

  1. Hi there, great post.

    I agree with your observation that this phenomenon is likely a logical extension of the new urbanist’s tendency to rely on historic precedents of development… But perhaps not so much a reaction to the so-called landscape urbanism (which, in my opinion and others is largely a re-dress of landscape architecture, at least up this point). Agriburbia, based on my correspondence with them, is a development model that precedes Duany’s “agrarian urbanism” by a few years and is a bit more mature as a framework. There are several buzz words out there but, yes, it all tends to fall along the same lines as Broadacre and even the 1930s-1940s idea of the Garden Homestead. It’s a particularly high-fidelity meme, yet was easily forgotten until recently here in North America.

    • Noah thanks for the info. I would be particularly interested in hearing more about this “Agriburbia, based on my correspondence with them, is a development model that precedes Duany’s “agrarian urbanism” by a few years and is a bit more mature as a framework. ”

      Is the correspondence part of a research project/thesis you are working on? Who were you corresponding with etc? I do agree that there are historical precedents for this sort of development going back to Howard, Hilberseimer or even Corbusier. I guess my question is twofold. Why have they suddenly caught on again? Is it a simple extension of the contemporary interest in urban agriculture and locavore eating? And secondly, in these developments how/does agriculture go beyond simply being another lifestyle amenity and actually becoming a scalable, useful infrastructural system?

  2. Hi, yes, my thesis right now is spot-on this subject: urban agriculture in North America today, using case study research.

    One case I’m looking at is Agriburbia. I say it is more ‘mature’ since it has developed a framework more specific and less broad or conceptual. I’m oversimplifying, but the Agriburbia idea is that agriculture remains the main source of revenue for a developer/owner until the land is sold as lots and/or homes… Although some land remains in agricultural use even after all lots are sold. Additionally, Agriburbia can provide a “design/build” service for scales ranging from large tracts to individual backyards, and can set up irrigation, maintenance, and provide recommendations on type and amount of produce based on your household size and dietary needs. They even launched an online shop for the produce they harvest at their home office and a few farms in the Denver Metro area (Table Mountain Farms -dot- com).

    With regard to why all this has caught on again… I believe it’s due to multiple factors. Everything from the recent locavore concept to the 1980s-1990s movement toward organic farming, the anti-GMO sentiment, as well as the ‘foodies’ or artisan chefs who enjoy the caché of veggies grown across the street or on their rooftop. Also, food sovereignty, the move toward local economies and job creation because of economic recession, and concern over resource depletion brought on by industrial-scale agriculture all play a role. And, of course, the sustainable design meme, too.

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