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Nikos Salingaros, Architecture Theorist
November 5, 2006 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Nikos Salingaros is a mathematics professor and architecture theorist. His career has crossed disciplines: after starting out as a painter, Salingaros earned a Ph.D. in theoretical physics and published work in mathematics and physics. In 1983 Salingaros helped edit Christopher Alexander's book The Nature of Order (here are Salingaros' notes on the book), and thereafter began a career as a noted architecture theorist in his own right. Salingaros is an advocate for "new urbanism" in architecture, and he champions the ideas of architect Léon Krier (the "godfather of new urbanism") with the "pattern language" theory of Christopher Alexander (wiki). The excellent arts blog 2Blowhards conducted a fascinating five-part interview with Salingaros: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Salingaros just published a new book, A Theory of Architecture (2Blowhards discusses it here) with a preface written by HRH the Prince of Wales (wiki).
posted by jayder (13 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yay, (new) urbanism and (new) pedestrianism!
posted by pracowity at 10:55 AM on November 5, 2006


This book Patterns of Software, linked in one of the interview snippets, seems quite interesting. Thanks.
posted by snoktruix at 11:53 AM on November 5, 2006


snoktruix: the whole book is here as pdf.
posted by neustile at 12:04 PM on November 5, 2006


Of course, the seminal “Gang of Four” book on software patterns was influenced by Alexander’s work.
posted by ijoshua at 12:37 PM on November 5, 2006


New Urbanism gone horribly wrong.
posted by DenOfSizer at 1:53 PM on November 5, 2006


Ironically, the authority of history invoked by neo-classicists like Krier and Prince Charles is an argument for inauthenticity. Dressing up buildings in historical language is fake culture; it is the disneyification of architecture.

Unfortunately too many new urbanists are anti-metropolitan. Seaside, Florida is the most conspicuous example of the mind-numbing dullness and homogeneity celebrated by most new urbanists. They argue for density but limit it to the scale of 19c Garden Cities. Subsequently their vision is reduced to slightly urbanised suburbs with cute little "Towne Centres."
posted by xod at 4:20 PM on November 5, 2006


Yeah, I'm sick of the new urbanists. They create this nostalgic, filtered view of small town life as they want it to be. All too often it ends up being an overly precious, heavily regulated, pollyanna vision of a Rockwellian town that no one but the upper middle class and better can afford. And Krier's opinion that no one wants to live in buidings more than 4-5 stories tall is simply not reflected in what's going on in most major downtown areas in the United States.

What bugs me more than anything about New Urbanism though is that all of this energy and thought is usually directed at greenfield development. Rather than dealing with the decay and disinvestment that many inner core neighborhoods are suffering (which, ironically, are often the model for New Urbanism), they turn their back and do entirely new developments out on the fringe that require public invertment in infrastructure, exacerbate sprawl, and are not well-served by transit. I think we need to value our Old Urbanism.

However, I'd never heard of Salingaros and think he sounds like an interesting guy. I love fact that he's a professor of math and architectural theorist. Thanks for the links!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:38 PM on November 5, 2006


otherwordlyglow writes "What bugs me more than anything about New Urbanism though is that all of this energy and thought is usually directed at greenfield development. Rather than dealing with the decay and disinvestment that many inner core neighborhoods are suffering (which, ironically, are often the model for New Urbanism), they turn their back and do entirely new developments out on the fringe that require public invertment in infrastructure, exacerbate sprawl, and are not well-served by transit. I think we need to value our Old Urbanism."

That's a really good point. However, if there's going to be development of some kind, I think New Urbanism is preferable to typical suburban sprawl where nobody walks everywhere.

I remember, when I lived in Austin, that there was talk of turning the old airport into a neighborhood developed using New Urbanism principles. I thought that was a great idea.
posted by jayder at 5:41 PM on November 5, 2006


typical suburban sprawl where nobody walks everywhere.

Make that "nobody walks anywhere."
posted by jayder at 5:42 PM on November 5, 2006


Wow! great post, jayder!
posted by shoepal at 8:36 PM on November 5, 2006


jaydar says However, if there's going to be development of some kind, I think New Urbanism is preferable to typical suburban sprawl where nobody walks everywhere.

I suppose so. Lesser of two evils, I guess. I do wonder how much people actually do walk in new urbanist communities though. All the talk is about New! Walkable! Pedestrian-friendly! but what do residents have to walk to? Sidewalks that meander past pretty gazebos and park benches are nice and all but there's only so much recreational walking a person can do.

Also, unless people are not only given a pleasant walking environment but also incentive to give up their cars occasionally, you just end up with pretty but empty sidewalks leading nowhere. I've seen plenty of these neighborhoods that look perfectly pleasant for walking but still everyone's in their cars. Rarely are new urbanist communities, though denser than typical suburban sprawl, at densities that can support a robust transit system.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:03 PM on November 5, 2006


Oops. JaydEr. Sorry! All that talk of gaydar over in the Ted Haggard thread threw me off......
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:26 PM on November 5, 2006


What bugs me more than anything about New Urbanism though is that all of this energy and thought is usually directed at greenfield development.

Yes, there is too much of that. All designers like to start from scratch. But it doesn't have to be that way. It doesn't have to be Disney. The ideas can be applied to fixing existing suburbs. Rezone, infill, etc.

Find the best geographic center you can. Make sure good treelined sidewalks go there, which could simultaneously make the streets narrower and slow traffic to a safe speed. Put a bus stop there with good service into the nearest towns. Allow government buildings and shops to go up there. Put an elementary school at or near the center and make sure sidewalks and bike paths go there. Let people start having their own home offices and rental apartments (garage apartments, etc.) on their residential property. Allow a mix of buildings to go up, so that the place caters to people of various ages and incomes. Require that all new parking and garages are in back of buildings, so that stores and homes stay near the street and engaged with the neighborhood. Standard stuff that could work.

And if it's too hard to find a center in an existing suburb, maybe you can find the best point on the edge between an existing development and a greenfield area. Call that edge point the future center and then control greenfield development so that it works together with the older development to build around the future center, where you reserve space for town hall, school, and shops.
posted by pracowity at 1:10 AM on November 6, 2006


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