On the topic of cars
May 30, 2000 4:20 PM   Subscribe

On the topic of cars, I've known about this city for awhile, and it looks like heaven. It's actually a law to have a picket fence, and there's no cars, because well, there's no roads! But, at around 500k at least for a house, I think it's a bit out of my league
posted by starduck (9 comments total)
Florida frightens me. I don't care how cool this may seem (although frankly, a law insisting you have a 'picket fence' is frightening, too) the Disney Celebration community (note appearance of uh, a picket fence) really frightened me, too. I once read an article about how, if you bought a house in Celebration and then decided you didn't like the policies Big Brother (oh, I mean Disney) and you decided to sell less than a year after purchase, you weren't allowed to disclose WHY. Wish i could find the link again.
posted by cadence at 5:33 PM on May 30, 2000

It looks like the town from the movie Truman Show, no?
posted by mathowie at 5:35 PM on May 30, 2000

IIRC, Seaside is the town where Truman was shot.
posted by harmful at 5:49 PM on May 30, 2000

I've been to Seaside many times. It is quaint I guess, but in a very whitebread/toe-the-line/aren't-we-the-perfect-family kind of thing. There are roads, but people do abide by the rules and drive very slow the little neighborhoods. The scary thing there is crossing the main highway, from Seaside proper, over to the beach. There are clearly-marked crosswalks, but since it's the only road in the area, the cars are flying and can mow you down pretty easily; I've never seen such a case for a few properly-placed speed bumps.
posted by marktucker at 6:10 PM on May 30, 2000

yeah, I was watching a documentary on the making of the truman show
don't ask
posted by starduck at 6:22 PM on May 30, 2000

Seaside is actually the first of several communities planned by Andres Duany and his architecture firm. It is based on urban design principles Duany came up with called The New Urbanism. New Urbanism designs communities that allow cars, but places priority on pedestrian transportation and transit alternatives. Mixed use developments, convenient parks, and prominent public buildings and spaces all play a role.

Seaside was designed to be, and continues as, a resort community. It was never intended to function as a full-featured regular town, but instead is for the rich with enough money to buy a vacation home or two. Duany's firm has overseen the planning and construction of many other New Urban projects for new development and redevelopment in many locations. You can find more info on them on their (admittedly ugly) website at http://www.dpz.com.
posted by daveadams at 8:31 PM on May 30, 2000

Not to be pedantic about it, but it is Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk's firm as well, and Duany didn't come up with New Urbanism (at least not by himself), though he was one of the prime movers behind the first Congress for New Urbanism and was a co-founder of the parent organization (but that was in '93 and people had been working on the same or similar principles since the 70s — or even earlier, depending on how you look at it). Not that he's not a great architect and planner, but there were many others working with the same principles at the same time or prior to his work.

I've had the opportunity to meet Andres a few times at charettes for Bamberton, a planned town which never got built, in British Columbia (when I see the strip malls and new highway construction in the area I seethe and hope that the NIMBY idiots who prevented it from getting built get hit by all the speeding cars or choke on their septic effluent) and Civano, a TND/New Urbanism "Sustainable Community" on the edge of Tucson, AZ. Super intense guy, and very charming when he's not freaking out because someone left the special Cuban coffee back in Miami and where the hell are we going to get some in fucking Tucson.

I really hope their work (and that of the lesser-knowns who have tilted against the business-as-usual windmills) becomes the standard, and I applaud the courageous developers who embrace these ideas and actually make them happen, since otherwise all this'd be a graduate seminar at MU, Harvard Design or UCLA. (I'm proud of you Dad.)

S'funny that most planning or architecture students I know have all the criticisms of New Urbanism down pat (academic architects tend to be against anything that is good) and consider it a non-starter as a philosophy of planning. I expect we'll see more attempts and post-modernized Corbusierian "Radiant Cities" and brutal sprawl before North Americans come to their senses.
posted by sylloge at 9:49 PM on May 30, 2000

"Not to be pedantic about it, but it is Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk's firm as well"

Well, I knew that, but I was too lazy to find how to spell her name. I believe that the "official" design books that architects and planners use to find standard sizes and dimensions for things include urban planning guidelines written by Duany (and probably others) that follow New Urban principles.
posted by daveadams at 9:09 AM on May 31, 2000

There's good and bad in New Urbanism, and Seaside shows both of them. The good is that everything's in walking distance, you're intentionally cheek-to-jowl with your neighbors in their yards and on their porches, the car is banished to back alleys, and designs are deliberately kept to a human scale. Not everyone's going to like that, first off, but even the ones who do are disappointed sometimes in the constancy (read: dull and repetitive) designs, the inconvenience and isolation, and the fact that you actually run into people all the time.

Seaside and Celebration shouldn't be confused. Celebration is intentionally a much more diverse community, but also, yes, a pet project of DisneyCorp and therefore subject to things like a charter school that the residents found Disney controlled more than they did. I think you can separate the Disney issues from Celebration and compare it with Seaside, though, and it really isn't bad -- just, again, not for everyone.

DPZ's focus is on a particular kind of rethinking of the American suburb. (I'm actually more interested in rethinking urban spaces, and European architects and planners have been working on those ideas for years.) Some of this movement is being incprorated in new development, in timid ways, but until you convince people they want livable communities they're going to avoid them. Here in Chicago, condos are being built lickety-split, but they're practically all sold before a single clod of dirt is moved. So some people have embraced the modern city. Sterile mall-like State Street was returned to the shopping street with car AND foot traffic that made it That Great Street over a generation ago. Even with all this, the construction at the bleeding edge of Chicagoland sprawl continues apace, with yawn-inducing Levittown remaining the key model.

Parents love these commuities, but they seem to drive teenagers crazy.
posted by dhartung at 10:53 AM on May 31, 2000

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