As stated in “Urban Utopias: Ebenezer Howard, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Le Corbusier,” “What is the ideal city for the twentieth century, the city that best expresses the power and beauty of modern technology and the most enlightened ideas of social justice” (Fishman 21). Cities and urban designers must consider financial, political, psychological, and sociological implications of today, while also planning for the future.
Highland Park, New Jersey depicts many successes of an urban designer. The town successfully shaped a small-town feel, with community involvement, a busy main street, and homes surrounding the commercial development. I believe Highland Park depicts an urban design similar to Andres Duany’s neotraditional design. Although neotraditionalists discourage designing for automobile use, Highland Park accommodates vehicles while also encouraging a more pedestrian-friendly environment, a crucial neotraditionalist value.
One characteristic of good urban design is the quality of the people’s lives. People living and visiting Highland Park can safely and pleasantly walk about the town. The streets have sufficient lighting, trashcans and sidewalks that strengthen the town’s cleanliness, public transportation, and safety. Even with the recent abundance on snowstorms, residents can still access and travel on sidewalks with reasonable ease. Furthermore, although the snowstorms have created difficulties for pedestrians and vehicles, I believe Highland Park’s sharper turns and wider sidewalks have helped reduces accidents.
Seen in the photo below, Highland Park’s Farmers’ Market is another example of the town’s successful urban space. Contemporary Urban Planning states, “people like to see other people and to be seen,” Highland Park provided the public space where people can be outside, buy food and drinks, and interact with the community. The ability to interact with neighbors, businesses, and visitors is key to a working and evolving urban space.
Also Highland Park has accessible food centers, where residents and visitors can walk safely and easily to the local businesses. The picture above depicts the accessible food center, lit streets, and welcoming bus station. Overall, the town is designed to Baron Haussmann’s original plans, “to be uniform, giving a sense of rhythm and order to the streets” (Levy 171). Locals may walk down the street lined with trees, trashcans, and clearly marked areas. Personally, I enjoy the small-town feeling with small commercial businesses that give a larger sense of community. It is evident that the urban designer of Highland Park gathered the preliminary information when designing the town. Moreover, the access to public transportation is an additional beneficial feature of Highland Park. The access to public transportation encourages mobility without the need for a personal automobile. This saves residents from having to spend money on a car and possibly in return, spend more in the local community, mitigating traffic congestion while encouraging economic growth.
The picture above with Highland Park’s colorful bus stops, trees, and trashcans further depicts the urban environment of Highland Park. The urban environment surrounding Highland Park is both aesthetically pleasing and accommodating to the locals. Moreover, the artwork on the walls, the colored bus stops, and the clarity of signs makes Highland Park both practical and pleasant. As discussed in Contemporary Urban Planning, the visual survey in important for cities and development. The visual survey considers the sequences of spaces, landmarks, and activities a pedestrian might encounter from walking from one part of the city to another (Levy 179). As a recent pedestrian of Highland Park I noticed the artwork, cleanliness, and fluidity of the main street. Also another key feature is these bus stops, intersections, smaller businesses, and art work help navigate pedestrians or drivers through the area, which positively influences feelings of the city.
However, Highland Park also has areas that could be improved. Below is a picture of an unused space located in Highland Park. In my visits to Highland Park I have not seen cars or vehicles parked in this space. Instead of asphalt, this space could be more beneficial as a park, garden, or outdoor sitting area. The majority of the organizational and special relations between the Highland Park buildings are fluid and suitable but there are still areas, such as the picture below, that take away from the overall ambiance. However, I believe these areas are created to accommodate to the “antiurban of technologies, the automobile” (Levy 205). The automobile takes up space while both in motion and stationary. A common complaint of many residents is the lack of parking, so designers and planners must continually adjust to the growing populations with more areas to park. This creates many problems because with population growth, the need for more living and automobile space grows, all while the amount of land space available to offer declines.
The pictures below show parts of the Highland Park wall, areas that could benefit from some improvements. The cracks and crumbling wall are eyesores to the community. Although they may seem trivial in comparison to the areas of good urban design in Highland Park, they are still influential and key to the perceptions of the city. The aesthetic components of a city attract the visitors and residents to the area. Residents appreciate an environment that meets their needs in attractive and enticing manner.
Overall, after my visit to Highland Park I can decisively say that Highland Park is an example of good urban design. As quoted in “Contemporary Urban Planning,” “The dome and the spire, the open avenue and the closed court, tell the story, not merely of different physical accommodations, but of essentially different conceptions of man’s destiny” (Levy 171). Highland Park encourages the community to stay active and local, giving back to the town and to each other. However, cities are constantly evolving and changing therefore, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for Highland Park, New Jersey.
Fishman, Robert. “Introduction.” Urban Utopias in the Twentieth Century: Ebenezer Howard, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Le Corbusier. New York: Basic, 1977. 1-40. Print.
Levy, John M. Contemporary Urban Planning. 10th edition: Prentice Hall, 2012. Print.