It is often said that there can only be one Paris; there can only be one Rome; Amsterdam could never be imitated.
But now I would like to ask for readers to look at this from my perspective. For a year, every morning I woke up to this view.
And then suddenly had to go back to living with this commute.
Which one would you prefer? The answer is obvious. What, I believe to not be as obvious, is the lessons politicians, city-planners, urban designers and participating residents can learn from the urban environment of major and much older international cities.
This blog does not call for replacing the Hilton Towers on Rt 18 in East Brunswick with our own Eiffel Tower or converting the Rutgers football stadium into the Coliseum. However, it does ask to instill some of the same design elements found in older, larger urban environments, into American cities master plans.
Le Corbusier believes the modern city must live by straight lines. He advocated for high-rises and highways. Where as, Camillo Sitte challenged this vision. Sitte argued cities should reinvent public squares (plazas/ piazzas) and streets should be artistic curved lines where imagination and thinking could wonder. The visionaries had an opposite views that could be summarized by picturesque verse practical.
But what if a single urban space could invoke both principles. The two pictures below show two different types of street. One street is wide and straight, primarily for car and other methods of auto-transportation. The second type of street, which connects the inner buildings are narrower; defining the space that should now be used for pedestrians.
Methods of transportation, other than auto and pedestrian traffic should be incorporated. Amsterdam the city with a slogan of “more bikes than brains” has swiftly changed the dynamic of their streets to accommodate the new transit.
There should be an emphasis on the street fabric. Parks, public spaces, streets and buildings should be thought of as a complex interconnected system, that is part of a bigger whole. Buildings should have multiple purposes and dimensions. As seen in the picture below, in Campo de Fiori a piazza in Rome, the first floor of the building is retail and resturants. The stores or cafes spill out into the street connecting with the environment. The floors are mixed use and the number of levels depend on the density and the make up of the area. In Campo, the second and upper levels are residential and office space.
I believe new urbanism gets most of its core principles from old urbanism. Cities in America cannot replicate historic landmarks, but they can take valuable lessons from notable urban environments.