Limiting Harm

Planners spend a lot of time trying to keep neighbors from harming each other. Do neighbors have a right to harm each other’s property? How problematic might be a code that limits harm? The best approach may be to write codes that ensure that each property owner can develop a lot to a certain level, and then allow further use so long as it does not harm society, the immediate neighbors, or the community.
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Codes and Building Types

There is a philosophical discussion within the New Urbanism about how best to write codes. This debate among friends is about two successful approaches to codes for development and zoning.

DPZ in general and Andres Duany in particular are famously allergic to the idea of curtailing possibilities. They generally like to err on the side of being permissive.  This leads them to write codes so that any combination of the permitted building envelope and internal function is allowed. Another approach is to code building types so that the compromises necessary for comity among neighbors are built in at the building-type level, rather than the lot-level. Stefanos Polyzoides is the most vocal proponent of that second method, which came to debate at the CNU in 2012.

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The Three Modern Estates

One of the verities of the New Urbanism is that we have prominent civic buildings and background private buildings. What about government, though?

An age-old idea of different “estates” or interest-groups making up society is still relevant. Today, we have the Private, the Cultural, and the Governmental—although the latter is nearly invisible on the ground. 


One of the most important contributions that Leon Krier made to urbanism has been to differentiate the idea of the public and economic spheres in urbanism.

The Res Publica is for public affairs, the Res Economica is for private, especially commercial affairs, and Res Civitas is for civic affairs, or more accurately, citizens’ affairs. The sum of the Res Publica and the Res Economica is the domain of citizenship.

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Vernacular, Classical, and Other

According to numerous sources there is a basic life-giving “geometry.” Michael Mehaffy and Nikos Salingaros—following Christopher Alexander—have demonstrated that the brain craves them. Although they would never put it so baldly, they divide the realm of design into the life-giving and the rest: primarily minimalism and avant-garde. If we accept this mental map, how can we map the “living” side—at least within architecture and urbanism?

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