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Book Review of "Charter of the New Urbanism" by Congress...

Book Review of "Charter of the New Urbanism" by Congress for the New Urbanism

The Congress for the New Urbanism updated the classic book, long out of print, based on the CNU Charter that was signed in 1996. The Charter itself remains unchanged; this edition of the book simply advances the original principles into a contemporary context. With a renewed focus on sustainability and the ways our understanding of the

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The Congress for the New Urbanism updated the classic book, long out of print, based on the CNU Charter that was signed in 1996. The Charter itself remains unchanged; this edition of the book simply advances the original principles into a contemporary context. With a renewed focus on sustainability and the ways our understanding of the built environment have changed, this book is a must-have in any professional office.

The Charter of the New Urbanism highlights each Charter principle and offers practical examples, explanations, and case studies that show how these concepts can be implemented in today’s regions, cities, and communities. These valuable case studies make this an indispensable resource for any design professional. Sixty-three authors, including world-class planners, architects, and other professionals, describe strategies that range from large-scale regions to blocks, streets, and buildings.

Individual authors elaborate on every Charter principle, giving each the depth of understanding it deserves. Victor Dover, for example, expands on the 23rd Charter principle as he refers to the historic significance of a street: “A street was not just a conduit for moving cars and trolleys through, but also a place in its own right for socializing, entertainment, commerce, and civic expression.”

"Charter of the New Urbanism" by Congress for the New Urbanism

“Why a 2nd edition?” you may ask. A lot has changed since the original Charter book was written in the mid-90s. The updated version accounts for some of the most recent developments in planning practice including the urban-to-rural transect, form-based codes, Light Imprint community design, retrofitting suburbia, the Canons of Sustainable Architecture and Urbanism, and the popular Tactical Urbanism movement - none of which were terms when the first edition was published. The all-new diagrams, renderings, and photographs (including a few from yours truly) that accompany essays and case studies throughout the book add another layer of understanding and bring the book up-to-date.

Which of the Charter principles do you think is the most important for improving our cities and towns? Share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below. 

The Global Grid gave away three free copies of this book to three lucky people. Be sure to never miss one of our reviews. Follow #TheGlobalGridReads for our reviews and join our Goodreads group for opportunities to win free books in the future.
Credits: Creative Commons images courtesy of Mix Miki and Payton Chung. Updated December 9, 2017.

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Born and raised in the Midwest, Jennifer García now enjoys the energy and quality of life that Miami has to offer. Professionally, she uses traditional architecture and principles of the New Urbanism as a Town Planner at Dover, Kohl & Partners....

  • Rosabella

    One of the issues that I really hope this book addresses is the fact that the old model that New Urbanism presents itself as an alternative to (mid-century suburbia, emphasis on the private car and highways, segregated zoning), itself developed as a response to the problems brought on by “traditional” urbanism. Let’s be honest, the principles of New Urbanism work when cities have good sanitation, health systems, decent housing, the streets are multi-layered, decent public transportation, and pollution controls (no factories spewing dark smoke into the air and polluting the water).

  • Rosabella,

    Great point about the current model being a response to the problems of old density. I see a lot of relentless criticism for the isolation of suburbia and its use of resources, but privacy and peace (+ a sense of ownership) is a benefit that may be lost on those that have never experienced city life (many at this point).

    And Jennifer: very cool that your photographs are included in the book! How did you manage that??? 🙂

  • A valid point Rosabella! And that is exactly what’s “new” about New Urbanism. In fact, there’s a full essay at the start the book about what’s new in New Urbanism. The article explains that good urbanism requires a comprehensive understanding of how all the systems of the built environment work together. And that’s what the New Urbanists are trying to accomplish: A careful analysis and implementation of all systems and details that combine together to create successful cities and towns.
    Christine, this also includes the idea that there should be a full range of housing types from the most urban to the most rural, allowing each person to choose the environment that best fits their needs and lifestyle. I think that one of the biggest problems with suburbia right now is that there is an oversupply of large lot single family houses that, while certainly have many benefits, are not equipped to meet the needs of baby boomers that are retiring and millenials that are looking for a different environment.
    And it was easier than you would think to get my images in the book, I just responded at the right time when they were putting the second edition together 🙂

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