Witold Rybczynski on New Urbanism

Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk introduced Witold Rybczynski as New Urbanism's "gentle critic" Thursday evening in the opening night reception and plenary, and the University of Pennsylvania professor, author and online critic for Slate dutifully played that role, as he has for a decade. As a reporter for The Boston Globe I turned to him on several occasions as a contrarian voice, and in his preamble he stated he was speaking "as more a reporter than polemicist." His advice: "you have to translate Seaside ... into something national builders can grapple with," keeping in mind that consumers are not "driven by ideology." There is much in New Urbanism that has market appeal, he suggested, but a fondness for the driveway and garage -- not so much a place to park a car but for storage and other uses -- should not be under-estimated. "Housing is a strange business," he said, with tastes constantly shifting, but a business nonetheless where "shooting for the generic ... may not be a bad goal." He cited Stapleton in Denver and Atlantic Station in Atlanta as successful projects. And just as one expects perfection in a hotel room at the Rittenhouse, where I happen to be staying -- no towels on the floor -- Rybczynski called for a similar standard of quality.
-- Anthony Flint, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, author of "This Land: The Battle over Sprawl and the Future of America."

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