The Mystique of Technique and Other Tales of the Transect

The "Mystique of Technique" and Other Tales of the Transect

Jottings from the session with Andrés Duany on "Green Solutions Along the Transect":

In the rooms where decisions are made about what gets approved and built, and what doesn't, environmentalists and especially engineers have pride of place. They speak the language of science, like doctors who refer to diseases and body parts by Latin names. They have "the mystique of technique," Duany called it.

That's why New Urbanists need the transect. As a taxonomy of types of environments, it provides a language and objective standards that make it possible for, say, a city planning department to say yes to a project.

Some planning departments have code books, Duany said, that weigh six pounds apiece. But look closely and you see that there may be only five or six sticky notes stuck to the pages that are referred to all the time. It makes it easy for officials to decide whether to approve a project.

Another issue: Is the green movement going to "ruralize" cities inappropriately? Do cities, for instance, get enough credit for the energy efficiency of stacking one dwelling on top of another? And what about certain "New Urbanist" amenities that ruralize what should be urban neighborhoods? All those walking paths-to-nowhere, for instance, may be diffusing energy that should be directed into city centers. Compare the urban passage, the pedestrian "street" that provides access from one street to another by cutting between buildings on a long block. Such a passage is a path that actually leads somewhere.

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