Looking Back - An Intern's Experience at CNU


As I'm sitting here in my final hours of being a CNU summer intern, awaiting the completion of the file transfer of my work to my own computer (ten minutes remaining), I thought it'd be appropriate for a quick reflection on my summer crash course in urban planning and the New Urbanism.


Stepping foot into this office just over two months ago, coming from a university that offers nothing in the way of urban planning or urban studies for that matter, I had a lot to learn before becoming useful use of space in the CNU office. My first week consisted nine-to-five days of reading: Suburban Nation and the New Urbanism: Best Practices Guide were my Bible. Between learning the difference between “greyfield” and “greenfield,” the importance of sidewalk widths, and who Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zybeck, and a whole host of other New Urbanists were – I found myself becoming a New Urbanist myself (it was bound to happen).


I'm a suburbs kid, growing up a half hour outside Minneapolis. College life is at Bradley University in the not quite transit-friendly Peoria, Illinois. Spending the summer in Chicago, both learning about New Urbanism here at CNU and living the compact, transit oriented life has been a far cry from every other season of my life. I have no idea how much gas costs for the first time in four years. I'd spend a day on a project then walk out of the office and witness how these ideas came to life.


The New Urbanism just makes sense. In practice and principle it works when implemented enthusiastically. More than anything, the New Urbanism is based on the understanding that the built environment can play a major role in shaping the way we live daily. The funny thing is, we get to build our environment. So why wouldn't we want to build it in a way that will lead to a more productive, more sustainable, and more connected way of life? It might run contrary to our personal desires to have a large backyard and a three car garage, but those are things I've realized that I don't need or want.


And so, since I didn't start this blog with a particular direction in mind, it ends like this: Thank you, CNU, The City of Chicago, and all the New Urbanists I've met this summer. You've showed me a design principle, lifestyle, and an aspiration-worthy career in the matter of two months.



A new New Urbanist


Write your comments in the box below and share on your Facebook!