Drawing by Robert Steuteville

The wheel of community—broken and repaired

This series of drawings was inspired by the idea that physical communities have enabled nearly every human advancement since the dawn of history. Communities are hubs where people protect themselves, trade, specialize, and share collective memory that allows culture and technology to grow. Human contact is fundamental to all of us. Communities took specific forms, and they were mixed-use, diverse, and human scale.

With the advent of conventional suburban development, that scale and form no longer applied—it was subverted by zoning codes and automobile-scale public infrastructure. Human tendencies toward privacy and isolation were given free rein, while other human needs were ignored. The wheel of community was fragmented, with major unforeseen consequences.

Now people recognize the fundameantal need for community is best provided by places that are designed as complete communities—hence the New Urbanism. The multiple interconnected benefits of New Urbanism can be explained by this: It restores a basic idea of human organization that was essential for civilization to grow 10,000 years go and still critically important today.