New Urbanism and the Human Habitat

September 30, 2015 by  

new urbanism

The National Civic Art Society hosted a panel discussion with James Howard Kunstler, Michael Mehaffy, and Roger Scruton on “New Urbanism and the Human Habitat: Beauty in the Natural and Built Environment.” The event which was held at the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. was moderated by the Common Sense Society’s Pannonius Fellow, Orsolya Ujj.

Founded in 1921, the Phillips Collection displays paintings by Renoir, van Gogh, Bonnard, and Rothko, among others, in an intimate setting in the historic 19th-century Georgian Revival home of the museum’s founder, Duncan Phillips.

Date and Time: Wednesday, May 13 at 6 PM
Location: The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St. NW, Washington, D.C.

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About the Panel:

One of the most important findings of the New Urbanism is that aesthetic choices are not ecologically neutral. Sprawling suburbs, single-use zoning, and places fragmented by high-speed highways compel us to build vast unsustainable infrastructure and to use motorized transport. Instead of decaying, neglected “nowhere places,” New Urbanism promotes traditional principles of urbanism that humanely reconcile architectural, social, technical, and environmental aspects of urban dwelling. Contrary to abstract, soulless modernist building and planning, New Urbanism applies centuries-old proven techniques to reinstitute public spaces and walkable, vibrant, mixed-use neighborhoods. Only these “somewhere places” can recapture the true goal of settlement: human community in a place that is “ours.” This shared sense of belonging to place is captured by the idea of oikophilia, the love of home that encompasses our deepest attachments and that is essential when addressing environmental problems of common concern.

About the Speakers:

James Howard Kunstler is an American author, social critics, and public speaker. He is the author of The Geography of Nowhere, a critique of “the tragic landscape of highway strips, parking lots, housing tracts, mega-malls, junked cities, and ravaged countryside that makes up the everyday environment where most Americans live and work.” Home From Nowhere is a continuation of that discussion with an emphasis on remedies. Kunstler’s next book in the series, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, is an inquiry into what makes cities great or miserable. Kunstler is also the author of The Long Emergency, a book about the challenges posed by climate change and the coming permanent global oil crisis. He has also authored ten novels and is a regular contributor to the New York Times Sunday Magazine and op-ed page. He has lectured at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, MIT, RPI, the University of Virginia, and many other colleges, and he has appeared before professional organizations such as the AIA, APA, and National Trust for Historic Preservation. He lives in Saratoga Springs in upstate New York.

Michael Mehaffy is a Portland-based urban philosopher, urban design practitioner, and author or contributing author to over twenty books as well as numerous journal and professional articles. He is a contributor to The Atlantic Cities, Metropolis, Urban Land, Traditional Building, among other publications. He has held teaching or research appointments at six graduate institutions in five countries, and he is currently on the editorial boards of two international journals of urban design. He is the former director of education for the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, where he formed partnerships with the UK government, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Royal Town Planning Institute, and English Heritage. Mehaffy is currently academic chair of the Future of Places Forum, a partnership of UN-Habitat, the Project for Public Spaces, and the Ax:son Johnson Foundation. He is also executive director of the Sustasis Foundation in Portland, where he collaborates with wiki inventor Ward Cunningham, pattern-language inventor Christopher Alexander, and a network of other innovators in planning, architecture, and software who are developing new neighborhood-scale tools and resources. Most recently he is co-author, with Nikos Salingaros, of Design for a Living Planet.

Roger Scruton is an English writer, philosopher, and public commentator. He specializes in aesthetics with particular attention to music and architecture. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a fellow of the British Academy. Among his most recent books are Our Church: A Personal History of the Church of England, Beauty: A Very Short Introduction; The Uses of Pessimism, and Green Philosophy (published in the U.S. as How to Think Seriously About the Planet). His other recent books include England: An Elegy, an attempt to give identity to the idea of England and a tribute to its values and institutions; News from Somewhere: On Settling, an account of the author’s attempt to put down roots in rural Wiltshire, England; A Political Philosophy, a response to the development and decline of western civilization, The West and the Rest, an analysis of the values held by the “West” and how they are distinct from those held by other cultures. Gentle Regrets and On Hunting are two autobiographical works.

Orsolya Ujj (moderator) is a Pannonius Fellow of the Common Sense Society. Orsolya was born in Budapest in 1989. She studied Political Science and Environmental Sciences and Policy at the Central European University. She is a junior expert at the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC), an international research organization based in Szentendre, Hungary. She has also spent 9 months as a researcher at the Berlin Office of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Energy and Environment. Her research interests involve sustainability policy and governmental institutions. While in the United States as a Pannonius Fellow, Orsolya’s research will focus on the philosophical roots of ecological studies. Besides Hungarian and English, she speaks French and German.

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