goto Appendx main menu Ring City : George Thrush
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previous page  The Contemporary Strategies 
Jane Jacobs14 and William Whyte15 were among the many who began citing the growing problems of urban fragmentation and the demise of the traditional city in the late 1950s,  and soon there emerged alternative responses in planning, urban design, and architecture. The problems were multifaceted, and so were the responses. The modern city's oversimplified representation of the its growing complexity and its lack of reference to historical type inspired a generation of designers to rethink urbanism in the 1960s and 1970s. But these projects generally addressed one kind of place, usually a district in an urban area. They addressed fragmentation within the urban fabric much more successfully than some of their modernist predecessors, but they still didn't address the space beyond: the ragged edge of the low-density city, the suburbs, or the exurbs. 
11. The Seaside Plan, Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk 
That task fell to Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, when they planned Seaside, Florida, in 1982 (figure 11).16 Their plan was critical because it spoke to the importance of density outside of the city. The plan recalls the small-town planning that occurred in the United States and England before the Great Depression, and residents of such towns did not need to own cars, as the important places within the town were all within acceptable walking distance. Seaside resurrected spatial hierarchy, a distinction between public and private, and collective identity through a specific building code;  and the plan evendesignated a water tower to identify the town from afar. 

Seaside's detractors pointed to the upscale nature of the development (it was wildly popular among and priced for the rich), and the artificiality and superficiality of an urbanism that avoided real diversity of residents and incomes. They said that the project amounted to a "Potemkin Village" whose design strategy created the illusion of a relationship between spatial order and social cohesion, but that was at bottom fundamentally dishonest because the cohesion came from the lack of class conflict rather than the urbanism. But Duany and Plater-Zyberk continued to do larger projects along similar lines, and the clarity of their process–using simple visual guidelines instead of written zoning codes and clarifying spatial distinctions between the private, public, and civic realms–seems to yield good urban design, that is popular as well. These larger projects will inevitably bring greater diversity of residents, and there seems no reason to believe that the basic tenets of their strategy cannot revive the advantages of earlier American small-town planning: easier mobility, a greater sense of shared endeavor, a sense of the scale of one's community as a whole, a more recognizable identity (though this will be the greatest variable in future, different towns), and a much more ecologically sensible pattern of land use. These advantages do not come only from the nostalgic images of small-town life, but from the sensible compositional strategies that could just as easily  underlie many different kinds of representation. But for all of the advantages of Duany and Plater-Zyberk's Traditional Neighborhood Development, it remains a strategy primarily for new developments and towns. 

A little closer to the city, and more directly related to the mission of reconnecting city and suburb, is Doug Kelbaugh and Peter Calthorpe's proposal for "pedestrian pockets" along commuter rail lines to create opportunities for urban density in the newer suburbs that grow along transportation lines. This idea is documented in their publication, The Pedestrian Pocket Book: A New Suburban Design Strategy.17 The book documents a 1988 design charrette in which teams of architects and students created proposals for different kinds of "pockets" to meet different needs. All were to some extent mixed-use and shared common urban design characteristics, but one was called a back-office center (to house computer operations no longer sited in expensive downtown office space), another was for a shopping center, a third was explicitly a Appendx 3 page break 139 | 140mixed-use community, while the fourth example served as a "park and ride" transportation hub. Though this idea is directed specifically at commuter rail suburbs, the integration of regional transportation with a relatively high density  urban design strategy makes the pedestrian pocket idea a close relative of Ring City. 

Before we move on to the specifics of civic liberalism and the Ring City concept, we should stop for a moment to address the character of the edge city, described by Joel Garreau in his book of the same name. It is these new alternative cities, and the urban dispersal and fragmentation that they cause (or of which they are the result), that poses the greatest threat to our existing metropolitan areas. Garreau's definition of edge cities includes a precise relationship of office space, retail space, jobs, bedrooms, and identity.18 His descriptions of the forces that create edge cities and the nature of their own dynamics are very clear. Edge cities occur when the settlement patterns and commercial forces that formerly produced dense cities are joined with the high-speed, individualized transportation afforded by the private automobile. The most famous example of an edge city is Tyson's Corner, one of five in Fairfax County, Virginia. Real estate developer Til Hazel recalls the county as a place where they "grazed Angus cattle in the 1950s,"19 but which is now home to more people than Washington, D.C., the traditional city it adjoins.  These  changes in the landscape occur too quickly for government to organize a response to them, and most edge cities have barely been able to maintain the necessary public infrastructure of roads, sewers, and other utilities. There is not even time under such circumstances to address the question of a public realm beyond these essential services, so that it remains unclear if one is even desired. 

Civic Liberalism 
The desirability of public life in today's America  lies at the heart of Mickey Kaus's The End of Equality. He calls for a new definition of political liberalism that is specifically grounded in a renewed sense of civic life, class mixing, and shared social obligation. His social program for a new liberalism could easily serve as part of the physical program for an Urban Ring that would animate Ring City. The objectives are the same. An Urban Ring would be the perfect location for his reinvigorated civic institutions. 

Kaus proposes to replace what he calls money liberalism with civic liberalism, or to shift our objectives from the transfer of wealth from one individual  to another to the creation and sustenance of a greater shared civic life.  His proposal would shiftAppendx 3 page break 140 | 141 money that we now spend on cash assistance to individuals toward shared enterprises like hospitals (he favors national health insurance), mandatory national service (a military and nonmilitary draft), and the creation of other public and private associations. (To Kaus's list one might add required public schools, for if they are to get better, it will only be because we all have to use them.) But critical to this proposal is the idea that the civic realm would be strengthened not only through programs, but through the built environment. Parks, schools, recreation facilities, libraries, and other community infrastructure would all be part of Kaus's new civic realm. Whether Kaus's proposal is the answer or not, there is no question that our current commitment to the public good in our metropolitan areas  is not very robust. 

From the standpoint of program, we can add the community service centers associated with national service; the hospitals and clinics associated with national health care; schools; day-care facilities for working and commuting parents; and sports and recreation facilities for nonwork hours. The objective in creating these kinds of facilities in a spatially prominent location is to resuscitate our noncommercial public life. It is important to remember that Kaus's primary criterion for his policy agenda is not the traditional strategy of economic equalization, but rather of class mixing and shared page 

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