I've been trying to get a handle on Landscape Urbanism and found a fairly interesting interview with Charles Waldheim . And what seems to be the central theme of Waldheim's Landscape Urbanism is this: He likes suburbia and doesn't want it to change.
Charles Waldheim: ....Instead of using buildings as the medium of design, we’re using landscapes. That means infrastructure, public space, open space. But part of what you say is true: it’s much more comfortable with open-endedness. It argues for ceding certain forms of control to other kinds of controls. For example, landscape urbanism would argue against controlling the heights of buildings and maintaining the continuity of the street wall, which are tropes that come out of an idea about urbanism that overstates the social and environmental benefits of density. Density is a correlate of economic orders: mass automobility, decentralized industrial networks, and private land ownership rights have driven urban form in North America toward lower density.
Jeff Stein: It’s true that creating density can be difficult when many American cities are shrinking, especially those in the Midwest. Cleveland and St. Louis are both half the size they were 40 years ago, and Detroit — where you did some work early in your career — is the poster child for the shrinking city; it is actually demolishing buildings.
Charles Waldheim: If our model of urbanism depends upon aggregating buildings for its spatial framework, then it is fundamentally problematic that most of us live in the suburbs.
Yes there is the meat in the interview but mostly, so far as I understand him, the message is Charles Waldheim Likes Cars. And similar to Palin's death panels I could see Waldheim distorting NU into "Andres Duany is trying to take away your car."
More seriously, (though the prior sentence is not a complete suggestion of where Waldhein is heading), what puzzles me is this:
Is Waldheim saying?
"Walkable urbanism in North America is not possible"
or is he saying?
"Many Americans do not desire walkable urbanism."
Huge difference and I am not sure which. And similarly with Corner (a few posts ago), LU use of language seems to me to be deliberately opaque. For example: "If our model of urbanism depends upon aggregating buildings for its spatial framework, then it is fundamentally problematic that most of us live in the suburbs." Just not clear what he is saying.
On its own terms, I think that the sentence is incoherent. The two clauses just don't seem to line up. The best I can get, and it is a tease, is that "if a city is defines as a series of buildings, then we don't have a suburb." Of course that's just not so: even a low-density city has buildings and the buildings do define the feeling one gets there.
Moreover, if it is "problematic" ("that most of us live in the suburbs")then the situation may be filled with problems -- but so what? Problems get solved. In fact the more I look at that sentence the more it seems to me that it is so poorly written as to be meaningless. (Btw, I don't even accept the idea that "our model of urbanism depends upon aggregating buildings for its spatial framework" as a useful statement.)
In either case he is straw-manning things: only in the most extreme fringes of NU is there much thought that we should much less will do away with cars.
The latter -- "Many Americans do not desire walkable urbanism." -- is possibly so. And hey, the good news? for people who like only auto-dominated suburbs? There will be plenty such suburbs around for many decades! :)
But it seems to me simply untrue to state that "Walkable urbanism in North America is not possible" -- even our suburbs can be re-developed as nicely walkable.
My own sense is that many people want both: the freedom of a society in which there is cheap gas, good roads and detached housing AND walkable urbanism with a cafe or "corner store" a few blocks away...maybe even a who walkable neighborhood commercial are village or I can walk to and enjoy walking within. That's speaking for me, btw.
Also another Waldheim strawman: "...tropes that come out of an idea about urbanism that overstates the social and environmental benefits of density." Walkable urbanism is not about "the social and environmental benefits of density." It's about wanting to live that way. For purely selfish interests. Indeed there may be "social and environmental benefits of density" -- but density is a byproduct of creating interesting places. One doesn't start with density but find it as a result of creating places where people want to be, assuming that they have any choice.