Successful green urban development in Chicago: Adrian Parr (2013)

Adrian Parr discusses positive aspects of New Urbanism in Chicago in a chapter entitled “Modern feeling and the garden city” in The wrath of capital (2013).

She also discusses what she sees as problematic aspects of New Urbanism, as I’ve noted in a subsequent blog post.

I’ve discussed Parr (2013) in general terms, with reference to New Urbanism, in an earlier blog post.

Chicago is city that demonstrates successful green urban development. Adrian Parr notes that cities with a similar profiles include, among others, Abu Dhabi, Tianjin, and Freiburg.

A subsequent blog post will highlight what Parr views as problematic aspects of the New Urbanist project in Chicago.

Parr (2013) was published in 2012; I’m writing this blog post in December 2012. I assume that moving the publication year forward into the next calendar year is not unusual in book publishing.

Parr refers variously to an axiom of capital (p. 114) and an axiomatic of capital (p. 124). An axiom can be defined as a noun referring to an established or widely accepted principle. The word axiomatic typically qualifies an an adjective; Parr’s use of axiom/axiomatic is a source of confusion.

The text can, however, be comprehended independently of the axiom/axiomatic reference, and provides a starting point for discussion or reflection. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Parr’s overview of political philosophy, with its discussion of axioms/axiomatics, is not a critical matter.

Urban development in Chicago demonstrates many positive qualities

Parr notes (p. 111) that in Chicago:

  • You can sit on the beach with the skyline immediately behind you
  • You can promenade along the waterfront for long distances
  • Bicycling is the norm and public space abounds

As well: “The restaurants are hip and alive; the art on show is often provocative and cutting edge; and the intellectual scene is stimulating and challenging. In a nutshell, the city has shed its blue-collar rustbelt image, and in its place it has joined the ranks of other global cities the world over.”

Green living

Parr notes that green living refers in part to how cities are lowering their energy consumption and GHGs (greenhouse gas emissions) and ensuring the presence of green spaces. Parr refers to statistics indicating that the build environment accounts for nearly 40 percent of the world’s carbon footprint. For that reason, lowering GHG emissions from the building and construction industry serves to ameliorate climate change.

The process involves policy decisions, technical innovations, benchmarks for green building. It also involves development of the green city – which may also be called the ecocity, sustainable city, or environmentally friendly city – characterized by a low ecological footprint.

New Urbanism

Parr (pp. 116-117 of The wrath of capital, 2013) notes that New Urbanism “is the outcome of a marriage between the principles of environmentalism and neotraditional design and planning. It aspires to make cities and towns more people-friendly by creating walkable, efficient, and livable communities.”

Parr describes New Urbanism (p. 117) as a “form-generating approach to design and planning” whose key components include:

    • Mixed-use neighbourhoods
    • Transformation of suburbs into communities
    • Diversity
    • Celebration of local conditions
    • Infill
    • Affordable housing
    • Variety of transportation options including public transportation, bicycle paths, and sidewalks
    • Sharing of tex revenues across metropolitan regions
    • Interconnected streets
    • Pedestrian friendliness
    • Green space
    • Diverse housing types
    • Safe and secure environments
    • Green building
    • Efficient land use
    • Preservation of historic buildings and sites

New Urbanism has also appeared in Europe as in Amersfoort, Netherlands, and Hammarby Sjostad, Stockholm.

Common neotraditional features of U.S. New Urbanism, according to Parr, include:

      • Narrow streets
      • Front porches
      • Wide sidewalks
      • Historically inspired architectural styles
      • A central square
      • Rear garages

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