New urbanism: too often practiced in an ecological vacuum
New urbanism serves as a great model for building neighborhoods, communities and towns that embody walkability, complexity, and diversity. When done right, as Andres Duany reminds us, they are calibrated to their place, which is often missing in many cookie-cutter new urbanism communities. While prescriptive, they allow for flexibility and a way to opt out of the process.
The irony here is that these principles and attributes mirror very closely those of conservation biology and restoration ecology; imagine that! Yet for the most part, new urbanism is practiced in an ecological vacuum. ‘Open’ spaces (I hate that term, but that’s a discussion for another day) and set aside ‘environmental sensitive areas’ are often plotted with absolutely no science behind their shape, size, distance from one another, or quality in terms of their ability to support native flora and fauna. In fact, more often then not they probably become sinks of biological & genetic diversity.
As far as I can see, there is no reason why new urbanism shouldn’t fully embrace the concepts of landscape connectivity, species movements and migrations, and habitat conservation, without compromising the enduring qualities these communities provide. Let’s work together and figure this out.