Here in order are three notions regarding the planning of human space — aka urban planning — aka pattern language.
1. STANDARD EUCLIDIAN:
Standard Euclidean SOURCE
Also known as “Building Block” zoning, Euclidean zoning is characterized by the segregation of land uses into specified geographic districts and dimensional standards stipulating limitations on the magnitude of development activity that is allowed to take place on lots within each type of district. Typical types of land-use districts in Euclidean zoning are: residential (single-family), residential (multi-family), commercial, and industrial. Uses within each district are usually heavily prescribed to exclude other types of uses (residential districts typically disallow commercial or industrial uses). Some “accessory” or “conditional” uses may be allowed in order to accommodate the needs of the primary uses. Dimensional standards apply to any structures built on lots within each zoning district, and typically take the form of setbacks, height limits, minimum lot sizes, lot coverage limits, and other limitations on the “building envelope”.
Euclidean zoning is utilized by some municipalities because of its relative effectiveness, ease of implementation (one set of explicit, prescriptive rules), long-established legal precedent, and familiarity to planners and design professionals.
However, Euclidean zoning has received heavy criticism for its lack of flexibility and institutionalization of now-outdated planning theory.
2. EUCLIDIAN TWO: SOURCE
Euclidean II Zoning uses traditional Euclidean zoning classifications (industrial, commercial, multi-family, residential,etc.) but places them in a hierarchical order “nesting” one zoning class within another similar to the concept of Planned Unit Developments (PUD) mixed uses, but now for all zoning districts; in effect, adding a third dimension to flatland Euclidean zoning. For example, multi-family is not only permitted in “higher order” multi-family zoning districts, but also permitted in high order commercial and industrial zoning districts as well. Protection of land values is maintained by stratifying the zoning districts into levels according to their location in the urban society (neighborhood, community, municipality, and region). Euclidean II zoning also incorporates transportation and utilities as new zoning districts in its matrix dividing zoning into three categories: Public, Semi-Public and Private. In addition, all Euclidean II Zoning permitted activities and definitions are tied directly to the state’s building code, Municode and the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) assuring statewide uniformity. Euclidean II zoning fosters the concepts of mixed use, new urbanism and “highest and best use”; and, simplifies all zoning classifications into a single and uniform set of activities. It is relatively easy to transition from most existing zoning classification systems to the Euclidean II Zoning system.
3. SMART COMMUNITIES. SOURCE
The primary design characteristics of New Urbanism include the following:
1) Pedestrian-centered neighborhoods with primary social and economic facilities within a five-minute walk
2) Community orientation around public transit systems
3) Mixed land uses within neighborhoods
The Alexander or Pattern Language approach builds on the SMART COMMUNITIES criteria. Such criteria would completely zap metrosprawl and pave the way for mixed human settlements in which the actual size of key institutions changed to become an integral part of a human matrix or community.
For example, instead of factory-schools built on principles of mega-security, there would be neighborhood educational centers in which one could link to one’s “school” via cyberspace and access a whole range of resources in a setting permitting small groups and even one to one contact with professionals locally.
Instead of mega-hospitals, there could be a profusion of preventive care nodes that would provide basic testing in a cost effective way. Instead of massive, car-centric mega-stores, there would be kiosk-type canters where people could access visual displays of masses of products and place orders.
What is lacking in most urban planning and zoning is the notion of starting from scratch. Of building an integral community from the ground up. I am not saying that the ideas of pattern language cannot be usefully employed to adapt existing sprawl and dead zones. But there is ample need for a radical break and this will require the creation of models de novo.
An interesting example of adaptation is about to take place outside my window. Broadway is about to be closed to vehicular traffic for a substantial stretch. It may be filled with tables and stand as a gorgeous testament to what happens when the domination of the car is challenged.
I venture to say that all urban planning and zoning is beholden now to the car. When that is no longer the case, we will have a shot at pattern language.
So too we will have a shot at reducing the height of structures to a habitable four stories rather than the emerging, Promethean Mumbai style.
I am not holding my breath, however.
There is still formidable cultural lag and no doubt Euclidian will be practiced for decades to come. In fact I suspect that we will need some hardy venture capitalists to begin creating integral communities. The only likely winning strategy wil probably end up being, as Veblen understood, emulation.