The World According to Andres Duany

Nearly everything that’s wrong with our American society can be blamed on sprawl.

At least that’s what Andres Duany, the father of “new urbanism,” believes. Duany was the architect/developer of Seaside, Fla.

Duany is in Atlanta working on a nine-day planning exercise called: “Lifelong Communities.” He was brought here by the Atlanta Regional Commission, and several other partners, to help design welcome communities for our aging population.

The planning effort is taking place in five different communities throughout the region, and the various designs will be unveiled on Tuesday, Feb. 17.

But first Duany wanted to set the stage in an opening talk this past Tuesday. Speaking for nearly an hour and a half, Duany shared his sometimes unorthodox views of what’s right and wrong with the way we’ve grown.

“Suburban sprawl is the only explanation for the hole we are in,” Duany said, mentioning several consequences such as a dependance on foreign oil, U.S, dollars going overseas to pay for energy, global warming, , social inequities between the rich and poor. The list went on.

As Duany sees it, suburbia segregates society; and urbanism integrates society. An urban development permits people to walk to the grocery store, their office, the movie theater, the school, etc. In the suburbs, all those uses are segregated.

“Suburbia only works for people in their middle years when people can own one auto per adult,” Duany said.

Children and older people who can’t drive often end up feeling isolated in the suburbs.

Also, suburbs create traffic by having cul-de-sacs that empty traffic on one street that empties traffic onto arterials and highways. Urban areas that have a grid system rarely have traffic problems because people have so many options to get around. “The grid is permeable,” Duany said.

Atlanta is a special case.

“The world was envious of Atlanta. But all that you built and the speed of growth is now a disadvantage. It’s a noose around your neck,” Duany said. “Atlanta is now at a tremendous disadvantage beause you can’t do away with your sprawl. You have to retrofit your suburbs.”

The Lifelong Communities charrette will explore ways to retrofit existing communities so they can become places where people of all ages can live.

For more information, contact the ARC at [email protected] or 404-463-8671.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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