Images of new urbanism and smart growth

The previous post showed how stark overhead images of fairly dense single-family development are used to generate negative reactions to urban sprawl. Now consider the (usually very positive) images used to illustrate new urbanism and smart growth.

Google “new urbanism” and “smart growth” and click on Images (or Google these terms within Google Images). Many of the images are street-level views, either photos or attractive color renderings. Here is one example of a photo of a new urbanist development in Bellingham, Washington, from the Congress on New Urbanism website:

Matthei Place, Bellingham, WA, by KulshanCLT, from Congress on New Urbanism, Creative Commons License

Matthei Place, Bellingham, WA, by KulshanCLT, from Congress on New Urbanism, Creative Commons License

If the objective is to show a somewhat larger area, a photo from an elevated vantage point may be used, but from a low angle and often with the foreground close and details visible, as with this photo on the Congress on New Urbanism website.

When the intention is to show the layout of an example of new urbanism or smart growth, the most common illustration is a drawing, usually in soft colors, including those mature trees. Again, here is the plan view of the same new urbanist development in Bellingham:

Matthei Place, Bellingham, WA, by KulshanCLT, from Congress on New Urbanism, Creative Commons License

Matthei Place, Bellingham, WA, by KulshanCLT, from Congress on New Urbanism, Creative Commons License

The drawings are sometimes in plan view, straight down, and sometimes render the layout from an angle. But it’s almost always a pleasant colored drawing.

The contrast with the images of urban sprawl couldn’t be greater. If the objective is to evoke a positive reaction in the one case and a negative reaction in the other, it’s hard to imagine how this might be done more effectively. But as a means of actually comparing the appearances of sprawl with new urbanism and smart growth, this fails.

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