Learn About New Urbanism

Become familiar with the main concepts behind New Urbanism:


Creating Enduring Neighborhoods

New Urbanism recognizes walkable, human-scaled neighborhoods as the building blocks of sustainable communities and regions. The Charter of the New Urbanism articulates the movement’s principles and defines the essential qualities of urban places from the scale of the region to the individual building.


Making Urbanism Legal Again

Although compact, mixed-use urban form was the standard before 1950, separate-use zoning codes and high-volume road standards subsequently helped to make sprawl (above right) today’s default development option. New Urbanists are providing leaders with tools (and more tools) to reverse course and strengthen the character, livability, and diversity of their communities.


Making Connections a Priority

Through grids of streets, transportation choices, and the siting of buildings along the sidewalks of compact blocks, New Urbanism brings destinations within reach and allows for frequent encounters between citizens, in sharp contrast to sprawl. A key measure of connectivity is how accessible communities are to people with a range of physical abilities and financial resources.


Celebrating Shared Spaces

New Urbanism makes shared space the organizing element of a community. Architecture physically defines streets as places of shared use. Care for the public realm adds character, builds value, promotes security, and helps residents feel proud of their community. Plazas, squares, sidewalks, cafes, and porches provide rich settings for interaction and public life.


Achieving Sustainability -- From Building to Region

By focusing development, New Urbanism promotes efficient use of infrastructure and preservation of habitats and farmland. With green building leaders, CNU is establishing new standards for green design at the neighborhood scale. Transportation plays a pivotal role in sustainability and truly efficient transportation – walking, bicycling, and transit use – is only possible where there is compact, urban form.


Reclaiming Urban Places Once Thought Lost

New Urbanism is repairing the damage done to our cities through environmental degradation, misguided infrastructure projects and designs that isolated the poor. Through the federal Hope VI program, New Urbanism has transformed deteriorating public housing into livable mixed-income neighborhoods (left). And in numerous cities, CNU is helping to replace blighting freeways with neighborhood-friendly boulevards.


Renewing a Ravaged Region

Since the historic October 2005 Mississippi Renewal Forum, CNU members have led planning efforts along the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast, including in New Orleans (left). Master plans, form-based codes, and transportation designs are helping citizens and their leaders forge collaborative visions, while Katrina Cottages (right) have emerged as a new model for affordable emergency housing of enduring quality.

Watch the short video "Built to Last" by First + Main Media, (the winner of the video contest conducted in conjunction with CNU 17 in Denver), for an entertaining and enlightening introduction to New Urbanism and its role in freeing people from automobile-dependence and in reversing development patterns that threaten our global climate.

Photo locations and credits (left-right, from top left):

  1. I'On, Mount Pleasant, S.C.; courtesy Civitas, LLC [2003 Charter Award]
  2. Sankt Erik, Stockholm, Sweden; courtesy Stockholm City Planning Administration [2004 Charter Award]
  3. Coolidge Corner, Brookline, Mass.; licensed under Creative Commons by Abby Ladybug
  4. Tyson's Corner, Virginia; courtesy Alex Krieger
  5. Cap at Union Station, Columbus, Ohio; courtesy Meleca Architecture [2006 Charter Award]
  6. City of Milwaukee archives
  7. Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, Penna.; licensed under Creative Commons by Jeremy Burger
  8. Soleil Court, San Diego, Calif.; courtesy Jim Kelley-Markham and Tim Crowson [2003 Charter Award]
  9. Mission Meridian, South Pasadena, Calif.; courtesy Moule & Polyzoides, Architects and Urbanists [2006 Charter Award]
  10. New Jersey State Plan; courtesy New Jersey Department of Community Affairs [2001 Charter Award]
  11. City West, Cincinnati, Ohio; courtesy Torti Gallas [2004 Charter Award]
  12. Demolition of Park East Expressway, Milwaukee, Wis.; courtesy Milwaukee Department of City Development [2003 Charter Award]
  13. Gentilly neighborhood charrette, New Orleans, La.; CNU archives
  14. Katrina Cottage I by Marianne Cusato; courtesy Sandy Sorlien