[new book] Zoned in the USA (Cornell UP, 2014)

80140100178220L

Zoned in the USA

The Origins and Implications of American Land-Use Regulation

[more info at publisher site here]

Why are American cities, suburbs, and towns so distinct? Compared to European cities, those in the United States are characterized by lower densities and greater distances; neat, geometric layouts; an abundance of green space; a greater level of social segregation reflected in space; and—perhaps most noticeably—a greater share of individual, single-family detached housing. In Zoned in the USA, Sonia A. Hirt argues that zoning laws are among the important but understudied reasons for the cross-continental differences.

Hirt shows that rather than being imported from Europe, U.S. municipal zoning law was in fact an institution that quickly developed its own, distinctly American profile. A distinct spatial culture of individualism—founded on an ideal of separate, single-family residences apart from the dirt and turmoil of industrial and agricultural production—has driven much of municipal regulation, defined land-use, and, ultimately, shaped American life. Hirt explores municipal zoning from a comparative and international perspective, drawing on archival resources and contemporary land-use laws from England, Germany, France, Australia, Russia, Canada, and Japan to challenge assumptions about American cities and the laws that guide them.

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new edited book: The Urban Wisdom of Jane Jacobs

The Urban wisdom of Jane Jacobs Cover

New Book Announcement:

The Urban Wisdom of Jane Jacobs (2012)–published by Routledge, edited by Sonia Hirt and Diane Zahm–will be commercially available on August 8. For a list of contributors and chapter titles, click here.

Charleston architecture–and thoughts from a New Urbanist…

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If you’ve been to Charleston, South Carolina–(home to the College of Charleston)–you’ve likely heard about/seen the typical Charleston house, which has a porch alongisde the entire length of the building (on two floors). The slideshow images above were snapped on a walk I just took around the downtown area–gotta get out of the office sometimes (In one of the shots you can see that the porch has been retained for show near the front of the house while the back section has been walled in as extra interior footage). The porch is marked by a ‘false door’ or sorts, which in years gone by was left open to signal that visitors were welcome (well, that’s what they tell you on the tourist carriage tours at least).

I was thinking about what was said in a recent lecture here by a self-proclaimed New Urbanist who came to speak at the College (here’s New Urbanism in a nutshell, and a New Urbanist site)–which was [take it with a grain of salt]:

this particular New Urbanist always tells Europeans that they shouldn’t leave their tours of the United States without first visiting Charleston, that while (in general terms of course) in Europe there are magnificent public spaces (walkable areas, broad avenues, parks etc.) and impoverished private spaces (apartment-caves with little light, little room, etc.), and while the United States is lacking in rich public spaces (strip malls, car culture predominates), but has rich private spaces (well, McMansions or the North Dallas special type construction of home, built for comfort, light, etc.)–Charleston has the best of both worlds–public and private spheres.

It follows from this contextualization that the Charleston architectural style, with its porch as an open habitable space between public and private (to use this binomial characterization that has been questioned by many…) typifies this connection…

All in all, happy to call Charleston home, and we’re happy to have an upcoming talk at the College by Dr. Sonia Hirt [who was not the New Urbanist discussed above, but who has done some research on New Urbanism] on “Jane Jacobs and Urban Knowledge” (flyer below with clickable links).

Sonia Hirt lecture CofC poster