Thursday, October 22

This year's great places in America

The Squares of Savannah are a Great American Public Space
The American Planning Association has released this year's Great Places in America awards. This is a wonderful program, now in its third year, that recognizes the practice and preservation of good urbanism in a positive way. (Sort of the other side of the James Howard Kunstler coin). Every one of the winning neighborhoods foster a vibrant community with walkable scale and design. Each one of the great streets are multimodal and have more purpose than simply conveying vehicles from one place to another quickly.

Rob Goodspeed previously noted that the 2007 and 2008 selections give the impression of what he calls a "New Normative Planning":
"For a profession long maligned for a lack of clear identify or vision, the group of winners from 2007 and 2008 form a remarkably coherent group. Including such iconic places as Philadelphia's Society Hill and Washington, D.C.'s union station, but also more obscure sites like Cleveland's West Side Market and downtown Sheridan, Wyoming. In general the winning neighborhoods, streets, and public spaces are resoundingly urban and historic. None of the winners are strip malls, 1970s planned unit developments, or conventional suburban residential neighborhoods."
The 2009 awards certainly continue the trend, only with noticeably more attention given to smaller cities and towns than before. Places I had never heard of, like Bath, Maine and Charlevoix, Michigan, find their place on the map. Not only does this give some deserved attention to communities that have worked hard to become highly livable places, but it underscores the notion that urban design principles are not just applicable to big cities.

I'm remembering this list for the next time I travel and need a place to stop in and visit.