Connecting New Urbanism and American planning: An historical interpretation

Emily Talen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The historical lineage of New Urbanism is often confined to the traditional American small town, John Nolen's planned communities, or the neighborhood unit model of Clarence Perry. This paper argues that the lineage is more complex, and actually consists of four separate though inter-related dimensions. These are essentially four different ways of approaching the task of making good urban places. I label these incrementalism, plan-making, planned communities, and regionalism. Concisely, incrementalism is about small scale, incremental change; plan-making is about using plans to achieve good urbanism; planned communities focuses on complete settlements; and regionalism looks at the city in its natural, regional context. New Urbanism is a movement attempting to reconcile these different approaches to urbanism in America that have been evolving since the nineteenth century. Its statement of principles, published as the Charter of the New Urbanism (a concise list of 27 principles) reveals its straightforward reliance on such diverse proposals as Jane Jacob's views on organized complexity, Werner Hegemann and Elbert Peet's civic art, Ebenezer Howard's garden cities, and Benton MacKaye's regionalism. Focusing on the American planning context, this paper traces this varied lineage and attempts to organize the recurrent threads that define the movement. It also discusses some of the conflicts that necessarily arise in attempting to combine diverse ideas about urbanism in America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-98
Number of pages16
JournalUrban Design International
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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