Great Idea: Building better suburbs through retrofit

Suburbs are becoming more diverse and connected to meet the needs of Americans of all ages in the 21st Century.

As part of the CNU series 25 Great Ideas of the New Urbanism, Public Square editor Robert Steuteville interviewed Galina Tachieva, principal at DPZ Partners and author of Sprawl Repair Manual, and Ellen Dunham-Jones, director of the Urban Design Program and Professor in the Georgia Tech School of Architecture and co-author, with June Williamson, of Retrofitting Suburbia. The series is meant to inspire and challenge those working toward complete communities in the next quarter century.

According to Galina Tachieva, “If anybody takes a drive outside of a city and looks carefully [they] will be shocked by the over-engineered, gold-plated, however—in many cases—already crumbling infrastructure that supports sprawl. And it will take a few generations to fix it. However, for us to be successful, we have to look at the roots of sprawl. Levittown changed the pattern of building communities in the United States because William Levitt created a normative product, the auto-dependent suburban enclave, which he could repeat easily. So we have to come up with normative step-by-step tools to retrofit suburbia in the way it was built.”

Council to study building a ‘better burb’

CNU is reviving a tradition of intimate discussions with top experts next month in Miami with the Build a Better Burb Sprawl Retrofit Council.

For a decade, top new urbanist thinkers met in intimate Councils to work on problems, conduct high-level discussions, and immerse themselves in the art and craft of building communities. Five years after the last Council, CNU is reviving the tradition next month in Miami with the Build a Better Burb Sprawl Retrofit Council.

Many of the world’s top thinkers on reshaping and improving the suburbs will attend, rolling up their sleeves along with everybody else. These leaders include Galina Tachieva, author of Sprawl Repair Manual; Ellen Dunham-Jones, coauthor of Retrofitting Suburbia; and Lynn Richards, president and CEO of the Congress for the New Urbanism.

As a bonus, this Council will meet at Palm Court in the Miami Design District, a remarkable urban revitalization area that employs suburban retrofit ideas—including connecting big box stores to residential and workplace areas.

Galina Tachieva: Occupy Wall Street? Occupy the Unoccupied . . . Occupy Sprawl!

As thousands cram into the winding streets and public spaces of lower Manhattan in a revolt against the “corporate forces of the world,” Galina Tachieva would really prefer protesters take over an abandoned Walmart parking lot instead.
She’d really prefer we occupy sprawl viagra paypal.
One of my personal heroes, Tachieva is a partner at Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, Architects and Town Planners (DPZ), Miami, and author of the Sprawl Repair Manual. She specializes in suburban retrofits—revamping automobile-oriented, sprawling regions into more lively, sustainable, and compact communities.

A talk with Galina Tachieva, author of ‘The Sprawl Repair Manual’

Driving the highways and byways of America’s endless exurbs and suburbs can be pretty depressing. Strip mall after megamall after subdivision after strip mall fans out from every city in the country — with much of that development sitting vacant or in foreclosure. Even the sprawl has sprawl these days.

It’s a problem even if you’re a dedicated suburbanite. Commutes are long and congested, office space sits vacant, and green space gets eaten up to build new malls and developments as the old ones become obsolete.

So, can this mess be fixed?

That’s the question Galina Tachieva tackles in her recent book, The Sprawl Repair Manual. Tachieva is partner and director of town planning at Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company in Miami, Fla. — the firm of urbanist eminence Andrés Duany.

A Sprawl Fighting Fixit Guide

In Arcade Fire’s latest video, The Suburbs, the dystopic view of suburbia takes over as a militia moves in to transform a gated community in a police state. SWAT teams forcibly remove parents and their 2.2 kids from their homes while stunned adolescents, returning from an idyllic afternoon of bicycling around cul de sacs, and shooting BB guns from overpasses, watch in horror as their neighborhood is taken over.

Galina Tachieva, author of The Sprawl Repair Manual, would agree with the Canadian indie rockers that the suburbs are in dire straits. But her vision is less cinematic, more pragmatic. Tachieva’s timely guide proposes specific design solutions to retrofit existing conditions—not simple, not inexpensive, but imperative.

How to fix sprawl: The manual

How to fix sprawl has been in the news a lot lately. An article on page 10, for example, examines how planners in California are grappling with how to reform that state’s massive problem of single-use, automobile-oriented development.

Ever since the housing meltdown and foreclosure crisis, which struck hardest in suburbs, the nation has begun to wake up to the notion that our built environment is a mess. There’s mounting evidence that sprawl is not resilient from a resource point of view (it is vulnerable to high oil prices) or environmentally sustainable (it contributes to higher greenhouse gas emissions). The flaws of sprawl are becoming increasingly noticeable in a time when shifts in demographics and consumer preferences are pushing demand away from conventional suburbs.

The Sprawl Repair Manual

Sprawl Repair Manual

The Sprawl Repair Manual presents a comprehensive methodology for transforming sprawl developments into human-scale, sustainable communities. In this richly illustrated book, Galina Tachieva draws on more than two decades of experience to provide a step-by-step process of design, regulatory, and implementation techniques for reurbanizing and rebalancing suburbia.
Her solutions will inspire and equip anyone looking to reimagine suburban development.

The Sprawl Repair Manual is so far the only complete physical planning manual for handling the impending transformation of suburbia into vital human communities. It is not only hugely instructive but formidably inspirational.

—Leon Krier, Master Planner of Prince Charles’ Poundbury Project in Dorset, UK and author of The Architecture of Community