A couple months ago I posted on new urbanism, mentioning a book by Philip Bess called Till We Have Built Jerusalem. New urbanism is “an American urban design movement that arose in the early 1980s intended to reform all aspects of real estate development and urban planning, from urban retrofits to suburban infill. New urbanist neighborhoods are designed to contain a diverse range of housing and jobs, and to be walkable.” One takeaway from this movement is the notion that neighborhoods can be redesigned to promote community. Urban sprawl mitigates this kind of community feel.
New York City has picked up on these ideas in an effort to beautify and re-urbanize the city. David Taylor (same Taylor who put together the Transforming Culture conference) reviews Bess’ book in “The Good City” in Books and Culture. It’s well worth the read.
I love the ideas coming out of New Urbanism and Philip Bess’ reflections. The notion that our architecture and infrastructure betrays and shapes a certain life philosophy is very important. Cities used be places where children played and people gathered for good, social interaction. Too often, urban centers are now skyscraper gardens with little social space left for anything than after hours entertainment. What would it look like for your city, your neighborhood to cultivate a more community-sensitive setting?
Then there are the architectural implications of new urbanism for churches. Should we just build buildings based on their utility or give greater considerations to aesthetics? Do more ornate and context sensitive buildings really make a difference in the quality of church communities? What about the impact of church architecture on the unchurched? A recent survey shows that unchurched folks are more inclined to visit an aesthetically pleasing church building. Hmm. What is the way forward for the evangelical Church in America given the rise of new urbanism, the insights of Bess & Taylor, and good old common sense?