Ross School - Senior Projects 2010

Student: Jennifer Ortiz

Mentor: Ned Smyth


Title: New Urbanism: A Rebirth of City Planning

Description: Due to my interest in architecture and the environment, I decided to design a community that followed the New Urbanist Principles. New Urbanism is a movement that seeks to rectify the negative aspects of the suburban lifestyle. Followers of New Urbanism strive to design communities that work more efficiently and have a smaller impact on the environment.


This is part of my second sketch.  In this sketch I was trying to figure out the layout of the houses and whether or not to show the lots or the houses itself.  A mistake I made was to not continue the alleyways all the way through the block. 

This was my fourth sketch.  My main focus in this drawing was correcting the town centers and figuring out a way to connect them so they are equality accessible.  








This is my final product.  The main drawing in the center is the final design for the town.  It is 30” x 40”.  The scale is 1” – 100’, the total area is roughly 1 square mile.  The final product was done with pencil at first.  It was then colored with colored pencil and outlined with black permanent marker.  The pictures, title, and final drawing were pasted to foam core.  The computer is showing a short video that describes what New Urbanism is.  My process book and paper are also on display. 

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For my senior project I designed a community that moved away from the wasteful manner in which we live today.  By following the principles of New Urbanism I was able to put together a design of a community that would work in a more efficient manner.  The principles of New Urbanism are

1. Walkability

2. Connectivity

3. Mixed use and diversity

4. Mixed housing

5. Quality Architecture and urban design

6. Traditional neighborhood structure

7. Increased density

8. Smart transportation

9. Sustainability

10. High quality of life

When these ten principles are incorporated into the design of a town, the place is transformed.  It becomes more sustainable and achieves a tighter sense of community.  The New Urbanist movement does not only want to create places that will reduce an areas carbon footprint, but also create places that work to bring people together.  New Urbanism wants to get rid of suburbia, to tear down the invisible boundaries and isolation suburbia has brought to our culture.  Their mission is to bring people together, in a place that is good for the earth and the inhabitant’s overall well being. 

The ten principles are a guideline that city planners should follow in order to achieve the highest level of sustainability for a specific area.  The first principle, walkability, states that amenities should be in a 10 to 15 minute walking distance (1/4 ml.).  Connectivity calls for a higher density around the center of the town, or the place where there is the most public and commercial space.  This method is usually referred to as transect planning.  Mixed use and diversity is one of the most important principles.  It states that spaces should vary in functions.  This is applied to spaces within the same building, the same block and throughout the whole community.  This also relates to having different types of housing.  Having houses that range in size, value and location will ultimately lead to a community with people that vary in wealth and race.  Quality architecture and urban design urges the community to pride itself in aesthetics.  Some ways of increasing aesthetics is by having trees line the streets, ample sidewalks, alleyways that hide cars from the street and locating buildings close to the road.  In order to have a traditional neighborhood structure, New Urbanist planners look to imitate the structure of ancient cities like Rome.  New Urbanists want to bring back the importance of a town center and grid planning.  The town center is a place where the community can come together and enjoy a public space.  A grid layout allows traffic to disperse and get rid of congested areas.  New Urbanism also calls to increase in density.  This will allow for there to be a tighter community and make it more cost efficient to have public transportation.  Public transportation is another key element of New Urbanism.  It urges people to use trains, busses, bikes and walk to places instead of using a car.  Sustainability is the goal to reduce the amount of energy we put into producing our food and to increase the output by consuming more efficiently.  In the United States we use 10 calories of hydrocarbon for every calorie we consume, without counting the amount of energy it take to transport these goods.  The distribution of food is completely disproportional; there are 1 billion people who are obese while 1/3 of a billion are starving worldwide.  New Urbanism wants to go back to regional marketing.  It reminds us that we can no longer rely on chain stores to import goods.  We have to live in a tighter community that takes care of itself.  By doing so we accomplish a higher quality of life.  We obtain a community that cares for one another and lives in a place that is beautiful and sustainable.

I incorporated these ten principles in my design by having one town center in the middle of the town.  Having the town center in the middle of the town makes it more easily accessible for people surrounding it.  I made all the commercial buildings have apartments on the top floors in order to have diversity of usage of the buildings.  I also mixed in gardens, commercial buildings, parking buildings and different types of housing in each block.  There are at least 4 types of housing facilities in this community, town houses, 2 family homes, single-family homes and granny flats above commercial buildings.  I estimated that about 1,400 people would be able to live in this community that is about 1 square mile.  This is a great reduction from about 50 square miles that 1,400 people would take up in the suburbs.  This excludes the amount of area that will be needed for agriculture and commerce.  Tree lined streets, bike routes, hidden parking lots and alleyways add to the aesthetics of the town.  By having the town be connected by a grid pattern allows traffic to spread out and encourage pedestrian and bicycle traffic.  This community is also situated between the railroad, a major highway and a waterway that connects to the ocean.  This allows people to have an easier time taking public transportation instead of cars.  I also added a significant amount of farmland on the outskirts of the community as well as gardens for every block. 

The purpose of this project was to show people how harmful for the environment it is to live in the suburbs.  I wanted to show the negative aspects that transporting goods across millions of miles has on the environment.  I also wanted to increase awareness to the importance that thinking locally has on a global scale.  My project draws connections from ancient times all the way to the present.  It incorporates design ideas for ancient cities like Rome.  It locates the time when our planet began to have extreme economic growth at the cost of destroying our planet through pollution and farming malpractice.  Most recently it relates to our current global climate crisis.  It addresses the problem in a systematic and feasible way. 

Works Consulted

Ascher, Kate. The Works Anatomy of a City. New York: Penguin (Non-Classics), 2007. Print.

Chapman, Robert L. and Milton Grenfell. New Urbanism. 2009. <>.

Dick, Gregory. Green Building Basics. January 2007. <>.

Kwartler, Michael, and Longo Gianni. Visioning and visualization people, pixels, and plans. Cambridge, Mass: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 2008. Print.

Longo, Gianni. Telephone interview. 8 Oct. 2009.

Steel, Carolyn. "How Food Shapes our Cities." July 2009.

The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of The American Dream. Dir. Gregory Greene. 2004.

US Energy Information Administration. Energy Kids. <>.

Wolfe, Ann M. Suburban Escape The Art of California Sprawl. New York: Center for American Places, 2006. Print.

Community Member (Details)

            Gianni Longo is renowned developer.  He was a pioneer in creating the movement that is now New Urbanism.  From its humble beginnings in the 1980’s, Mr. Longo has continued to spread the word about the importance that achieving sustainability in a community has on a global standard.  Mr. Longo has also published a book that talks about the importance that people have in shaping their community.  He is currently leading an effort known as Imagine New York: Giving Voice to the People’s Vision.  This effort allows people in New York City to share what their ideas and visions are for rebuilding downtown and memorializing the World Trade Center.  One of his most well known works is the reconstruction of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  This city went from being one of the worst cities in America in terms of pollution and living standards, to a flourishing community.  Chattanooga, Tennessee is now a model city of the New Urbanist vision.