Edited by Brian Falk and Andrés Duany. ORO Editions, December 2020. 284 p. ill. ISBN 9781951541019 (pbk.), $39.95.
Reviewed March 2021
Barbara Opar, Librarian for Architecture, Syracuse University Libraries, email@example.com
For those not well versed in urban design theories, it will take time to fully understand the implications of the planning concepts presented in what is an important but complex addition to the literature. While the editors, Andrés Duany, co-founder of DPZ CoDesign and of the Congress for New Urbanism, and Brian Falk, director of the Center for Applied Transect Studies, speak to transect urbanism’s roots in human ecology, the ideas are not presented in a linear manner. This reviewer would have preferred more background early in the work. No effort is made by way of an introduction to summarize other twentieth century planning theories, place this one in context, or explain how the strategy evolved. The reader is left to discern this from information spread across different sections of the book. Rather, the editors begin laying out their case by briefly discussing its origins in suburban sprawl. Ian McHarg, in his influential work, Design with Nature, is credited with attempting reform. However, the editors stress McHarg‘s ideas end with green space. “What remains to be done was to extend the environmental protocol of McHarg into the city. This can be accomplished by deploying the Rural-to-Urban Transect” (p.9). Rejecting the idea of landscape urbanism, transect urbanism seeks instead to provide a corresponding theory for urban areas. Thus, begins a detailed study of a planning theory which has grown out of New Urbanism. From this point forward, the editors lay out a clear path for how the transect, a scientific method of studying habitats and areas of interest, can be used to create an effective urban design methodology.
Part One of the book, entitled Images, explains the transect in idea and practice graphically. Crisp color images take the reader through various patterns to show how transects have been employed across the nation. The clarity of presentation and level of detail in this section help the reader grasp the multiple ideas inherent in this planning theory.
Fourteen commissioned essays authored by experts in the field comprise Part Two. Issues range from implementation strategy and ideas for repairing sprawl to more specific topics such as governance or the use of the SmartCode. In his introduction, Andrés Duany states, “But I am not quite convinced that the importance of the Rural-to-Urban Transect is transmitted effectively through them” (p.1). This reviewer would disagree. The essays bring the theories to life, describing for instance how the retail transect works, major obstacles to be overcome, and specific means to achieving successful outcomes.
Academic institutions with graduate urban design programs or those with strong planning departments will find this to be an important addition to their library collections.