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CNU 20 - The Misunderstood Transect: Theory vs. Practice in New Urbanist Codes

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Published on May 30, 2012

The Rural-to-Urban Transect seems intuitive, commonsense, observable. Even now it is possible to see an American pattern of countryside to suburbs to cities. In their early essays, NU theorists assumed that the Transect described that regional pattern, as if seen from ten thousand feet. But actual practice has been different; nearly every Transect-based code covers an area comprehensible from a bird's eye or hilltop, not an airliner.

In NU regulating plans, the T-zones are applied at the fine grain of several zones per pedestrian shed. Is there more than one useful Transect? How did some Transect-based codes end up encouraging sprawl? How did the SmartCode sort out the different scales? What are the sticking points for a more widespread understanding of this powerful coding framework?

In hindsight, we can trace a path from the 18th century continental drawings of Humboldt to early German and American context-based zoning codes, through the 1986 Seaside Urban Code and 1990s TND Ordinances, and finally to the 21st century model SmartCode, and the widespread adoption of its calibrations and of other Transect-based codes.

This session is not just a history lesson; it will be a clear-eyed, self-critical look at why certain key concepts fell by the wayside, and how we can sort them out.

Diagnoses by
Andrés Duany
Sandy Sorlien

Paul Crabtree, P.E., President, Crabtree Group, Inc.
Andrés Duany, Principal, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company
Matthew Lambert, Partner, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company
Sandy Sorlien, Transect Codes Council
Emily Talen, Ph.D., AICP, Professor, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University

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