Urbanwords: the website of The Dictionary of Urbanism



Browse the additional and amended entries by initial letter:



naked street One without (or with minimal) signs and road markings. In 2004 advocates for naked streets argued that they tended to make places safer by encouraging street users to keep a careful eye on other users.
nanoarchitecture Buildings of the future whose structures, made of molecules programmed to replicate themselves, will be based on the coding properties of DNA. The theory has been developed by the American architect John M Johansen.
nappy valley (Australia) A place with a high child population.
ned A layabout or hooligan. The term refers to the Edwardian dress adopted by teddy boys, but is often mistakenly said to be an acronym for 'non-educated delinquent'.
negative space That which is not consciously planned or designed.
neutral ground (Louisiana and Mississippi, US) A grass strip between a pavement (sidewalk) and a street (American Heritage Dictionary).
New Ash Green A new village built in Kent from the 1960s to the mid-1980s, initially by span developments.
new suburbanist A pejorative term for advocates of new urbanism, used by critics who accuse them of designing and planning suburbs rather than higher-density urban developments. Compare the sprawl cartel.
new urbanism The approach to town planning and urban design advocated by the congress for the new urbanism and the council for european urbanism, emphasising the physical characteristics that traditionally have made successful neighbourhoods and the need for smart growth. The urban villages movement in the UK shares many of its ideas. Doug Kelbaugh (2000) describes new urbanism as 'utopian (or at least reformist), inspirational in style and structuralist in conception'. It is utopian, he explains, 'because it aspires to a social ethic that builds new or repairs existing communities in ways that equitably mix people of different income, ethnicity, race and age, and to a civic ideal that coherently mixes land of different uses and buildings of different types'. It is inspirational 'because it sponsors public architecture and public space that attempts to make citizens feel they are part, even proud, of a culture that is more significant than their individual, private worlds, and an ecology that is vertically and horizontally connected to natural loops, cycles and chains.' And new urbanism is structuralist, or at least determinist, Kelbaugh suggests, in the sense that 'it maintains that there is a direct, structural relationship between physical form and social behavior. It is normative in that it posits that good design can have a measurably positive effect on sense of place and community, which it holds are essential to a healthy, sustainable society.'
Elizabeth Moule and Stefanos Polyzoides, writing in The New Urbanism (Katz, P. [ed.], 1994), set out some of the movement's physical conventions for creating new development on traditional patterns at the scale of the building, block and street: a) Buildings, blocks and streets are interdependent. b) The totality of the street, block and building should be shaped through design, not policy planning. c) Urban design should express the cultural variety inherent in climatic, social, economic and technical difference. d) Urban design should be an integration and collaboration of all architectural, engineering and design disciplines. e) The public should participate in the design process. f) The human scale should be preferred over that of the car. g) Any street should be part of a street network. h) Street blocks should be square, rectangular or irregular, with sides preferably between 250 and 600ft. i) Lobbies, major ground-floor interior spaces and public gardens should be regarded as an extension of the city's public space. j) Cars are best accommodated in the middle of blocks or underground. k) The ground floors of multi-storey car parks fronting pavements should be occupied by pedestrian-related uses. l) Multi-storey car parks should have significant public faces. m) Multi-storey car parks should be designed with future conversion to a different use in mind. n) Surface car parks should double up as significant public gardens. o) Street blocks should be lined with regularly planted trees. p) There are two kinds of buildings: fabric and monumental. Fabric buildings should conform to all street and block-related rules and be consistent in their form with all other buildings of their kind; monumental buildings should be free of all formal constraints. q) Regionally proven methods of building should be used wherever possible. r) Easily available local and recyclable materials should be used wherever possible. s) Labour-intensive building processes should be used where economically possible. t) Low-energy consumption and pollution-free operations should be pursued wherever possible. u) Buildings should be designed and built with a view to renovation and reuse over a long period. v) Specific street, block and building design rules for public and private developments should be designed and presented in the form of a code.
    The new urbanists' critics include the architectural writer Michael Sorkin (2000). The new urbanists, Sorkin writes, 'romanticise the small town in a Disneyesque reverie of artificial halcyon, celebrating the captive nature of the front lawn, that perfect place of green. They celebrate urban interaction but their vision structures every arrangement along the contours of a scary fantasy of whitebread civility and order. Like the carefully managed landscapes of the eighteenth century, these are places that exclude the other, expunged like weeds. Deviance pent-up is released not in the jostling of the crowd but in solitary cellars with a garrotte around a little girl's neck.' Others have a different idea of new urbanism. 'If there is to be a "new urbanism",' write Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau (1995), 'it will not be based on the fantasies of order and omnipotence; it will be the staging of uncertainty; ...it will no longer aim for configurations but for the creation of enabling fields that accommodate processes that refuse to be crystallized into definitive forms.' In 2003 the Royal Town Planning Institute responded to deputy prime minister John Prescott's call for 'a new urbanism' by declaring that 'the new urbanism already exists - it is called planning' (MacDonald, 2003).
    A paper by Peter Gordon and Harry W Richardson (1998) sets out some typical criticisms of new urbanism: a) The stock of urban buildings is largely in place and changes very slowly, they write. 'Demonstration projects, the object of international study tours, a pleasant living environment for a few thousand households, well-paid lecture tours for a small clutch of somewhat immodest architects: the new urbanist communities amount to little more.' b) There is no evidence that most people want to live in new urbanism, Gordon and Richardson argue. c) The scale and impact of the loss of agricultural land to suburban sprawl has been exaggerated. d) New urbanist communities rarely achieve their aims of having mixed uses. Their developers find difficulty in attracting shopping, consumer services and especially employment. e) New urbanism, despite its intentions, does little to promote equity, foster residential mixing, provide affordable housing, or reduce income differentials between city centres and the suburbs by infilling urban sites. Gordon and Richardson quote David Harvey (1997): 'New urbanism... builds an image of community and a rhetoric of place-based civic pride and consciousness for those who do not need it, while abandoning those that do to their "underclass" fate.' f) Although most people would accept that our behaviour is sensitive to, and affected by, the surrounding physical environment, the new urbanists take the argument to extremes, they argue. 'Many new urbanist projects are so influenced by the nostalgic longing for the archetypical small town of the past that they fall into the trap of believing that recreating its physical structure (at least to some degree) can simultaneously recreate its social and civic behaviour.' g) There is little justification for the claims that new urbanism will reduce car dependence and increase transit (public transport) use, cycling and walking, according to Gordon and Richardson. A high proportion of trips is external to the community (for instance, almost all jobs are outside), cars remain vitally necessary for mobility, and new urbanist communities are unlikely ever to be sufficiently dense or large to justify significant transit services. h) New urbanists are merely tampering at the margins of urban problems, believing, 'at least implicitly, that social problems are remediable by architectural and design prescriptions rather than by economic development'. i) New urbanism is a threat to economic growth. 'If cities want to prosper, employment growth in their suburbs is to be welcomed,' Gordon and Richardson conclude from their analysis of economic trends. 'If suburban expansion is inevitably linked with sprawl, there are clearly serious risks in anti-sprawl actions.' j) The new urbanists correctly argue that the metropolitan region is the appropriate unit for analysis, but 'it is difficult to find any concrete details in new urbanist discussions as to how they will influence the future metropolitan region.' See also celebration,
declaration of bruges, andres duany, léon krier, neo-traditional planning, poundbury, prince of wales, seaside, stepford and surfbury.
New York minute A very short period of time. The Dictionary of American Regional English quotes a description of it as 'that infinitesimal blink of time in New York after the traffic light turns green and before the ol' boy behind you honks his horn'. The term probably originated in the 1960s, possibly in Texas (Quinion, 2004).
Newcastleton An estate village on the Scottish borders, founded in 1793 by the third Duke of Buccleuch to house handloom weavers. The plan is on a grid with three open squares on the central road.
Nice of the East The Lebanese capital beirut in the early decades of the twentieth century when it was, like the southern French town, a cosmopolitan and sophisticated international resort.
node A point of origin or destination in a transportation system. In the case of the monorail, each station is a node.
non-territorial city A network of linked social and economic functions that extends beyond any single place.
nonmobile older urban male (NOUM) A category of person often studied in urban dialectology, being particularly likely to use forms of speech that are traditional in a particular locality.
Northern Supercity Coast-to-Coast A conurbation or megalopolis in the form of a 30-kilometre strip stretching from Liverpool to Hull in the north of England, proposed in 2003 by the architect will alsop. See also supercity.



Only the skyscraper offers business the wide-open spaces of a man-made Wild West, a frontier in the sky.
Rem Koolhaas

illustration from the Dictionary of Urbanism