'Lean Urbanism' Explained

“Lean urbanism” is the latest buzz-worthy term to enter the discussion on planning and urbanism. A recent article in Atlantic Cities explains the concept—which appeals to the younger generation as well as those with libertarian leanings.
March 17, 2014, 1pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Anthony Flint recently interviewed Andrés Duany on the subject of “lean urbanism,” which recently received a high level of institutional backing in the form of a $600,000 grant from the Knight Foundation for work in Detroit. For those interested in learning more about lean urbanism, Flint’s interview provides access to this latest concept in the lexicon of planning.

According to Duany, red tape is the problem: “Common sense has been almost completely lost in my profession. There are too many protocols in the way.”

“The lean urbanism concept, he says, is like a software patch, or a workaround – ultimately a guide or a tip sheet to navigate the complicated, and often very expensive, maze of working in the built environment in the U.S.,” writes Flint. Duany describes lean urbanism as “not a philosophical approach, but a narrow seam of activity, a sharing of secret knowledge.”

For how lean urbanism relates to the constellation of concepts by which planners and urbanists organize their ideas, Flint compares the work of lean urbanism to more familiar projects. “Tactical urbanism – the unsanctioned demonstration projects of creating a parklet or ‘chair bombing’ a street – might be thought of as at one end of this spectrum. Groups like CNU, the American Planning Association, the Urban Land Institute and SmartGrowth America are operating at a higher political level, pushing policy reform. Lean urbanism, as Duany defines it, seeks to occupy the space between, helping guide urban development in a more practical manner.”

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Published on Friday, March 14, 2014 in The Atlantic Cities
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