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John Massengale

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The New Urban Transect

From the CNU Public Square: Transect Urbanism: Readings in Human Ecology, describes itself as “The definitive reference on the Rural-to-Urban Transect.” Edited by Andrés Duany and Brian Falk, the book fills a gap in the planning literature. The Rural-to-Urban Transect—which I will refer to as Transect with a capital T—is one of the most influential planning theories in recent decades.

Prior to this, no books have been devoted entirely to the Transect—although many have touched upon it (I included a section in New Urbanism: Best Practices Guide). Published by Oro Editions and the Center for Applied Transect Studies, Transect Urbanism comprises eight new essays, 100 pages of images—many fascinating and some amusing—by artists and designers, and six of the best previously published academic articles on the topic. An excellent two-part introduction by Duany—Transect co-creator and an architect and planner with DPZ CoDESIGN—is worth the price of the book.

“The Transect is a unifying theory, which serves as a framework for the various disparate fields affecting urban design,” Transect Urbanism explains. The Transect is an organizing principle for hundreds of new urban zoning codes, adopted in recent years, that are raising the level of urban design and the public realm in many cities.

Transect Urbanism tells the story of how this idea came together as a practical theory. Douglas Duany, brother to Andrés, demonstrated the idea of ecological transects in 1980, as the pair walked a straight line up the beach and over dunes in Seaside, Florida. Later they crossed a section of Miami on foot, while Douglas explained how a city could be analyzed in a similar way. Andres realized the Transect could be used to design urban places. He employed it in planning starting in the late 1980s, and the idea grew into an organizing theory. (continued at CNU.ORG)