Puerto Rico builds a train in the sky

Metropolis Magazine
October 2001

The startling truth about San Juan, a metropolitan area of 1.4 million people in Puerto Rico, is that most of it looks like New Jersey. It is a landscape of ugly roadways lined with strip malls, American franchise restaurants, and glass office towers overlooking impenetrable limited-access highways. Sure, there is Old San Juan, the sixteenth-century fortified city with its tiny cobblestone streets. But that citadel of the picturesque, which sits on a point of land in the harbor, is a tiny speck in San Juan’s overall breadth. The bulk of the city was developed after World War II, when tax breaks and other incentive programs brought in industry. And in good postwar fashion, American and Puerto Rican engineers and urban planners heavily promoted the highway as the proper spine for development.

What Makes A Neighborhood Viable?

a roundtable debate – Alex Marshall and Andres Duany
May, 1995

Our article in May about the redevelopment of East Ocean View in Norfolk, Virginia (“When the New Urbanism Meets an Old Neighborhood”), has sparked discussion – verbal, written, and electronic – about similarities writer Alex Marshall sees between urban renewal programs of the 1950s and 1960s and Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater – Zyberk’s plans for the Norfolk neighborhood. At the heart of the debate is a facet of New Urbanism that is disturbing to some critics and could impede the movement in the future: The majority of projects suggest an unwillingness to accommodate existing building stock into its new neighborhoods. New Urbanists call their movement the “architecture of community” – a questionable label when architects appear willing to remove existing communities to build new ones. But for now, the issue is whether this part of East Ocean View is viable enough to save.

Teaching New Urbanism


Every July for the past few years, architect Andres Duany had taught a three-day workshop at Harvard on New Urbanism, the urban design philosophy he helped mold and promote. A group of architects, developers and other professionals were given the basics of neo-traditional design, while Duany and the New Urban movement got the imprint of Harvard’s esteemed name.

No longer. Before this summer, (1997) Duany fired off a letter saying he could “no longer associate his name with a school that is not fertile ground for urbanism,” said Alex Krieger, an architect and director of the urban designprogram at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

Columbia, Maryland

APRIL 7, 1997

Driving around Columbia reminds me of surfing the web. Everything is hidden, not visible except for an icon that says mall or village center, or hotel. But double-click one of these icons – that is, follow the small, waist-high sign that tastefully pokes up off the road – and a hidden reality opens up to you, be it a shopping mall, a housing subdivision, a park, or a school.

Like the web, one can pas quite a few pleasant hours in Columbia, navigating its maze of curvy, curvilinear streets, losing all sense of place and time. Each choice leads to a new set of choices. Destinations are down secondary roads, and in even there are concealed behind rows of trees and sculpted man-made hills.

The Demolition Man

by Alex Marshall
This article first appeared in Metropolis
MAY 1995

Metropolis writer Alex Marshall spoke to Andres Duany about his role in the controversial plan to bulldoze East Ocean View in Norfolk. At the time of the interview, the city had bought few houses and only a small amount of demolition had taken place. Planning officials gave Duany wide latitude in recommencling whether some homes or areas should be saved from demolition. For now, the bulldozers have been idled by a commission that ruled that the housing authority offered a property owner just half of what his property was worth. The authority is appealing, but if the ruling stands, it will drive up the cost of the project to the point that the development would have to proceed in stages, if at all.



[Editor’s note: This version of the article “Eurosprawl” is slightly different than what ran in Metropolis Magazine in January 1995.]

The cheese selection was enormous. Giant wheels of Gruyere, tiny pucks of Chevre and every other sized cheese in between were stacked on refrigerated shelves that ran half the width of the store. The wine, separated by region of course, took up one-and-a-half aisles. This nod to French cuisine in this discount supermarket the size of a football field was one of the few indications you were in Lyon, France, and not say, Connecticut.