Emily Talen

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Regional Research Institute

Document Number



Regional Research Institute


New urbanism , an umbrella term which encompasses `neotrad itional development’ as well as `traditional neighbourhood design’, lives by an unswerving belief in the ability of the built environment to create a `sense of community’. The purpose of this paper is to assess whether the social doctrine of new urbanism can be successfu lly supported or at least integrated with the social science literatu re which deals with the question of com munity form ation . Towards this goal, the paper ®rst delineates the social doctrine of new urbanism, and then discusses the conceptual fram eworks and empirical ®ndings that either support or contradict the idea that a sense of community will follow the physical form of cities and neighbourhoods generally and new urbanist principles speci® cally. After laying this grou ndwork, the remainder of the paper presents an assessm ent of whether a reconciliation between research and doctrine may be possible, in light of variou s apparent contradictions between the social claim s of new urbanists and the results of research by social scientists. It is concluded that new urbanists need to clarify the meaning of sense of community as it pertains to physical design. Further, it is maintained that while some research supports the idea that resident interaction and sense of community are related to environmental factors, the effectuation of this goal is usually only achieved via some intermediate variable. This latter point leaves open the question of whether any number of other design creeds could produce the same result via a different design philosophy. The need for further research is stressed ; this should be focused on investigating the issue more directly.