Urban planning, the New Urbanism, and (Catholic) Conservatism

Some time ago, I made a hitherto unfulfilled promise to address urban planning, New Urbanism specifically, favorably from a conservative perspective. I still intend to offer my own thoughts on the matter; I believe that the fundamental error of planning today is the narrow-minded attitude permeating the discipline. Almost anything pre-Enlightenment has no place in the field, appreciation for classical architecture and design notwithstanding. Phrased more accurately, although planners (in some instances, at least) take some glance at early design, all too often they fail to appreciate the philosophies and theologies behind the earlier work. They attempt to do what they ought not to do, to wit, separating ideas from their origins, to disastrous ends. Until all planning programs educate their students more fully in classical civilization, and until students in planning more frequently enter such programs from broader liberal educations (such as what I so fortunately received in Notre Dame‘s Program of Liberal Studies), our cities, towns, and open spaces — our civilization — remains threatened by well-intentioned but close-minded planners, mired in the frighteningly pernicious, often surreptitious ideology of political correctness, reckless multiculturalism, and paternalism.

Fortunate for the world, the Urbanism program in the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture educates students in just this manner. (As such, I cannot help regretting not having at least applied to this program, which, additional to providing training in architecture as a foundation for a design education, would have required my studying in Rome for a semester.) The amazing Phil Bess, director of the school’s graduate program, has written a fantastic piece on the matter, found here. A wonderful discussion about the matters discussed in the essay, which is referenced in the course of the debate, took place at Mirror of Justice, a fantastic blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory, in early January. Do read this conversation!


Cornell Law School’s Eduardo M Peñalver’s “The End of Sprawl?”, in the 30 December 2007 issue of the Washington Post, started it all.

Rick Garnett at Notre Dame comments.

Oklahoma’s Mike Scaperlanda joins the conversation.

Greg Sisk of St Thomas MN replies.

Peñalver responds to the comments that his piece has elicited.

Rick Garnett rejoins.

Scaperlanda on “Affluence and the New Urbanism” here.

Sisk again.

Aquinas on urbanism, courtesy of Garnett.

Sisk offers a reply to the Bess essay here.

“Philip Bess responds to Greg Sisk (read this!)

Again from Sisk.

Scaperlanda posts this from his son, now pursuing his J.D., who graduated from Notre Dame with me.

I think that I have listed all relevant posts. It’s a lot, I know, but well worth the read. Enjoy!

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3 Responses

  1. I appreciate the mention of Mirror of Justice. For what it’s worth, our usual site has been (temporarily, I hope) hijacked by robots. So, to find MOJ, you have to go to mirrorofjustice-dot-blogs-dot-com. Pax, RG

  2. […] I shall address soon. Again, for a primer, start with the conversation, from early this year, at Mirror of Justice. Before you immerse yourself in that amazing(ly erudite) conversation, commence your journey into […]

  3. […] today finished Notre Dame’s (Thank you, God, for that miraculous overtime victory!) own Phil Bess’ phenomenal Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architecture, Urbanism, and the Sacred, I, upon the […]

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