We recently wrote about Jonathan Lerner, the Atlanta novelist. Today, we introduce Jonathan Lerner the feature writer. A veteran of national publications, he’s a man of many specialties, from architecture and urbanism to art and design to food and travel. He is volunteer media co-chairman for the 2010 Congress for the New Urbanism. Please visit ArtsCriticATL tomorrow for his discussion of the current exhibit at the Museum of Design Atlanta.
The Congress for the New Urbanism will hold its annual convention this week in downtown Atlanta. Organized with the assistance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it has the theme “New Urbanism: Rx for Healthy Places.”
A considerable part of its program will investigate how the ways places are designed and built affect our well-being. The CDC and others have been busy putting numbers to cause-and-effect relationships between things like access to greenspace and depression; street design and traffic injuries; and the “nutritional deserts” of inner cities where the only food sources are convenience stores and Mickey D and his pals, and where conditions such as obesity and diabetes flourish.
The New Urbanists’ mission is to create communities that are compact and walkable; incorporate retail, recreation and employment as well as residential uses; are served by public transit; and where you might find it pleasurable to be, or even to become, rooted. They look to this public health research to help them refine their designs.
Both they and the public health folks hope to influence policy in areas such as zoning, transportation planning and affordable housing, so that conventional, sprawl-pattern development will join the Edsel and the high-rise public housing project in the Museum of 20th-Century Mistakes.
Attending the congress requires a $1,000 registration fee. One session, however, is open to the public, and it will challenge you to envision a more livable metropolis. David Byrne — current bicycle activist and former rock star whose lyrics asked “Where is that large automobile?” and declared, “This is not my beautiful house!” — will join Ellen Dunham-Jones, Glenwood Park developer Charles Brewer and Scotty Greene, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, to discuss “Healthier Circulation: Bicycles, Cities and the Future of Getting Around.” 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 19, at the Tabernacle. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door.