Community by design: Contemporary problems - Historic resolve

Thomas G. Yahner, Daniel Joseph Nadenicek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Today, in parts of the United States, rapidly expanding decentralized growth is spreading a homogenous form across the landscape and destroying multiple layers of cultural history in its wake. In many places new development completely replaces the old and erases the opportunity for the community to retain an integrity and richness that only places containing a layering of old and new can have. Lost are the opportunities for the community to preserve the character and texture of the past, maintain a cultural heritage, and retain those particular features that can distinguish one community from another. History can be of use to rapidly growing communities in at least two ways: It can provide lessons that will help communities deal with the difficult problems of today, and the landscape itself - full of the historical artifacts of the past of the community should be considered in the design of communities. This paper will develop lessons from those two uses of history that will be helpful for designers and planners working in the landscape today. Those lessons will be specifically applied in one of the emerging edge cities on the outer fringe of the sphere of urban growth surrounding New York - the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. The era of rapid change today is not the first. During the late nineteenth century another type of homogenous development quickly altered great portions of the existing landscape. Landscape architects and urban planners like Horace Cleveland argued that new communities should have a heritage and should be carefully grounded in the landscape that existed prior to development. From that approach we can derive three basic lessons still applicable in the era of rapid change today: The need for greater landscape understanding, the importance of leaving a heritage for future generations, and the value of education and interpretation. If the lessons of Cleveland were applied in the Lehigh Valley, this nationally significant historic cultural landscape might be embraced as the fabric upon which to build the emerging community. The many eras and themes of the tangible past of the region would first need to he carefully studied and assessed -that landscape understanding forming a base from which to make planning decisions. As development continues remains of the past might be intentionally incorporated into the new community providing residents with greater richness and the experience of both past and present in their daily lives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-151
Number of pages15
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Nov 30 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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