July 9, 2018

The Language of New Urbanism: From Abutter to Numtots to YIMBYs (oh my)

“It was a coving Boomburb lacking ekistic viewsheds, but that terminating vista created by the setback on Sally’s abutter is going to help her PLVI.”

Architects, or anyone who lives with (or suffers through interminable patio discussions with) an architect in this day and age, has probably heard that a thousand times. But not everyone is hip to the latest lingo.

In the age of soaring land values, housing affordability issues and the politics of real estate, no doubt a few new words have entered your vocabulary. They populate your social media stream, masked as urban agitprop, but what do they mean? They sit there, marinating, waiting for you to Google them.

Relax — ArchDaily recently published 50 Planning Terms & Concepts All Architects Should Know to cut to the chase.

And if you’re a numtot, you might consider starting a similar list to curate.

What’s a numtot? Aside from a reminder that you really should get some snacks for your office, a numtot is the latest neologism to make you feel old and out of touch, but this time with good reason — numtots are people born of this millennium. And they have an obsession likely not shared by you at a similar age.

An acronym for New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens, numtot is thankfully not something created by 50-something bureaucrats hoping to engage today’s youth (imagine that naming charette). Numtots is in fact a global network of millennials who decided for themselves to try to make cities better, in part through public transit and other big, previously unsexy ideas.

Formed by two University of Chicago students in March, the group is now 100,000 strong and, according to this Guardian article, sees 300 daily posts on topics that are seriously topical, and sometimes a bit fun.

Like, can we envision a future in which cities run solely on public transport? Is it ableist to imagine a world entirely without cars?

And what about a metro map festooned with ironic station names? Mariah Parker Appreciation? Actually, might not be a bad idea.

From all this, some valid questions arise. What happens when YIMBY numtots become planners and architects over the next generation? What questions will they ask? What cities will they build?

And what language will they be speaking?

With thanks to Tom Durning and Ian Robertson for the tips. Photo of Colorado Springs coving by Chris Waits via Flickr.

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