In the first half of the twentieth century urban areas were compacted with residential, mercantile and industrial in close proximity to each other. There are many fascinating cultural and economic reasons for this orderly system, but I think you can chalk it up to the philosophy of the time, which was a place for everything and everything in its place. Then in the second half of the century the residential moved out from urban centers to create the suburban areas and then there was distance between mercantile and industrial moved. People entered and exited realms of life, literally on and off the clock, using their automobile to transport them between functions. Did it work at the time? I guess it probably did.
People have changed. The way we work, when we work, how we play, how we source goods, how we learn, how we get around has all changed dramatically. One of the most valued resources in today’s society is time, and our environment is changing in response. People and businesses are trading in urban sprawl existence with its separation and associated commutes, for walkable, mixed-use environments where work, play, learning and shopping are overlapping and constant. People want to do everything everywhere, all the time, which has ushered-in a very different looking neighborhood. Today’s planners are creating mixed-use neighborhood centers that foster community interactions and support all of life’s functions. All things here, now.
I wonder if in another 50 years, society will find this type of urban planning intrusive and claustrophobic. If perhaps they will have had enough “togetherness” and will re-value privacy and “thinking time” to and from activities. I don’t know, that will be for others to decide, but I do know tomorrow’s architects and urban planners will always be ready to respond to the cultural, social and economic demands of future generations.