Urban and Vermont are not typically part of the same stream of thought. As I left LaGuardia on a low-flying prop plane, quickly leaving the metropolis behind in exchange for verdant hills and hidden lakes, I expected a tranquil few days of exploration in the Vermont mountains. While the physical setting was fairly tranquil, my mental setting was frantic. Why? Driving along state highways, I popped in and out of one town after another. Small, yes, but undeniably urban, as well. Even in the early morning hours, when few, if any, cars shared the two lane road with me, I felt urban. Storefronts lining the street, varying scales and sizes of buildings built to zero lotline specs, housing types ranging from estates to cottages to apartments above the store.
In between these towns, some breathing room. Farms, rolling hills, forests all dotted the landscape, allowing me to take a deep breath fom the onslaught of urbanism. Yes, pockets of urbanism within vast landscapes of green verdant rolling hills and mountains, lakes and silos, fields and forests. To be fair, there were not exactly towering skyscrapers and, if I didn't stop, I could be through the towns in roughly one minute. But there was most definitely urbanism, and it had my mind racing.
What can be done to examine and dissect these towns as laboratories and microcosms of urbanity? Could cities, no matter how large, benefit from relaxing their egos and understanding that small towns employ their own best practices? And, to a large extent, succeed tremendously in achieving that oft-quoted parable of "placemaking?" I believe the answer is yes, and my book research begins to think about small towns (in the case of my research mountain resort towns, specifically) and the inherent urbanity that lies within.