This thesis discusses the relationship between spatial structures and social practices and relationships in the Washington DC metropolitan area. I have looked into an architectural movement called New Urbanism and their master-planned community of Kentlands in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The New Urbanism is analyzed as an ideology and its epistemic concept is argued to be "community."
With Kentlands the planners have attempted to create a self-contained town in the midst of suburbia. That is, a socially and materially self-reproductive "community." The New Urbanist community is localized and organized around the human body. In a "true" community, residents should be able to walk to school, shops, and their place of work. Furthermore, a community is a charming place like the old American small towns where neighbors really knew each other. Kentlands is an emulation of such places.
My thesis scrutinizes the Kentlands residents' conception of the ideology and the residents' construction of Kentlands the place, as well as their relations to other Kentlanders. It is then argued that Kentlanders have a varying degree of attachment to the ideology and to Kentlands. Some residents are very active in the local social life whereas others are not. As regards the ideology, I aver that Kentlanders can be divided into ideology holders and pragmatists - or following Geertz: "deep" and "shallow" players (1993 ). The former are committed to the tenets of the New Urbanism while the latter are more concerned about property values or other pragmatic issues. In other words, some residents are emotionally attached to Kentlands and are very concerned about making Kentlands "work," whereas others have a more expedient conception of Kentlands and see it as a good investment or just as a convenient, nice, and safe place to live.
I conclude that Kentlands as a geographical locality does not correlate to an emic community, but is rather a setting for different groups and networks based on common interests. The two things Kentlanders have in common, namely a Kentlands address and an interest in property values have not been enough to produce an encompassing social community as defined by the New Urbanists. However, a preoccupation with property values has indeed contributed to the economic and ethnic residential segregation so typical for the USA. But although Kentlands is not accessible to everybody, the spatial practices of the residents themselves are not confined to this particular locality. As other (sub-) urbanities occupying the modern/postmodern/postindustrial space, the residents of Kentlands see their whole region as their arena.