Chronicles urban planner Robert Simon’s quest to create a new kind of suburban American town that values community, nature, diversity and social equity.
In the early 1960’s Robert Simon had a vision for American life that was radically different from 1950's post-war suburban sprawl, which he felt isolated people. Simon dreamed of "another way of living" that valued community, nature, diversity and social equity. This innovative American planner set out to build a new kind of walkable suburban community that integrated citizens across racial, economic, and religious divides. His ambitious vision was realized in Reston, Virginia.
Inspired by the hill towns of Italy, Simon purchased 6,750 acres of farmland in Virginia with the intention of building a robust, inclusive community. The idea of a fully integrated community was unheard of at the time in Virginia, historically a Confederate state that was resisting integration. But Reston managed to draw in people who appreciated his unique vision as full of new opportunities.
Despite early challenges, including serious financial struggles, the town became an international model, inspiring new trends in suburban development - mixing residential and commercial zones, and creating open spaces and plazas to promote community. Simon's work to integrate nature into everyday living and reduce car dependency was also revolutionary among his contemporaries.
After a 20-year absence, Robert Simon returned to Reston as a community activist, working with other residents to ensure the town of 60,000 remains true to its founding principles, despite 21st century challenges presented by rapid urbanization and rising housing costs.
Reviews & Awards"Charts Simon’s project from its genesis to now. The film makes the case that the best ideas driving urban revival today were actually tested and implemented by the team that built Reston 50 years ago.”
– CityLab, The Atlantic
“An affectionate, even touching, portrait of [Reston] and its history... an unapologetic love letter to the place – not just its ideals, but the practical results.”
– Rob Walker, re:form
“Looks at the first planned community built in the United States after World War II. Reston was designed to be a three-dimensional town rather than a cookie-cutter suburb, with a full range of housing types and prices, a robust public life stemming from its village and town centers, and swaths of woodlands and stream valleys. (It also deliberately sought racial integration, an anomaly in 1960s Virginia.)”
"Another Way of Living honors Simon’s legacy, following him in the final year of his life as he tries to reconcile Reston’s commercial success with its original principles.”
– Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital
"A tribute to Simon’s legacy, vision, and urban planning. Simon envisioned clusters of homes with green space, a public square, commercial development, and opportunities for art-related activities and shopping. Engineers and architects recall the founder’s emphasis on attracting diverse residents and promoting a sense of community."
“Illustrates how people can imagine and plan different futures for themselves, which although novel and strange at first can become the new model for cultural norms and institutions. It is noteworthy that suburban and even urban development has largely caught up to Simon's early 'radical' imagination, including civic open spaces and mixed-use construction featuring street life and pedestrian access.”
– Anthropology Review Database
• Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital
• Virginia Film Festival