In my last post, I began reviewing two of my favorite books from Witold Rybczynski, someone I consider one of the best authors in architecture and urban studies. The first post covered Last Harvest (2007) . Contrast that to City Life (1995), where Rybczynski theorizes:
“…the American city has been a stage for the ideas of ordinary people: the small business man on Main Street, the franchisee along the commercial strip, the family in the suburbs. It all adds up to a disparate vision of the city. Perhaps the American urban stage is best described as cinematic rather than theatrical. A jumbled back lot with cheek-by-jowl assortment of different sets for different productions….”
Like Last Harvest, … Continue reading
Building a successful and attractive transit system takes more than drawing lines on a map and buying snazzy vehicles. In addition to the many technical issues, one of the most important factors is values. Who is the system for, and why will they use it?
International transportation consultant Jarrett Walker, who writes the blog Human Transit, has a new book by the same title about the values behind transit, transit’s limits and opportunities, and why people do and don’t ride.
On Tuesday, February 7, the Planning Commission is hosting Jarrett as a part of our speaker series. The talk will start at 7:30 pm in the Planning Board auditorium at 8787 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring.
If you can’t … Continue reading
While the Planning Board, staff, and County are facing down the challenges of retro-fitting bus rapid transit into the suburbs, some transit planners are thinking about the soulfulness of mass transit.
Beyond the engineering and economic calculations, the languge used to describe the service, its frequency and legibility, whether you can eat on a train car or check your email all contribute to how you feel about transit and whether you’re likely to use it.
I am not a frequent Metro user, but when I think about a local trip I consider it an alternative. I usually find it timely and convenient, but am always stymied by figuring the fare. Am I in the peak or peak of the … Continue reading
To keep up with emerging ideas, highlight especially important works, and provide diverse views on issues in planning and design, I will be highlighting some of my past and current readings over the next year. To begin, I’d like to feature a pair of books from one of the best authors in architecture and urban studies: Witold Rybczynski. Two of his books contrast the extremes of development: Last Harvest (2007) and City Life (1995). (For now, I will forgo his wonderful biography of Frederick Law Olmsted, A Clearing in the Distance, and his latest, Makeshift Metropolis.)
The subtitle of Last Harvest is a summary of its theme: “How a Cornfield Became New Daleville: Real Estate Development in America from … Continue reading
On a busman’s holiday, I had a chance to bicyle around Palm Beach and noticed that, not surprisingly, the one percent get some pretty nice urban design.
But what is surprising is that whether you’re in the one percent or the 99 percent, the bones are the same. Palm Beach’s Worth Avenue was created very much the way Federal Realty does a Bethesda Avenue or Foulger Pratt does an Ellsworth Avenue.
Worth Avenue, Bethesda Avenue, and Ellsworth Avenue are all parallel or perpendicular to the main traffic artery. You get onto Palm Beach island via Royal Palm Way, a spectacularly landscaped boulevard with green median and four travel lanes. But make no mistake, shopping and strolling are a few blocks to … Continue reading
…imagine if hundreds of thousands of people didn’t take Metro everyday. That trip to Tyson’s Corner malls would be a Christmas time nightmare everyday.
A recent WMATA study modeled the region without transit to measure economic benefits–property values increased, jobs in a regional economy, freeway lanes and parking garages not built.
It’s clear that quality of life comes from a complex set public and private investments and variety in housing, transportation, recreation can feed that complexity.
As a part of the Purple Line, Montgomery County will fund upgrades to the Capital Crescent Trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring. Tomorrow, the Planning Board will hear recommendations from its transportation planning staff about several issues facing the trail. After hearing testimony, the Planning Board will send recommendations to the Montgomery County Council.
The current design from the Maryland Transit Administration includes a number of improvements to the trail. The upgraded trail will be expanded to 12 feet wide, where feasible, and paved. Additionally, the trail will be extended from its current terminus at Lyttonsville 1.5 miles farther east to Downtown Silver Spring. New overpasses or underpasses will be provided over Connecticut Avenue, Jones Mill Road, 16th Street, … Continue reading
Part of what makes Seaside and its ilk so successful is their attention to detail. And by detail I don’t mean what one observant designer called “frosting”– banners, lamposts, and fountains.
A more structural approach to designing a space or place begins with elements that are obvious in plan view–terminated views, street grids, and a central square. That initial street grid is punctuated by a square, then further embroidered with paths and smaller spaces.
But even those public spaces and paths are treated with varying levels of complexity. The formal public lawn is neatly mown and edged, but other spaces are more casual.
The path in front of your house is paved and raked, the one behind a barefoot … Continue reading
This year, Seaside is 30 years old and whatever you think of Andres Duany and the Congress for New Urbanism, any observer of urbanism must admit that Seaside has changed the vocabulary.
The pattern of main street, grid streets, mixed facades, and public space is part of every Federal Realty project and appears on our own Ellsworth Street.
Along Florida’s Gulf Coast, Seaside neighbors Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach, and the Watercolor resort have picked up the vocabulary and created a sense of place, community, and style along the coast road, 30A.
Duany etal have identified a fundamental human pleasure in strolling a certain type of built space, and have, most importantly, made that space marketable. From Seaside to Kentlands, … Continue reading
Food trucks are an urban trend that is hard to keep up with. Do they compete with or complement stationary businesses? Are they sufficiently regulated for health, safety, and welfare? Are they unsightly or exciting?
Well, they’ve morphed again. Real Food Farm trucks in Baltimore are bringing fresh produce to neighborhoods, and sometimes even to your door. On the one hand, it’s a service with a bit of social engineering–bringing good food to people who need it and connecting farmers to new markets.
But it is also an update of a Baltimore tradition of street peddlers, known as A-rabbers. Once again, the new urbanism updates the old urbanism.