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TitleDesign First: Design-based Planning for Communities
PublisherArchitectural Press
ISBN 139780750659345
File Size6.7 MB
Total Pages288
Document Text Contents
Page 144

volume is a massive indictment of blank walls, bare
concrete paving and barren open space and provides a
compendium of good details about intimate scale, mul-
tiple places to sit, and habitable edges as places to meet
and watch the passing urban theater. Ultimately, the
design of the edges of the space and its location are
more important than whether it has trees or not.

British attitudes to nature in the city, predictably,
fall somewhere between the American and European
extremes. On the one hand, a public space like
Covent Garden (see Figure 6.11) follows continental
European precedent – not surprisingly as Inigo Jones
designed it in 1631 based on an Italian model, the
piazza at Livorno. On the other hand, the green
squares of London, although originally hardscaped,
now integrate nature into the city in a way that is far
more comfortable to American sensibilities (see
Figure 6.12).

Historically, American cities have included few
urban squares in their plans, although Philadelphia
and Savannah (see Figure 6.9) are two notable excep-
tions. Whereas Italian cities, for example, are best
known for their public piazzas, London by its tree-
filled urban squares, the iconic American urban
space, as we have noted before, is the street. The
commercial typology is the classic ‘Main Street’ lined
with stores, wide sidewalks and on-street parking (see
Figure 6.13). Its residential equivalent is ‘Elm Street’
(or a similar tree name) which can be found in the

older residential quarters of almost every American
town (see Figure 6.14). This focus on streets as the
primary type of public space in America partly
explains the emphasis on proper street design typical
of New Urbanism, for without a street design that
encourages and enhances walking in residential
neighborhoods and mixed-use commercial districts,



Figure 6.11 Covent Garden, London, Inigo Jones
1631; market buildings by Charles Fowler, 1832.
This refurbished space is now the most European
(and lively) of London’s public squares, with
arcaded edges, 18-hour-a-day activity and a
complete lack of greenery (except for imported
Christmas trees).

Figure 6.12 St. James’ Square, London. Although this
handsome square is now surrounded mainly by
modern offices and nineteenth-century residences,
there are traces of some early dwellings built on this
site in the 1670s, and a couple of notable Georgian
town houses still remain. The square itself is a typical
London oasis, intimate, public and green.

Figure 6.10 Piazza Grande,Arezzo,Tuscany; Loggia
by Giorgio Vasari, 1511–74. Like many European plazas,
the Piazza Grande functions as the urban living room
for the community, the setting for informal gathering
and large communal events like the antique market.

Page 145

few Smart Growth objectives can be achieved.
Figure 10.13 illustrates a typical street design for a
commercial street that balances pedestrian priority
with car parking and circulation.

Building Façades

The second element in our design vocabulary is the
design of the building façades that enclose and define
urban space to create the sensation of an outdoor
room. This is especially crucial at the ground floor
pedestrian level. Here the entrances into the build-
ings should be obvious and they should be accessed
directly from the public space, be it a sidewalk along
a street or a plaza. The edges of an urban space should
consist wherever possible of active uses such as retail,
cafés and restaurants and high-density housing with
entrances directly off the public space, as illustrated
in Figure 6.15. These uses provide the pedestrian
traffic that energizes the space and renders it safe and
attractive. Arcades and colonnades are especially use-
ful design devices for the edges of public space. They
provide a sheltered intermediate zone that further
protects and enhances activities along the edges of
public spaces (see Figure 6.16).

For residential buildings, this intermediate zone is
best created by the use of porches or stoops, raised
semi-public spaces that create a threshold between
the public realm of the street or square and the pri-
vate realm of the home. These spaces (and the lowest
residential floors that they provide access to) should
be elevated at least three feet above the public areas
outside the dwelling where pedestrians walk close by
(see Figure 6.17). This safeguards visual privacy
within the dwelling.



Figure 6.14 Residential street in Dilworth,Charlotte,NC.
Many streets in American ‘streetcar suburbs’
devolved to slum conditions in the 1960s and
1970s as residents moved out to new houses in
the new suburbs. Urban pioneers reclaimed these
older neighborhoods during the late 1970s and by
the end of the 1990s houses on streets like this
example were selling for several hundred thousand
dollars as inner-city living became desirable
once again. Pedestrian-friendly streets like this now
form one of the public space models for New
Urbanist designs.

Figure 6.15 Newberry Street, Boston. What
were once the front gardens of mass-produced
town homes in this Boston neighborhood have
become thriving places of recreation and
commerce, creating one of the most dynamic and
enjoyable streets in North America. (Photo by
Adrian Walters)

Figure 6.13 Main Street, Salisbury, NC. The iconic
American space of Main Street has declined in
stature and character since the 1950s with the
development of suburban shopping centers.
However, the renewed interest in urban living since
the 1990s has stimulated downtown refurbishment
and two of these buildings (far left and far right) in
this small North Carolina town now boast
apartments above active stores.

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