Category Archives: Architecture

Get to Know the Awkwardly-Named “Terminated Vista”

Having worked in communities big and small across the continent, we’ve had ample opportunity to test ideas and find approaches that work best. Urban design details. Outreach tactics. Implementation tricks. Many of these lessons are transferable, which is why we’ve created “Back of the Envelope,” a weekly feature where we jot ’em down for your consideration.

I’ll admit it: I wish there was a more user-friendly way to say “terminated vista.”

Perhaps I’m more sensitive to it because, as regular readers here know, I’m not an urban designer. I just work with them. That means I’m more inclined to scratch my head like any other layperson when I hear wonky expressions that sound far too highfalutin for an everyday community.

That’s too bad, because the terminated vista plays a pivotal role in good community design.

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Filed under Architecture, Back of the Envelope, Planning and Design

Building a Custom, Multi-Century House for Under $80 a Square Foot

Affordability is a tough nut to crack. For decades, the production housing industry has operated under a simple premise: Americans value space above all else. If you want to make a house more affordable, you build the same house with lower quality materials and cheaper details.

Goodbye four-sides brick, hello one-side brick. Or no-sides brick.

It’s a perfectly sensical approach and, for some folks, it works out just fine. They get more house for the money and, because it’s new, it’s likely to last at least as long as they plan to live there. In short, it’s affordable. For now.

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Filed under Architecture, Development, Resilience

Eisenhower Memorial Controversy Puts Focus on Urban Design

Having worked in communities big and small across the continent, we’ve had ample opportunity to test ideas and find approaches that work best. Urban design details. Outreach tactics. Implementation tricks. Many of these lessons are transferable, which is why we’ve created “Back of the Envelope,” a weekly feature where we jot ’em down for your consideration.

How do we honor our heroes?

The current dust-up over Frank Gehry’s proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial has brought the issue, and the conversation, to the forefront. Within it has been some well-articulated opposition from prominent urbanists, including this from Léon Krier, this from Dhiru Thadani and this from Christine Franck.

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Filed under Architecture, Planning and Design

The Social Network: Community Edition

Likes. Friends. Followers. We’ve got hundreds of ‘em. Plus, LinkedIN for professionals and Google+ for, uhhhh, well, for someone and then all kinds of iPhone texting, FaceTime, email, and Skype-ing. Who has time to make a phone call anymore?

In trying to understanding and leverage the power of our wired social networks, I’ve been thinking about how our new handheld technology will reshape our built environment in the 21st century. The obvious technological advances of the past (trains/trolleys/cars) led us to connect and build the places we now live in. Are we responding correctly to the contemporary human condition with the mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods we design and code for today?

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Filed under Architecture, Development, Planning and Design, Technology

Rowhouses Without the Wiggle

Having worked in communities big and small across the continent, we’ve had ample opportunity to test ideas and find approaches that work best. Urban design details. Outreach tactics. Implementation tricks. Many of these lessons are transferable, which is why we’ve created “Back of the Envelope,” a weekly feature where we jot ’em down for your consideration.

The townhouse, or rowhouse, is a traditional urban approach to density that, somewhat ironically, has been embraced by suburban builders. Over time, this once simple and elegant species has evolved (some might say devolved) to reflect its newfound environment, becoming “squeezed” in its appearance, with little bits and pieces protruding — wiggling — in the oddest of ways.

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Filed under Architecture, Development

Retail: When it bends the rules and breaks the law.

Getting ready for a TEDx talk in a few weeks, I’ve once again been noticing how the places that I love the most usually break the law. The contemporary development codes and bylaws, that is, which are geared to the car, not to the pedestrian and cyclist.

Then last week’s urban retail SmartCode tweetchat with Bob Gibbs sparked a debate about the rules of thumb that govern the success or failure of the most risky development of all: retail. And when those rules might be bent by certain special circumstances.

Ready to geek out with me for a moment?

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Filed under Agriculture, Architecture, Development, Planning and Design, Public Policy, Resilience

Do We (Still) Need Vancouver?

A few years ago Urban Guru Leon Krier asked this question — “Do we still need Vancouver?” — at CNU XVII Denver. In response, the Next Generation of New Urbanists invited then-new Vancouver planning director Brent Toderian to speak in favor of Vancouver, which is easy to do. For, since the fall of Hong Kong, Vancouver has been reinvented to become one of the world’s most livable cities, and a model for urbanization.

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Filed under Architecture, Development, Planning and Design, Public Policy