All posts by fanis.grammenos

Fanis is the founder and director of Urban Pattern Associates, a planning consultancy and research firm credited with the conception of the Fused Grid model. Fanis has a strong track record of focusing on user needs and the application of practical, innovative ideas to serve these needs. His focus grew stronger through his involvement in land development for several years. He conceived and co-authored a best-selling guide for passive solar design and a home owner’s manual. His research interests cover city and community planning, municipal planning regulations, land development policies, affordable housing, environmental planning and energy-conserving building techniques. He is a regular columnist for the Canadian Homebuilder magazine, a contributor to books and to planning journals, periodicals and web sites. He is a visiting lecturer at McGill University; has presented widely at national and international conferences; and has consulted with several Canadian municipal governments. He lives in Ottawa, Canada with his wife and children.

Strasbourg – Old urbanism to FusedGrid

Strasbourg - Old urbanism to FusedGrid

Strasbourg, France turned much of the old fortified city into a pedestrian priority realm.
It adapted its inherited organic street network to the car and light rail by applying the Fused Grid model. A perimeter road (red) frames the central district, which is about 800 m wide by 900 m long, the dimensions of a walkable area.  Feeder roads (blue) serve the distinct but do not go through directly, particularly in the North-South direction.  Pedestrian-only streets (green) dominate the area making the city centre all its services and amenities accessible on foot ; a true pedestrian haven, free of traffic noise, fumes, risk and obstruction, a delight to experience and an example to emulate in old and new districts. Photos by Michael Afar

Strasbourg - Old Urbanism to Fused GridStrasbourg - Old Urbanism to Fused Grid

Strasbourg - Old Urbanism to Fused GridStrasbourg - Old Urbanism to Fused Grid

Frankfurt – Old urbanism to Fused Grid

Frankfurt - Old urbanism to Fused Grid

Frankfurt, Germany turned much of the old fortified city into a pedestrian priority realm. It adapted its inherited organic street network to the car and rail by applying the Fused Grid model (see Wikipedia).

A twinned perimeter road (red) frames the central district, which is about 900 m wide by 1500 m long, the dimensions of a walkable area.  Feeder roads (blue) serve the distinct but do not go through directly, particularly in the North-South direction.  Pedestrian-only streets (green) dominate the area making the city centre, all its services and amenities accessible on foot ; a true pedestrian haven, free of traffic noise, fumes, risk and obstruction, a delight to experience and an example to emulate in old and new districts.

The streets below have been returned to their rightful owners, the pedestrians, and thus have re-established the tru meaning of “the public realm”.

Frankfurt- Old Urbanism to Fused GridFrankfurt- Old Urbanism to Fused Grid

Urbanesque: Main Street, No Town

Urbanesque: Main Street, No Town

 “Urbanesque” – the perfect urban mix:
19th century urbanism with 20th century technology and commerce.

The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley, 10 km south of Allentown (pop 100k) display  the design features of the cherished Small American Town, an icon of urbanism.
It has a Main Street, a town place and a town square in the midst of bucolic farmers fields.
The Main Street is a mixed realm of cars and pedestrians who arrive from the historic , classic but unkempt Main Street of Allentown. There is ample parking for all behind the stores.
A wide variety of stores, including  a Starbucks in the Square’s cetre are all part of chains.

An ideal urban world for upscale contemporary living based on the private car (and truck transport).

New Urbanist Cul-de-sac

New Urbanist Cul-de-sac

A city neighbourhood displays a perfect New Urbanist cul-de-sac:
This 200-foot long street is built at high density, common to the entire neighbourhood.
It is narrow and shared between pedestrians and cars, a common public realm made possible because of its short length and width, the number of cars on it and the absence of through traffic.

At the end, it opens to a path that connects it to the street across (photo on the right) and to all other streets along the path which is set in a delightful green space  of  only 60 feet in width. The same space is used for dog walking, kids’ play, exercising and inevitably socializing. This public realm is free of all nuisance, relaxing and joyful. At both ends of the five minute path walk one finds a bus stop and convenience stores.
This neighbourhood consisting of ten short, rectilinear cul-de-sacs is compact, connected, safe, has a mix of uses, is served by transit and has a delightful public realm.
Urbanism comes in many guises – often in a cul-de-sac.

“Urbanesque”: Town Place, No Town

Urbanesque: Town Place, No Town

 “Urbanesque”: – the perfect urban mix:
19th century urbanism with 20th century technology and commerce.

The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley, 10 km south of Allentown (pop 100k) display  the design features of the cherished Small American Town, an icon of urbanism.
It has a Main Street, a town place and a town square in the midst of bucolic farmers fields.
The Main Street is a mixed realm of cars and pedestrians who arrive from the historic , classic but unkempt Main Street of Allentown. There is ample parking for all behind the stores.
A wide variety of stores, including  a Starbucks in the Square’s cetre are all part of chains.

An ideal urban world for upscale contemporary livingliving.

“Urbanesque”: Town Square, Street, Place …. But No Town

Urbanesque: Town Square, No Town

 “Urbanesque” – the perfect urban mix:
19th century urbanism with 20th century technology and commerce.

The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley, 10 km south of Allentown (pop 100k), display  the design features of the cherished Small American Town, an icon of urbanism.
It has a Main Street, a town place and a town square in the midst of bucolic farmers fields.
The Main Street is a mixed realm of cars and pedestrians who arrive from the historic , classic but unkempt Main Street of Allentown. There is ample parking for peak shopping periods behind the stores.
A wide variety of stores, including  a Starbucks in the Square’s cetre are all part of chains.

An ideal urban world for upscale, contemporary living adaptet to the car culture, truck trnasport that has adopted the aesthetic of the small town. “Urbanesque” = style without the culture that supports it.

Urbanesque: Town Place, No Town  Town Place, No Town

Urbanesque: Main Street, No Town  Main Street, No town

“Eyes on Street” – Un-coded

In Pompeii, Italy and Mani, Greece, two streets more than a thousand years apart follow the same dis-urban code.

These two streets are good examples of urbanism: they are narrow; chiefly or only pedestrian;  have proportions and continuous wall for enclosure, and use natural, local materials for all surfaces that add strong texture and detail.

Both disobey a cardinal urbanist rule- eyes on the street. Not only the flanking hoouses have no porches, the ground floor is almost entirely opaque to the street; few, if any, very small windows set above the eye level to prevent eyes on the street LOOKING IN.
A coded, vernacular dis-urban practice(see articles by Besim Hakim). Mani photo by Doug Pollard.

New Urbanist cul-de-sac

Ideal New Urbanist Cul-de-Sac

A city neighbourhood displays a perfect New Urbanist cul-de-sac:
This 300-foot long street is built at very high density, being at a favourable location fronting a river. It evolved from an early suburb of the 30s to an urban extension of the 90s.
It respects the street by placing all parking underground. It is connected: it links to the next street via a garage exit and a path. Public transit passes at the entry of the cul-de-sac.
It has a mix of housing forms, types and range of accommodation sizes.
Some non-residential uses inhabit the street, of which residents  are only 3 blocks away from a main shopping street, reachable on foot, bike and car.
It sees only the traffic of its houses and apartments, no through traffic; rendering it quiet and safe.
This street is compact, connected, quiet, with mixed uses and varied housing types and with adjacent  open space; a prototype for a good urban street.
Urbanism comes in many guises – including an ideal a cul-de-sac.

New Urbanist Cul-de-sac

village in Mani, GreeceA Mediterrenean mountain village displays a perfect New Urbanist cul-de-sac:
It uses the street as a true public realm; the entire pavement is for walking, sitting, eating and socializing.
The street is compact and perfectly cosy, if somewhat messy and, in places, dilapitated. What it lacks in formal design it gives back  in delight.
It mixes housing and restaurant/coffee/bar shop with a home for the owner  above.
The little traffic that comes to this point ends here – no through destination.
Urbanism comes in many guises – sometimes in a cul-de-sac.
(Photo by Doug Pollard)

The Vancouver Fused Grid

Visiting Vancouver, BC, I looked for what some called the “Vancouver Fused Grid”.

It is an example of street network modification that follows the precedents of traffic calming in Berkeley and Seattle in the late 1970s. Nested near the downtown core and being densely built up, Vancouver West, like other neighbourhoods in many cities, gave up on the 4,000 –year old pure grid and modified it to protect the peace, quite and safety of its residents. They did it for quality of life not for cosmetic reasons.

Twenty years later, this neighbourhood shows clearly the benefits of the fusing the merits of the old grid with the advantages of disallowing through traffic while permitting unrestricted pedestrian and bicycle access. The positive outcome of these modifications is confirmed first by the fact that more of the same devices are being installed and by a study of the prevalence of collisions before and after the modifications that shows a substantial reduction. The elements of the Vancouver Fused Grid are:

  • Green Streets” or “Green Connectors”. These are segments of streets that have been closed off to cars. Over the years, vegetation, pavement treatment and street furniture have turned these segments into places for people to engage in casual talk while resting for a few moments to look at billboard announcements.
Entrance to Green Street Connector
Entrance to Green Street Connector
  • Diagonal diverters. A raised, paved and landscaped platform connects diagonally the two opposing sidewalks, thus disconnecting what would have been a direct route for cars. Pedestrians, can jaywalk, a previously illegal activity, without danger. Bicycles can go straight through using specially provided gaps in the platform. In geometric terms, diagonal diverters turn a cross intersection of a grid into a loop.
Diverter connects opposite corners of a grid cross interesection
Diverter connects opposite corners of a grid cross interesection
  • Traffic circles. Unlike the large diameter roundabouts, traffic circles are small circular, raised platforms placed in the centre of an intersection making it impossible for cars to continue on a straight line. Far more effective than four-way stops, they permit a smooth flow of traffic while, removing the risk of running the intersection, slowing traffic down at the intersection and maintaining a direct line of movement for pedestrians without increasing the crossing distance. In terms of geometry, the insertion of a circle in the centre of a cross intersection effectively turns it into four simultaneous or coinciding T-intersections, as does its larger relative, the roundabout.
Traffic circle with greenery and tree
Traffic circle with greenery and tree

Why has this been called the Vancouver Fused Grid? Because it incorporates two basic elements of the fused grid network layout: first the discontinuous car network and continuous pedestrian movement (or giving pedestrians an edge over cars.) Second, providing places of rest and tranquility, where danger and tension dissipates and nature or people become the object of attention.

A neighbourhood model showing the network layout that differntiates paths from roads
A neighbourhood model showing the network layout that differntiates paths from roads

The Vancouver Fused Grid responds to the natural and frequent question when planners and residents encounter the model: Can it be applied to existing neighbourhoods? the Vancouver example gives an affirmative answer.