Tag Archives: Urban

A Good House Is Better in a Good Neighbourhood

 

Developers and builders generally display a handful of house models for prospective customers to choose from. They are flipped right and left, and adjusted slightly to evolve into a street of various building facades and shapes; variety with rules – like Jazz.
Generally the house models are created by drawing upon a set of previous designs and customer feedback. Customers, who use the house daily, know its strengths, quirks and limitations, and let the attentive developer know what they like and what they don’t like. The successful builder listens and creates an improved model, often repeating a best-seller in several projects – the good house almost everyone wants.
But to fetch its best price, the good house must sit on a good lot and be in a good neighbourhood. Fortunately, there are models for a good neighbourhood as there are for houses.

Fused Grid Neighbourhood -3 parks

 

A fused Grid Neighbourhood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 What Makes a Neighbourhood?
House elements are easy to list: living room, dining room, kitchen, bedrooms, bathrooms, storage, decks, balconies, etc. Every house must have these in order to be a comfortable place to live. The key to making life enjoyable, not just comfortable, is getting the balance and relationships between these elements just right. You know the better place not by its looks, but by living in it.
Initially, it seems easy to list the elements of a neighbourhood: streets, lots, blocks, parks, and in bigger ones, schools and shops. Here too, the elements that make up a neighbourhood are not created equal, and how they relate to each other is critical in determining how well the neighbourhood works. You can only tell how neighbourhoods function by living in them, and well-functioning ones command higher prices.
Lot size does matter, but it’s the surroundings that really drive prices. When lots face water, ravines, parks, large easements or a golf course, their prices rise. Research and surveys repeatedly show that people will pay premiums for views of nature or open space and for the experience of tranquility and delight that come from that view. Michael Bond’s 2002 study analyzed lake-facing lots and found an almost 100 per cent increase in property value. Andrew Miller’s 2007 examination of small neighbourhood parks found a 14 per cent increase in values within 800 feet of parks.
The street type matters as well. No family likes to live on through streets; most people are annoyed by the noise, the unpleasant exhausts and risks to children. The street types that avoid these stressors are the loop (or crescent), the mews and the cul-de-sac. Research and surveys have shown that lower-risk streets mean more child’s play and more socializing occurs. As a result, price listings there show higher values. Home buyer line-ups in advance of sale confirm this preference, as do statements by prominent urban thinkers.
“I am not embarrassed to say, ‘if I could afford this [cul-de-sac neighbourhood] I would happily raise a family in this environment’,” says Jeff Speck, a prominent planner and critic of the cul-de-sac.
Residents of some through streets have erected bollards to achieve a similar no-through-traffic effect.

Fused Grid Offers New Approach
Some planners argue that these street types are unfriendly to pedestrians because they are disconnected. Also, they can slow traffic to a crawl. This need not be the case, though. At the neighbourhood scale, Village Homes, of Davis, California, and at the city scale, Milton Keynes, UK, show how pedestrian paths and regular traffic can coexist.
Research by Dr. Larry Frank and Chris Hawkins at UBC (2007) showed that people will walk more when pedestrians are favoured by the layout of streets and paths. Meanwhile, an IBI group study in 2007 showed that traffic can move faster if cars are given a grid that suits them.
But how do you combine the two? A newcomer in the evolution of neighbourhood layouts, the Fused Grid model produces a system that embodies delight, walkability and traffic flow management.
It was shaped by home buyers’ expressed preferences in neighbourhood form, quality and amenities, what they pay for and what pleases them. In addition, it considers what has not worked in recent and older neighbourhoods, and what measures were taken to fix it — street closures and traffic calming for example. In other words, it blends and fuses familiar and proven elements into a new model, just as a new house model does.
It’s evident that we need to put as much thought into the neighbourhoods we build as the homes we build. Today’s customers expect models that are practical, meet their aspirations, reduce costs, help the environment and deliver a well-functioning neighbourhood.

Fanis wishes to thank Doug Pollard for his valuable edits.

This article was first published in the Canadian Home Builder magazine

Old Urbanism to Fused Grid – Montpellier

Old Urbanism to Fused Grid - Montpellier

 

Network Transformation

Montpellier in 2004 took a bold and unprecedented step to turn the entire 800-year old fortified city into a pedestrian realm. It  adapted its inherited organic grid to the car and light rail by applying the Fused Grid model.

 A perimeter road (red) frames an area about 1000 m by 1200 m. Only two feeder roads (blue) serve the distinct district but none goes through.  Pedestrian-only streets (green) dominate the entire 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.

Old street networks  accommodated the transport means of the time – foot, hoof and cart. The car, train, tram and truck, because of their need for space and speed, usurped most or all of the street space from the pedestrians over time. The public realm became mostly a car realm. Returning a district to its original state of exclusively pedetrian traffic,  recognizes the nature of the network and its incompatibility with contemporary transport modes.  Learning from this transformation, new districts in cities can combine pedestrian-only streets and paths with streets that serve the car in a network that balances the needs and enjoyment of both – the Fused Grid

Montpellier - Fused GridMontpellier - Fused Grid

Main Street, Main Stage

 Main Street, Main Stage

Same day, time and Small Town. Two public realms centuries and realities appart.

Main Street beautified and “fixed”, displaying history, small retail and street  parking; it stands empty. All the attributes of good urbanism but no activity.
Main Stage, at the end of the same street, is an enclosed 2-level shopping mall boasting affordable groceries, large stores (or chains) and four level parking garage serving the entire street and Square. Messy urban design, no attempt at harmony but full of activity.
Like its predecessors, the Milan Galleria (1870s)and the Toronto Eaton’s Center (1970, it is in town, in time and of its time; a perfect adaptation.

Arrested Evolution – A living urban past

Arrested Urban Evolution

It didn’t happen and won’t happen.
People walking these streets will not experience the clutter of evolution that accommodates the car, ever. Car-free means no clutter, no noise, no fumes; a peaceful walk that includes only faces and voices.
These qualities can only be recreated in a Fused Grid neighbourhood (see Wikipedia) where portions of the network is solely for pedestrians.

While many old cities have forcefully adapted to the car, hill and island villages in the meditarean have escaped the need for adaptation because of the chosen site topography. They stand as reminders of what a pedetrian world was like, arduous but peaceful, free of any of the nuissances of motorized transportation.

The two pictures below show steep and stepped streets in wchic not even donkeys can be used for accessing houses; wheeled implement motorized or not are out of the question (and the picture). All movement and transport of goods hapens on foot.

DSCN6224Kea, Greece

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