Tag Archives: urbanism

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 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.