The most recent Technical Page outlined the idea of typology — an ordered assembly of building types — as a basis for making good urbanism. Any fully developed building type manifests three consistently characteristic aspects; its function, its configuration, and its disposition. Function is the broad range and mix of activities which may be well-harbored in a building manifesting a given type; it is not the narrow, unreachable-in-practice, mono-use tailoring of Modernist theorization.
A handsome new book from Academy Press in Washington, DC, carries the inflated title Reston Town Center: A Downtown for the 21st Century. A more accurate, less puffed-up title would have been “Reston Town Center: A Downtown for the Suburbs.” The tradition-influenced center in northern Virginia’s 1960s “New Town” pursues a number of new urbanist ideas very skillfully, but falls short of being an ideal for cities, or for the century as a whole.
Downtown Montgomery will soon have a new plaza much like those in Europe. The Alabama city was about to rebuild an intersection around the 1885-vintage Court Street fountain when Ken Groves, head of the city planning department, asked Rick Hall and DeWayne Carver of Hall Planning and Engineering in Tallahassee to review the construction drawings. Hall and Carver saw the fountain area — which terminates a view down Dexter Avenue from the Capitol — as a place that would be congenial both for vehicles and for people on foot if designed and built properly.
magine driving into Memphis and finding a medical district whose skyline consists of one romantic tower after another — Tennessee’s response to the medieval Italian town. Imagine walking the streets of the medical district and finding them not bleak or scorching but pleasurable — lined by shade trees, ornamental fences, distinctive gates, and buildings that enhance public life.
Every component of urbanism possesses both technical and social dimensions. While there are always good reasons for a traditional component or relationship of components to assume a standard form, there are also times when some widespread alteration of social circumstance licenses, indeed demands, technical reinvention.
The patterns of alley geometry and alley-associated buildings, where they meet the block faces and surrounding streets, may be usefully adjusted in a variety of ways. It is necessary to understand standard configurations, but also how they may be tuned to local situations.
The seven-day Mississippi Renewal Forum in mid-October, which created regional and local plans for redevelopment of 11 cities along 120 miles of coast devastated by Hurricane Katrina, was the most efficient and productive event I have ever witnessed or even heard about in recent times.
The plans are masterful, state-of-the-art visions.