Urban Planning

Urban Design Is More Than Roads

by Don Friedman on February 12, 2018


Via Curbed, comes notice of a report, Delivering Urban Resilience, on the intersection of urban design, resistance to extreme weather, and climate change. Three cities – El Paso, Philadelphia, and Washington – are used as examples, with Philadelphia’s circumstances being closest to New York’s.

It is not really news to hear that technologies such as green roofs, which manage rain water and reduce heat absorption, can reduce the urban heat island effect. What makes this report interesting is that it looks at the economics of this kind of infrastructure change rather than just the health and livability benefits. We all want to believe that we’ll do what’s right no matter what, but It is far easier to institute changes if there’s a cost savings. This report comes to the conclusion that it’s cheaper to make infrastructure changes than to deal with the health issues that excess heat causes. Cost should be secondary to public health, but if both issues give the same answer, that’s worthy of note.

Physical Reality Governs

January 30, 2018

Structural engineering is pretty much the reverse of the high-tech virtual world that is hyped in the press as “technology.” Whatever computerized tools we use in design, our work is grounded, literally, in the physical world and its constraints. This article and its linked source are fascinating in the way they reveal the lack of […]

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Wiping The Slate Clean

January 24, 2018

There’s a great article up on Curbed about a plan from the mid-1960s to replace most of the buildings and streets in Harlem with a series of 100-story circular-plan tower linked by diagonal boulevards: A ‘futuristic vision for Harlem’. This was a blue-sky plan that never got very far. It lacked backing from the government agencies […]

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Axial Planning

January 23, 2018

That’s a view up West Street (a few weeks ago, when we had snow) from an angle that has One World Trade Center more or less centered on the street. West Street takes a slight bend near Albany Street that makes this view possible. New York has very few such vistas. The Empire State Building, […]

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More Vestiges

January 22, 2018

This is an interesting article by Sarah Bean Apmann for the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation: The Lasting Imprint of Stuyvesant Street. Ms. Apmann is focussed on one of Greenwich Village’s many peculiarities in street layout, but there’s more to discuss in a larger context. First, oddly, Stuyvesant Street does not quite run true east-west. That’s […]

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Useful Tools

December 29, 2017

The New York City Department of City Planning has updated the ZoLa map making it easier to get zoning, service, and neighborhood information about any lot. Here’s our office: The Landmarks Preservation Commission has a new online map that shows information from the designation reports about all of the city’s landmarks. Our office isn’t a […]

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Thoughts on Thoughts on Rowhouses

December 20, 2017

Rosalie Genevro interviewed Alexander Gorlin and Jeff Murphy for the Architectural League: here. It’s a thorough discussion of why rowhouses still make sense for housing in cities. The short version: they’re a good way to get a reasonable density without building apartment houses. We usually work on rowhouses at the ends of the economic spectrum: […]

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Changing The Meaning Of A Euphemism

December 6, 2017

Whatever your personal definition of “meadow” is, the New Jersey meadowlands are not it. The area is a vast swamp, barely above sea level. It’s the combined valley of the Passaic and Hackensack Rivers before they empty into Newark Bay, which itself is a branch of New York Bay by way of Kill Van Kull. […]

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Everything In A City Is Manmade

November 29, 2017

Another great article from Karrie Jacobs, this one on Prospect Park: here. I’m not even going to attempt to summarize it. You should read it because it’s a fascinating look at how parks in New York have developed over the last 150 years. Jacobs’s painstaking descriptions of the work that went into the creation of […]

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Three Myths About Brutalism

October 25, 2017

Neave Brown, the architect of the Alexandra Road housing estate in London (above, click to enlarge) as well as other brutalist housing projects, has recently been recognized for his work. In architectural terms, this is undiluted brutalism, with nearly all exterior surfaces as bare concrete or glass. The article at the second link above summarizes […]

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