Urban Density Porridge

Nov 18 • Articles • 2566 Views • 75 Comments on Urban Density Porridge

By Deidre Miller…

 

We know that we need cities to house the world’s billions of human beings. We know that cities have inherent advantages when it comes to sustainability. In cities, people can often get around on foot, by bike and by public transport. On average, urbanites live in less space per person, but in larger buildings that can be heated and cooled more efficiently than detached houses. There is no question that in a world with a human population that will soon top eight billion, cities are important to our future if we want to leave any natural ecosystems at all intact.

 

But what are the most sustainable urban forms? When she arrived hungry at the three bears’ house, Goldilocks found one bowl of porridge that was too hot, one that was too cold and one that was just right. Is there a “just right” level of urban density that balances comfort, safety and sustainability?

 

Jane Jacobs Revolutionized City Planning

In 1961, Jane Jacobs wrote her groundbreaking book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. She was a New Yorker first, then a Torontonian, and most people would agree that she revolutionized city planning in North America and in some ways, around the world. Certainly, she had a huge influence on Toronto’s development and on its success. However, many people have taken some aspects of what she wrote too far, while ignoring others.

 

Shining Skyscrapers: Too Hot?

Jane Jacobs wrote that urban density can be a good thing and is not necessarily a sign of “blight.” She even believed that low-density cities were doomed to fail and predicted Detroit’s downfall based on its low density. However, Jacobs did not think that more density was always better. In reality, she had many reservations about residential skyscrapers’ vulnerability to crime and lack of easy access to the outdoors.

 

The high density of downtown Vancouver. Photo credit: mrlaugh

The high density of downtown Vancouver. Photo by mrlaugh

 

Some urban enthusiasts have the attitude that more density is always better. However, public transport and other aspects of the infrastructure tend to become less efficient when density is too high, personal space becomes too constricted, the outdoors become less accessible and yes, the hallways and stairwells of high rises become dangerous, blind streets. Some of these problems could be addressed architecturally. High rises themselves could be safer and more comfortable if their public spaces were designed differently. Creating hallways wide enough to be real public spaces, making them more visible, and integrating mixed uses within the same public spaces could turn highrises into something more closely resembling real neighbourhoods. But, would this make economic sense to developers?

 

Who can deny the beauty of districts full of shining skyscrapers? They’re a triumph of human ingenuity. However, with circulation driven by elevators and the necessity of 24-hour lighting in public areas, these buildings are very dependent on technology to function and are not terribly energy efficient.

 

“Country Living” in the Suburbs: Too Cold?

After World War II ended, North America and, to a lesser extent, Europe, saw the growth of low-density suburban neighbourhoods. They sprang up based partly on an idealized view of country life and partly out of a desire for safety, isolation and control. North American-style suburbs allow nuclear families to live in detached houses on sizeable lots in purely residential neighbourhoods with little street life and no economic diversity.

 

Troy, Michigan, a Detroit suburb, in 1978. Photo by N.J. Calarco

Troy, Michigan, a Detroit suburb, in 1978. Photo by N.J. Calarco

 

In most of these neighbourhoods, it’s necessary to use a car in order to reach workplaces, shops, restaurants, churches, schools, parks and disturbingly, pubs. People who argue that suburbs can be sustainable point out it’s possible to grow food and keep small animals in suburban yards. In reality, neighbourhood standards for the appearance of the properties tend to exclude small scale agriculture. In any case, it’s difficult to see how the lack of walkability, accessible economic life and public transport in any way adds up to a sustainable way of life, with or without a little bit of home food production, especially when farms are usually located only a few miles further out.

 

Suburban sprawl is only possible when and where there’s cheap land and cheap fuel, and it will only continue to be practical while family cars are common and fuel is relatively cheap.

 

Human Scale and Mixed Use: Just Right?

Is there, as Jane Jacobs suggests, an optimum level of urban density that offers walkability and cost-effective public transport while giving city residents easy access to the outdoors and green spaces?

 

When it comes to urban density, land values dictate that there will always be dense housing forms like residential skyscrapers in areas where property values are very high. However, there may be a “just right” level of urban density that balances comfort, safety and sustainability. Was Jane Jacobs right? She loved New York’s brownstones: multi-residential three to five story walk-up apartments and townhouses.

This older mixed-use neighborhood in Montreal is typical of medium density neighborhoods in large Canadian and American cities. Photo by Photo by Chicoutimi.

This older mixed-use neighborhood in Montreal is typical of medium density neighborhoods in large Canadian and American cities. Photo by Photo by Chicoutimi.

 

Medium density urban areas can be found around the world, including in large swaths of Toronto and Montreal. Most European cities are predominantly medium density. Many older medium-density neighbourhoods survived the twentieth century’s overactive urban planning and “urban renewal,” partly because the residents showed no interest in abandoning their neighbourhoods for lower density suburbs or higher density skyscrapers, and were indeed willing to renovate at their own expense and fight for their neighbourhoods’ survival. This wasn’t just because the buildings were nice looking. It’s because the neighbourhoods are well structured for both efficiency and livability. They’re both affordable and comfortable.

 

In Glasgow, Scotland, medium density 19th and early 20th century tenement housing and similar, more recent infill dominate most parts of the city. However, the city’s most dangerous neighbourhoods were built in the mid- to late-twentieth century and include many high rises. The older neighborhoods like the one shown above are typical of European urban density. Photo by Deidre Miller

In Glasgow, Scotland, medium density 19th and early 20th century tenement housing and similar, more recent infill dominate most parts of the city. However, the city’s most dangerous neighbourhoods were built in the mid- to late-twentieth century and include many high rises. The older neighborhoods like the one shown above are typical of European urban density. Photo by Deidre Miller

 

Thanks partly to Jane Jacob’s influence on Canadian urban planning and architecture, mixed use, medium density urban neighborhoods have a secure future in Canadian cities. The three projects below are typical of some of the new, medium density urban architecture coming out of Canada, particularly Montreal and Toronto, since the turn of the 21st century.   

 

2-22 in Montréal, completed in 2012 by Ædifica. Photo by Ædifica

2-22 in Montréal, completed in 2012 by Ædifica. Photo by Ædifica

 

Pachter Residence in Toronto by Teeple Architects in 2004. Source: Tom Arban Photography

Pachter Residence in Toronto by Teeple Architects in 2004. Source: Tom Arban Photography

 

The Printing Factory Lofts in Toronto, completed in 2004 by Chandler Graham / Montgomery Sisam Architects, joint venture architects inc. Tom Arban Photography

The Printing Factory Lofts in Toronto, completed in 2004 by Chandler Graham / Montgomery Sisam Architects, joint venture architects inc. Tom Arban Photography

 

Deidre Miller is an engineer with an architecture degree who has lived in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. and worked in building design, evaluation and regulation.

Related Posts

75 Responses to Urban Density Porridge

  1. Title

    […]check beneath, are some absolutely unrelated sites to ours, having said that, they’re most trustworthy sources that we use[…]

  2. proven says:

    Title

    […]here are some links to websites that we link to since we believe they may be really worth visiting[…]

  3. Title

    […]please visit the web-sites we stick to, including this a single, as it represents our picks from the web[…]

  4. Title

    […]below you will obtain the link to some web-sites that we feel you should visit[…]

  5. Title

    […]that could be the finish of this article. Right here you’ll discover some web sites that we feel you’ll enjoy, just click the links over[…]

  6. Title

    […]below you’ll find the link to some web sites that we believe it is best to visit[…]

  7. Title

    […]Here is a great Blog You might Come across Intriguing that we Encourage You[…]

  8. Title

    […]The details mentioned inside the article are some of the top available […]

  9. sexo oral says:

    Title

    […]we like to honor numerous other world wide web web-sites around the web, even though they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Under are some webpages really worth checking out[…]

  10. xe88 casino says:

    Title

    […]we prefer to honor many other net web pages around the net, even when they aren’t linked to us, by linking to them. Beneath are some webpages worth checking out[…]

  11. wclub365 says:

    Title

    […]just beneath, are numerous totally not connected internet sites to ours, nonetheless, they may be surely worth going over[…]

  12. Title

    […]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a number of unrelated data, nonetheless definitely worth taking a look, whoa did a single discover about Mid East has got additional problerms also […]

  13. Title

    […]Sites of interest we have a link to[…]

  14. Title

    […]Here is an excellent Weblog You might Discover Exciting that we Encourage You[…]

  15. buy cbd oil says:

    Title

    […]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a handful of unrelated information, nevertheless definitely worth taking a look, whoa did one particular discover about Mid East has got additional problerms at the same time […]

  16. Title

    […]always a massive fan of linking to bloggers that I really like but really don’t get quite a bit of link appreciate from[…]

  17. Title

    […]one of our guests a short while ago suggested the following website[…]

  18. Title

    […]very few internet websites that transpire to become comprehensive below, from our point of view are undoubtedly effectively worth checking out[…]

  19. Title

    […]below you will locate the link to some web-sites that we assume you’ll want to visit[…]

  20. best cbd oil says:

    Title

    […]usually posts some very fascinating stuff like this. If you’re new to this site[…]

  21. cbd gummies says:

    Title

    […]Sites of interest we’ve a link to[…]

  22. Title

    […]below you will locate the link to some websites that we feel you must visit[…]

  23. Title

    […]Every as soon as in a even though we pick out blogs that we study. Listed beneath would be the most current web sites that we pick out […]

  24. Title

    […]Here is a good Weblog You may Locate Fascinating that we Encourage You[…]

  25. Title

    […]Wonderful story, reckoned we could combine a couple of unrelated information, nonetheless seriously worth taking a search, whoa did 1 study about Mid East has got more problerms too […]

  26. Title

    […]we came across a cool internet site that you simply may possibly delight in. Take a search in case you want[…]

  27. Title

    […]Every as soon as inside a although we pick out blogs that we read. Listed below would be the most up-to-date sites that we decide on […]

  28. Title

    […]although web-sites we backlink to beneath are considerably not connected to ours, we really feel they’re in fact worth a go as a result of, so possess a look[…]

  29. Title

    […]please take a look at the internet sites we stick to, like this a single, as it represents our picks from the web[…]

  30. Title

    […]here are some hyperlinks to websites that we link to because we believe they may be really worth visiting[…]

  31. Title

    […]very handful of sites that happen to be detailed beneath, from our point of view are undoubtedly nicely worth checking out[…]

  32. Title

    […]we came across a cool internet site that you simply may possibly delight in. Take a search should you want[…]

  33. Title

    […]here are some links to internet sites that we link to mainly because we think they may be really worth visiting[…]

  34. … [Trackback]

    […] Read More to that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  35. tadalafil online

    graph on sildenafil,cialis,vardenafil potency&47;streanths – cialis 20mg review you cannot reply to topics in this forum – buying cialis good sites

  36. … [Trackback]

    […] Info to that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  37. … [Trackback]

    […] Find More Info here on that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  38. 오피녀 says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More to that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  39. … [Trackback]

    […] Info on that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  40. … [Trackback]

    […] Information on that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  41. … [Trackback]

    […] Here you will find 57253 more Info to that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  42. cialis over counter

    order generic cialis pills online – cialis 20mg composizione – cialis costco new posts

  43. viagra pills says:

    buy viagra online canada pharmacy

    viagra coupons for walgreens my groups – viagra information viagra donate – female viagra usage

  44. buy chloroquine 250mg

    coronavirus everett wa – buy chloroquine online – is ebola a coronavirus

  45. Cannabis Oil says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Info on that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  46. … [Trackback]

    […] Info to that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  47. generic viagra

    is viagra safe – cheap viagra online no prescription – viagra 20mg dosage sort by

  48. viagra says:

    viagra 100mg

    viagra and alcohol forum topics – effectiveness viagra – viagra from canada no prescription you have posted in this thread

  49. link m88 says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Information on that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  50. qq online says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Information to that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  51. … [Trackback]

    […] Read More to that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  52. … [Trackback]

    […] There you will find 54138 additional Information to that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  53. … [Trackback]

    […] Read More Information here on that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  54. … [Trackback]

    […] Find More to that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  55. … [Trackback]

    […] Find More on that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  56. … [Trackback]

    […] Info on that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  57. … [Trackback]

    […] Here you can find 77707 additional Information to that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  58. bandar togel says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Read More on that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  59. … [Trackback]

    […] Find More to that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  60. … [Trackback]

    […] Find More Information here to that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  61. … [Trackback]

    […] Information on that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  62. CBD says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Here you can find 46604 additional Info to that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  63. … [Trackback]

    […] Read More Info here on that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  64. Entrepreneur says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Read More Info here on that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  65. link vao w88 says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Find More on that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  66. imp source says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] There you can find 95119 additional Information on that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  67. qiuqiu99 says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Information to that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  68. … [Trackback]

    […] Read More Information here to that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  69. … [Trackback]

    […] Here you can find 19218 additional Info on that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  70. i99 casino says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Read More to that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  71. … [Trackback]

    […] Read More to that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  72. … [Trackback]

    […] Read More on that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  73. forum says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] Information on that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  74. airbnb says:

    … [Trackback]

    […] There you can find 37128 more Info on that Topic: sixty7architectureroad.ca/2013/11/18/urban-density-porridge/ […]

  75. trainrex says:

    On the spreading city lacking density -0-

    For every dollar a household saves on the purchase of a suburban home it will spend close to that same dollar in added transportation costs….

Leave a Reply

« »