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Posts Tagged ‘urban planning’

Somethin’ for the hometown…

Preservation Magazine has an interesting brief on the Irvington Historic District in Portland.

The article discusses the tensions between Irvington’s status as a “historic” neighborhood and the regional Metro government’s desire for more dense, urban neighborhoods.

Predictably, the article laments the blooming of large, dense, in-fill projects in historic neighborhoods.  I do not fault them.  It is after all, Preservation Magazine.  But, the article’s focus on a specific story of a condo project going in across from a historic Queen-Anne home glances past the deeper issues at play.

Preservation and Density are both worthy causes that are often in direct contradiction to one another.  So… which is more important? The imposition of large condo projects in Irvington will, almost definitely, alter the character of the neighborhood.  Is that OK?

Minimization, that is creating smaller, more discrete and respectful projects seems like an obvious compromise.    Irvington, with is city sized lots, is perfect for this approach. Figuring out exactly what makes a new project “respectful” of its surroundings can, of course, be difficult. It is described in the article as one of the “perennial conundrums of preservation” but I think the solution is clear: ample community involvement and a lengthy design review process.

Really, Irvington is easy. What about Cedar Mill?

493820638_a8ad851899_mAs the ethic of “density at all costs” takes over, will Portland’s suburbs go the way of Lost Oregon? With time, early suburban neighborhoods will offer as much historic (and I would argue aesthetic) value as old, historic Irvington.  The future tension between density and preservation in suburban neighborhoods is apt to be amplified.  How do you create dense housing that is respectful to its  complete antithesis? I really don’t think you can.  Does that mean the burbs and all of the historical and cultural information they carry are doomed?

What do you think?

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Preservation Magazine:  Trouble in Green City: Zoning Trumps Design Guidelines in Historic Portland, Oregon

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The National Mall 1/20/09

The National Mall 1/20/09

We have a new president.  As a person of mixed-race today quite special for me, as it was for most Americans, regardless of their ethnic-identity. There is not a lot for me to to add to the chatter about our new Commander-in-Chief.  I am hardly qualified to be a political pundit so I won’t even try. As I watched the oath and parade I was taken, of course, by the architecture. Everything was designed to be grand and looked so beautiful on TV. I have never been impressed with Washington in person. Though, there are exceptions.

The National Building Museum is appropriately, exquisite. Its exterior is playful and pretty. Its interior is a marvel of light and air. It was initially designed as the pension office for Civil War veterans and, as such, originally had short ramp-like steps. This feature made it , perhaps the first building designed for this disabled in the country. That is something beautiful in its own right. It is not the rule unfortunately.

Most of the city and its monuments, although grand, are unexpectedly dingy in person and downright gaudy in design.  But, they photograph majestically and that is how we know them. Washington, like Los Angles, the other city we all know from pictures, is a giant stage. Its buildings are the set-pieces of our republic and we know them by the individual moments in history with which they cooresepond.  Perhaps that is why they look so dull in-person. The knock-off classical temple that houses Lincoln could never compete with the lyrical beauty of the great speech delivered in front of it.

The true architectural grandeur of the city comes when it is taken on as a whole. The image to the right is from the inauguration this morning. It is with photos like these, with the entire mall and a sea of citizens within, that we understand that the city truly lives up to L’Enfant’s design “for aggrandizement and embellishment . . . at any period however remote.”

 

 

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