Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More Quotable Quotes

This from Bill Hillier, Professor of Urban Morphology - University of London, in his 1996 essay, "Cities as Movement Economies."
Land uses and building density follow movement in the grid, both adapting to and multiplying its effects. The urban buzz, or the lack of it when it suits us, is the combination of these, and the fundamental determinant is the structure of the grid itself. The urban grid through its influence on the movement economy is the fundamental source of the multifunctionality that give life to cities.
Therefore, grid, aka interconnectivity, and level thereof, is revealed thru density and intensity of movement which then equals density and intensity of land use/built form to serve that movement.

Backtracking for rhetorical purposes, he writes:
Urbanity...is not so mysterious. Good space is used space. Most urban space is movement.
Rightly so. But in order to "Dallas appropriate" Professor Hillier's work (obviously London hasn't been completely decimated by the car), I would then expound on this to suggest that urban space can be one of three things, a) for strictly movement, b) for movement and space, or in the rarest of circumstances, c) strictly as space.

If I am to arrive at local examples of each, I might suggest that a) would be any of the highways or to a lesser extent by design Elm and Commerce which is their fundamental failing on downtown. b) would be Main Street in downtowns, much of State and Allen, portions of McKinney and West Village - basically the areas that work b/c they are situated in a buffered position from the corrosive effect of the freeways. c) Lastly, space that is only "to space" and not in anyway "through space" could be a rooftop plaza or something similar.

All of which adhere strictly to design intent (whether the designers consciously knew what they were intending or not. Intent is revealed through functionality only after put into practice). What is this road for? Is it a road through space, or to space (the fundamental question asked by the context sensitive movement)? Is it flexible enough to change character when needed to allow for both movement and the "eddies" that swirl in and out of stores, niches, plazas, offering that "urban buzz" or latently being observers in the landscape.

Therefore, if Main Street is a "place" and Elm, Commerce, and the like around it are the delivery roads to it, how do we expand the success of Main Street (the one and only living portion of Downtown Dallas - despite what any marketeers and cheerleaders might tell you)? Well, the only way is to change the character of the roads IMMEDIATELY adjacent to the three block stretch of Main Street to accommodate people along with the cars.

As of now they are escape routes when they should be places themselves, building on Main Street and adding to the multiplier effect of cities, rather than being the subtractive elements they are. This means taking one-ways to two-ways, narrowing travel lanes, if possible widening sidewalks where necessary, and hell why not the typical streetscape accoutrements as well. But, the reclaiming of car space for people space and slowing traffic, as well as the facilitating the ease of pedestrian crossing of those streets are the functional changes necessary. If you don't see anything like this in the on-going downtown plan, then it's toothless.

What do we want our streets to be? Level of Service A, so they're empty the majority of the time or would we rather they have babies pushed in strollers? new businesses interacting with the streets? Attractive Young Females sauntering by?

**ed. note: I want Dallas (and Downtown specifically) to succeed as much as anyone. I want it to achieve the standards that said cheerleaders have set for it, ie "world class." But, I'm not willing to lie (to myself or others) about what works and doesn't work. It's the only way to address the real impediments to the "urban buzz" and multiplier effects, Professor Hillier discusses that are revealed in the truly world class cities, like London.