Thursday, September 6, 2012

Thirsty Thursday Linkages o' the Day

A video of a new interchange/intersection thing called the Diverging Diamond in upstate New York, where we PROMISE new cyclists were injured in the filming of this theoretically perfect model.  We would also like to point out none of the drivers were texting during animation:
http://www.democratandchronicle.com/article/20120905/NEWS01/309050022/Brighton-590-South-Winton-Diverging-Diamond

From Fast Company, this aerial photo-essay could be titled "The Preamble to Ruin Porn":
http://www.fastcoexist.com/1680461/the-hidden-beauty-of-suburban-sprawl#2

Atlantic Cities asks if Charlotte Can Rise Again?
http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2012/09/can-charlotte-rise-again/3153/
This could be a mad-libs article of every city in the South facing nigh identical issues.  A good start for Charlotte?  Removing that noose around its neck:



And lastly, the kind of This-Is-A-Great-Street-And-You-Can-Too stuff (from urbanists) that drives me crazy:
http://www.theatlanticcities.com/design/2012/09/defining-great-street/3181/
I'm a member of the Congress of New Urbanism.  I'm on the local DFW board of the Congress.  But I'm also a member in the way Will Rogers described his being a Democrat when he said, "I am not a member of an organized political party. I am a democrat."  While there are multiple interpretations possible, the most obvious is that it is essentially a big tent with a lot of minor, petty bickering inside.  Consider everything I say from this point forward to be as such.

I am an urbanist.  And therefore I am a New Urbanist because there really isn't much else out there.  But I also agree wholeheartedly with the officially adopted Charter of New Urbanism.  You'll notice when reading that there is very little about style, aesthetics, or various other superficies. What Dover is praising (and Benfield quoting) about Great Streets is also what Dover is criticizing, mostly various superficial aspects of the street.  Though there is a critical difference to what Dover praises and what considers superfluous.  The things he likes (and New Urbanists espouse) buildings close to the street, plenty of storefronts interfacing the sidewalk, vertical mixing of uses, even the various landscaping accoutrements, are direct outgrowths cultivated from something deeper (though it could be argued the things he suggests are unnecessary are simply varying lesser degrees of the same thing).

And that's the subtle irony in Dover's point.  He's basically saying "start with this not that" even though they're both attempts at tail wagging the dog.

Decoration --> Accommodation --> Integration rather than Integration --> Accommodation --> Decoration

These things are a product of place, the ends not the means.  Unfortunately, all too often urbanists forget (or never realize) that you can't just universally apply the need for "mixed-use" and build-to lines as a universal pre-requisite.  Nor that any of these particular great streets can be great without their direct placement within the broader context of the transportation network.  Any of the streets shown (or any other great streets) can't be placed in [insert place you wish to disaparage here] and have it be the same thing.  Instead it must be fostered as the central part of a larger framework.  If you don't do that, you may as well be building a tribute golf course that badly recreates famous holes from around the world.  In fact, that's pretty much what every single "main street town center" is.  A knock-off, copying nothing else but the cosmetics.