Thursday, April 27, 2006

Some thoughts on downtown housing

At some point we'll get diminishing returns to how much we invest in downtown housing. It may be that only a few people are needed to live in a downtown. I've never seen anything in the literature that sets a specfic density requirement. Generally speaking, when urbanists and new urbanists speak of putting people in the downtown, they meant converting the upper stories of existing buildings into residential lofts, apartments or condos. They didn't mean go out and tear down landmarks and replace them with condos--especially if the condos break the 4-story limit (a rule established by Christopher Alexander, whose work I will discuss at a later point).

On the contrary, they recognize that historic buildings are what endow a place with character--are what in fact make it a place and not just a dot on a map. Historic doesn't necessarily mean ornate temples, Victorians, Gothic or Neoclassical mansions and cathedrals. It means everything that came before. Some of these buildings may not be "pretty" to the average person, yet if they possess an aesthetic unity, to a discerning eye are often beautiful. Much industrial-age architecture is like this. This is one reason such buildings are so favored by the artistic community not only for living in but as spaces for the creation and exhibition of contemporary art.


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