In my opinion, good city buildings touch each other and define the street. They don’t have to be glamorous to make good urban fabric. When building work together, they create good spaces for people to enjoy.
I’ll give two quick examples of clearly defined streets. These two streets are near my apartment in Dublin. Unfortunately, they are both designed for cars–not people. Nevertheless, the buildings work together to define space. On Parnell Street, the buildings support a good mix of uses and are close enough together to provide the density of population needed to support ground-floor retail. Residential density is lower a few blocks away, on North King, and ground-floor business are fledgling.
Simply put, a proper mix of residential and office space is necessary to support ground floor restaurants and retail. By providing residential as well as working space, mixed-use districts are active throughout the day. Businesses can draw customers morning, noon, and night.
Having the right mix in your district ensures you’ll be able to get the services you need without getting in a car. (Oh, that we’d build this way in the States! Walkability is so rare in cities back home.)
I was reminded of all this last Thursday, when I travelled to the Fulbright office in Ballsbridge to help interview Fulbright applicants. It’s in the outskirts of Dublin. Although this is a suburban neighborhood, it is still dense by US standards. Notice that there’s more space between buildings in Ballsbridge than in Dublin city center, but that there’s still a good mix of uses/services. Nevertheless, some buildings contribute much more to the life of the street than others!
I’d snuck in one last trip to see the nephews this past weekend while I was back in the States. It was such fun, but I caught a bug that kept me in bed all day Monday. That prevented me from wrapping up my writing in a timely fashion and packing for my return to Dublin. I had to lean on my colleagues for help and then throw my bags together in the wee hours before my flight.
The resulting overweight bag set me back $200. And, I arrived in Dublin sans Irish credit card, bus pass, et cetera. I suppose those documents are at home in some very safe location. Dave has been in bed with the bug today and hasn’t yet located them. I spent the day pulling myself back together.
The sliver lining in this cloud is that a new bankcard is on the way. And on my walk to withdrawal cash I discovered wonderful new delights of Dublin.
After the second day in a row of rigorous paper writing, I was delighted when our architect-neighbor Thom dropped in to say hello.
He brought a tin of coffee in thanks to Dave for sitting his pets. And his visit reminded me I’d wanted to post photos of The Plot he designed for downtown Norfolk. It’s located on the unused but prominently located site-of-a-stalled-development project.
It was beautiful place to behold on the morning of the solstice, when Dave and I arrived in downtown Norfolk for breakfast with our friend Wayne Ringer.
Thom White is an up-and-coming young architect. (Yes, you heard me right. Young. Architects are considered young until they hit their 50s.)
Thom and his business partner, Mel Price, have been shaking up the design scene in Hampton Roads the past couple of years. (For all you out there who think I get my genders confused, Mel’s name appears to be short for Mary Ellen… and yes, Leslie Lee IS a man!)
Thom and Mel’s young firm, WPA, has been doing such great work – in addition to an admirable level of community service – that they’ve recently snagged a number of very prestigious design contacts.
A couple years back, Thom was part of the Emerging Leaders in Architecture program sponsored by the Virginia AIA. They did interesting an interesting community service project in Richmond. Back home in Norfolk, people saw the opportunity to spruce up a rather ratty-looking site that lies smack in the middle of downtown. A number of buildings had been torn down over the years to make way for boom-time development that never commenced. The site was left dormant and lonely.
Thom and Mel dreamed up a temporary solution and “Hundreds of volunteers have worked with the Downtown Norfolk Council to turn the vacant two-acre plot of land into a park, complete with Wi-Fi, vendors, entertainment and other attractions,” according to WVEC, a local TV station aired a story on it.
On the morning of December 21st, The Plot was simply magic. If you’re in the neighborhood, you should stop by the D’Egg diner for a meal and take a stroll through Thom’s magical Plot.