People get all worked up about architecture, which is to say, building
design. You notice that building design is NOT one of my three basic
principles of Traditional City design. That's because, as you can see
in this photo, you can have some pretty crummy buildings and still get
a good result, as long as you make Really Narrow Streets.
However, Traditional City design tend to lead to wonderful architecture
as well. Why? Because the building is facing a pedestrian environment
-- the Really Narrow Street. In other words, the building interacts
with people. What do you expect people to make when their building
interacts with a parking lot or six lanes of traffic? You get a
concrete bunker box.
Venice, of course.
Another Trip to Venice
Paris. This is more of an "arterial" street, or even grand boulevard,
but here depicted before automobiles.
Shimbashi district, Tokyo.
This is not a Traditional City, but an example of 20th Century
Hypertrophism (large buildings, huge streets, Green Space). Actually,
if they had built in the Traditional City style, they would have had
both higher density and also a more pleasant environment. I put this
here as an example of a typical mode of failure.
Rome. Too many cars here.
Paris. Now this is what a Really Narrow Street is supposed to look
Here's something else to think about: look at the ratio of street width
to building height. The street is about 12-15 feet wide, and the
buildings are 4-6 stories high. In other words, about 4:1. That is a
bit of an extreme -- I wouldn't want to go much beyond that, I think,
because things can get a little dim at street level. But, if you said,
"let's make a street 13 feet wide and buildings 40-60 feet tall" to
most people, they would have an anxiety attack. "Oh, no, that is so
horrible! Like sardines in a can! Like rats in a cage!" Oh, how people
go on and on. But, if you actually put these people -- the very same
people -- in a place with exactly those dimensions, they say: "That is
a gorgeous Parisian street. Let's call the travel agent and get on a
plane for eight hours and spend $6,000, so we can spend one week of our
life in a place like that
instead of this horrible Suburban Hell."
Maybe you can understand why I say that I'm dealing with retards here.
It's just the way it is.
Houses close together, Hiyoshi district, Tokyo.
Stephen Shore, photographer of Suburbia. We will look at his stuff a
little more later. Can you see the difference between Suburban Hell and
the Traditional City? How much of this photograph is taken by Non-Place
such as Green Space, parking lots, and automobile-dedicated roadways.
Did you say "pretty much all of it"? What is the point of making a city
that doesn't have any Places for people?
What's the width of this street?
This is a typical Really Narrow Street in a residential area in Tokyo.
Although cars are not banned, and many people own cars, the street
nevertheless remains a pedestrian-centric place, where little kids can
Where are ... the bikes?
You don't need bikes in a proper Traditional City.
People lived this way for thousands of years ... before bikes.
How wide is this one? There are a few bars and restaurants back there.
Standing in the middle of the street.
Where are the cars?
I included this as an example of a storefront that is very open to the
street. When your store faces a pedestrian street, instead of roaring
traffic, then it tends to open up and become more welcoming.
A public hot spring in Nozawa Onsen, Japan. It is pretty much sitting
right in the middle of town.
Here is a very contemporary-styled example of a Traditional City
layout, with a pedestrian street and buildings "side by side." Do you
see what I mean about architecture? Whether you have classic 18th
Century French architecture, or this glass-and-steel stuff, you get a
good result if you stick with the Traditional City formula. However,
this street is much wider than it needs to be. It could be half the
width, and would probably work better that way. When you get rid of the
cars, you really don't need so much space. When I said that 25 feet is
"on the wide side," you probably thought I was nuts, right? That is
already so much narrower than the typical 60-100 feet width of the 19th
Century Hypertrophic City. But here you can see what I mean.
Twenty-five feet is a lot when you're dealing with a pedestrian
More like this.