May 28, 2024

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Densification is also a topic of debate in the US – Gebiedsontwikkeling.nu

Densification is also a topic of debate in the US – Gebiedsontwikkeling.nu

Analysis How dense is good for a city? We measure the development of various cities and typical American regions against the New Urbanists’ yardstick. This overseas analysis also provides the Netherlands with necessary insights into intra-city relations.

Inner-city or outer-city construction? Want perfect or perfect? That debate remains unresolved among Dutch area developers. Thousands of miles away, in the United States, there is intense debate about adding housing to existing neighborhoods and within neighborhoods. It should be noted that the rules of the game in the US are completely different than in the Netherlands. In recent decades, most American cities have expanded into the suburban metropolises they are today. The spread of these cities, the infamous ‘urban sprawl’, is at odds with the sense of small towns that we so admire in Europe.

Density is falling in the US

The difference is evident from the statistics as well. The Netherlands has this amount Average housing density 241 houses per square kilometer and it has increased in recent years. In the United States, construction of high-density housing, such as apartment buildings over five stories, is on the rise. It has only decreased in recent years. That doesn’t make the debate any less fascinating, because American urban designers also see opportunities in density, but just how much? How tall should buildings be? Above all: what do they look like?

About seventy American urban designers Urban Development Movement ‘New Urbanism’ adhere to Came together earlier this year To discuss that. It also provides interesting insights into the Dutch context.

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Stumpy advances

It’s easy to imagine the destruction of density: endless rows of identical gray skyscrapers Random Chinese town. But America seems to have invented its own version: the ‘stumpy’. These middle class apartments are springing up in many neighborhoods in America. They are being built in many American cities in an attempt to solve the housing shortage.

Being ‘Stumbies’ Residential blocks of about five floors, timber construction on the top four floors, concrete floor below with shop or covered parking space. Architecturally, houses are the most repetitive of their type and often consist of vertical blocks with contrasting colors or materials. The general trend is that anyone who loves urban planning and real architecture in North America hates it.

According to the New Urbanists, densification of a city requires the urban area to be central

Not least because in many cases the general function of living in an apartment is completely lost. The reason is the design of ‘Stumbis’. In Del Mar, California (about 150 kilometers south of Los Angeles), there is an example of a series of apartment complexes built over private parking garages. An elevator in the garage takes residents to a corridor leading to individual apartments.

There is little evidence here of the pursuit of social cohesion and encounter within a neighborhood as propagated by the new urbanists. The same applies to taking pedestrian preferences as the most important starting point for urban development. The only public place in the neighborhood is a gas station. But how to do it?

Small town

Designers who adhere to the ideas of New Urbanism say that density has a lot of potential. By bringing together many people in a relatively small area, the use of public transport is stimulated. Shops, restaurants and other establishments also see an opportunity to establish themselves in the area. Furthermore, walking is encouraged in this way – an important point according to new urbanists – which makes possible encounters between residents. A smaller city also creates environmental benefits by making greater use of public transportation.

A ‘Stumpy’ in America

Michael Viall
(Source: Shutterstock)


Typical 'Stumby' in America by Michael V (Source: Shutterstock)

‘Typical ‘stumpy’ in America

Michael Viall
(Source: Shutterstock)


According to the New Urbanists, urban space is central to the density of a city. Mixing life, work and creation, taking sidewalks as a starting point, creating public space and organizing ways for residents to meet each other, in short: “Density is humanized by the urban,” says New Congress President Mallory Paces. urbanism.

Brick warehouse

Jane Jacobs, an advocate of urban living, argued decades ago that a certain amount of density is important for a city to thrive. But if there is too much density, an area again loses diversity. The ideal dense urban district has multiple apartment complexes, housing prices, housing mixes, and income levels. However, according to the new urbanists, it is clear that ‘stumbies’ do not meet all these conditions.

No, the development of urban areas should be more flexible and accommodate more diverse housing options, leading to a more attractive cityscape. For example, this is an area in development in San Francisco where apparently different apartment complexes complement each other in height and style. Six stories high, reminiscent of a brick warehouse, in many areas. Another one with eight floors represents the shorter tall buildings a little further away. It shows how mid-rise construction projects fit into the character of a city.

For example, densification can be achieved by building on top of existing buildings

That building form seems important because urban planners in the United States are hesitant about truly tall buildings. For example, Washington has it A moot point. The city faces a housing shortage, with leading advocates calling for high-rise buildings with housing for low-income groups. Opponents argue that tall buildings are too expensive to build, so this type of affordable housing will not prove successful. So the altitude standard in Washington will remain the same for the time being.

Fortunately, according to the New Urbanists, density is not about height, but about compactness, and therefore about building a community. For example, densification can be achieved by building on top of existing buildings. In a city like Detroit, where the population has declined dramatically since the 1950s, public space is being added to the existing city and city leaders are paying attention. Mixed use Area developments.

Charleston, South Carolina, USA By Sean Pavon (Source: Shutterstock)

‘Charleston, South Carolina, USA’

By Sean Pavon
(Source: Shutterstock)


This way, demolition doesn’t have to take place, but a city can be densified by building on vacant parking garages and abandoned buildings. Legislation and regulations can provide relief, for example by relaxing parking standards for areas developed near public transit.

The best example comes from Charleston, South Carolina. The town is known for its colorful houses built before the American Civil War. When building a large apartment complex with an adjacent office building, traditional southern architectural style was taken into account. The buildings are of different heights, so don’t look ‘bulky’, but add density to the city in an organic way. A small town, so characteristic and livable, seems like the holy grail.


Read the full article on congressional density for the New Urbanism website Here.


Cover: ‘Aerial Photograph of Washington, USA’

By Evgenia Parajanian
(Source: Shutterstock)


Des Van Den Bosse by Des Van Den Bosse (Source: LinkedIn)