The Embrace of Buildings II A Second look at walkable city neighborhoods

An illustrated companion to Chapters 6-10 of The Embrace of Buildings by Lee Hardy

Chapter 6


A retail street built for humans: buildings up to the sidewalk, solid street wall, transparency (windows) at the street level, street trees, parallel parking, pedestrian crosswalks. Mainstreet, Gloucester, MA.
A retail street built for cars. Oceans of asphalt; cartoon signage; pedestrian hostile. Arterial in anonymous exurban region, Michigan.
Pedestrian Street, Copenhagen.
Automobile Street, Grand Rapids.
Page 34: "Streets are to the public space of the city what hallways are to the private space of the house. They are our shared corridors...The exterior walls of the buildings that line the street serve as the interior walls of the public hallway." (Cambridge, England)
Streets for people provide generous pedestrian amenities. (State Street, Santa Barbara, California)
Even an outdoor fireplace and gathering place. (Eighth Street, Holland, Michigan)

Squares, Plazas, and Neighborhood Parks

Page 34: "Public squares and plazas...are the rooms in the shared civic space of the city...And they are defined by the buildings that surround them." (Storrs, Connecticut )
Dean's Court, London, England.
Page 34: Public squares and plazas (and pocket parks) "are associated with certain kinds of activity: catching the sun on a lunch break, strolling with the kids in the fresh air, sitting on a bench to finish the chapter of a book,...meeting friends and associates..." (Pocket park off the 606 elevated trail, Chicago, Illinois)
Public squares not only provide urban respite, but a fitting place for monuments and statues that remind a community of its history. (Savannah, Georgia)
Public squares and parks can provide amenities that far excel private arrangements, and are open to all to enjoy regardless of income level. (Portland, Oregon)
Wicker Park, Chicago, embedded in the neighborhood.

In public neighborhood parks young families can step out out the isolation of the private backyard and meet others with shared experiences.

Or one can find peace and solitude.
Neighborhood parks can also be sites for weekly farmers markets.
They can also support public/private partnerships and a variety of community programs.

The Transect

Page 35-36: "The study of the progression of the built environment from urban center to rural edge...has been captured recently in the theory of the transect."

The Transect, from the rural area to the urban core, American style.

The Transect, European style.

A study of settlement types.

Courtesy of the University of Notre Dame Urban Design Studio.

Division Street, Wicker Park, Chicago.

Page 40: Let the streets support the social life of the city.
Portobello Road, Nottinghill, London, England.
St. Albans, England.
San Luis Obispo, California. Every Thursday night mainstreet is converted into a farmers market and community festival with food vendors, live music, and activities for kids.

Waterfront Park, Charleston, South Carolina

Page 38: "Sometimes I just stay in the Waterfront Park and just relax and think."

The main street of Hamilton, Ontario, converted into a five-lane, one-way highway. Automobile sewer. Pedestrians beware.
Wealthy Street, Grand Rapids, circa 2008. Street widened; pedestrian threatened.
The Los Angeles version of a pedestrian crossing.
A complete street in Amsterdam. Light rail in the center, with travel lanes for cars and bikes on each side, generous sidewalks for pedestrians, trees planted in the parkway.
City streets need not be part of a "concrete jungle." With intensive planting, they can be more like linear parks. Hoyne Avenue, Chicago.

Chapter 7


The Big Sort

Landslide counties in the general elections

Landslide counties 2016
Page 44: "Sequestered by income, deprived of parks, bankrupting Main Street for malls, we no longer rub shoulders with our neighbors, rich and poor, deprived or thriving, that tousled mix of age, race, and experience."–Jane Kay Holtz, Asphalt Nation. Kensington Market, Toronto.

Third Places

The Book Nook. Montague, Michigan.

That Early Bird. Grand Rapids, Michigan.
McClean & Eakin Bookstore, Petosky, Michigan.
The "Talk House"—a shelter for daily conversation—Vollendam harbor, the Netherlands.

Pages 48-49: "Own Your Own Home" & the Red Scare

P. 48: "Growing tensions between industrial workers and industrial owners led to social instability and the threat of radical politics."
P. 48: "Anxious government leaders at the federal level sought to discourage a similar communist takeover by promoting home ownership." Evidently renters are not real Americans.
The dramatic jump in homeownership after 1940 was in good part due to federal programs adopted in the 1930s during the depression era.


Page 51: Not in My Back Yard. Recently there has been a rise in YIMBYism (Yes in My Back Yard), advocating for more affordable neighborhoods through the addition of mixed-housing types and public transit.

Chapter 8


Corbusier hovers over his model of towers on a superblock.
Corbusier's 1923 drawing of the Functional City: towers in a park, plus highways.
The Functional City comes to Detroit in the 1950s: the Jeffries Towers and the John Lodge Freeway
Corbusier's Plan Voisin for Paris—never built.
Same idea for NYC: Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town—built in the 1940s.
Page 59; "Grand Rapids, Michigan, was one of the first cities to go in for a complete redevelopment of its downtown area..."
Page 59; "...soon the wrecking balls and bulldozers went to work, taking down all the buildings in a forty-acre, twenty-two block area."
Page 59-60: "The Richardsonian Romanesque City Hall and Kent County buildings were reduced to rubble."
Page 60: "Sleek office towers were built on huge superblocks, creating a sterile urban environment that few would visit unless they worked for a bank, were called for jury duty, or wanted to contest a utility bill."
Built between 1951 and 1955, the Pruitt-Igoe complex consisted of 33 residential towers on 23 acres of land in St. Louis; 2,870 residential units in all.
Page 60: "Built in the early 1950s in keeping with the ideas of the Functional City, they were, in the end, judged to be completely dysfunctional."
Page 60: "On July 15, 1972, someone pushed a button, and the Pruitt-Igoe public housing towers in St. Louis were demolished."

Chapter 9


Jane Jacobs at the White Horse Tavern on Hudson Street, her Third Place.
Citizen-Activist Jane Jacobs at a 1961 press conference in New York City.
Robert Moses: "master builder" of the mid-twentieth century.
Moses overseeing a model of an elevated highway through NYC.
Washington Square Park, at the southern end of Fifth Avenue.
Page 70: Robert Moses' 1955 plan, on the right, for running traffic through Washington Square.
Page 73: Projected route of the Lower Manhattan Expressway.

Chapter 10


Pages 77-78: "As the name suggests, form-based codes pay more attention to the form of buildings that to their their use....A form-based code ...will specify the required height of buildings...It will mandate 'build-to' lines...it will require a certain degree of transparency...it will limit the width of buildings..."
Page 78: 'Form-based codes ...are more open to a mix of uses...and to a mix of buildings types within the same area."
Page 79: "Form-based codes will provide sections for various kinds of street types that mandate adequate room and protection for pedestrians, provisions for street trees and sidewalk furnishings, ratios between the width of streets and the height of buildings that line them, and specifications for bike lanes and public transit if appropriate."
Page 79: "Form-based codes are where urban design and architecture meet, and there is no reason to think that the good urbanism need be guaranteed at the expense of good architecture."
Design proposal for La Fox, Illinois. Courtesy of the University of Notre Dame Urban Design Studio.