The Embrace of Buildings I A Second Look at Walkable City Neighborhoods

An illustrated companion to The Embrace of Buildings by Lee Hardy. Preface and Chapters 1-5


Page ix: "...got on the 405 Northbound. It then took me one hour to go eight miles."
Page x: "A carpet of housing subdivisions, shopping malls, parking lots, freeways, and gas stations was being rolled out from LA."
Page xi: "Following up on that lead, I soon discovered the existence of The Congress for the New Urbanism"
Page xiv: Eastown, a streetcar suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Page xv: The author's house in Eastown, Grand Rapids.
Page xvi: "Once a year we close the street for a block party."
Page xvi: "Then not only the food but the musical instruments come out."

Chapter 1:

The Invisible Hand of Uncle Sam

Page 2: "So many of our inner cities have been abandoned, converted into deadzones..."
Page 2: "... often driving where I needed to go along gritty commercial thoroughfares and featureless arterials."
Page 2: "...fast food joints and cartoon signage..."
Page 2: "... parking lots large enough to accommodate an entire European village."
Page 2: "Must we choose between deteriorating urban cores and degraded suburb landscapes?"
Page 3: "FHA guidelines clearly favored single-family homes...and the home industry built accordingly—especially after the Second War World." This is Levittown, built between 1947 and 1951.

Residential Security Map of Baltimore, 1937.

Residential Security Map of Detroit
Residential Security Map of Chicago
Residential Security Map of Grand Rapids

Page 4: Example of a restrictive covenant, written into a property deed.

Page 5: The Detroit Wall in 1941
Page 5: the Detroit Wall today, appropriated.

Chapter 2

In Every Garage a Car—No, Make that Two Cars

Page 10: the Futurama exhibit at the World's Fair of 1939, NYC.
General Motors' idea of the city of the future.
Page 10: "...designed to sell America on the glorious vision of a nation crisscrossed by fourteen-lane, limited-access superhighways.
And we bought it. Los Angeles interchange of highways 105 & 110.
An even more elaborate highway interchange: the "Mix Master" in Dallas.
Page 10: "In 1956, Eisenhower signed the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways Act ... the largest peacetime public works project in the history of the world."
Car Culture Exported. Traffic in Mumbai, India.

The Street Hierarchy

Page 13: The street hierarchy as proposed by Ludwig Hilberseimer in 1944 (The New City: Principles of Planning). Here the hierarchy is laid out in a formal geometry. In most exurban areas in North America it is curvilinear.
Pages 12-13: The Street Hierarchy, a system of major arterials flowing between discrete land use pods. The pods themselves serviced by cul-de-sacs that empty into collector roads that in turn empty into the major arterials.

Page 13: "Shared public space—built, formed, used, and valued— has virtually disappeared."

Chapter 3


The Villa Rotunda, by Andrea Palladio (c. 1590), an aristocratic country estate in northern Italy that served as a model for the magnates of the industrial era of the 1800s.
A plate from Catherine Beecher's book, Treatise on Domestic Economy (1841).
Page 16: "Behold, the suburban formula was struck."
John Nash's Park Village development in London, circa 1820. Note curvilinear streets, and, by contrast, the regimented row housing on the upper right, and the duplexes to the immediate right.
Park Village as it looks today.

Page 16: The story of the growth of suburbia... [was] made possible by increasingly affordable homes and transportation.

Page 16: "The entire middle class, and a good deal of the working class, could now live in downsized versions of the country villa on the edge of town in a naturalistic setting provided by a private yard."
Page 15-16: "Thus was home-life and work-life divided between the private domestic sphere of the family the country, managed by the female, and the public sphere of work in the city, run by the male."
Page 16: "Every man a duke over his own domain."
Suburban Houston today

Chapter 5

What is a Neighborhood?

Page 27: "We are cheered by the image. But we lack the reality."
Page 27: "Welcome to the Neighborhood."
Where is the neighborhood?
Page 27: This is Main Street?


Center and Edge

Page 28: "Walkable neighborhoods have an idenfiable center and a distinct edge."
Page 28: "They have gateways, but no gates." A neighborhood entry in Paris.

Walkable Scale

Page 28: "Walkable neighborhoods are typically defined by a five to ten-minute walking radius."
The circle represents a 5-minute walking radius; the neighborhood contains residential, civic, retail, transit, parks and schools within the 5-minute walking radius.
Four contiguous neighborhoods marked out by a 5-minute walking radius.
Retail in walkable reach of residential, Midtown, Detroit.

Mixed Use

Page 28: "Walkable neighborhoods have a mix of land uses. In them you will find not only houses, but stores, offices, restaurants, pubs, coffee shops, schools, places of worship, post offices, libraries, parks, squares, and transit stops—all within a walkable range."
Residential, civic, and retail together in Hamilton, Ontario.
A mixed-use building in Portland, Oregon. Retail below, residential above.
Sufficient residential densities support the local corner store. San Francisco, California.

Connected Streets

Page 29: "Walkable neighborhoods have a manageable block structure and a fine network of streets."
Street and block plan in a proposed Master Plan for Wheaton, Illinois, courtesy of the University of Notre Dame Urban Design Studio.
Street and block proposal for Wealthy/Jefferson area, Grand Rapids, MI. Courtesy of the Inner City Christian Federation.
State Street, Santa Barbara
City street in Amsterdam
This comparison between the street hierarchy, on the left, and the grid system, on the right, make it clear that adjacency does not equal accessibility. Note that in both plans the home and school are in the same positions relative to each other. But in the street hierarchy one would typically drive to school along the collectors and arterials, while in the grid one can easily walk.

Building Hierarchy

Page 29: "Walkable neighborhoods are typically laid out so that special buildings occupy special sites."
A design study for Congress Parkway, looking west, Chicago. Courtesy of the University of Notre Dame Urban Design Studio.
City Hall of Savannah, Georgia, at the top of Bull Street. A terminated vista.
A place of worship in Copenhagen. A terminated vista.
Pasadena City Hall. A terminated vista.

Public Transit

Page 29: "Walkable neighborhoods are connected to other neighborhoods and to the central business district by way of public transit."
A tram line in Antwerp, Belgium.
Commuter Rail in Seattle.
Seattle commuter rail: take your bike on board; relax and enjoy the view.
Streetcar in downtown Toronto.
Streetcar in Portland, Oregon.
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line in Grand Rapids, MI. Like light rail on wheels. Note bike rack.

Mixed Housing Types

Page 30: "Walkable neighborhoods have a variety of housing types and lot sizes."
Mixed residential types on the same block. Here a multi-unit building anchors a corner in Wicker Park, Chicago.
Row housing next to single-family detached houses—it's OK.
Single-family detached house next to a multi-unit apartment building—it's OK.
A duplex next to single family detached homes—it's OK.

Page 30: "Seven features. None of them complicated or expensive. Put them together and you have a neighborhood scaled and built for human beings in all their diversity."

A study for Arlington, Virginia, by Dover, Kohl and Partners. Note mix of housing types and progression of building densities from edge to center.
Consider a single block in East Grand Rapids, Michigan, originally built before rigorous functional zoning. A healthy mix of land uses and residential types.

East face: retail

South face: townhomes

West face: single family detached

North face: condominiums, duplexes, single family, & retail


Lee Hardy