And now, with one single image, I will annoy whole cadres of folks, even more than I usually do. I am confident that all of my lifelong historic preservation friends will throw their hands in the air in horror. And my brother Doug, an astute urbanist with a terrific eye, and ear, for what counts in city life will no doubt remain unconvinced. Nonetheless, onward.
Recapping assumptions, the next city must be dense, and walkable – much more so in both categories than most US cities today. The next city cannot come at the expense of what we have already constructed – we can’t afford to throw anything away. The next city must be in contact with the valuable urban traditions of its locale. The next city must be improvisational, taking advantage of found circumstances to create places of value.
So here is a proposal. We live on Capitol Hill, next to this intersection:
Yes, that’s the dome of the Capitol in the distance. I am standing in the middle of Maryland Avenue NE, looking southwest.
Image by Prashant Salvi.
D Street, on the right, where the streetcar ran in the old days, is now closed. Sidewalks on both sides of the street are wider, adjacent to new construction in the right-of-way that is about 24′ in width. Each proposed building is about 60′ long or so – each is not continuous in its length, but instead features a small plaza between it and adjacent new construction.
Maryland Avenue, on the left, retains one driving lane in each direction (from which the dome of the Capitol remains completely visible). In the existing condition, there is something like 160′ from face to face of buildings on either side of the street, so there’s plenty of room for new construction of about 26′ in width, plus plenty of sidewalks and open spaces. As with D Street, the buildings are discontinuous.
The intersection of D and Maryland is retained as public open space. It could be a porous surface of pavers, as shown here, or planted. Or even gardens. Haven’t got that far yet.
Oh, and the architecture: if it doesn’t look green enough, or traditional enough, or sufficiently contemporary, fine – we’ll change it. For me this is about incrementally making existing urban places more dense, more walkable, and ultimately more durable and sustainable.
Density in the neighborhood has now doubled, at least. Now there will be more space for residents, and places to work, with shops or offices or units at the first floor, and units above. We can stroll out our door to the new market, or cafe, or sit and have a cold one in one of the new plazas.
Okay, so let me have it.
End note: my many, many thanks to true-blue friend and colleague Prashant Salvi for working up this image. Hey Prashant – I’ve got ideas for a bunch more of these….