From Planetizen writer Tim Halbur: “Alissa Walker wrote a piece in Gizmodo with the headline ’Tall is Good: How a Lack of Building Up is Keeping Our Cities Down‘. I agree, of course, that well-designed density creates a host of benefits, connecting people socially and economically, improving health, reducing energy use and pollution, etc.
“But whether skyscrapers are the one true solution for most American cities is still a matter of debate. The great architect Leon Krier, who influenced many New Urbanists, writes passionately in the recently released 2nd Edition of the Charter of the New Urbanism book that buildings should have ‘an unsurpassable maximum of five floors – in short, to walkable building heights’. James Howard Kunstler argues that skyscrapers will quickly become irreperable relics when peak oil and climate change transform our environment.
“As Alissa points out, most of our negative impressions of tall buildings are fueled by media depictions of dystopias and a history of sticking poor people in “towers in the park”, but that doesn’t mean that skyscrapers can’t be built that effectively meet the street. But I feel like an overemphasis on height is misplaced. New York is an anomaly – should Kansas City be focusing entirely on skyscrapers? And Alissa’s Los Angeles (where I also live), which has blocks and blocks of poorly-used, undervalued buildings and land – shouldn’t we be fixing the streetscapes and populating those 3-6 story structures before shooting new skyscrapers up?
“There are a lot of ways to structure a building envelope to house a significant number of people and a mix of uses without going up, up, up. What I think we really need are developers, architects and planners willing to embrace the on-the-ground conditions, build to meet the street in a lively and interactive manner that supports neighborhood commerce and social settings, and adds housing in inventive ways that support the needs of families of all sizes and income levels. More often the result would be a building with variety of levels, from 2-6 stories, that fit together into a community.” Full post here.