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Archive for August, 2011

The White City of Tel Aviv

Bauhaus architecture, Tel Aviv.

The world’s largest collection of Bauhaus architecture makes up the White City of Tel Aviv.  Planning students will remember that Sir Patrick Geddes, the eccentric godfather of 20th century regional planning, was retained by a forerunner to the Jewish Agency to plan the new city’s physical layout during its first period of rapid growth, in the mid-1920s.  Between that time and Israeli independence in 1948, Bauhaus became the architectural style that filled out much of Geddes’s plan.  Recently, I came across an Israeli website, Artlog, that catalogs some of the city’s most significant structures with photographs, architectural drawings, and descriptions.  There really is a striking aesthetic to the clean geometry and smooth curves of these buildings, set against the bright skies and sun-starched land of the Middle East.  Artlog seems to be a work in progress, but its work on Tel Aviv is already quite thorough, and worth a look.

Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean. The ancient seaport of Jaffa is on the horizon.

I found versions of both these photos on multiple websites, without apparent attributions or copyrights.  But if they’re really yours, just let me know, and I’ll either provide appropriate credit, or take them down.

Meanwhile, here’s a schematic map, reproduced in Dwelling on the Dunes: Tel Aviv, by the architect Nitza Metzger-Szmuk (2004), from the cover of Geddes’s 1925 report; and a Google satellite pinpoint map, for comparison:

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Two RPA Blogs to Visit

A grad school friend, Dan Schned, is currently working on two interesting projects with the Regional Plan Association in New York City.  One is America 2050, which examines long-term planning priorities, in detail, from a national perspective.  Another is the Business Alliance for Northeast Mobility, which advocates for better mass transit infrastructure in the New England and Middle Atlantic regions of the US.  Check them out.

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New Star Chart

Not exactly land use law (in any earthly sense), but I really like this.

Part of "Compass to the Northern Sky," Municipal Prints Co.

And stargazing isn’t completely unrelated to the art of town planning: Vitruvius advocated reference to celestial bodies when orienting the layout of new Roman towns.

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Eastside Park H.D. Source: Google.

An interesting neighborhood straddles Broadway on the east side of Paterson, along the Passaic River.  Eastside Park has a mix of simple, comfortable, and ostentatious houses, most of which appear to date from the early 20th century.  The section also has a cluster of commercial, religious, and apartment buildings, centered around the intersection of Broadway and 33rd.  Aesthetically, Eastside Park has a very settled ambiance, with a large stock of solid houses, old trees, stone walls, and winding hilly streets.  Unfortunately, it also appears to be a neighborhood that is going through some kind of a transition for the worse:  A number of the buildings are showing signs of long-term neglect.  Temple Emanuel, a synagogue at the corner of Broadway and 33rd, may be the most striking example, but a number of very large, comfortable homes on the side blocks are also badly in need of paint, landscaping, or hardscaping work.  The trust level isn’t great, either: I was accosted, in a fairly hostile tone of voice, by a suspicious neighbor who observed me taking a picture on his block.

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Paterson, of course, is an old industrial city.  If you set out from Eastside Park and followed Broadway west through downtown, you would reach the Great Falls district, which is home to a number of surviving remnants from the city’s industrial past; and which was traversed by the Morris Canal.  Great Falls, once the industrial dynamo, and Eastside Park, are on opposite sides of the city.  What’s interesting about Eastside Park is that it represents a type of neighborhood phenomenon that can be found in most medium-to-large industrial American cities: the section of spacious, well-appointed homes on leafy streets, within the corporate boundaries of an otherwise gritty town.  Weequahic and Forest Hill are its counterparts in Newark; Delaware Park, in Buffalo; Kensington, in Brooklyn; West Roxbury and Roslindale, in Boston.  A lot of these neighborhoods have Victorian roots, and many were even laid out as early streetcar suburbs around Olmsted parks in the late 19th century; yet their housing stocks are often skewed toward the 1920s.

There’s something paradoxical about these enclaves.  First, they really are integral parts of the cities to which they belong.  Eastside Park is not a suburb of Paterson; it is Paterson.  And yet, even today, such neighborhoods remain economically and aesthetically apart from their cities.  They are also, frequently, among the most humanely-planned neighborhoods in America: visually attractive, full of nature, walkable, land-use efficient, and accommodating a wide mix of housing and land uses.  These are not the cookie-cutter suburbs of the 1950s, but places whose builders understood the richness of tradition and valued a degree of individualism.  And yet, these places were built to bear out the privileges that accrued during some of the most Darwinistic times in our history:  The tenements and railroad apartments of the same periods can always be found, en masse, just across some busy thoroughfare.

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I recently came across a short book, Administration of Building Regulations: Methods and Procedures for Enforcement, that presents a concise overview of US building codes.  If you’re at all interested in the scope of American municipal building regulations, it’s worth the two hours or so that it takes to read.  Published in 1973, it is a clear, well-written presentation, with a minimal number of unnecessary tangents.  Building codes are direct heirs to the building bye-laws that Unwin discussed in Town Planning in Practice.  They controlled, among other things, the geometry of development in the years before that aspect of land use regulation was subsumed by comprehensive zoning.  Today’s building codes deal almost exclusively with technical specifications, including electrical, plumbing, and structural requirements.  As its title suggests, this book also covers the broad legal frameworks and enforcement mechanisms of municipal building regulations.

It may not be the easiest title to find.  They have a copy of the 1973 edition at the Rutgers law library in Newark.

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