F is For Fine-Grained Urbanism

Posted: January 25, 2011 in ABC's
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Fine-Grained Urbanism: Opportunities for Discovery

Urban fabric is the physical form of towns and cities. Like textiles, urban fabric comes in many different types and weaves.  For simplicity’s sake the multitude of urban fabrics are divided into two typologies: coarse grain and fine grain. Fine-grained urban fabric produced what is can be refereed to as fine grained urbanism.

Fine-grained urbanism promotes small blocks in close proximity, each with numerous buildings with narrow frontages, frequent storefronts, and minimal setbacks from the street.  Also, as there are more intersections, traffic is slower and safer. There are virtual no vacant lots or surface parking. This fine grained approach to cities offers many opportunities for discovery and exploration.  Like high count egyptian cotton; fine grain urbanism feels luxurious and makes people want linger in or around it.

Street patterns must be easily navigable and lattice like, with blocks that are not too big and intersections that are not too far apart. —Roger Lewis

Fine-grained urbanism is not imposed on a community like it’s coarser cousins. Rather, it evolves over time in a piecemeal way, responding to what came before it, and adapting to what comes next. This evolutionary process creates places that are not frozen in the era when they were built. Instead, they are dynamic and reflective of a neighborhood’s changing needs.

The resulting urban fabric seamlessly evolves over time from lightly developed residential areas to mixed used retail to dense urban core—if that’s what the community desires. In this way, fine-grained urbanism is far more resilient than mega-projects that, when they lose a single tenant, often fail.  Just as the tiny gestures of everyday urbanism can makes a huge difference in the vibrancy of a community, so can the multitudes of options offered by fine grained urbanism.

Check out the full ABC’s of Urbanism in this handy e-book!

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