June 22, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

SMa.r.t. Column: Deep Thoughts of Real Urban Thinkers

Two years ago, and in the context of the Downtown Community Plan which was being discussed at the time,  we provided a few thought-provoking observations by architects, designers, and philosophers who have thought deeply about the city environment. Those thoughts are still critically relevant in today’s Santa Monica, and are worth revisiting.

“Traditional urbanism has three essential qualities: (1) a diverse population and range of activities, (2) a rich array of public spaces and institutions, and (3) human scale in its buildings, streets, and neighborhoods.” – Peter Calthorpe: Urbanism in the Age of Climate Change, Island Press 2010

“There is abundant evidence to show that high buildings make people crazy.

…High buildings have no genuine advantages, except in speculative gains for banks and land owners. They are not cheaper, they do not help create open space, they destroy the townscape, they destroy social life, they promote crime, they make life difficult for children, they are expensive to maintain, they wreck the open spaces near them, and they damage light and air and views.

“It is our experience that in both housing and office buildings, the problems begin when buildings are more than four stories high.

“At three or four stories, one can still walk comfortably down to the street, and from a window you can still feel part of the street scene: you can see details in the street, the people, their faces, foliage, shops. From three stories you can yell out, and catch the attention of someone below. Above four stories these connections break down. The visual detail is lost; people speak of the scene below as if it were a game, from which they are completely detached. The connection to the ground and to the fabric of the town becomes tenuous; the building becomes a world of its own: with its own elevators and cafeterias.” – Christopher Alexander: A Pattern Language. Oxford University Press, 1977. p.118

“Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them. By old buildings I mean not museum-piece old buildings, not old buildings in an excellent and expensive state of rehabilitation – although these make fine ingredients – but also a good lot of plain, ordinary, low-value old buildings, including some rundown old buildings.

“But neighborhood bars, foreign restaurants and pawn shops go into older buildings. Supermarkets and shoe stores often go into new buildings; good bookstores and antique dealers seldom do. Well-subsidized opera and art museums often go into new buildings. But the unformalized feeders of the arts–studios, galleries, stores for musical instruments and art supplies, backrooms where the low earning power of a seat and a table can absorb uneconomic discussions–these go into old buildings. Perhaps more significant, hundreds of ordinary enterprises, necessary to the safety and public life of streets and neighborhoods, and appreciated for their convenience and personal quality, can make out successfully in old buildings, but are inexorably slain by the high overhead of new construction.” – Jane Jacobs: The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Random House 1961

“In any urban area, no matter how dense, keep the majority of buildings four stories high or less. It is possible that certain buildings should exceed this limit, but they should never be buildings for human habitation.” – Christopher Alexander, A Pattern Language. Oxford University Press, 1977.

“…One does not have to be a terrorist capable of monstrous acts to feel a deep sense of something terribly amiss with many new places we see being built. We know instinctively that something is wrong with a whole series of daily experiences that have become commonplace in towns and parts of towns we have built in the last fifty years but that were not everyday occurrences before then…Primates in the social environment of monkey island at the zoo look like they are doing all right, jumping around outside with their friends. But primates isolated in cages in research labs look terrible; you can see the sadness and desperation in their eyes. We are no different; when our environment does not suit our genetic makeup, bad things happen to our health and our spirits.” -Daniel Solomon, Global City Blues, Island Press 2003

“…research shows that the benefits of density are not linear, but taper off as density increases. In other words, there is an optimum density, above which the negative effects of density start to increase over the positive ones. That “sweet spot” seems to be in the neighborhood of about 50 people per acre. And many cities around the world achieve this density without tall buildings, and while creating a very appealing, livable environment…” – Michael Mehaffy, Better! Cities & Towns web site, blog post 2.21.11

“Most urban redevelopment projects, give or take a few malls, promise scenes like this: pompous, formalistic patterns that look fine from the top of a tower or in architect’s perspective, but will be an oppressive void to the poor pedestrian! The city is for human beings, not for a race of giant men playing a new kind of chess.” – Jane Jacobs, Downtown is for People, The Exploding Metropolis, Doubleday & Co. 1958

“High land costs encourage greater intensity of land use, and this, in turn, suppresses certain structural forms. Modern lot plotting tends to exalt the cube motif in architecture. Ledges, court yards, arcades, free standing towers, and magnificent outdoor stairways have become prohibitive luxuries for us. Even in the design of public buildings the architect must curb his ingenuity in designing balconies, bay windows, or projections of any kind. The tendency to stick to the “building line” is so deeply entrenched in modern practice that it has virtually outmoded worthwhile structural forms like the outdoor stairway.” – The Art of Building Cities, Camillo Sitte, Charles T. Stewart transl. Hyperion Press, Inc. 1945. (first edition 1889)

These authors are worth reading. Many of them warn–either explicitly or between the lines–against letting ideological dogma and false economic theories of the day form the shape of our cities. We should hear what they say and understand their relevance to our community.

Daniel Jansenson, Architect, Building and Fire Life-Safety Commission

Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow: Thane Roberts, Architect, Robert H. Taylor AIA, Daniel Jansenson Architect, Building and Fire Life-Safety Commission, Ron Goldman FAIA, Samuel Tolkin Architect, Mario Fonda-Bonardi AIA, Planning Commissioner, Phil Brock, Arts Commissioner

in News
Related Posts

LA County Issues Ocean Water Use Warning for Several Beaches on the First Day of Summer

June 21, 2024

June 21, 2024

Elevated Bacterial Levels Prompt Health Advisory for Popular Coastal Spots Sadly, on the first day of Summer, the Los Angeles...

THIS WEEKEND: “Venice Summer Fest 2024” Will Celebrate Local Artists, Brands, and Designers

June 21, 2024

June 21, 2024

Over 400 Artists Will Exhibit and Sell Their Original Creations  The Venice Summer Fest 2024 will take place on Saturday,...

This Palisadian Will Be the Youngest Ever U.S. Olympian in Beach Volleyball

June 21, 2024

June 21, 2024

Miles Partain, 22, Is One of Several Olympians That Came Out of Pali High By Zach Armstrong Palisadian talent will represent...

(Video) Sport Fishing and Whale Watching on the Pacific Offered by MDR Sportfishing

June 20, 2024

June 20, 2024

Located Out of Marina del Rey, More Information Can Be Found at mdrsf.com @smmirrornews Operating out of Marina del Rey,...

Roman-Style Pizza Chain Opens on Main Street

June 20, 2024

June 20, 2024

The Chain’s Menu Boasts Fresh Ingredients for Its Variety of Tradition, Gluten-Free and Vegan Options By Zach Armstrong Today on...

Sci Fi Museum’s Lease Gets Terminated at Former Sears Building

June 20, 2024

June 20, 2024

The News Comes as a Slew of Controversies Surround the Museum and Its Founder By Zach Armstrong Amid tumultuous setbacks...

Pride-Colored Towers Vandalized During Pride Month for Two Straight Years in Palisades

June 20, 2024

June 20, 2024

L.A. County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath Stated That the Graffiti Will Be Removed By Zach Armstrong For two consecutive years, pride-colored lifeguard...

Film Review: Hit Man

June 19, 2024

June 19, 2024

FILM REVIEWHit ManRated R115 MinutesLimited run in theatres May 24th – June 7th, Released June 7th on Netflix Based on...

What to Expect at This Year’s “Pier 360 Beach Festival”

June 19, 2024

June 19, 2024

The Festival Will Honor Jeff Ho, Iconic Surfboard Shaper and Founder of the Zephyr Surf Team, and Kathy Kohner Zuckerman,...

Judge Blocks Barrington Plaza Evictions, Citing Legal Violations

June 19, 2024

June 19, 2024

Owner Douglas Emmett Inc. Sought to Evict Nearly 600 Tenants Last Year, Citing Safety Upgrades The eviction of hundreds of...

Yoga Gurus Sentenced for Defrauding Malibu Doctor

June 19, 2024

June 19, 2024

Dr. Sawusch Had a Successful Medical Practice in Pacific Palisades and Amassed Significant Wealth Through Investments A federal judge sentenced...

Thief Steals $4K of Jewelry from 3rd Street Promenade Store

June 18, 2024

June 18, 2024

The Owner Says a Similar “Smash-And-Grab” Incident Took Place Earlier This Year By Zach Armstrong A Ring camera placed inside...

Homeless Man Arrested in Santa Monica for Burglary and Arson

June 18, 2024

June 18, 2024

Suspect Faces Multiple Charges After Incidents Patrol officers responded to a commercial burglary call on Saturday, May 25, at approximately...

Baby Blues BBQ Reopens in Venice Nearly Two Years After Devastating Fire

June 18, 2024

June 18, 2024

The Eatery Has Been Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, and the Food Network By Zach Armstrong Almost two years after...

Tech Entrepreneur and Developer Company Buy Promenade Shops for $103M: Report

June 17, 2024

June 17, 2024

Acquisitions Include 1202, 1222, 1225, 1232, 1339, and 1344 Third Street Promenade Federal Realty Investment Trust has sold eight parcels...