Apr 27 2009

April Fuglie

Okay, I will admit, this is not fugly, just plain dumb. It also isn’t often I give a fugly award to a project that I just gave high accolades too (see previous post). But as part of the Seventh Street reconstruction project, the planners decided to add diaganol parking, that you have to BACK INTO! I can only imagine the fender benders that are going to occur with someone stopping in traffic, starting to back up into the parking spot, only to have the person behind them not notice and running into them. This parking situation has had such an outcry against it, that the planners have decided to never do it again. Don’t get me wrong, I think diagonal parking is a great idea, and should be encouraged on more streets, but done the traditional way with pulling in forwards, and then backing out. A lot less dangerous in my opinion.

Mar 12 2009

Google Earth Visits – Detroit

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I will admit that I have never been to Detroit, nor have I ever had any inkling too, but with all the recent press that Detroit has been getting with regards to the automobile industry, and the state of the housing economy there, I thought I would make a Google visit. As with most of my tours, I start with the downtown area. I immediately became intrigued with Detroit with the overall layout of downtown. All the major streets are broad parkways that are heavily landscaped, and all of these parkways pinwheel out from a central park. Very nice indeed, and a classic layout seen in many great cities. I also like the fact that the ballparks are oriented to the adjacent streets. The whole downtown area is very pedestrian friendly (at least from bird’s eye), and extraordinarily well laid out.

Of course, from the air, you also see the downside. There is a tremendous amount of surface parking lots, and a fair amount of empty space between buildings. This provides opportunity for infill, with a good structure already in place. This of course, ignores the current economic climate of Detroit.

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Now one of the things that amazed me even more, was traveling less than a mile and a half outside of downtown, and there are blocks and blocks and blocks of vacant land…street are there, but few structures. I have to ask myself, what happened here? In most cities, you see very dense neighborhoods fairly close to the city core. And this isn’t unique to this one area of Detroit, cruising around, this goes on for miles.

But why? Is there environmental pollution? Were these neighborhoods intentionally torn down, was there some kind of great fire? If you go miles out from the city core, you can find all kinds of new home development going on (or at least there was). So why has the city core all but been abandoned?

With all the talk these days about sustainability and redevelopment, this is an area where redevelopment should be strongly encouraged, in and orderly fashion. Why is the development in the suburbs, eating up raw land and having to extend utilities, when there is all this land close in, with all the infrastructure in place to support new development? I realize I am taking a rather simplistic view of this, as there are all kinds of other factors such as crime rates, environmental concerns, economic concerns etc. But these kinds of issues have been overcome in other areas, so why not here? I think as a society, we need to take a hard look at our priorities, and take a harder look at sprawl and urban development.

If anybody has any insight as to what happened in these neighborhoods of Detroit, I would love to here them!

Dec 25 2008

Fugly December ’08

I ran across this project awhile back in Grand Junction, and I was simply floored by it. In this day, with all the design professionals, stringent planning departments, and all, why do we continue to build such fugly housing? I understand the need to build homes that are affordable, but why on earth do we need to build multi-family housing straight as a Kansas Highway?

This particular building has 5 units in it, with the street facade dominated by garages, and hard to find front doors. Why not add on some bumpouts to break up the second floor, add a little ornamentation to the roof line, etc? There are simple things that can be done that adds dramatically to the character, without adding much cost.

What makes this even worse, is that these buildings are lined up barack style, and covered with a drab coloraed vynil siding material. Talk about going from bad to worse. I would have thought we would have learned lessons from all the 60’s housing projects that are now being torn down. I guess not.

Jun 9 2008

June 2008 Fugglies

OK, this belong more in the WTF category than ugly. I found this playground in a New Urbanism community. Not just any community, but a very celebrated one that prides itself on its high end and well regulated architecture. So why on earth would they fence in a playground….much less with a chain link fence? I haven’t seen chain link fences anywhere else in the community, so I didn’t think they were even allowed.

Now I can understand wanting to keep kids out of the street…but there are far better ways of doing it…wrought iron fence comes to mind, with some openings to actually get into the playground. I don’t know, all I do is shake my head.

May 16 2008

What I Have Been Up To

Sorry to everyone for being out of it for awhile. We have been pretty busy lately with a lot of submittals, and I have been having to write a lot of design guidelines, zoning codes and such, so I havn’t been inspired to write in my blog too!

Tomorrow I leave for Vegas for the International Council of Shopping Centers conference. I am going primarily for one of my clients. It should be an interesting experience. I am also looking forward to getting lots of fodder for my Fugly awards, and checking out the local development scene. I know that they are really hurting right now…but they have had an excellent ride for a couple of decades now. There are some really good projects going on there though that I want to check out. I will keep you all updated.