Let Love Rule: Resilience in Mesquite

Andrew-Von-MaurCrossing Campo Street from downtown Las Cruces into the Mesquite Historic District is like crossing between two urban worlds that are often misunderstood.

To the west is one of the country’s textbook examples of everything that could go wrong with federally subsidized Urban Renewal, including the obligatory seas of parking, corporate CBD architecture, vacant properties, and a one-way loop that locals derisively refer to as “the race track.” The stunning aerial view from 1974 shows the city after its failed open-heart surgery. Even today, after a heroic struggle to dismantle the virtually abandoned pedestrian mall and reinstitute automobile-access on Main Street, the pain of this flattening experience lingers on. The place is deserted on a beautiful September evening.

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The Seeds of Permanence: Building a multi-century home

For the past 18 months, PlaceShakers has been covering the work of my friend, Clay Chapman, and his quest to build a near-permanent, structural masonry home for a price accessible to the middle class. I wrote this introduction when he was breaking ground and, later, when the shell of his test home was completed, I posted a follow-up.

That house, which launched his “Hope for Architecture” initiative, is now complete and Clay’s been engaged to build a new house — a modest variation of the original HFA house — for a new client.

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Get to Know the Awkwardly-Named “Terminated Vista”

Enjoying a serendipitous downtown walk this week, I was reminded of just how important this concept is. Seemed like a good opportunity to dust off this oldie-but-goodie.

I’ll admit it: I wish there was a more user-friendly way to say “terminated vista.”

Perhaps I’m more sensitive to it because, as regular readers here know, I’m not an urban designer. I just work with them. That means I’m more inclined to scratch my head like any other layperson when I hear wonky expressions that sound far too highfalutin for an everyday community.

That’s too bad, because the terminated vista plays a pivotal role in good community design.

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Cottage Simplicity: Keeping it easy, making it attainable

We talk often here on PlaceShakers about cottage living, as well as drilling down into how to make that happen at home, with conversations like Small Y’all: A Cottage Solution to the Housing Problem and “Pocket Neighborhoods”: Scale Matters.

This weekend, strolling through Victoria Beach — an insightful cottage community in Manitoba, Canada — I was struck by many of the lessons learned through all the conversations we’ve had together here. And one of the biggest is to keep it simple. And in many cases, that means inexpensive. Victoria Beach does it with a dirt street grid and very simple architecture on the town square, which is really more of an oversized town ramble. Most of the lots on these dirt streets are not cleared keeping the costs lower and privacy higher.

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Porchtastic: Living in Season

Living in season asks us to “entice people outside, where they get more acclimated to the local environment, needing less heating or cooling when they return indoors,” according to Steve Mouzon via treehugger.

Howard Blackson dares us to live outdoors where “we can again connect with our climate and place — another step towards unsealing ourselves from our hermetic suburban environments.”

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Paris: What People Want

As an urbanist, writing about Paris is both delectable and daunting. Tempering that is the fact that we visited in June, when the strain to both infrastructure and pricing makes my memories of past trips look more lovable. Still, the timelessness of the City, as shown so compellingly in this 1914 to 2013 series of comparisons, is still delightful and satisfying.

You say the word “Paris” and anyone who’s ever been there immediately has some good memory to share. The grandeur of its urbanism and romance of its streets is without peer. However, the city seems to be bulging at the seams.

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Berlin’s Cultural Clusters

Continuing my summer series on lessons learned from great cities, a recent trip to Berlin shone a light on the city’s three great cultural clusters, and what makes them sing. Or in one case, solitary. Of course inseparable from this conversation is the effectiveness of public space and what happens when the public takes ownership of a square or plaza and inhabit the space during most daylight hours.

What you nurture becomes yours truly, whether an idea, a garden or a puppy. One reason babies and puppies are so lovable is to ensure their survival, because they require significant amounts of time, energy, and resources to grow and thrive. In a similar vein, if public spaces are to be nurtured by their surrounding inhabitants, they must be lovable.

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London’s Lived-In Look

It’s summertime, and that means another installment of lessons from great cities. Last summer, I shared some images and impressions from Montreal, Mont-Tremblant, and Ottawa. Over the next few weeks, look for updates from Berlin, Paris, and this week, it’s London calling.

Before, I focused on elements in those great Canadian cities that have been made illegal in the suburbs, under contemporary land use practices. What’s on my mind this week are the benefits of great transit and civic space, as well as how to codify some of London’s highly functioning non-tourist neighbourhoods using the form-based codes we often discuss here on PlaceShakers.

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Get Your Garden Room Right

It’s that time of year here in central New Mexico when I start eating lunch in my courtyard so I can watch the tomatoes turn red. I’m reminded while sitting here of a visit from Steve Mouzon of the Original Green who was lecturing at the University of New Mexico.

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