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Old 08-08-2007, 08:19 AM
 
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I don't understand why a city has to be entirely brick and super dense in order to be considered "urban". Quite a few of our larger cities are made up of mostly wood frame houses. The largest city I can think of that is mostly wood frame is Detroit, which at one time had over 15,000 ppsm, and many of those in single family homes.
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Old 08-08-2007, 09:23 PM
 
Location: Bronx, NY
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Yeah a city can have wood frame single family houses, but generally they are not in the core of the city. You will usually find these houses on the outer fringes of a city (and I mean a real city here, not a sun-belt city).

In nearly all urban cores of cities I have been in I have always seen brick, concrete or the newer glass structures. I really can't think of any real urban area of this country where you can find a wood house (where it isn't some type of historical/museum structure).

Even with the wood frame houses you will see in cities, they are generally built MUCH more densly than in any suburb. There will generaly only be a couple of feet, and not a couple of hundred feet as in a suburb, between houses in these neighborhoods.
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Old 08-09-2007, 02:57 AM
 
Location: Chicago
38,690 posts, read 89,260,590 times
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Wink Didn't see this comin' did ya?

Meade is right on target. Brace yourself for a lot more detail building on meade's themes:

I can explain why cities have to be "super-dense" (or at least moderately dense) to be considered urban: because density is one of the traditional defining characteristics of urban form. Suburbia as we understand it today is a recent phenomenon that has blurred the notion of what constitutes urbanity. But before post-WWII suburbia came about, there was a much clearer delineation between urban areas and non-urban areas: it used to be that there was The City™, and then maybe a small ring of bedroom-community suburbs around The City™, and then wide-open spaces dotted with small towns here and there. Particularly as relates to density, many newer & more recently developed cities -- especially Sun Belt cities -- have taken on a more contemporary "suburban" form rather than a traditional urban form. Hence the distinction between traditional urban cities with high population and building densities (NYC, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, etc.) and "newer" cities (Phoenix, Vegas, San Jose, Orlando, etc.) that have generally assumed a more contemporary suburban form and are distinguishable from suburbia mostly in that they form respective single large political units instead of being divided into several political units.

As for why an urban area must be "entirely brick," there are a few reasons for this. But first, let's deal with the idea that an urban area must truly be "entirely brick." That's not quite true; particularly in Midwest urban cities, many homes in the lower-density residential areas are wood-frame homes. (By "lower density" I mean by urban residential standards; they are still often high-density by suburban standards, packed side-by-side on small lots. See: Milwaukee proper, Minneapolis proper, Cleveland proper, south side of Chicago proper, etc.)

However, wood as a building material has some unique drawbacks for urban construction. For starters, as discussed above, density is a primary characteristic of urban form; and you can only build so dense with wood. Wood framing cannot adequately bear the load of buildings taller than about three stories; so if you want to go higher as density dictates, you need to use a stone-based material. Enter brick.

A second drawback to wood construction in dense urban areas is fire safety. Having lots of wood buildings packed together in a tight urban setting is like having a city-sized pile of kindling waiting for a spark. Ask anyone who lived in Chicago in 1871 as they stood there and watched a single house fire spread to burn down 2/3rds of the city. (Well, you can't ask them because they're all dead, and it bears mentioning that the geographic size of Chicago was much smaller then than it is now, but you get my point.) After the Chicago Fire, brick construction became particularly fashionable in growing urban cities; some (including Chicago) even mandated it.

So for these two reasons, brick became the primary building material in traditional urban settings. Recent improvements in fire safety, both in the form of emergency response and the development of flame-retardant materials, have since made it possible to resume the use of wood construction in urban residential settings; but only for homes & townhouses less than four stories tall. Additionally, I believe some cities have used and continue to use zoning requirements to dictate a certain amount of space between wood-frame homes for fire safety reasons.

Nonetheless, since functional/practical factors have militated that brick is a common part of the urban aesthetic, it is not uncommon to see new urban home construction use brick -- or at the very least, a brick facade -- to blend in with its surroundings.

*pant pant pant* OK, I'm done.
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Old 08-11-2007, 09:38 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mead View Post
Yeah a city can have wood frame single family houses, but generally they are not in the core of the city. You will usually find these houses on the outer fringes of a city (and I mean a real city here, not a sun-belt city).

In nearly all urban cores of cities I have been in I have always seen brick, concrete or the newer glass structures. I really can't think of any real urban area of this country where you can find a wood house (where it isn't some type of historical/museum structure).

Even with the wood frame houses you will see in cities, they are generally built MUCH more densly than in any suburb. There will generaly only be a couple of feet, and not a couple of hundred feet as in a suburb, between houses in these neighborhoods.
I just don't understand why a city is labeled as suburban if its primary housing stock is single family frame houses from the 1890's to the 1930's.
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Old 08-11-2007, 09:41 AM
 
Location: Colorado Springs,CO
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I consider wood frame houses to be very urban.Thats what makes up most of Cleveland,and the houses are very close together.The suburbs are very dense there too,and theres more brick houses in the suburbs too.And believe me,you can tell Cleveland is an urban city.
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Old 08-11-2007, 10:16 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CTownNative View Post
I consider wood frame houses to be very urban.Thats what makes up most of Cleveland,and the houses are very close together.The suburbs are very dense there too,and theres more brick houses in the suburbs too.And believe me,you can tell Cleveland is an urban city.
Yes--Cleveland is very urban in this aspect. The homes are built right to the street and are only a few feet apart. Same goes for the inner parts of Milwaukee, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Denver, etc.
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Old 08-11-2007, 10:39 AM
 
Location: Bronx, NY
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Yeah as the others have said, I think it is more a matter of density than anything else. The house I am currently living in (which although in NYC is in a more suburban-like neighborhood) is a wood frame house, as are the two houses on either side of the one I'm in, but the distance separating these houses is only about 5 ft on the one side and 10 ft on the other. This is very different from your average suburb where there can be 100ft+ between different houses.

Now, if you are talking about the new Sunbelt cities though, that is very different from older established Midwestern cities like Cleveland, Milwaukee, etc. Because these new sunbelt cities really are suburban and not urban, even if the houses are packed pretty tight.

In addition to having a high density, for a city to be a real city, it has to be developed as such. So in a city like Phoenix you do have many areas that have high density, but there is nothing there beyond the houses. There is no place to walk to such as corner stores, restaurants, churches. Everything in these areas are developed post-WWII in the suburban form. So you have strip malls with huge parking lots, large boulevards and big box stores, and as a result not many people walk the streets, and the people who are walking are usually homeless or transients. This is a suburban, and not an urban way of developing a city.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Colts View Post
I just don't understand why a city is labeled as suburban if its primary housing stock is single family frame houses from the 1890's to the 1930's.
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Old 08-13-2007, 11:27 AM
 
Location: S.W.PA
1,361 posts, read 2,510,727 times
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I can't improve on Drover's response, but here are a couple of thoughts that may be germain.
We use the term "urban" and suburban" freely, but they often mean different things in different contexts. There's a lot of urban housing that is wood frame, since by technical definition, most towns, even small towns, have a density (downtown) that qualifies it as "urban" . But the really dense downtown housing, that is to say multi-level , party-wall construction, is always made of non-combustible construction, of which brick is one example. The reason for this is fire The codes won't let you go more than 4 stories with conventional wood stick framing. On the other hand, just because something is brick doesn't mean it is non-combustible. Many smaller brick apartment buildings and most brick homes are built on wood frames. Nor is brick the only non-combustible option. There is concrete, conc. block, and steel . Among the non-cumbustible options, brick is traditional, widely accepted, and still tough to beat in price.
Some cities/neighborhoods have ordinances that make masonry, or "earthen" materials mandatory, which is why Denver for example, looks brown!
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Old 08-13-2007, 05:39 PM
 
Location: kronenwetter
537 posts, read 1,760,675 times
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I have always lived in a frame house. Grew up in one in Chicago(Farwell and Wolcott). Hubby and I bought a frame house in Chicago when we were 1st married (Monticello and Irving Park). And both of our houses in WI have been frame.
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Old 08-13-2007, 05:47 PM
 
Location: Chicago
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Any chance you dined at C. Manny's while you lived at Monticello & Irving? It's a favorite of my wife and me.
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