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Old 09-21-2014, 11:57 PM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
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Technically a new urban district can be built from the ground up and have no historic buildings in it and be walkable, urban, and appealing. Though if there is already current historic building stock that already meet these needs, it is better to preserve and renovate them than to tear them down because they represent a period of architecture and design that no longer exists, and give us a connection to the history of the specific area.
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Old 09-22-2014, 06:11 AM
 
Location: Youngstown, Oh.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cisco kid View Post
Older cities in the pre-auto era were built on a smaller scale making them much more walkable. But as cities and metropolitan areas grew larger and larger and scaled more to the automobile, they become less walkable.

I don't like the scale of very large cities like New York. Even Paris and London are relatively car-dependent due to their sheer size which in the 20th century has been fueled in large part by the automobile, though maybe not as much as NY and LA and the former may retain more elements of their traditional walkable urbanism. The daily traffic jams of Paris' main boulevards are a nightmare. But generally, as cities scale up in sheer physical size and distances between neighborhoods within them become ever greater, they become more dependent on the automobile. Not just for personal transportation but also commercial. The logistics of supplying a megacity with its daily needs would not be possible without modern trucking and vast armies of big noisy gas-guzzling trucks. Of course, smaller cities and suburbs in the modern era are often poorly built for walking and we have plenty of those. So size and scale isn't the only factor but still an important one that tends to be overlooked.
I've never been to London, but based on my short time in Paris, I disagree. I think in many cities, large and small, one lives in their neighborhood, (or maybe their arrondissement, in Paris) so, only their neighborhood needs to be walkable. If one wants to leave their neighborhood, and go to another part of Paris, they can choose to hop on the Metro, if they don't want to drive or walk. This is even true, in a greatly diminished way, here in the small city of Youngstown. There are people who live on their own side of town, (in Ytown, the largest division of neighborhoods is by cardinal direction, but each side of town can further be divided into smaller neighborhoods) who may have only visited other parts of Youngstown a handful of times.

As for the original topic, I think historical architecture helps, but isn't a requirement for urbanity. Basically, what urbanlife78 said.
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Old 09-22-2014, 09:49 AM
 
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Don't forget that there are suburbs in Paris, a lot of them.
Staying few days in inner areas of Paris don't show you the reality of life of most of the metropolitan area.
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Old 09-22-2014, 09:58 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Historic neighborhoods are important to urbanity because, as others noted, they are walkable. There's basically three eras for this.

First, there's the really "old urban era" which existed roughly up until 1830 or so. This was the era where basically all transportation was on foot. Cities were typically only one square mile, because that is about the longest reasonable length to commute on foot. Where these old urban centers still exist they tend to have the most dramatic contrasts, because due to the constraints of the time period you would see the most mixed-use neighborhoods, along with a huge mixing of the economic classes (e.g., wealthy and poor living very close to one another).

In the mid 19th century there were many transit innovations, including steam ferries, passenger rail, and horse-drawn streetcars. The result of these innovations was mainly that the well-to-do no longer had to live right in the smog-choked city centers, but could commute daily from an outlying area into the city for work, to return at the end of the day. Still, the the neighborhoods which were built during this area often looked very similar in form to old urban neighborhoods (attached, little-to-no setback, mixed-use). The main differences were related to class (neighborhoods catering to the wealthy could largely avoid having poor people nearby, save for servants and shopkeepers) and scale (industrial-scale building began to take off, meaning you could get rows of identical buildings occupying an entire block).

The final stage of walkable neighborhoods was with the rise of electric streetcars, from roughly 1890 to 1915 or so. Electric streetcars were such a step up from the previous system of horsecars that the amount of track nationwide increased many times over in just a few years. The physical look of the streetcar suburb, however, was in many ways pre-suburban, with more generous setbacks from the street, front and rear yards, and mostly detached houses. But the neighborhood itself was meant to be interacted with on foot, and most streetcar suburbs contained at least a modicum of commercial development.

Things changed very quickly after this period. As I've noted in other threads, while autocentric suburbs are typically considered a post-1945 thing, many date from earlier. By 1929 80% of American families already had a car, and there are many "classic suburbs" from this era.

Anyway, as others have noted, you could construct neighborhoods with all of the historic urban features without historic buildings, or even without buildings pretending to be historic. It would, however, be very difficult to align with modern zoning codes, which still often require things like 15-foot setbacks, parking minimums, and single-use zoning. What you usually end up with instead is "urban light" developments which have some of the features of historic urban development, but end up feeling more like a relatively dense suburb than anything.
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Old 09-22-2014, 10:13 AM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
Things changed very quickly after this period. As I've noted in other threads, while autocentric suburbs are typically considered a post-1945 thing, many date from earlier. By 1929 80% of American families already had a car, and there are many "classic suburbs" from this era.
Was it really that high that early? Thought that was more like 1950 levels, thought in the 20s maybe it was only half. I'd be curious to see a regional or urban vs rural breakdown.

For comparison, the UK was 62% in 1985, 80% in 2012. Counts all household, not just families (which are probably higher).
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Old 09-22-2014, 10:24 AM
 
Location: Seattle
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Historic buildings can be great for maintaining an urban character due to economic factors, too -- especially in parts of town that may or may not be "the" spot for shopping, entertainment, living, etc. It's often much cheaper to rent or buy an old building that meets your needs than to have to build a new one in an urban style.

Modern building codes have made constructing new urban-style buildings expensive. Shared walls are generally not an allowable construction method due to fire codes, for instance.
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Old 09-22-2014, 12:15 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
12,419 posts, read 11,926,143 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
Was it really that high that early? Thought that was more like 1950 levels, thought in the 20s maybe it was only half. I'd be curious to see a regional or urban vs rural breakdown.
I just read it in this book last night. I'd think she'd know her stuff.
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Old 09-22-2014, 12:38 PM
 
Location: The City
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According to this it was like 20% in 1930 0- today closer to 85%

1950 was 32% 1970 55%

Motor vehicle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

this is not household though
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Old 09-22-2014, 12:43 PM
 
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
2,610 posts, read 3,761,847 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
Historic neighborhoods are important to urbanity because, as others noted, they are walkable. There's basically three eras for this.

First, there's the really "old urban era" which existed roughly up until 1830 or so. This was the era where basically all transportation was on foot. Cities were typically only one square mile, because that is about the longest reasonable length to commute on foot. Where these old urban centers still exist they tend to have the most dramatic contrasts, because due to the constraints of the time period you would see the most mixed-use neighborhoods, along with a huge mixing of the economic classes (e.g., wealthy and poor living very close to one another).

In the mid 19th century there were many transit innovations, including steam ferries, passenger rail, and horse-drawn streetcars. The result of these innovations was mainly that the well-to-do no longer had to live right in the smog-choked city centers, but could commute daily from an outlying area into the city for work, to return at the end of the day. Still, the the neighborhoods which were built during this area often looked very similar in form to old urban neighborhoods (attached, little-to-no setback, mixed-use). The main differences were related to class (neighborhoods catering to the wealthy could largely avoid having poor people nearby, save for servants and shopkeepers) and scale (industrial-scale building began to take off, meaning you could get rows of identical buildings occupying an entire block).

The final stage of walkable neighborhoods was with the rise of electric streetcars, from roughly 1890 to 1915 or so. Electric streetcars were such a step up from the previous system of horsecars that the amount of track nationwide increased many times over in just a few years. The physical look of the streetcar suburb, however, was in many ways pre-suburban, with more generous setbacks from the street, front and rear yards, and mostly detached houses. But the neighborhood itself was meant to be interacted with on foot, and most streetcar suburbs contained at least a modicum of commercial development.

Things changed very quickly after this period. As I've noted in other threads, while autocentric suburbs are typically considered a post-1945 thing, many date from earlier. By 1929 80% of American families already had a car, and there are many "classic suburbs" from this era.

Anyway, as others have noted, you could construct neighborhoods with all of the historic urban features without historic buildings, or even without buildings pretending to be historic. It would, however, be very difficult to align with modern zoning codes, which still often require things like 15-foot setbacks, parking minimums, and single-use zoning. What you usually end up with instead is "urban light" developments which have some of the features of historic urban development, but end up feeling more like a relatively dense suburb than anything.
There's not a lot of American cities that reached a significant size during the old urban era and mid 19th century that haven't significantly redeveloped their old cores. Could be interesting to show examples of what neighbourhoods from these various eras look like.

Quebec City is one place that has well preserved examples from each of these 3 pre-automobile eras.

The old walled city is largely pre-1830, although there is a not-insignificant (maybe even majority) amount of buildings from later in the 19th and even early 20th century there, but I think they were mostly infill/intensification: by 1830, the initial build out should have been pretty much over.

Then for the 1830-1890 neighbourhoods, you've got Saint-Roch and Saint-Jean-Baptiste which are more working class or maybe middle class, and the homes on Grande Allee which are more upper class. I'm not sure if there were any transit lines (horsecars, definitely no ferries, and pretty sure no steam rail, these are still quite close to the walled city). I think Saint-Sauveur is probably from the end of this era.

For 1890-1915 neighbourhoods, you have Vieux-Limoilou, and Montcalm (more upper class). In Quebec City, like Montreal, homes from this era were still mostly attached apartment buildings of 2-6 units, but they had larger front setbacks and wider streets.

Finally you have Saint-Sacrement and a couple others that would be like late streetcar/early auto.

Last edited by memph; 09-22-2014 at 01:37 PM..
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Old 09-22-2014, 01:00 PM
 
Location: M I N N E S O T A
14,800 posts, read 17,715,636 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OuttaTheLouBurbs View Post
Not by default, but the historicism often attracts people looking for a walkable space due to attractive aesthetics. And buildings built before the 1950s are typically walkable/urban by default, as that was before the age of the car.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eddyline View Post
It is actually quite simple. Many old cities and neighborhoods were built pre automobile.
Rather than designed for cars, they were designed for people.

Walkability is not some new trend, for five thousand years cities were designed around walking as the primary mode of transportation.
Stapleton in Colorado and Daybreak in Utah (pretty sure they were developed in the 90s-00s) are way more urban than alot of the historic neighborhoods in the Twin Cities.
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