Via Verde: Housing Project for All!

Via Verde is a rebirth to a area that has been suffering economically for decades. The planners chosen for this project are placing a great deal of importance on aesthetics and quality design, not seen in other projects.

Via Verde is a 20-story housing project that will have 222-units. This new project looks to give the area a "rebirth." According to Kimmelman, "unlike so many public-housing projects, Via Verde rethinks the mix of private and public spaces to encourage residents to spend time outside, in the fresh air."

What is unique about Via Verde as opposed to other projects is that Via Verde has an emphasis on improving the quality of health for its residents. Kimmelman said that "the building is to include low- and moderate-income housing bound together by courtyards and roof gardens that would be used for everything from harvesting rainwater to growing vegetables and fruit."

Full Story: Rush-Hour Read: How to Incorporate Design in Low-Income Housing Projects.

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Via Verde Versus Earlier Projects in the South Bronx

If you look at the video of Michael Kimmelman walking through the area, posted at http://www.planetizen.com/node/51723 you will see that the rebirth of the area began long before Via Verde.

I predict that Via Verde will be less successful as urban design than the earlier projects there. To repeat my comment on the video:

Notice that the projects beginning in the 1990s (including the one with the Duane Reade) are in the post-modern style, which learns from traditional architecture, just as the New Urbanists learn from traditional urbanism. They have some traditional detailing, the break up the buildings visually by using different materials on the facade, they break up the first floor visually by having columns between window, dividing the window area into human-scale bays - all things that traditional New York apartment buildings do.

These buildings from 1990s are the main feature of the urban fabric, and they are what makes it appealing.

By contrast, the newest project, the Via Verde, is in the modernist style. Looking at the pictures of it beginning at about 2:49, you can see that the buildings repeat the same forms and are not broken up visually, do not seem to address the sidewalk, seem to have an interior space at 2:53 that looks very much like the interior of a modernist housing project from the 1960s.

Though I appreciate its green design features, I think that Via Verde does not do nearly as well as the 1990s buildings in terms of creating a traditional, human-scale urban environment

(As he walks through the area, Michael Kimmelman seems to be blind to the differences between the earlier projects and Via Verde and blind to the flaws of modernism.)

Charles Siegel

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