Towards a More Nuanced Understanding of Density

Arguing for the value of historic low and mid-rise, but also dense, areas of Brooklyn, Washington D.C., and New Orleans, Edward T. McMahon asks us to reconsider the pursuit of density as an end in itself, and the high-rise as its fullest expression.
May 15, 2012, 5am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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As the land development pendulum swings back towards higher density development, from the low-density patterns of suburban sprawl, McMahon questions the common assumption made by developers and urban planners alike: "that density requires high rises: the taller, the better." Citing examples of cities and neighborhoods that achieve high levels of density without resorting to high-rises, and exhibit walkable human-scaled street level environments (which high-rises often do not), McMahon argues that, "we do not need to build thousands of look-a-like glass and steel skyscrapers to accomplish the goals of smart growth or sustainable development."

The recent debate about increasing height limits in Washington D.C. is just one example of a global struggle between "those who want to preserve neighborhood integrity and those who want Trump towers and "starchitect" skyscrapers."

"I love the skylines of New York, Chicago and many other high-rise cities. But I also love the skylines of Washington, Charleston, Savannah, Prague, Edinburgh, Rome and other historic mid- and low-rise cities. It would be a tragedy to turn all of these remarkable places into tower cities," writes McMahon. 

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Published on Friday, May 11, 2012 in
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