Antisocial Facades

The sidewalk in front of some relatively high-density residential development near downtown Boulder. None of the doors facing onto the sidewalk are common-access. They all belong to one particular ground-floor unit. The building is 4 stories tall. Most access to the dwellings is done via the underground parking garage. There is an underlying assumption in this piece of architecture that by default, people will be coming and going by automobile, even right in the middle of downtown. This is to some degree a self-fulfilling prophesy. It doesn’t particularly help that most of the street-level facades on Walnut heading west (toward downtown) are inactive faceless monoliths. Buildings like this need to encourage people out onto the sidewalk, and they need to be intimately mingled with things you’d walk to, at the building or even intra-building level, not on a block-by block basis. Advocates of this kind of “new urbanist” development often cite Jane Jacobs and her book “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” for support, but by the time construction is complete, there often seems to be a serious disconnect between the buildings and her ideas.

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