Category Archives: Neighbors

Thoughts on Private Property: Or, Have I Got a Bridge in Brooklyn to Sell You

Yesterday’s post got me thinking—how has the American notion of private property shaped our culture? How has it shaped our cities? Our transportation networks? Our communities? Our ability to respond to climate change and environmental concerns? I remember reading a caption on a wall mural while waiting in line at Ikea that said Sweden doesn’t view land as private property, so one can walk anywhere one desires in Sweden and not worry about trespassing. The outdoor world most Americans experience is mostly limited to roads, sidewalks, parks, and a small number of backyards. Do away with private land ownership and the way we interact with the land changes fundamentally. I don’t know how true the Ikea caption is or how absolutely it is practiced, but I don’t imagine the Swedes have an epidemic of peeping toms or home invasions.
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Is Private Property a Destructive Notion?

The authors, Eduardo Moisés Peñalver and Sonia K. Katyal, are professors of law at Cornell Law School and Fordham Law School, respectively. In their telling, the people who challenge the broad scope of property laws through deliberate protests are a highly useful and indeed, honorable force for good. They are the ones who have shown great personal courage in forcing property law to become more responsive to evolving norms. They are the ones who dare to assert that property owners have certain affirmative responsibilities to larger social and democratic values. Continue reading

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10 Land-Use Strategies to Create Socially Just, Multiracial Cities

1) Develop a widely shared, long-range vision for social justice, and set targets. Advocates for climate-change policies have proposed CO2 reduction targets by 2050. Social-justice advocates should set targets for poverty reduction for the same year.

2) Find ways to meet the short-term survival needs of marginalized communities while generating longer-term outcomes that benefit society as a whole. For example, invest in projects that meet the urgent transportation needs of low-income residents while building toward a world-class public transportation system for all.

3) As an alternative to sprawl, create public policies to stabilize, reinvest in, and redevelop older inner-ring suburban communities and encourage economic and racial diversity. Continue reading

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Shapes of Everyday Life

Vernacular architecture is traditional architecture. It gives a visible face and functional core to local patterns, ethnic and regional character. In our efforts to read this character through the everyday buildings around us, we look for recurring meaningful patterns. Traditions in vernacular architecture may last for generations, but they do change over time as social, economic and technological conditions change. To follow these changeable patterns, researchers have sorted vernacular buildings into sets of types, based on form, which demonstrate their evolution across time and space.
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Brad Pitt, Andres Duany, and Aesthetic Diversity: Why There’s Room for Everyone in the New N’awlins

The New Orleans that was swept away when the levees broke cannot be restored. A new New Orleans is rising—it cannot be otherwise. Isn’t it possible that in this new New Orleans there is room for Frank Gehry and Andres Duany? For the experimental and the traditional? For the future and the past? Can’t this new New Orleans be a city that retells the stories of its forebears while crafting new tales of its own? It has been a long time since New Orleans had anything new to add to the larger discussion of American urbanism. A long time since the national spotlight shone on it for reasons other than crime, poverty, catastrophe, or the musical achievements of the past.

History should never be forgotten, but neither should it be made into a golden calf. Cities need to breathe, they need to periodically remake themselves. As long as the people remaking New Orleans remain in service to the city’s most vulnerable residents, New Orleans wins. Architects win. Design wins. Creativity wins. Experimentation wins. A new vernacular arises alongside the old. Continue reading

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