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Tag Archives: Cambridge
What, exactly, is a neighborhood? People on all sides of the urban conversation talk about neighborhoods, trotting them out to support everything from transit oriented development to the suburban status quo, from Smart Growth to no growth. Formal definitions vary, but few include criteria beyond a set of distinctive characteristics shared by a contiguous geographic area inhabited by people who behave neighborly. Which, despite its vagueness, sounds sensible enough. Imprecise, but sensible. And yet, when I think about the neighborhoods I’ve lived in, or spent time in, few of them fit even this ambiguous definition.
Since beauty is subjective, we surveyed city specialists from a range of fields, including urban planning, architecture and sustainable development. Respondents include Reynolds and Michael Kaufman, an architect at Chicago-based architectural firm Goettsch Partners, as well as Raymond Levitt, director of the construction program in civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, Tony McGuirk, an urban designer, architect and chairman of BDP in London, J. Hugh O’Donnell of urban engineering firm MMM International, and Ken Drucker, New York design director of architectural firm HOK.
In chapter eight of Anthony M. Tung’s erudite and impressive Preserving the World’s Great Cities: The Destruction and Renewal of the Historic Metropolis, there is a passage that stopped me in my proverbial tracks and hasn’t left my thoughts since. Tung is writing about Amsterdam at the dawn of the 20th century:
As parts of the inner city became slums and were threatened with clearance, and as picturesque canals were filled in to create new roads and better circulation, elements of the historic environment began to be eliminated. Growing numbers of citizens became alarmed and called for preservation of the historic center. In addition, a new ring of speculative housing began to surround the old metropolis. Numerous Amsterdammers began to ask that the expansion of the city meet a reasonable standard of beauty. Continue reading