Urban Design - Top Content

John Pattison
John Pattison
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"Delight Per Acre"

The same design principles behind Japanese gardens can make the building of resilient and financially strong places into a joy, rather than a burden.

"Effective Quarantines and Strong Towns"

Centralized systems are good at getting us cheap food, cars, and toilet paper—until they’re not. They’re also really bad at isolating deadly outbreaks.

"'We Can't Micromanage Great Urban Design Into Existence.'" (Podcast)

Urbanists may debate the merits of Top-Down Beautiful urbanism vs. Top-Down Pragmatic urbanism. But there’s a third, better way — one that emanates from the bottom up.

"Is This Development 'Out of Scale'?"

It’s an article of faith among many that big and tall buildings don’t belong around small and short buildings. But does this idea actually stand up to scrutiny?

"The Key to a Great Public Space? It's In the Edges."

Our immediate reactions to a place are often deeply rooted in human psychology—including the biological preference for “edges.” Here’s a city that’s done that well. Has yours?

"What is a 'Development Pattern'?"

We use the term “development pattern” all over the place at Strong Towns. Here’s your one-stop guide to what we actually mean by that.

"Life Imitates Hollywood: The Rise of 'Movie-Set Urbanism'"

The drive-to version of a walkable main street, surrounded by parking lots, is like a Western movie set made of fake building facades: all hat and no cattle.

"Why Urban Design Should Come From the Bottom Up"

Professional planners are trained to yearn for tighter urban design controls, as if cities without comprehensive, top-down planning would devolve into chaos and disorder. In reality, cities evolve according to mechanisms that allow us to gradually discover optimal urban design across time.

"Greetings from Anywhere: Supporting Postcard-Worthy Places"

Turns out, the things worth writing home about are the same things that make a place worth calling home. What would it take to develop postcard-worthy places again?

"Traditional Development is Not Retro. It's Timeless."

At Strong Towns, we have a lot of good things to say about the kind of places we built before the automobile era. Does that mean it’s really all just about nostalgia for a simpler time? Hardly.

"7 Rules for Creating '15-Minute Neighborhoods'"

We hear it everywhere we go: people want, and cherish, the kind of complete neighborhood where you can meet most of your daily needs within a 15-minute walk. What will it take to create more such places in North American cities and towns?

"To Build Sustainable Places, Look to the Past, Not Just the Future" (Podcast)

“Sustainable” is a buzzword that often conjures images of technological wizardry aimed at solving environmental problems. But what if our ancestors knew a lot more about sustainability than we give them credit for?

"Why We Should Build Cities for Our Unconscious Brains"

Traditional architecture has evolved through millennia of trial and error to harmonize with our unconscious impulses, make us feel comfortable and encourage positive social behavior. Modernism too often throws those lessons out the window—and one architect thinks the trauma of World War I had something to do with why.

"A City Shaped by Many Hands"

Incrementalism is not an end in itself. It’s not about stubborn insistence on some sort of small-is-beautiful aesthetic for its own sake. Incremental development is a practical means to the end of resilient, financially sound places.

"We Regulate the Wrong Things"

Most cities’ zoning and development regulations obsess over things that are easy to measure, like building height and density, at the expense of the things that actually determine whether we’re building quality places.

"The Problem with Helicopter Urbanism"

It is important when we design a building or a neighborhood to look at how it feels and interacts with the street. Too often, new development feels designed from a helicopter’s-eye-view.


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