One Bryant Park

In thoughtful research reporting the requirement to sum up should become a responsibility of participation.  In Skyscrapers and the World of Tomorrow posted to Planetizen on September, 1 2011 by editors Jeff Jamawat, Kris Fortin, Tim Halbur and Victor Negrete, the questions sought to define the place for very big buildings, but the article ends by suggesting, the problem lies in a lack of a clear, agreed-upon vision for the future. Lots of luck with that one, but they give it a try.

According to the article, the content of this vision requires data that confirms the efficacy of the following steps.

  1. add full life cycle analysis (e.g. embodied energy) to LEED certification (McEeaney, Toberian)
  2. advance smart building technologies (Black, Leung, Appel)
  3. remove barriers to high (even ultra) density in the right places (Glaeser)
  4. prevent bottom-feeding architecture and beware the onset of tower blight (Kunstler)
  5. remove political gridlock (everybody)

Top of the line sellers provide the data needed for the first two steps thanks to high-end buyers of the technology (see video below).  Much of the data from these systems is proprietary and slows the rate of change, but at least it is pay-it-forward change. These investment institutions are strong and global.

The remaining three define the lack of clear vision problem less optimistically.  All of our democratic institutions face demands for NASA-style investment goals amidst fix-it-first philosophies.  How do we dissolve the contradictions of these two different approaches?

In our recent national history, we attacked a similar problem from the top-down and the grass-roots-up with top end ideas such as the Hreat Society and things like Headstart in a local precinct. Part of it included an investment in demonstration cities, later renamed Model Cities while another part vociferously disagreed with an America entering a permanent state of war.  All of this began a process that forever changed the vision of the urban world.

Today, envisioning the a city and our future is inseparable but this begs the question.  The vision that will remove the barriers, release unlimited wealth for growth, and break the gridlock is one of the city and a wilderness that is separate and inviolate. That is what is missing, that is what we need.

Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park from Cook+Fox Architects on Vimeo.

Lincoln Institute

This history of the human settlement is a story of continuous growth and increasing urban densities that reduce per capita resource consumption among the successfully urbanizing countries and decreasing net densities among those who do not have an urban agenda.  The summary omits Africa in this context. It is a glaring omission of the summary, but it is covered well elsewhere.

That said, it should read:

The new Lincoln Institute report Making Room for a Planet of Cities should have, “With informal cities everywhere else,” as the tag line.  (Read Decline of Density Chap.2)

The rapidly urbanizing world needs a better analysis, so four data sets are offered to help:

  1. A global sample of 120 cities with 100,000 people via satellite;
  2. Population density data for 20 U. S. cities, 1910-2000, based on census tracts;
  3. Built-up sample of 30 cities, 1800-2000, from 120 cities using historic city maps;
  4. Urban land cover (3,646 cities of 100,000 or more in 2000, based on satellite


Densities in developing countries are double Europe and Japan.  Densities in Europe and Japan are double those of the United States, Canada, and Australia.  The growth rate of urban land cover was twice that of the urban population 1990 and 2000.

The urban population of the developing countries is expected to double between 2000 and 2030 and the nations of the world are largely ignorant of the impacts, or cannot act on the implications of this knowledge.


The data, images, metrics, and methodology from Making Room for a Planet of Cities are available in an accompanying sub-center, the Atlas of Urban Expansion, in the Databases section of Resources & Tools at the Lincoln Institute Web site.





Form-Base Miami


Density is a central factor in creating the experience of urban intensity, but it is not the element that makes it pleasurable.x  x Density offers access but “ease†makes it enjoyable.x  Numeric measures can point to a place of interest but they are without the elements needed to describe or judge it.

Jobs and population per acre are common measures of density, while design components such as the ratio of building mass to open space frames the quality of the experience.x  Places from low- to high-density are tired to individual place finding or marking abilities that provide for a sense of position that reflects personal value within a community.

The images in “patchwork nation†illustrate the U.S. in 12 “community types†by using demographic, political and socioeconomic data.x  What is not shown is how a census block groups of any major urban center will easily replicate the image of the nation by county.x  That the nation has these social “densities†as similarly as a city is encouraging.

Density and community land use formulas tend to see a house always being “a house†or an office complex limited to business, but in an intensely used urban environment, these initial functions yield many new, often unexpected uses.x x  Density provides the opportunity for a critical mass of interaction, but it works best when combined with an open-ended set of form elements produces to produce the desire for “development intensity†that leads to a sense of confidence about dynamically changing sets of land uses.

A region with 100 jobs and 200 residents per acre may identify a comparatively dense area in the region and signify a transit-oriented mixed-use center. x Using this measure, the development intensity tier includes the number of time intervals that link to other transit-oriented centers. These areas might have lower residential/job densities jobs per acre or higher.x  Each signifies an edge where the “intensity†accelerates or declines.x  The density itself only remains significant as an intensifying agent within a traditional street grid, height and scale ratios. x x Areas operating without this constraint tend to yield grey zones, lost landscapes and forgotten trends.x  x Growth without constraint is what kills them.x  The death is rapid and it shames the residential community into which it was injected.

Form-Based Growth

Before heading off to University of Utah, x Arthur “Chris” Nelson, was in the Urban Affairs and Planning program at Virginia Tech’s Washington-Alexandria Center.x  His research indicated a doubling of the entire built environment in the Greater Washington, D.C. region could occur by 2030.x  The concept of exponential growth is intoxicating in mega regions such as the northeast, but the rate of Greenfield development is by all accounts unsustainable, and that policy measures to focus (if not force) this energy into the existing built environment requires implementation.x  Without new restraints, the a majority of the job growth will occur outside of the urban core areas, resulting in nothing more than a vast enlargement of the current “inner city†design process over much larger section of the metropolitan region.x  Conclusions from this analysis demand a new regime of land use and building controls authored on a regional basis and of necessity across state lines. x One megaregion is contained with the Florida whose development concerns turned to a form basis.

The purpose of a “form-based code” is to yield to human creative purposes with a greater trust in performance measures and regulations affecting access to natural light, clean air, lack of noise, and other events or qualities that affect the quality of life.x  When x Miami 21 was passed in October 2009, the introduction of the “transect” idea may change everything in land use management.x  It is a boundary line around a land area for ecological measurements.x  Injecting this idea in to land use and development decisions is not only protective of life, it contributes to the development contextual development events and conversion.x  Although the “code†was involved the transition of the West Side Highway in Manhattan into a street near waterfront parkland speaks to this purpose.x x  Today it is not exactly the Camps-Elysee, but there are aspirations and this potential is now far greater than that offered by former existence as a limited access, elevated super-highway.

The principles of form-based code limit building heights based on the street grids.x  Yet as a constraint it recognizes and support traditional neighborhood resilience.x  These communities offer a vibrant series of mixed-use centers that accommodate growth and increased urban intensity.x x  With multiple forms of public mass transit this intensity also contributes to the growth of other mixed-use urban centers or edge cities and employment centers throughout the region

Interested in comments from Raleigh, Cabarrus County, Charlotte and Denver