In Mt. Adams, residential infill gets the old spit ‘n shine.

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Residential infill development can—and often does—fail to integrate architecturally with the neighborhood that surrounds it. And that’s okay. Far more important than adherence to a certain vernacular is the physical form of the house. When looking at the front of the home square-on, does the layout emphasize a front door, a porch, a garage, or …Read more…

Who needs Vegas for quirky chapels? The rest of the country is holding its own.

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I’d wager that the American religious landscape is currently undergoing a cataclysmic shift, but that would be disingenuous, since it suggests that the shift, with all these denominations, is something recent. It isn’t. Religious expression—or the demonstration of it among its adherents—has never really been static in this country. Throughout the twentieth century, the number …Read more…

A new life for an old campus…where the students cannot leave.

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As I blogged about recently, the uncertainty following the closure of Dana College in Blair, Nebraska, has left a sizable portion of the town’s incorporated limits in a state of escalating neglect. While the downtown and residential districts of Blair remain tidy (if not exactly teeming with life), the small city’s most prominent institution is closed, most …Read more…

A suburban hand in an urban glove. But does it fit?

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On the western edge of Boston’s Back Bay Fens, a stone’s throw from Fenway Park, the Landmark Center stands prominently; as both the tallest and broadest building in the area, particularly when viewed looking eastward from across the fens, it lives up to its name.Monumental as it may be today, the massive structure didn’t always …Read more…

If a tree grows in Brooklyn, then Queens can claim an entire garden.

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When a settlement grows suddenly and rapidly, it’s common for the new development to completely overwhelm everything that preceded it: not just for the older settlement to get engulfed in the new, but for it to disappear completely. It’s happening all over the fast-growing areas of the American southwest, particularly states like Texas, where formerly rural …Read more…

Contemporary design and its discontents.

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The clarion call for architectural conformity may prove to be urban redevelopment’s greatest hurdle. Small business owners and residents in formerly blighted districts who invested in the neighborhood first—the “pioneers” so to speak—often assert themselves powerfully into any proposals to alter the neighborhood that come from that second generation of investors—i.e., the ones jumping the …Read more…

Helping downtowns meet demand and save face.

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The façadectomy fan club hasn’t earned a lot of love over the years. Historic preservationists deride it because it cynically assumes that the only true value to a historic structure is the often three-foot-thick façade, while the remaining 99% of the building (not to mention everything that took place within it) is left to the …Read more…