German Street in Shepherdstown, WV: where, instead of a curb at the sidewalk, there’s a fence.  And shrubs.

The prosperous little municipality of Shepherdstown, fortuitously situated along the Potomac River in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, boasts a charming three-block main street, German Street, with nothing but locally owned establishments, achieving almost perfect occupancy amidst its variegated, well-maintained 19th century buildings.  It’s an enviable arrangement, no doubt enhanced by its location in

Rise over run: Portland parks contend with steep slopes.

Both nestled in and perched on the Willamette Valley, Oregon’s largest city of Portland (by far) has its share of dramatic slopes and sublime vistas. This should come as no surprise. And although nearly three-quarters of the municipal limits sit to the east of the Willamette River, downtown Portland and most of its highest points

Rethinking a restroom from just the right angle.

I have yet to create a special tag or keyword on my blog for my numerous articles on public restrooms. Perhaps I should. Sometimes I feel like a letch for writing about them so much, and yet I know I’m hardly alone having a certain fascination—not only in the interior design, but the engineering for

Philly’s subway entrances: should we cast great infrastructure in iron or cast it away?

As a general rule, the major public works initiatives of America suffer an almost complete bifurcation in our broader societal gaze: between the deliberately ornamental versus the purely utilitarian. We clutch our pearls in attempts to salvage the former—even if many critics impugn these embellishments as kitschy, schlocky, or some other great Yiddish adjective. Their

Well-regulated suburban development: hardly off the rails.

A railing on a sidewalk may seem like a humble installation, in the context of the vast strip mall that surrounds it. And it is. But it does seem odd, almost random, based on the environment. Why does this twelve-foot stretch of sidewalk need two railings when nothing around it has them? A view from

The ramp without a purpose: handicapped design swings and misses.

Public accommodations for persons with disabilities have expanded so significantly in recent years that the juxtaposition of a staircase and a ramp scarcely raises an eyebrow. We see it all the time. And that’s perfectly normal: after all, it’s been the law since 1990.  But how are we supposed to respond when we see handicapped

Picking the nits when we’re stuck in a rut.

The phrase “built environment” appears regularly in this blog, and for good reason. It’s general and all-encompassing enough that it typically summons large images, which is what it should do. The blog has an expansive scope, and only with individual articles—and the photographs that accompany them—does the real precision come into play. And through those

Small town urban infill: more than just replacing the baby teeth.

As much as we herald the reurbanization of our big cities—the “return to the downtowns”—it’s just as commendable when it takes place along the main streets of small towns. And it’s often just as difficult to get it right. While one might expect the redevelopment of a parcel in the downtown of a large metro

Aging at home: does it have to be an uphill climb?

Baby Boomers remain the largest generation by volume of any recorded in the history of the United States.  This label, part of common parlance from coast to coast, imposes artificial bookends upon a group of people whose only real commonality is that they were conceived in the years following World War II—a spike in the

Salvaging St. Louis, Part III: Biodiversity in repopulation.

In the previous section of this three-part article, I began exploring some of the affordable housing initiatives of St. Louis that have helped it, to some extent, stem its precipitous decline, particularly in comparison to Detroit, its peer city in terms of population loss.  If this survey (you could almost call it “home tour”) seemed

Picking the nits when we’re stuck in a rut.

The phrase “built environment” appears regularly in this blog, and for good reason. It’s general and all-encompassing enough that it typically summons large images, which is what it should do. The blog has

Aging at home: does it have to be an uphill climb?

Baby Boomers remain the largest generation by volume of any recorded in the history of the United States.  This label, part of common parlance from coast to coast, imposes artificial bookends upon a