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A suburban Subway on an urban street

“Urbanism starts with the location of the parking lot.” — David Sucher

When the downtown Fort Wayne Subway shop was torn down to make way for Harrison Square, it was a safe bet that it would rebuilt nearby.

And with the recent emphasis on downtown renewal, this property at the southeast corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Clinton Street was a prime location for a great, urban-looking business.

Alas, we have this suburban Subway, smack in the middle of downtown.

Oh, I’m sure it’ll be a great-looking building, and far better looking than its previous one. But an opportunity was wasted, and I don’t know why the city didn’t make the case for Subway to locate its restaurant on the property in a way that reflected its urban setting.

In other words, to make this Subway’s site plan more urban, move the building to the corner and the parking around the back.

Here’s an admittedly simple graphic by David Sucher that shows what I’m talking about:

If the Subway had been located right on the corner, downtown Fort Wayne would have taken a step toward being a more walkable neighborhood. It’s too bad that this simple idea wasn’t considered before the building went up.

The architecture of altruism

An article over on Comment magazine by Calvin College professor James K.A. Smith nicely encapsulates much of what we hope for in Fort Wayne.

Below are lots of quotes from Loving our neighbour(hood)s: The architecture of altruism. It’s full of good stuff:

The culture of “automobility” engenders a residential architecture where the three-car garage swallows almost the entire front elevation, leaving a small gap for a front door—but eliminating any room for an expansive front porch. Instead, houses are set back from the street, guarded by the fortress-like wall of garage doors, leaving us to retreat to the privacy of fenced backyards on sprawling decks—once again, insulated by pressure-treated lumber from any contact with our neighbours. Thus, our suburban “neighbourhoods” are all too often collections of privatized, insulated pods that secure us from any contact with “neighbours.” In such a world, Jesus’ command sounds a tad anachronistic and strange.

Christian exhortations to love our neighbours usually amount to encouragements to muster the will-power to care about others—a call to a resolute interiority and attitude. But what if Christian neighbour-love had a structural, material concern at its base: that we care about the very physical shape of our residential dwelling and critically consider how the material conditions of our built environment foster or detract from love of neighbour? In a world where the built environment threatens to squelch the very category of “neighbour,” might not we heed Jesus’ command precisely by being concerned to build communities that encourage encounters with neighbours? Could there be an architecture of neighbour-love?

A construction of the world that finds us sequestered in insulated pods—emerging only into smaller, mobile, insulated pods—must make an impact on how we see ourselves and our relations to (largely invisible) others. Could there not be a link between the increased narcissism and polarity of North American culture and that many adults spend two hours a day by themselves in maddening commuter traffic, with the inanities of talk radio as a soundtrack?

Loving our neighbour means more than mustering kind feelings toward anonymous others. It might require, here and now, that we commit ourselves to building (or better, recovering and redeeming) built environments in which neighbours actually show up to be loved.

Do you want this in your neighborhood?

dwell_house.jpgIn response to my call for neighborly modern home architecture, Scott rises to the challenge.

He points us to an article and photos in Dwell Magazine which discusses this house built in a distressed neighborhood in Dayton, Ohio.

The builders of the home were warmly welcomed:

Luckily for the couple, there weren’t any stringent codes or angry neighbors with which to contend. “Dayton has some great older areas downtown that are strong historic districts,” maintains Mary Rogero. “But this was a very nondescript neighborhood, so it was easy to tweak the design in a direction that paves the way for modern homes to come in.”

But how would this go over in Fort Wayne? Would your neighborhood welcome such an addition to your neighborhood? I really think my neighbors wouldn’t blink at such a design, but would only be thankful that something new was being built. Tell me about yours.

The house of the past’s future

While we await some architects to respond to the last post and show off some neighbor-friendly modern housing that’s isn’t a throwback to the Victorian era, here’s an idea from the past — the 1971 fab prefab Venturo.

The advertising pitch, from Treehugger.com:

“A lake, land and sea, a beautiful valley, incomparably compatible settings for your individualized Venturo. This is real vacation living — and you get it instantly, maintenance free because Venturo’s exteriors are in fibreglass, anodized aluminum and glass.”

 

Plop one of these babies into West Central, and you’ll have the most popular fondue parties on the block. Read the groovy post over at treehugger.com.