Older, smaller buildings support the local economy with more non-chain, locally owned businesses. Older business districts offer greater opportunities for entrepreneurship, including women and minority-owned businesses.
Vibrant Urban Design
No one is a fan of urban sprawl, so building up is smarter for both the environment and city infrastructure right? Perhaps, but how high should we build and where should we do this?
We have to be careful not to paint all human spaces with the same density brush. In doing so, we may inadvertently suffocate the same vibrancy we are trying to build in the first place.
As there are drawbacks associated with urban sprawl, there are issues with vertical sprawl as well; overshadowing, wind tunnels, and limited long term adaptability. World renowned Architect Jan Gehl suggests that meaningful contact with ground level events occurs at the first 5 storeys of a building. Another recent study released by the National Trust for Historic Preservation states that pedestrians are most comfortable with buildings from 3-6 storeys.
The City of Toronto recently released a multi-award winning study (which was recognized by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada) on Mid-rise buildings. These buildings, and I quote; “have a good scale and relationship to the street. They define walls to the street that are tall enough to feel like a city and provide lots of usable space, but low enough to let the sun in and open the view to the sky from the street. They support a comfortable pedestrian environment, and animate the street by lining the sidewalk with doors and windows with active uses including stores, restaurants, services, grade related apartments, and community uses.” I believe that this study could be very applicable when considering development in Calgary’s Chinatown.
And as we all know Calgary is facing tough economic times, which makes it interesting note that some research says that older, smaller buildings support the local economy with more non-chain, locally owned businesses, and offer greater opportunities for entrepreneurship. This includes businesses owned by women and minorities.
More resources on the subject of human-scaled development:
- Older, Smaller, Better – Measuring how the character of buildings and blocks influences urban vitality
- City of Toronto and their Study of Avenues and Mid-Rise Buildings
- Remembering the Human Scale in Walkable City Neighborhoods
- City of Vancouver Approves First Ever Chinatown Economic Revitalization Strategy
- Place Attachment and Continuity of Urban Place Identity
- 7 Reasons Why High-Rises Kill Livability
- How Legacy Architecture Shapes Our Experience of Place
- Livable Cities
Districts with smaller and older buildings score better on multiple measures of urban vitality
Urban pedestrians are most comfortable with three to six story buildings
The Huffington PostRemembering the Human Scale in Walkable City Neighborhoods
Buildings of diverse vintage and small scale provide flexible, affordable space for entrepreneurs launching new businesses and serve as attractive settings for new restaurants and locally owned shops. They offer diverse housing choices that attract younger residents and create human-scaled places for walking, shopping, and social interaction.
Older, Smaller, BetterNational Trust for Historic Preservation
We have a mental need to experience that we are rooted in the continuity of time. We do not only inhabit space, we also dwell in time . . . Buildings and cities are museums of time. They emancipate us from the hurried time of the present, and help us to experience the slow, healing time of the past. Architecture enables us to see and understand the slow processes of history, and to participate in time cycles that surpass the scope of an individual life.
Fit new and old together at a human scale
Findings from the three study cities show that mixing buildings from different vintages—including modern buildings—supports social and cultural activity in commercial and mixed-use zones. Many of the most thriving blocks in the study cities scored high on the diversity of building-age measure. Scale also played an important role. Grid squares with smaller lots and more human-scaled buildings generally scored higher on the performance measures than squares characterized by larger lots and structures. These results support the concept of adding new infill projects of compatible size alongside older buildings.