I recently was made aware of the blog reCities by Robert Kwolek. I was instantly struck by its simplicity and effectiveness. Unlike UrbDeZine, reCities takes the approach of exhibiting only one article on its front page. Earlier articles or posts can be perused via links in the right hand sidebar. The article featured at the time of this writing was simply entitled Case Study 4.2: Charlestown (Charlestown is a neighborhood in Boston MA) The sidebar reveals other “case studies” – Baltimore, San Francisco, and Toronto. The sidebar notes that Mr. Kwolek is an architecture graduate (BA) from London Metropolitan University. More importantly, the blog reveals a passion for cities, especially dense, historic, and “organic” cities. His posts are not technical. Instead, they’re written with the keen and simple insight of a person with a true and organic fondness of this subject – ironically, its the “organic” aspects of cities which he appears to most relish.
In the Charlestown article, he lets numerous photos do much of the talking, and it works. His written content sums it up nicely and helps the reader draw logical conclusions from the information that the photos deliver. (The feature image in this review is not from his work). For my own part, the Charlestown photos helped re-affirm my rejection of some of the types of projects that smart growth or transit oriented growth is often used to justify in Southern California, e.g., zone busting pedestal towers placed in existing 1-3 story neighborhoods and 3-5 story multi-family residential buildings erected over street level parking garages or separated from the street by surface parking lots. Such projects tend to create blight by making everything outside their imposing ‘fortress walls’ or parking lot ‘moats’ inhospitable. Charlestown, like European cities, San Francisco, and other “old world” cities achieves very high density with 2-5 story buildings and no or small set-backs. This circumstance creates a human scale and does not negatively impact adjacent properties like the Southern California zone busters.
Mr. Kowlek’s “case study” conveys a feeling as close to being there as I’ve yet seen an article accomplish. In fact, it was so effective that it was difficult to distinguish between reviewing the article and reviewing the subject matter. The Case Study 4.2: Charlestown article is worth a gander, as is the blog.
Photo courtesy Global Jet, Flickr Creative Commons