NYC –> Shanghai, 11 days: Street Anatomy – Grades Are Up!

August 30th, 2013. 11 days. One month into the mini-blog!

And the answers are (insert drumroll here)…

Scene 1: Worst                                                         Scene 5: Best

Screen shot 2013-08-27 at 10.07.15 PM

Screen shot 2013-08-27 at 9.59.42 PM

To be honest, there isn’t exactly one right answer – especially when asking for a more subjective evaluation, as preferences do play a role. I typically score this question based on the “justification” my students give for their rankings. So ALL of you passed with flying colors – thanks SO much for participating. (I especially got a kick out of the comment regarding the SVU/white van in scene 1 – and wow, my fiance really has picked up a thing or two from walking the streets with me!). As a bonus, I will “score” these scenes using State of Place, which helps delineate the subtleties that many of you pointed out (that made it hard to choose a winner and loser). All streets have assets and needs – and that’s what State of Place highlights so well. So stay tuned for that too!

So here’s the lowdown: Scenes 1, 2, and 4 are all worthy contenders for the “worst” streetscape prize. Scenes 3 and 5 are both lovely and inviting in their own right and serve as fairly good models of mixed-use and residential urban design, respectively. I’ll elaborate on the worst of these in this blog, and go over the “winners” in tomorrow’s mini-blog!

Scene 2: I initially picked this scene to represent the “worst” streetscape. Right by the Chinese consulate in Hell’s Kitchen, the garage-looking, blank facade of the Fed-Ex building on the right couldn’t be more uninviting. The infamous “Silver Towers” on the left are cold, have a monotonous facade, and only one “active” use on the ground floor (a deli/cafe with no outdoor dining – although why would you want to sit outside on that street). The five-land road is more highway than street – and the lack of ground-floor uses encourages drivers to speed.

Scene 4: This is one of most unappealing streets in the area known as Soho Village. Right near the Holland Tunnel, it reads more thru-way than street. While the buildings themselves abut the street and have interesting architectural details, this six lane road with relatively narrow sidewalks and no street trees has less than pedestrian friendly proportions. The street is completely unactivated and the buildings themselves overpower the street, as one or two of them dominate the streetscape.

Scene 1: This street, just a few blocks away from my apartment, is one I tend to avoid. The streetscape is interrupted in several places due to the various “tower in the park” type buildings that don’t “relate” to the street in any real way. The fenced-in parking lots (a rarity for New York) also make for a discontinuous streetscape, disrupting the “enclosure” of the street and making it less attractive, despite the nice street trees. The blank, red, sidewall dominates the scene. The street is too wide given its residential nature and the fact that it’s a one way road.

Tune in tomorrow for the breakdown on the “good” streets!


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