2011-09-27

#Some Actual Schoolwork

The next few posts are going to consist of a little catching up. I haven’t posted any actual classwork on my class blog yet, so I need to get it up to speed.

The first assignment we had was to pick a few housing developments in Starkville and do a quick summary about them. We needed to look at density, road widths, materials, and the like. I picked the Rue de Grande Fromage in the Cotton District, Park Towne Village off of Louisville St., and Cooper Lane off of Whitfield St. I picked these in order to look at 3 distinct types of housing development in Starkville. Overall, a few good developments can be found (none better than the Cotton District), but a broader look across town shows that the bad developments far outweigh the good. Through this project, my classmates and I hope to design some good examples of infill development here.

Rue de Grande Fromage (or, Street of the Big Cheese”) is one of the newer developments in the larger Cotton District. A compact, mixed-use development, it consists of seven buildings aligned on axis around a narrow brick street. The front five buildings house businesses (including a couple of bars, a Chinese restaurant, and a liquor store) on the ground floor and housing above, while the back two are entirely housing. Parking is mainly on gravel lots tucked between buildings, with a few brick spots.

My overall impression of this place is very good. The detail on the buildings make them very human-scale and interesting. The balconies and porches convey a sense of community, though I have never seen anyone really spending time on them. Materials are mostly natural and intricate in their detail. The parking situation leaves a little to be desired, but in the limited space it is certainly not bad. If a grocery store were nearby, one would scarcely need a car. By itself, this development would not be very livable; being integrated into the Cotton District, especially at the important node of University and Maxwell, makes this small street a desirable place.

Park Towne Village is a small infill development consisting of 14 single-family houses situated along a wide, T-shaped dead-end street. The houses are traditional in style and, although more detailed than much of the housing stock in Starkville, are not exceptional. Many of the houses are clad in vinyl siding, though a few have clapboard siding. A fence and sign demarcates the entrance, but there is no gate.

The houses feel very packed-in in this development. Being a dead-end street, with no common space in the development, makes it feel a bit claustrophobic. The street seemed very wide during the day, but I imagine once residents get home from work the space tightens up. Some semblance of a front porch is present on most of the homes, but actual usefulness varies. More intention should have been designed into this feature. Street trees are somewhat present, but there is no repetition, and their presence is not especially felt. Much of the plant selection feels very generic, though some lots are better than others.

Cooper Lane is a U-shaped infill development consisting mostly of one- or two-bedroom units surrounding a central green space. The original house on the lot has been turned into a quadplex in the center of the development. All of the units are of a very stark, modern design, with large, blank swathes of white vinyl siding and small windows. Each has a small private courtyard and paved parking spaces. The main drive is gravel.

This development has a lot going for it, at least in the layout. The central green space is very nice, and lends the development a much more open feel than the others. Improved landscaping could improve the area and make it more useful, however. The blankness of the units is terrible, in my opinion, and degrades what could be a really comfortable community. More visual interest in the units, including porches, overhangs, and possibly art and varying colors could improve the space drastically. Effort was made to preserve the existing trees, though they are showing signs of impending death. The loss of these large trees will definitely change the feel of this development. Overall, a potentially good plan that could have been great.

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Picking a Site After we looked at some built examples around town, Taze had us find three undeveloped parcels of land in town that we felt had