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Made for Walking (review)
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Made for Walking: Density and Neighborhood Form, a new book by Julie Campoli, a writer and urban designer, opens with an account of the daily commutes of the Russ family across the urban sprawl of the decidedly un-walkable Houston, Tex. As a native Houstonian I can attest to, and sympathize with, the conditions that force the average American to make roughly four car trips a day, racking up 14,000 miles a year behind the wheel. But about six years ago I moved to New York City, and I am now one of the tiny fraction of Americans who make daily use of public transportation, and one of the 8 percent who make routine trips by foot. I am allowed this lifestyle because, for the most part, the urban form of New York City, unlike Houston, is designed to be experienced on foot. If one envisions the typical New York City neighborhood, it is one where sidewalks are densely lined with vibrant and functional spaces; buildings adjoin and uses stack vertically; space is maximized and allocated in small, human-scaled units; and everything one needs or wants is nearby and easily accessible. Walking is enjoyable, with constantly changing scenery and diverse experiences.

Made for Walking contains more than 450 street-level views that convey the feeling of 12 walkable North American neighborhoods, including a montage of one street from each neighborhood, allowing the reader to envision a sample thoroughfare. Comparative diagrams measure different factors of density, including figure/ ground diagrams, service diagrams, intersection density diagrams, population density diagrams, green space/ pedestrian network diagrams, and neighborhood pattern diagrams. The main thesis of

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Made for Walking suggests that the key elements in creating a walkable neighborhood are diversity, density, design, distance to transit, and destination accessibility (the "Five Ds"). Parking is also thrown in the mix, so officially it is "Five Ds and a P," though that does not have quite the same ring to it. Campoli argues that these elements make the biggest impact when they work together, and the 12 neighborhoods she highlights are those in which they successfully do. These neighborhoods are the following:

  • LoDo and the Central Platte Valley, Denver, Colo.

  • Short North, Columbus, Ohio

  • Kitsilano, Vancouver, British Columbia

  • Flamingo Park, Miami Beach, Fla.

  • Little Portugal, Toronto, Ontario

  • Eisenhower East, Alexandria, Va.

  • Downtown and Raynolds Addition, Albuquerque, N.M.

  • The Pearl District, Portland, Ore.

  • Greenpoint, Brooklyn, N.Y.

  • Little Italy, San Diego, Calif.

  • Cambridgeport, Cambridge, Mass.

  • Old Pasadena, Pasadena, Calif.

By integrating quantifiable measures of density with a more nuanced, abstract portrayal of what makes neighborhoods successful, Campoli shows how urban form affects countless areas of our daily lives. Through the lens of walkability, her writings and case studies advocate for compact development that can be incorporated in a variety of regions and climates. Despite an innate preservation-minded thesis (of which I will explain more later) Made for Walking is not overtly preservation-focused; it is mainly devoted to convincing readers of the benefits of higher density urban living and its correlation to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and VMT (annual vehicle miles travelled). Of course, with increasing energy costs and a quickly degrading environment, this is a significant and laudable goal. But what will be more interesting to those working in the preservation field is how these density issues overlap with and reinforce the merits of historic preservation.

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Walkability and the Historic Neighborhood

Campoli proposes that those neighborhoods designed to be experienced on foot are inevitably those to which people become attached and cherish over time. And these neighborhoods, she points out, are usually historic, surviving from the pre-automotive era. This older fabric has inherent lessons to impart to new and infill development, many of which she outlines in the book. She argues that the "good bones" that have made these neighborhoods successful should be preserved and, going further, can be emulated to create more appealing neighborhoods that are made for walking. All 12 of Campoli's models of successful urban walkable neighborhoods exhibit features that are directly related to the neighborhoods' historic fabric and their organic evolution over time. Campoli...

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