Sunday, April 16, 2006

Suburban Composition

Heading to Northbrook for some Easter brunch n' dinner, I finally took some photos of a particular block that I recently noticed as a composed whole. The most well known composed street in the area is Chicago's Alta Vista Terrace, planned and built in the early 1900s, where "every townhouse on one side is duplicated with only minor variations at the diagonally opposite end of the block."

The Northbrook block comprises only one side and uses an A-A-B rhythm across it, where the A houses face the street (left in image below) and the B houses face the side (right one below). Since there's an even number of houses, the only variation in the rhythm is a B-A-B at one end; otherwise the only variations are the exterior cladding and articulation of the Colonial style houses and the driveways.

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Click image for the whole block view

I don't know the specific history of this block (when, how, why), but it offers an interesting example for suburban developments. Today, suburban developments tend to be literally cookie cutter or extremely disconnected, swinging from too much to too little control of the physical results. This block in Northbrook not only straddles the two but also offers shared spaces (such as the driveway above) that may be a small means of increasing a sense of community and a good alternate to today's overly private living.

Update 04.17: One interesting aspect of this block that I just remembered is that while all the surrounding blocks are experiencing tear-downs of existing houses being replaced with turreted McMansions, this block is immune from that widespread trend. This can be partially attributed to both the fact that these existing Colonials are pretty big already and the overall composition of the block. Tear down one, replace with a McMansion, and the block is ruined.

1 comment:

  1. The neighborhood seems like a great example of employing a contextual strategy that allows for a certain amount of flexibility, yet also hinders negative change.

    You only become aware of the dormant system when it is threatened to be altered. Not a bad strategy for development.

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