Successful Buildings For A Better City

Successful buildings for a better city
A part of Amsterdam – from Atlas of the Dutch Urban Block

There is a tug of war going on between fans of Measure S, which is threatening to stop L.A.’s urban evolution in March; and growth proponents who all too readily embrace tower construction wherever a spot of land exists to build them. But Angelinos, meanwhile, are uneasy about both and fear that neither vision will create the better city we deserve.

Surprisingly, little effort is spent on promoting what that better city should be like. L.A. badly needs to envision a different way forward.

To start, we should investigate good solutions wherever they already exist. There are numerous international city rankings, with a variety of metrics. The Economist annually lists the world’s most livable cities, the Mercer report does too, and Arcadis is ranking cities by their sustainability. L.A. is not leading by any measure. Moreover, what we consistently find is that the top cities do not look like us – they look like the places many of us visit on vacation. Even more aggravating, they are statistically solving problems we dare not tackle. The most livable cities are often quite a bit denser than our cities, but they also have generous open spaces, vibrant business communities, and an adequate housing supply, sometimes even at sustainable prices we cannot even imagine.

In L.A., we think of a city as a vast region of single family houses with skyscrapers in the middle, but to the rest of the world, those two building types represent only the extremes to be used in their cities rather sparsely. Those cities mostly consist out of what we call “the missing middle buildings”. This article is devoted to two examples out of the vast catalog of those building types, because they create so much urban fabric elsewhere but do not exist in SoCal; even worse, they may be illegal for us to build at this time. […]