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Urban Design 101: Building Facades

The City of Los Angeles' Urban Design Studio illustrates ways to use the design of visible building facades to create/reinforce neighborhood identity and richer pedestrian environments. Is Jacksonville paying attention?

Published September 8, 2009 in Urban Issues      12 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


feature

To encourage citywide walkability, Los Angeles requires building projects to conform to a walkability checklist.  In this installment, the issue of good building facade design is explored in visual detail.















http://www.urbandesignla.com/walkability/BuildingFacade.pdf


In Los Angeles, these recently constructed Jacksonville projects would have been forced to revise their plans before being given final permitting approval.

Family Dollar - New Springfield






Community Connections - Downtown



While walkable projects are few and far between, Meeks, Ross, Selander and Associates is an example of a local project that would pass the walkability checklist.


For more info: Adaptive Reuse: Meeks, Ross, Selander & Associates


Perhaps its time for Jacksonville to incorporate a few of these guidelines into its architectural landscape?

Article by Ennis Davis







12 Comments

JoeMerchant

September 08, 2009, 09:02:00 AM
Nice article Ennis, these simple guidelines make a huge difference in how a street functions at both the automobile and pedestrian level and these are things we definitely think about in the Urban Facelift Project studies.  Hopefully we'll see some actual built projects that use this line of thinking as well.

I think it's difficult for private developers to think this way, when the city itself hasn't caught on yet in regards to it's public projects. (main library for example).

JeffreyS

September 08, 2009, 11:01:08 AM
Wow I was not expecting much from that article but it was full of simple and easy to implement elements that my common sense believes would work.

904Scars

September 08, 2009, 01:05:07 PM
As the others have stated very easy simple design techniques that would visually make our downtown 100x more appealing. One thing I would really love to see, specially on Bay St is a bar with multiple floors and an upper deck hanging over the wide Bay St sidewalk, along with more awnings and canopies. There is actually an art studio (Daryl Bunn Studios) on Edison Ave. & Riverside Ave. near the river that is a prime example of how some of the older 2-3 story buildings downtown should look (in my opinion). Much respect for the designer.

http://www.panoramio.com/photo/6799848

braeburn

September 08, 2009, 04:07:20 PM
I always wondered what that building was.

stjr

September 08, 2009, 07:57:06 PM
So simple, yet so hard for Jax to implement.  How lacking can our city be?

These ideas don't really cost money when done at the time projects are built.  They do take imagination, thoughtfulness, vision, and creativity, all generally lacking in the public spaces and forums of our community.

Combined with our lack of historical preservation, it's no wonder some people visit Jax and consider the experience forgettable or the community lacking in excitement and vitality.

Fallen Buckeye

September 08, 2009, 09:56:59 PM
As far as eliminating blank walls such as on the family dollar pictured. That seems like a great project for local art students working in cooperation with local businesses to create murals and so on. Isn't Lavilla an arts schools right there? Or I'm sure there would be interest at local college campuses. It would be a great way to buy a community stake in beautifying the community. You could have a mural series celebrating local history or cultures. Possibilities are endless.

stjr

September 08, 2009, 10:51:55 PM
Speaking of walls, the City also needs to come up with standards for situations where homeowners, businesses, and developers build side "walls" or "fences" on their properties along public streets.  By building the walls on the property line, which seems to be the prevailing custom, going down the street looks like a cold alley.  Many of the walls or fences are directly up to sidewalks or so close that no landscaping to buffer the wall or fence can be squeezed in.

Good examples of this can be found on Baymeadows Road between San Jose and Kings Road.  More examples are prevalent along San Jose between Baymeadows and University.  Many more are all over town.

Epping Forest and Villages of San Jose set their walls back and landscaped and those few feet of green make a great difference in impression.

Doug San Diego

September 08, 2009, 11:17:30 PM
The guidelines you re-print are very similar to what are in place in San Diego. Gail Goldberg, who is now working in Los Angeles, was our planning director for several years. During her tenure, the planning department led the effort to revamp our planning guidelines which lead to the City of Villages plan. However, the critical factor during that effort , in my opinion, was the heavy involvement from the 50+ community planning groups. Meaningful citizen involvement is essential to develop people friendly community plans. It is very unlikely that any city has an omniscient philosopher king in the form of a planning director who will plan the perfect pedestrian friendly city. The citizens must be involved.

thelakelander

September 08, 2009, 11:42:55 PM
Great points, guys!

Fallen Buckeye

September 09, 2009, 06:28:09 PM
Meaningful citizen involvement is essential to develop people friendly community plans. It is very unlikely that any city has an omniscient philosopher king in the form of a planning director who will plan the perfect pedestrian friendly city. The citizens must be involved.

Absolutely true. What channels of input do citizens in Jax have in planning our neighborhoods? Is there anything like a citizens advisory board or something?

And you know that omniscient philosopher king you speak of sounds a lot like these big development firms to me.

zoo

September 11, 2009, 09:05:06 AM
This thread reminds me of when Charles Landry (The Art of City Making, 2006, www.charleslandry.com) visited Jacksonville 3 years ago, gave a talk to many city influentials about the importance of visual variation to vibrancy, and said that Jacksonville "made his eyes hurt." It does not seem that many policymakers were listening at that time.

Quote
They do take imagination, thoughtfulness, vision, and creativity, all generally lacking in the public spaces and forums of our community.

Agreed. And I would add:

1. DDRB members and City Council members who are willing to revisit, reconsider and change signage ordinances, and;

2. Larger segments of citizenry who, finally realizing visual uniformity is boring and undesirable, want to use culture, art and architecture to de-sterilize Jacksonville's visual environment.

Ocklawaha

September 11, 2009, 11:09:54 AM
This typical Jacksonville tendency to plan grand then lose the plans, reminds me of the Japanese occupation of Thailand. In order to convince the government of Thailand to support Japan, the Japanese built the "Grand Bangkok Boulevard," in the capital as a demonstration project. But since so many fled as the Japanese took control, the boulevard only had ONE real building. A hotel with non functioning plumbing. The entire rest of the boulevard, was Facades ... JUST FACADES! The facades were still present in 1948, 3 years after the war, I am told they finally crumbled to the ground.

OCKLAWAHA
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