These entries present ideas about how buildings, cities, and landscapes can be made into better places for humans. Humane Design is published by Jeremy Fretts, and is committed to "improving the human habitat." Jeremy Fretts is a designer and project architect at Niles Bolton Associates, and a member of the Congress for New Urbanism.    RSS/XML

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Please, "cut through" my neighborhood!

In a well-designed town or city, and certainly in a historic grid-iron city, there is less a sense of a single primary route. There are simply multiple alternatives to get where you're going.  All routes are primary...and all routes are "cutting through."

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Structured for growth!

Look for photos with commentary in the Portfolio and Resources/Good Examples areas.  Most notably, examples of bright, daylit contemporary worship spaces which ALSO feature clear media screens. 

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Faith & Urbanism

"A church...can be the cornerstone of an entire neighborhood...the catalyst for good development all around. That is IF they build so that there is not a field of parking isolating the faithful and their campus from the surrounding neighborhood."

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Others pursuing humane designs...

they sponsor a competition called "design for our future selves." What an awesome idea! (Nothing like a little self-centeredness to get us thinking about how to better serve the current-elderly!)

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Congress for New Urbanism - general update

Aside from learning from the masters of architecture and planning, and rubbing shoulders with urbanists from all over the world, perhaps the best part of the conference was the tour of courtyard housing in which I participated. Dense housing can be BEAUTIFUL, and the "Seven Fountains" project is proof that it can be successful, with the highest rents in Los Angeles. ($5000-6000/month for 1600 sf)

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Transparency in religious, retail, and recreation buildings

It is much less intimidating to step inside when you get a sneak peek from outside.

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Top Ten Homebuilder Mistakes

1)Exhaust vents make great bird nests. Choose carefully to assure bird-proof vents.
2) Two-foot wide planting beds are too small! I sell trees & shrubs part-time at a local nursery, and I can't tell you how many times I have to help people find dwarf plants that will fit in the planting beds between their front door and sidewalk. Unfortunately, their desire is usually for something tall (5-8'), and there is an extremely short list of tall narrow plants.
3) Too many rooflines. Builders and municipalities equate the number of different rooflines with the quality of a building. In fact, some of the most beautiful homes in America are very simple. The money spent on too many rooflines could be used for better details and better quality materials.
4) Disproportional shutters. Shutters were once functional, closing to protect the windows from weather. Now, they are merely decorative, and so builders and homeowners alike add them with no attention paid to their proportion to the windows. A pair of shutters total width should never exceed the width of the window they surround.
5) Most people dislike yews. Perhaps better put, most residents don't like the landscaping materials that come with the typical home. It seems that "40 acres and a mule" has become "vinyl box and a yew."
6) Covenants are too inflexible. Home builders seem to reproduce old covenants without any serious thought as to their appropriateness to a given neighborhood, or their long-term desirability. I know so many people who despise coveants, and would prefer to live in a neighborhood without them. The problem is that they are often poorly written when it comes to addressing the evolution of taste and a neighborhood. Too often, the covenants define the specifics, rather than allowing judgement to the current homeowners association board, a duly elected body.

In one neighborhood I know, no metal fencing is permitted, and there are strict restrictions on what color homes may be painted. In another neighborhood across the street, built slightly earlier, chain-link is the ONLY fencing permitted. I would argue that both neighborhoods have built-in obsolescence as tastes change.

7) No room for furniture. I have seen many homes where doors and windows are situated so close to perpendicular walls that there is no room for furniture or even wood trim. I try to always leave at least ten inches (bookshelf depth) or two feet (wardrobes and dressers, minimum) between the door or window frame and the nearest wall.

8) Utility box "lawn ornaments." In many neighborhoods, no thought is given to the location and appearance of utility boxes & meters. I would go a step further, and say that utility companies have far too much influence on designs of towns, as well as houses. Rather than municipalities carefully coordinating where the utilities should go, most new development simply provides a huge easement. AND, utility companies have nearly supreme authority during review of site designs requiring municipal approval.

9) Garages too small for the trash can. I recently asked why only some residents of a neighborhood had a certain type of trash can (the kind that's tidy and easy for automated collection).  I was told that the owners of the luxury trash cans had to sacrifice parking in their garage.  The covenants prohibit outdoor storage of trash cans, and the garages are too small for both trash can and automobile.  Oops.

10) Frameless room divisions. Open floor plans are great, but too often the lack of division between rooms makes painting difficult...where do you stop one color and start the next?  Similarly, stairwells often lack framing which would allow for attachment of a baby/dog gate.  (Thanks to my sister for pointing out this nuance)

11) Top eleven???  Useless greenspace. Medians, buffers, and the like are often required by code. Sometimes they look pretty from the car.  But, they are completely unusable as parkspace.  Too often, today's neighborhoods lack (public, shared) places for kids and adults to play.  This is especially problematic in our burgeoning supply of condo communities.

12) Matte paint.  It scuffs easily, and is unpleasant to touch.  But it costs a little less...probably the reason it gets used!  Try eggshell or semi-gloss instead.



Benefits of Starbucks

Another benefit of a coffeeshop, of any brand, is the fact that they are by nature people places, often with outdoor seating. They can be trailblazers in enlivening places.   - J. Fretts

(My post to the Project for Public Spaces Listserv in December, 2002, re: Starbucks)

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