Thursday, July 23, 2009

Alleyway

Pittsfield, Massachusetts

4 comments:

Markus Spring said...

Carl, I am learning a lot of America through your eyes. On this travel in a different culture - and the way to build, to cultivate public space is a significant part of culture - I permanently try to see linkages to the situation here. So different, and yet in many details so similar. The clear structures like this alleyway or the Walgreen's you won't find easily here in old Europe.

Carl said...

Markus, I guess that structures like these, and the Walgreens in the earlier posts, are simply the cheapest possible way to put up a structure that's safe to occupy. Pittsfield has a mix of everything: buildings like this right in the middle of downtown, just a few doors from the county courthouse, quaint 100+ year old three story buildings along North Street that have storefronts on the ground level and offices or apartments above, some grand stone buildings including an art museum, and just a couple of modernist glass-and-steel buildings. If there's any zoning, it must have been put in recently.

Markus Spring said...

The late introduction of a zoning plan is indeed a big difference. Over here in Germany you just cannot imagine any place without a proper zoning plan. This for sure has slowed down development considerably in many cases, but on the other hand has avoided some mis-developments. But from other european regions I do know that zoning and planning are handled differently and a lot sloppier sometimes.

Carl said...

Markus,

My father (born in 1910 in Newark, NJ) lived in a small town 20 miles west of NYC from the time he built his house in the middle forties till the end of his days in 2000. His volunteer service to the town he lived in during those years was as member and then perennial chairman of the town Planning Board. This was an advisory body that made recommendations to the zoning commission (elected officials). I was a little kid and didn't pay much attention, but I guess it was work that needed to be done. The town went from farmland (dairy) to corporate campuses during my teen years. I don't think that's an improvement, but it wasn't up to me.

It won't impress you, but I live in a house built (most of it) in 1744. Not old by European standards. But there are vast expanses of America where that's one or two centuries older than anything you can shake a stick at.