Source: Google Maps.
What's missing from the photo above? It's an aerial photo of Lijiang, Yunnan, China. There are a lot of rooftops. A lot. But where are the streets? It turns out the streets are there. What's really missing are the cars. Eliminate the cars and the streets don't need to take up much space. They can be people-sized. The photo below shows what I mean.
|From 2012 03 Lijiang|
OK, maybe that's too much for most of us. After the jump, steps we can take, without needing to eliminate cars, to make urban settings more adapted to humans, not just their cars.
Walking in China's cities I was struck by how many parking lot surfaces were permeable, covered in interlocking concrete pavers with open spaces between the units. Grass was growing in the spaces. The appearance is of an open green lawn. Rain runoff is reduced (reducing the need for special storm water drainage fees to be tacked on homeowners' property taxes).
An article in The New York Times explains how these ideas can be taken much farther.
I used to think Richardson's building codes that required green space along the street (grass berms, shrubs, trees) made the city that much more pleasant a place to drive through. The idea seems to be to hide the unsightly parking lot that is inevitably on the other side of that planting. I now realize that what Richardson is doing is screening the problem, when it could be solving it.Italian architect Renzo Piano, when redesigning the Fiat Lingotto factory in Turin, eliminated the parking lot's islands and curbs and planted rows of trees in a dense grid, creating an open, level space under a soft canopy of foliage that welcomes pedestrians as naturally as it does cars.Source: The New York Times.
Richardson should adopt codes for parking lots that require things like permeable, interlocking pavers with grass-filled open spaces, and trees planted in rows like orchards. Make those parking lots inviting to humans, not just cars, and we wouldn't have to hide them from view. The stores and restaurants hidden behind those berms and plantings could then be opened to the street, making the streets more walkable and the whole more integrated and attractive.
I'm all for reducing the need for parking lots wherever we can, but let's face it, the car isn't going away. So, let's reinvent parking lots, not just pretend to hide them.