the blog posts

those pesky hillsides

It seems there is a shockingly slow realisation in Bermuda that we have left for development the difficult sloping sites. Everyone recognises "the easy sites are gone" but the natural conclusion to that statement doesn't seem to be uttered: "and we are stuck with the nasty hillsides!" It would be funny except it's true. 

I grew up in a house with no front yard. There was no front yard because the house sits on a hillside and the only way my father could create a front yard was by spending ridiculous amounts of money on unsightly retaining walls. Even if he'd had the money, which he didn't, my grandfather the stone mason would have stopped him from being such a complete biscuit.

blair house, image: jbennett fittsIn the western world front yards generally came about because of setbacks between houses and roadways - some mandated, some not - in the early 19th century. The purposes varied from allowing for a garden or avoiding the tenement look of urban areas to ensuring space for socialisation or, conversely, privacy. With the space established, regulations as to what could happen or be placed in the space later sprang up. Yes, you can have a garden gnome; no, you may not erect a basketball hoop. Yes, you can grow flowers; no, you cannot grow tomatoes. Go figure.

It is probably past time, in Bermuda, to assess whether that front yard is really necessary. There are innovative hillside design solutions that result in wonderful, spacious houses where entertaining is fun and easy, parking is not a problem and there is no need to own a lawn mower.

Architect Bruce Bolander designed such a house in Malibu, California and it is featured in an article by Erika Heet, Up and Away, in Dwell magazine. Built on caissons, this compact house of 900 square feet has ample area for living, working and entertaining. 

By the way, the house I grew up in has an enormous front balcony. I never felt I was missing anything due to the lack of a front yard.

apa conference round up

As many of you know, the annual conference of the American Planning Association was recently held in April in Chicago. The theme was "Plan Big" - a theme you could probably guess considering this is where planner and author of Plan of Chicago, Daniel Burnham, famously uttered the words "Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood..."

image: via planetizenIf, like me, you didn't make it to Chicago, bloggers on Planetizen have generously provided a round up of conference presentations. This includes a analysis of the tweets emanating from the conference! 

Jonathan Nettler's APA 2013: Dispatches from Chicago is good read and highlights topics such as emerging trends in planning and the ROI of parks and open spaces.

Jennifer Evans-Cowley's fun and interesting analysis of tweets can be found at Understanding Trends from the APA Conference

the best of 2012...

CCTV Tower by OMA, completed in May; Photo: Iwan BaanBecause "Best of" lists are what you do at the end of the year...

The Royal Town Planning Institute's Highlights of 2012 includes a podcast of the Nathaniel Lichfield Lecture delivered by Mitchell Silver, President of the American Planning Association.This is required listening for every urban planner out there. It's so good, I'm saving you the trouble of looking for it: just click here.

Architizer's The Year in Architecture: Best Buildings Of 2012 is a great round up of the year in building design.

BLDGBLOG's Books Received 2012 is a good reading list focussing on landscape, spatial science and the built environment generally.

If podcasts and books are too much for you, just follow Planetizen's Top Twitter Feeds 2012 on planning, design and development because 140 characters cannot be that much effort.

Wishing you a healthy and productive 2013.