Old vs. New


[ Old streetscape at 17th and Spring in the Central District ]


[ New streetscape in the Central District ]


[ Old apartment on Capitol Hill ]


[ New apartment at 23rd and Jackson in the Central District ]

This isn’t about nostalgia for old buildings. The old streetscape reaches out to the passersby, while the new turns its back. The old building had balconies that were shared by all the residents on a floor, while the new has individual balconies for each unit.

These differences may seem subtle, and they certainly don’t apply universally to new and old, but I see them as reflections of a society that is losing its sense of community. And it’s this same lack of connection with the community that is at the root of why so many newer buildings seem to lack the sole and pride found in older buildings.

People who are connected to and value their community aren’t inclined to build schlock and run.

7 Responses to “Old vs. New”

  1. michael

    Not this again…

    Blame it on DPD, DCLU, and whatever visionless bureaucracy came before them, and the clueless/spineless politicians who have just recently become aware of things like streetscapes and urban livability…it is all their faults for allowing a code to be crafted that permits such schlock…

    my cynical rant for the day…

  2. Matt the Engineer

    Balconies? They’re just doors with cages.

    I love the old-style shared balconies, though balconies seem to always just turn into smoking lounges and I prefer rooftop gathering areas (with enough space for a BBQ, for instance).

  3. Steve

    I don’t really mind the balcony-less new apartments as much — shared balconies are nice, but when I lived in a building with one, I barely used it. That said, I don’t smoke.

    Those tall townhouse fences are terrible, though. I’d really like to see a land use code that encourages walk-up row houses a la old eastern cities. That would probably require bigger developments or less parking, unfortunately…

  4. dorian gray

    Go ahead build the old style apartments today. And I’ll buy them when they’re being foreclosed on because you couldn’t rent out a 1 bedroom in the central district for the $2,500 required because you used the most expensive material that required thousands of man-hours to put together.

  5. danb

    michael, I think the problem runs deeper than bad code. A healthy community wouldn’t build fences like that whether it was in the code or not.

    MTE, I could have used a better balcony example, yes. But I also think Juliet balconies get a bad rap. It’s nice to have what’s essentially a window that can open even though it extends all the way to the floor.

    DG, sure but that’s not the point. I’m more interested in why, if we believe we’ve had progress, we can’t afford the level of quality materials and workmanship of older buildings.

  6. michael mcginn

    Great post. I ride along phinney ridge every day and puzzle over the difference between gracious old buildings and the relatively low quality of many of the new buildings. What went wrong?

  7. michael

    maybe so regarding “A healthy community wouldn’t build fences like that whether it was in the code or not”, but it also has to do with the fact that code has required a set amount of open space per unit, which results in ridiculous little outdoor spaces in the case of townhouses, and developers then try to make something of this by putting up a tall privacy fence. I think it has less to do with the state of our society, than it does with trying to meet demand for products that resemble the single-family house experience (look a yard!) while also having to meet stupid code, which luckily is being revised currently.

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