A series of unfortunate buildings

A series of unfortunate buildings

I’m not going to quarrel with Brookwood, the housing development being built off Fifth Street Extended, because of the project’s erstwhile stream-pollution problems. I don’t know what kind of materials they’re using to put those buildings together—whether, for example, they’re using the flooring that off-gases VOCs, or the other stuff that doesn’t—so I won’t broach that topic, either. However, I will say this, loud and clear: That is the city’s ugliest development, bar none. It’s one of the saddest examples of siting I have ever seen.

Behold, the slopes of evil.

Why does Green Scene care about the siting of townhouses? I’ll tell you. I have a theory, which I fully admit is unscientific. The way a building sits on the land, I believe, is important in the same way that presentation of food is important at a fine restaurant. It’s about respect. If Clifton serves your Ricotta Gnocchi with Duck Confit, Arugula and Butternut Squash in a mashed-up pile on a paper plate, you will not respect nor enjoy it nearly as much as you will if they arrange it with precision and do that kiss-the-fingers gesture over the fine china plate before it leaves the kitchen.

Similarly, if a homebuilder chooses a site with a genuine care for the land and the neighborhood, the resulting home will be a place that feels good and right and maybe even fosters feelings of responsibility toward the surroundings.

But if, as with Brookwood, the site has to be literally hacked out of a cliffside, which is then shored up with massive ugly retaining walls, which in turn face directly into people’s tiny bedroom windows, the way the occupants experience their homesite will not be characterized by harmony. They’ll feel indifference at best, mistrust and fear at worst. I’d certainly be fearful if I were sleeping under that wall.

More future soul-killing addresses.

Infill is important, you say. Better here than out in the county, you say, where residents have to drive everywhere. Perhaps that’s so. But there must be a better way to do infill than this.

Jump in with your thoughts, folks.