Building hyperdensity and CIVIC DELIGHT: Places: Design Observer

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Sound urban development is the lynchpin of the hyperdense environment. Yet public advocacy for high-density development is extraordinarily low, primarily because its merits are misunderstood. Even among those who appreciate cities, there is enormous confusion about how best to build density. This is largely because the rationale for hyperdensity is often lost on those who should be its strongest advocates. Paradoxically, many of America’s so-called urbanists — broadly defined as urban planners, architects engaged in city building and urban theorists — tend to be enthralled with density yet enraged by real estate development. In fact, today it is a common trope in most schools of architecture and urban planning to believe that density is good but development is bad. 

Instead, many urbanists consider European capitals such as Paris and Barcelona as the exemplars of “good density.” And, indeed, with city centers that support mass transit and walkable neighborhoods built at more than 80 units per acre — as is the case in Paris — these are some of the most densely built environments in the world. [2] Since they achieve these densities without, as some would say, ugly skyscrapers built by ugly developers, these cities represent the meritorious urbanity — commonly known as “low rise, high density » —  championed by the design and planning fields. 

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