Category Archives: Architecture

Street Design on NPR

John Massengale was interviewed on “Everything Is Broken” on April 22:

The YouTube video above includes a slide show. Some of the slides are closely correlated with the interview, while others are only loosely connected. Click here for a higher resolution version of the video.

The video below only has an image of the cover and the audio track.

On May 27, Victor Dover will be on Baltimore Public Radio, WYPR.

“Everything Is Broken,” WUSB
Jim Lynch, “Streets!,” Different Wavelengths

Victor Dover talks about Street Design in South Miami

Check out Victor Dover and other folks from Dover, Kohl & Partners in this new video about the Hometown Plan for the City of South Miami. The Hometown Plan was initiated over 16 years ago and continues to be actively implemented today. New streetscape improvements and infill buildings have created a walkable, urban downtown. Filmed by Nestor Arguello. Directed by Jason King, Dover, Kohl & Partners.

Walkology, Dr. Downtown & Dr. Street

Street Design in the Providence Journal Again

Westminster Street in Providence, Rhode Island

Westminster Street in Providence, Rhode Island

We then crossed the College Street Bridge to enter downtown, and found ourselves where Weybosset and Westminster merge to form what Dr. Street said could be a sumptuous civic plaza. It is a sumptuous civic plaza, replied this doctor, and a civic dance plaza on WaterFire nights. He said it was still too wide. He noted that Nantucket’s Main Street has a horse fountain at one end and a Civil War monument at the other, around both of which cars must maneuver. He recommended an obelisk at Westminster and Weybosset to slow the cars entering downtown. What a great idea!
Dr. Street referred often to a new “paradigm shift” for making cities less car-centric. Vision Zero was conceived by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has called for zero traffic deaths, including pedestrians, in the city. These are not unpreventable “accidents” and no level is acceptable. By focusing on safety, politicians who otherwise care nothing for the niceties of good streets will feel obliged to promote the goals of the slow-streets movement.

Benefit Street in Providence, Rhode Island, closed for a RISD street fair.

Benefit Street in Providence, Rhode Island, closed for a RISD street fair. In most American cities it’s better to sometimes close streets for special events than to create Pedestrian Streets that are always closed to traffic.

David Brussat is the architecture critic for the Providence Journal, as well as an Editorial Board member there. He wrote about Benefit Street for Street Design, reviewed the book, and walked the streets of Providence with John Massengale (aka “Dr. Street”).

David Brussat, “The Secret to Making Great Streets,” Providence Journal
John Massengale, “Mr. Manners Goes To MOMA: The Etiquette of Deconstructivism,” Inland Architect (September/October 1988): 66-69

SCAD Lecture: The Art of Street Design

Image of Victor speaking at SCAD

Victor Dover and co-author John Massengale have been doing a lot of traveling to talk about their recently released book Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns. Recent lectures have taken place in Delray Beach, Florida; The University of Texas at San Antonio; CNU-FL in Sarasota, Florida; Florida International University in Miami, Florida; and the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia.

NEW VIDEO: A recording of Victor’s lecture at the Savannah College of Art and Design on February 11, 2014 is available online at the SCAD Virtual Lecture Hall

Additional lectures are scheduled in Coral Gables, Florida; Winter Park, Florida; Glendale, Colorado; and Atlanta, Georgia. The Form-Based Codes Institute is also hosting a webinar titled Street Design for Form-Based Codes on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 featuring Victor Dover, John Massengale and Richard A. Hall.  Learn more about the webinar and register today.

Street Design Talk—
Victor Dover & John Massengale in San Antonio

UTSA Downtown Campus
Related News: CoA lecture series begins with urban design experts John Massengale and Victor Dover

San Antonio News Express:“UTSA hosting street design experts”—Interview with Ben Olivo

John Massengale and Victor Dover, authors of “Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns,” will talk about the qualities of excellent streets at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 29 at UTSA downtown campus as part of the College of Architecture’s 2014 Spring Lecture Series. Click here for details.

Vision Zero in America’s Most Walkable City


CITING AN INNOVATIVE NEW MOVEMENT known as Vision Zero, Mayor DeBlasio and NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg have pledged to reduce traffic fatalities in New York City to zero in ten years. In response, the NYPD last week arrested six jaywalkers in the two-block area where three pedestrians were killed this month on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. A jaywalker who mainly speaks Mandarin Chinese was apparently knocked down and roughed up by the police. New Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said the arrests were necessary because 66% of pedestrian fatalities in New York last year were “directly related to the actions of pedestrians.”

Commissioner Bratton’s view and solution are the opposite of what the city should be saying and doing. New York City’s real problem is that like every other city in America, New York has a long history of making the car the king of our streets. This attitude goes back 100 years, when America’s cities, towns and neighborhoods all had naturally walkable streets. The police began then to view our streets in light of the ideas of a new and influential movement of that time, known as Organized Motordom. A coalition of car companies, oil companies, auto clubs, and the like, Organized Motordom was born because pesky pedestrians were crossing city streets, getting in the way of cars, and slowing them down—and also slowing car sales.

These two photos of Lexington Avenue at 89th Street show that one-hundred years ago the sidewalks of Lexington Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan were two to three times as wide they are now. The photo on the bottom was taken to document the construction of the East Side IRT subway under the avenue (the sidewalks have wooden planks because the construction wasn’t finished when the photo was taken). I took the photo on the top just last year—which shows that the buildings lost their stoops and large light wells when more and wider traffic lanes were added to Lexington Avenue in the 1950s.

The houses (designed by Henry Hardenbergh, the architect of many important New York buildings, including the Plaza Hotel and The Dakota apartment house) undoubtedly lost value when they lost their stoops and light. Perhaps the owners of the houses got in their cars and drove out to find new homes in the suburbs. That’s what many New Yorkers did when the city converted Manhattan’s wide, numbered avenues like Third Avenue into one-way arterials. Urban designers call these “auto sewers,” because they make it easier for traffic to flow in and out of the city—until all the suburbanites driving in clog the roads with what is known as “induced” traffic. And no one wants to live on a clogged auto sewer.

That’s ironic for Manhattan, where 80% of the residents don’t own cars. Manhattanites are not the ones causing the traffic jams, but they’re the ones suffering through the degradation of public life, even though many New Yorkers pay outrageous sums for small apartments because they want public life on the streets of the city. Lexington Avenue has lots of restaurants, and should have lots of sidewalk cafés. But the sidewalks are too narrow to accommodate tables, and the cars rushing by are noisy and belch noxious fumes. Children living along New York’s auto-sewer avenues suffer from many health problems caused by automobile pollution.

It’s worth pointing out that New York is the last place that should suffer from this. Not only do most New Yorkers not own cars, we also have trains, subways, buses, and taxis for everyone else. Underneath the narrow sidewalks pictured above is a subway line that by itself carries more people every day than the combined transit systems of San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston, traveling all the way from the Atlantic Ocean almost to Westchester County. Only a block away, under Park Avenue, run the tracks for Metro North, which is second in ridership in the US only to the Long Island Railroad. The fact that we still consider it a good idea to drive in every day despite the economic and environmental costs shows how far Organized Motordom has come.

Happily, our new Mayor and our new DOT Commissioner have pledged their allegiance to Vision Zero, which means changing the way we use our roads. If we do that the right way, we will not only save lives, we will also improve public life and public health. “The right way” means making a walkable, bikeable city where traffic is reduced and cars move slowly.

When cars and pedestrians come in close contact—as they do on streets all over New York City—nothing reduces pedestrian fatalities like slowing traffic down. That’s not only because cars do less damage to people they hit if the car is going under 20 miles per hour. Drivers going slowly literally see twice as much as speeding drivers, and they have more time to react, as well. A side benefit is that when cars go slowly we can remove all the traffic engineering detritus that enables drivers to go speed: all the bold striping and highway-scale markings that also make pedestrians subliminally conscious that the street is not a place for them.

In New York City, streets should be for everyone. As the great Danish traffic reformer Jan Gehl says, the public life of cities takes place in the spaces between the buildings. So why are we simultaneously giving 80% of that space to cars from outside the city and kicking city residents to narrow walks by the side of the road? With Vision Zero, we can stop designing our streets like suburban arterials: one-way, with left-turn lanes, lots of ugly white plastic sticks, and big signs and striping everywhere. Those are suburban-style solutions for places where people don’t walk much. They are ugly and anti-urban. We need city streets for people, beautiful streets where people want to get our of their cars and walk.

In New York City, the Vision Zero solution is not to ticket pedestrians for “jaywalking,” a word and concept invented by a Organized Motordom in the early 20th century. One hundred years later, it is easy to see that city streets should be destinations, not Transportation Corridors, and that the car should not be the king of New York’s avenues. “Streets for people” means we should ticket speeding cars, not jaywalking residents and visitors enjoying the life of the city.