New townhouses, old style

When I was in Chepstow, Wales, last month I walked along the street in the picture below:

DSCN0104The buildings on the right are a lot like most of the buildings in the small, Welsh town: very old, dense, and lacking any sort of set back. They’re the kind of homes I wish we had more of in Utah.

What’s significant, however, is that homes on the left are brand new. In fact, when I was there construction on these homes wasn’t even finished. But despite the newness of these homes, they’re basically following the same pattern as the old homes. They’re relatively dense, attached, and well-scaled. (I don’t know why the opted to put that strange fence in front of them. It’s a glaring and unfortunate addition that shows even other countries struggle with design elements.)

I think we learn at least two things from these homes:

1) It’s absolutely possible to build new homes that incorporate the lessons of centuries of building experience. In other words, we could very well be building this type of housing along the Wasatch Front. Even with the fence out front, these homes are vastly better than these ones in Saratoga Springs.

2) Building in a certain area tends to continue along well-understood and long-practiced trajectories. In Chepstow, where there is a history of walkable and neat little neighborhoods, that’s great. But in Utah, where we’ve seen nearly endless sprawl in recent decades, that means it will take a concerted and overt effort to improve our approach to building.



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