August 21, 2007
Building "Living Space" around Railroad Stations

A great idea, wherever it's found, is a wonder to behold. Newsday, the major daily of Long Island, New York, published an article last week, "Living Space" (8/12), on suggestions from some architecture students for "more affordable housing for singles and young families," a big issue on the big, expensive island.

All four students (from the New York Institute of Technology) share some good ideas. But one in particular, John Patrick Winberry, came up with a concept with great synergy, that admirable quality of solving more than just the problem at hand.

"More than a place to park your car"
"Imagine that at each major stop along the Long Island Rail Road, communities of housing, dining and shopping were built above existing parking lots. Parking garages would be underneath the new buildings.

"Given the location, generally within walking distance of an existing shopping area, residents would have little need for a car.

"A railroad station would no longer be a stop along a route, but a destination in itself. Even better, each of these hubs would be connected along the main arteries of the LIRR, ensuring easy accessibility within Long Island without the use of a car.

"The apartments would attract young professionals wanting easy access to commute to work in Manhattan and a lively community to come home to without having to drive."

This is just plain brilliant. As anyone who spends any time on Long Island will tell you, traffic is a tremendous headache -- and even that's a sizable understatement.

The Long Island Expressway was built to whiz drivers from one end of the island to the other, but a couple years back it attained the state of almost permanet gridlock. People have bitterly reinterpreted its acronym with the updated meaning: now it's referred to as "the Big LIE."

So here's a young planner who was able to look at the problem of affordable housing in a fresh way, imagining a method that also makes a dent in another, tightly related problem. It's apparent that Mr. Winberry has some good "living space" between his ears.

Naturally, the Newsday article characterized these young architects' ideas as being "out-of-the-box." What, again? Can there be no "creative" suggestion any more that isn't measured with that damn box?

Here's a wish that fans of innovation-and-creativity will one day have the courage to throw that "box" into a uniquely designed conceptual garbage can. Yes, we realize we're talking about the ol' "square peg and round hole" here; but we're convinced it can be done.

(Image uploaded to Flickr 8/16/07 by ultraclay!)

Posted by at August 21, 2007 03:12 PM

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