The American Housing Block’s existence is confronted by a number of problems in trying to place itself in the urban fabric of a Midwestern city.  These challenges result from both psychological tendencies of Americans along with their lack of understanding of what urbanism can be. First, Americans have great pride in democracy, which manifests itself quite well in the privatized land ownership and individual houses amidst separate plots. Additionally, their “privacy” coming with this land has taken root in their conscious, not permitting to the same degree the type of “semi-public” or “semi-private” space typified by Dutch Urban Blocks.  Additional, Americans concept of landscape is one that is highly manicured, as if the spirit of plantations still manifests itself in American consciousness.  This type of landscape understanding prevents a richer, more diverse landscape that accommodates greater uses.  In Amsterdam, the smaller plots of land, increase density, allowing for alternative means of transportation to flourish.  Other problems exist with the American model of housing.  One crucial necessity that the Dutch have addressed quite successfully is the provision of public, protected space for children to play.  In the Dutch urban blocks, these become semi-private parks that provide a place to monitor children from the home.  Other necessities that are lacking include places to purchase meats and produce locally and non-existent public gatherings places.

The arrival of the Dutch Urban Block after in the 20th century heralded the “reintegration of the world of isolated objects and reintegrating architecture into the urban question.”  Furthermore, the notion that “new development not necessarily entail a complete break from the past” was a new concept.  These urban blocks responded to the isolated International Style.  In the spirit of this new housing model, the solution became “tackling the question of the urban block by tackling that of the urban fabric,” a reversal of hierarchy that proved to be positively symbiotic.  As a housing model, the Dutch Urban Block was developed not by a private speculator but by housing associations, each with their own interests.  Thus it was “welfare state regulation plus free market individualism.”

In response to this relatively brief analysis of American and Dutch housing, there becomes a new charge to American housing typologies.    First, how to we provide density while accompanying and slowly changing the American perception of housing?  How do we provide alternative transportation while maintaining acknowledging the cars integral role in the country’s transportation network? Are there ways to create densities that protect or shield smaller groups of houses, reconfiguring our thought of “each man for himself?”  How do we rethink our urban fabric to provide for different scales of transportation and a mixture of uses?

Thanks to Atlas of the Dutch Urban Block by Susanne Komossa, Han Meyer, Max Risseleda, Sabien Thomaes, and Nynke Jutten.

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