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Thread: Radburn design

  1. #1
    Cyburbian MM1648's avatar
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    Radburn design

    The master plan for Radburn, New Jersey (done in the 1920s, but not completed because of the great depression) is a beautiful design.

    It separates vehicular from pedestrian traffic.

    This example of a suburb, is it still around today? If not, why don't developers or whoever create a suburb similar to this?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Because it is impractical and doesn't reflect the way people live.

    The design of Radburn believed that people would actively use the front of the houses facing the greenways. In reality, people come and go and "live" from the back of the houses and the vehicular, not pedestrian, access.

    My planning class took at trip to Radburn, and ironically we saw more people and children walking and playing in the little driveways and cul-de-sacs than on the actual greenways.

    Second, the market has repeatedly shown that homeowners prefer more personal land around their homes to living on tiny lots and sharing a large green space in common.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian MM1648's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PennPlanner View post
    Second, the market has repeatedly shown that homeowners prefer more personal land around their homes to living on tiny lots and sharing a large green space in common.
    That is true. I find large green space to be quite nice. Now I want to live in a place like that; a common area to interact with neighbors.
    Today's classic was yesterday's innovation. -Landry

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Boru's avatar
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    You need to be middle class.

    The Irish perspective on Radburn is that it was used as the basis for the design of a large majority of the two biggest social housing failures in the history of the state. Ballymun and Darndale were both built using the Radburn model. the pretty quickly became pits of depravity as the rear communal areas became havens for anti-social activity, while the lack of ownership felt for the green spaces led to neglect and such lovely uses as rubbish dumps and places to burn out cars after joyriding.

    Ballymun is now undergoing the largest urban regeneration in Western Europe.
    www.brl.ie is the regeneration website address.

    Most of the houses in Darndale were redesigned to orientate themselves towards the parking areas. While its still a socially deprived area, it seems to have reached a balance.

    As part of a discussion on Ballymun in university, I remember my tutor saying that Radburn was built for and occupied by people who might be considered upper-middles in anywhere but the classless society that is the US. That is what has accounted for its percieved success. The gist I got was that in lower earning areas,such designs dont really work as the lack of community ownership in such spaces leads to growth of anti-social behaviour.
    Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Boru View post
    Ballymun and Darndale were both built using the Radburn model.
    Ballymun looks more like the Le Corbusier model than the Radburn model:

    http://www.brl.ie/pdf/page03.pdf

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Boru's avatar
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    Mish-mash

    Its a fair observation, as its a mix of both. There were large free-standing towerblocks involved in the initial development, however there were, and still are substantial areas of 2 storey dwellings involved in the development. These can be seen to the left of the areas of blocks. The plan supplied on the website doesnt show this very clearly, but they have their vehicular access to the rear in a sort of semi-enclosed yard, with front access onto the large areas of open space.

    Ironically enough, this was being erected in Dublin at the point when the rest of Europe stopped building these schemes, recognising the social dislocation that such large schemes engendered. An attempt to show our modernity I suppose.

    Doesnt Poundbury, Prince Charles of England's town have an element of Radbury about it as well? All of the vehicular access is by rear parking areas, while a certain amount of the houses open onto open space (small scale spaces, but still). As I said earlier, it needs to have posh people to work.
    Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    I am going to take a tour of Radburn next week, so I am curious about simlar physical plans that turned out differently.

    The question it raises for me is, given the disparate outcomes, can you blame the design? Can physical planning really be seen as reponsible for either the success of Radburn or the failure of the Irish examples, or are the socio-economic factors really just more powerful in these cases?

    It is tempting to see Urban Design as more powerful than it really is. In truth, the physical qualities of a community act in concert with many other factors to produce a particular environment. They are not deterministic. However, studies of particular behaviors in a space, when properly controled for other factors, can tell us a lot about the possible impacts a particular design element may have on a communuty.

    I would love to see a comparison of different public housing designs and how the communities evolved over time, with information on who filled the spaces and how, what the turnover level was, etc. to get a sense of whether adjusting design might solve some problems.

    Coming back to Radburn, I have heard that the greens are less lively than the car-sides. But in a verdant, residential enclave, liveliness may be less important than peace and quiet.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian natski's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by MM1648 View post
    The master plan for Radburn, New Jersey (done in the 1920s, but not completed because of the great depression) is a beautiful design.

    It separates vehicular from pedestrian traffic.

    This example of a suburb, is it still around today? If not, why don't developers or whoever create a suburb similar to this?
    Radburn was used in Sydney by our public housing authority- needless to say when you place a large group of people, from low socioeconomic backgrounds in the one location, trouble brews- and the physical design of radburn did not help.

    The housing department are currently redeveloping that estate in a non radburn, mixed socioeconomic way
    "Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?" Zoolander

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    went to Radburn. . .

    . . .last weekend. It is just lovely, especially this time of year. People really were using the common green spaces: walking dogs, teaching their kids to ride bikes, teens playing handball in a tunnel under a street. Mostly white, current home prices start above 500K, Low turnover. Extremely low crime, "someone had a BBQ lid stolen in 1996."

    I think Radburn is just a really great place to raise kids. Boring for teens and non-parent adults, but still lush, and convenient to transit and shopping. It would be possible to live in Radburn without a car--not that people choose to go carless. Also, homes do have their own yards, which they can fence off if they choose, just not a tall fence.

    For the most part, the things that I liked about Radburn were the proximity to shops and transit and the large amount of green space. I think it would be possible to take the best bits, those above, and re-structure the space to provide better public scrutiny of the greenspaces for more security. . .

    I'm curious, were the failed Radburn-style developments high-rises? Or the same detatched and semi-detached houses as in the original?

    Some studies have shown that not affluence, but homogeneity and length of residence in communities is what promotes neighborliness. . . Radburn residents certainly identify as wanting a "family-friendly neighborhood" and desiring greenspace as common values. Also, Radburn residents self-select, can the same be said of the low-income housing projects?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian natski's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Future Planning Diva View post
    I'm curious, were the failed Radburn-style developments high-rises? Or the same detatched and semi-detached houses as in the original?

    Some studies have shown that not affluence, but homogeneity and length of residence in communities is what promotes neighborliness. . . Radburn residents certainly identify as wanting a "family-friendly neighborhood" and desiring greenspace as common values. Also, Radburn residents self-select, can the same be said of the low-income housing projects?
    In the Australian case, the housing was single storey detached dwellings.

    I think affluence does play a central role- it is related to homogeneity, someone may have neighbourliness values, but they will only go to the estate if they can afford to go there.

    On the other case, you have a radburn estate that is public housing or is cheap as chips, its becomes a place that perhaps not everyone will value having neighbours and being part of a community
    "Have you ever wondered if there was more to life, other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?" Zoolander

  11. #11
    Cyburbian drucee's avatar
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    Curiously, Radburn's walkability, density, and proximity to New York City have made it popular with Bergen County's Orthodox Jewish population. Bergen County residents (with the exception of real-estate agents, who have an entirely different vocabulary of neighborhood names than regular folks here) rarely use the term Radburn; they refer to the area by the name of the incorporated town, Fair Lawn. Fair Lawn reminds me somewhat of Skokie, IL; they have demographically similar populations, and its main drag, Fair Lawn Broadway, bears a little resemblance to Dempster Street. Skokie, however, is built on the inner-Chicago-suburb model of urbanity--that means beige-brick bungalows and modern three-flats on small lawns with back alleys and ample green space in the form of strong, amenity-filled park districts.

  12. #12
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    Radburn in Japan

    One of the most comprehensive implementations of a Radburn-style system is in the very large (350k+ unit) Tama New Town in western Tokyo. The oldest part, dating from the mid sixties is a high-density development of mid-rise apartments.

    Here I refer to the transportation aspects of the Radburn design more than the arrangement of the common lawns, although I do refer to that in the end.

    There are several drawbacks to the Radburn design. All Radburn systems segregate pedestrian and automobile flow. This segregation creates two worlds, a car sewer on one hand, inhospitable to pedestrian and commercial activity, and a pedestrian-friendly , but empty and pedestrian zone. Retail needs high density of traffic, both from neighbors, as well as from outsiders using mechanized transit. When pedestrian and vehicular traffic are combined, there are more eyes on the street for safety, and there are more customers from both inside and outside the neighborhood.

    Another draw back is that in order to create two separate but overlapping transportation networks it is necessary to create "superblocks" with arterial roads outside the inner residential development, leading to large feeder roads. This system has numerous drawbacks, including reducing interconnectivity and segregating residential from other land uses.

    Also, importantly, it is very, very expensive to create a system of segregated pedestrian walkways and vehicular roads. To avoid crossing the street, one must create an elaborate system of over and underpasses.

    When it comes to the issue of common space, however, I, along with previous respondents, do not buy the spatial determinist view that common spaces lead to the tragedy of the commons. In Japan, this housing project is very clean and safe, in spite of large common spaces, because the residents 1) are long-term residents and know their neighbors, 2) have a personal sense of responsibility over the commons, and 3) have formal and informal institutions that enforce the maintenance and safety of common space, and 4) the population is relatively homogeneous in (middle) income, family structure, culture, ethnicity, and values. A common lawn, even for dozens of families, can be maintained if the residents care and if the scale of each lawn, housing unit, and community is not absurdly large.

    While it is laudable to create pedestrian-friendly spaces, it is important to integrate pedestrian paths with both destinations and other forms of transit to prevent the creation of car sewers, empty promenades, and failing retail shops.
    Last edited by VegasPlanner; 28 Oct 2006 at 2:09 AM.

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    As a resident of Radburn, I do not wish to see the type of development that is now going on in nearby Englewood: apartments above parking structures, apartments above stores, row after row of fully block-long multistory buildings. If I wanted to live like that, I'd be in Brooklyn. There's a lot of pressure from builders to do just that in Fair Lawn and a lot of pressure from Radburn residents like myself aginst this sort of development. I didn't move to Radburn because I wanted to own the smallest lot in Fair Lawn. I moved there for the parks. Yes, Radburn houses have private garages and driveways, but it's a different feeling from otherwise anonymous suburban developments where neighbors wave to each other as they drive into and out of their 3-car garages, splash simultaneously in their backyard pools and drive their kids to the school bus stop. In Radburn, something as banal as a garage sale becomes a block-party-type event just by a mention in the community newsletter. In the same category is an annual family day evening picnic that draws hundreds. Yes, homogeneousness may be part of the reason and real estate agents have in the past been gulity of steering, but the "grass is greener in Radburn" aura seems to be as much a part of the overall landscape as "builder's remedy" is the mantra for overcrowding fully-developed towns while vacant decayed housing goes ignored in nearby cities which once supported tens of thousands more residents.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Having grown up in a different environment I always find it somewhat odd that most N. American posters unquestioningly buy into the idea that:

    > Strictly separating cars from pedestrians (as opposed to moderate pedestrian protection though sidewalks, vegetation, bump-outs, parallel parking) is ideal. Obviously you want some car-free spaces (parks, some squares or streets) but I think there’s a poor trade-off in trying to achieve complete insulation.

    > The concept that a place can be great for small children but not for teenagers and young adults. Children, I think, need a modicum of green space but they also need interest and cultural facilities. Also, if a place is dead boring as a 20-something, won’t I find it stifling as a 30-something with children? Parents may go out less often at night but they presumably still want a vibrant neighbourhood?
    Life and death of great pattern languages

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    Luca, no town can be everything to everyone, even though Disney has tried. Here in Radburn, "the town for the motor age" was positioned across the river from the thriving-at-the-time Paterson NJ, the model industrial city planned by Alexander Hamilton and either a railroad-and-ferry trip or a bus across the newly built George Washington Bridge from New York City only 15 miles away. For weekend travel, there was access to the various mountain resorts in New York state and later in neighboring Pennsylvania, The utopian garden city ideals of Howard would not likely have ever materialized so close to major cities even if the entire Radburn plan had been developed. Simply put, in America the car became king. People affluent enough to own one just wouldn't stay put when it came to looking for entertainment.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian
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    Hi,

    I realize this is an old thread, but for my grade 11 geography course I have to do a field journal and essay on the Wildwood Park neighbourhood here in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Wildwood Park is actually based of the Radburn plan and use the central green space, u-shaped lanes etc to create a very unique community. Those of you interested in the Radburn plan would be very interested in Wildwood Park. Below i've posted links to a wiki and my field journal on the park. My paper is yet to be finished, but once it is I will post it here, or in a different thread.

    Wiki on Wildwood Park: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wildwood_Park,_Winnipeg

    My field journal: https://docs.google.com/a/learners.s...GqrnSmVcw/edit

  17. #17
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Thanks for reviving this thread, actually - I just did a 3 part lecture series to a senior college on planning (zoning, the profession, and comp plans) so this was a fun read

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    Cyburbian
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