Kaid Benfield Archive


Three visual perceptions of residential density

Kaid Benfield

Posted May 21, 2010 at 1:32PM

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A while back, I spoke to the annual meeting of the American Planning Association about how we need to build the relatively denser neighborhood patterns requisite to sustainability more thoughtfully and greener (literally) if we are to overcome public fears and succeed in winning hearts and minds to smart growth.  In many cases, the local environmental impacts of increased density can be real (even while, at the per-capita and regional scales, impacts go down), and people have seen so much horribly designed development over the past several decades that no one can blame NIMBYs for their intuitive opposition.  I ran two blog posts addressing the topic (here and here).

Chuck Marohn on his terrific Strong Towns Blog has captured public apprehension about density about as well as I have ever seen with just three photographs.  Here's his representation of what rural residents imagine when they are confronted with a proposal for increased density:

  "rural density" (courtesy of Charles Marohn, Strong Towns Blog)

Now here is what a suburbanite imagines when she learns of a proposal for more density:

  "suburban density" (courtesy of Charles Marohn, Strong Towns Blog)

Finally, here is the city dweller's version:

  "city density" (courtesy of Charles Marohn, Strong Towns Blog)

Those are kind of funny, but kind of real, too.  As I said, no wonder we have NIMBYs.  We can do better

Chuck's post is about much more, including the fiscal and financial case for smart urbanism, and is based on one of his own presentations, given this week at the annual meeting of the Congress for the New Urbanism in Atlanta.  I plan to write much more about it.  But, for starters, these three photos are simply too good not to share immediately.

Move your cursor over the images for credit information.