The devil is in the details. Our work in urban environments require us to work in inches and and feet. When we lose track of the little details, terrible things can happen. Here is a picture I took showing one of these mistakes.
In an urban environment, we need to look beyond project boundaries and work between building faces. Every community requires the finished floor of buildings to be placed above the level of the street to protect buildings from flooding. In every community, including Florida, architects and planners must deal with topography. It is possible that one side of a building may be higher then the other side.
This picture shows a building where the street corner, is lower then the rest of the building. The architects or street designers have had to add a gauntlet of ramps and railings to match these grades, and meet federal accessibility requirements. During this design, I am sure that that architect and engineer spent hours cursing each other while sitting in their professional silos. This picture and built result also shows that these two never talked.
Urban conditions requires professionals to interact with the Urbs. These professionals may need to look beyond the property boundary or edge of the right of way to seamlessly integrate these projects.
After having experienced this fail in my own work, I have had to change my scope for urban projects. When I am working on a roadway project, I request two things.
First, I request that the scope and project survey extend to the adjacent building faces. This allows for me to understand the adjacent conditions, and how the new streetscape will tie back into the adjacent properties. This broader scope also provides me the opportunity to have a meaningful discussion with property owners. I can discuss ways to transform parking areas or layouts, organize driveway access, and generally resolve the transition to the property.
Secondly, I request the existing finished floor elevation for every adjacent property. This is the only way that I can prevent steps or flooding on existing properties. I can build trust with my adjacent property owners because I can show that I have thought about their property. This not only builds support for the project, it generates a better project.
My photo example could have been prevented. As we move from suburban development to urban infill, we need to retool our craft. These projects are more complex, and require more information to get it right.