T is for Transit-Oriented Development

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Planning a city around transit doesn't mean you have to cluster everything inside the core business district. Copenhagen, whose thoughtful bike network we've explored elsewhere, recently commissioned Chelsea-based architect Steven Holl to design T-Husene, a place for living and working outside the core city. The architect's renderings, released November 2, fit into a town that fits into a local rail line and a regional rail network extending as far as Sweden.

It's an inspiring blend of striking architecture and compact planning. Imagine: roughly 54,000 square feet of apartments on top of 37,500 square feet of retail, with a large allotment of open space. Holl's design shows how tall structures, plenty of natural light and strategic use of grass can deliver a sense of exploration without sprawl. Says Holl: "It is a sharp contrast to the American urban sprawl which is characterised by highways and endless seas of houses."

It also takes the wind out of the argument that only car-centric urban design can satisfy a yearning for individual expression. This is no Soviet-style block. Again, the architect: "We wanted to create a sense of autonomy, individuation, and particularity for each apartment and tower. One of the failures of modern housing comes from the lack of individualization." Ditto for one of the failures of modern sprawl.

Here are some images:

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The Copenhagen government chose a strategic site for the project. It sits on a site with a ten-minute rail link to downtown Copenhagen and a direct rail connection to Malmo, a Swedish city. It's tempting to imagine such lovely forms in the South Bronx, eastern Queens or even New Jersey, with links to airports and office-park suburbs, but it's hard to move this image beyond fantasy until the city gets serious about concentrating new development near transit hubs in under-built areas.

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That won't be easy. The MTA controls most of the transit infrastructure and other entities own most of the land. But there's a new team in Albany and a new drumbeat for walkable neighborhoods inside and around New York City. Such developments can't be generic. But as these images show, they can be intriguing -- and beautiful.

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