Tom Low responded to a request on TradArch from architect Steve Mouzon for comment, thumbs up or down, on a new neighborhood in Bentonville, Ark., featured in Architect magazine, voice of the AIA (which traditionally hates traditional architecture). Low replied but added the image, above, of what he was working on. To me, it seems much better.
Down below this post is the Bentonville “pocket neighborhood,” described in Architect, called Black Apple and inspired by Pocket Neighborhoods, a book by Ross Chapin. Of Black Apple, Mouzon had written:
On the one hand, it quotes a lot of regional vernacular and does some interesting things. On the other hand, there’s nothing canonically correct. Good or bad? What say you?
As for me, it’s the first time I’ve seen anything with any traditional inclinations in Architect in decades, so I’m wondering if it signals something we’re not quite seeing yet.
My first impression had indeed been that the pocket neighborhood was a bit spare and sterile, but it was nice enough that a feeling of oddness did come over me that it was featured in Architect. Here’s what Low wrote of it:
Pretty basic design but framed with references to appealing Ross Chapin brand pocket neighborhoods, green building, great-good places, small cottages, and local vernacular style. IMO mostly succeeds in scale, but the details are clunky, social character especially suffers from the the low-slab floor, and the community pavilion is hip but a little too corn-cribby kitsch. The traditional precedent is bungalow courts like those in Hyde Park Tampa and Pasadena. Excellent model for expanding housing choice de-emphasizing auto-centric era lifestyles.
That articulates my own instinctual reservations. I think what he finds wrong with it is summed up by the neighborhood (pictured on top) that he has designed for Black Mountain, N.C., near Asheville. The site work has already begun. (Probably a good start with this weather!)