All across the country we've seen the rise of mixed-use developments with apartments, shops, and a promise of density. But, in a piece for New Geography, Richard Reep, architect with VOA Associates, finds fault with these developments.

Dense development can be well designed, and can contribute to the form of a city, but the new density’s formulaic style is a crossbreed of strip shopping centers joined with 1980s apartment complexes. Instead of a newly walkable urban environment, we are spawning more traffic than ever, in uninspired, pricey, new trophy projects that adorn our busy highways and replace quirky, individualistic neighborhoods with soulless, mock historic monoliths.

The problem, Reep writes, is partially due to design.

The design formula appears to mix a little bit of stacked stone (for authenticity’s sake), beige stucco smeared liberally over large, puffy columns, and a shopping-center canopy facing a parking lot. A narrow concrete sidewalk turns depressingly nasty when it gets to the apartment complex, where the outdoor entry corridor inevitably takes over – a no-man’s land of trash cans, aluminum mailboxes, and iron bar security gates. Apartment floor plans still have a couple variations on the one and two bedroom schemes, with living rooms that don’t quite fit the furniture found in Ikea.

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