High-Density Housing Can Be a Good Thing

Peter Coy

I want to tell you about a new book, but first take this quiz:

A. The development of tall buildings on the left has denser housing.
B. The development of short buildings on the right has denser housing.
C. The density of the two is the same.

The quiz is on the website of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge, Mass., which is dedicated to making more efficient use of land. It's promoting a new book, Visualizing Density, by Julie Campoli (landscape architect and land planner) and Alex S. MacLean (pilot, aerial photographer, and architect).

Here's an excerpt from the press release about Visualizing Density:

For many Americans density is associated with ugliness, crowding, and congestion, even though it can be shown that, when properly planned and designed, higher density can save land, energy, and dollars. Moreover, many people have difficulty estimating density from visual cues or distinguishing quantitative (measured) and qualitative (perceived) density. We tend to overestimate the density of monotonous, amenity-poor developments and underestimate the density of well-designed, attractive projects, thereby reinforcing the negative stereotypes.

OK. Now are you ready to guess?

Answer: C

Here's what the Lincoln Institute says:

These neighborhoods look quite different but share the same density level. There are many ways to reach a density of 35 units / acre. These examples show two distinctly different approaches. Street layout, architecture, landscaping, and other design factors have a far greater affect on physical character than density level.
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