Handsome architecture or hamster tunnel?

I rarely walk north of Clematis Street. There is little reason to. The north side of downtown has suffered greatly from bad autocentric design. For the sake of comparison, here are two contrasting photos.
The pedestrian walkway in the second photo below is an example of how not to create vibrant streets, and characteristic of the car-centric crap we were building decades ago. It isn’t built for people, though that’s often the baseless justification used. It exists to allow cars to get in and out as fast as possible, relegating people to second class.

Just a few blocks north of Hamsterland- I spotted a diamond in the rough. A prototypical urban building fronting the street from 1925. What a cool building. Now imagine an entire block of these standing shoulder to shoulder, and then you’ve got a real place.

In the past 40 odd years, we’ve built a lot of the hamster tunnels in the second photo. We need to get back to creating quality public spaces, which begins with buildings that address the street to make it a vibrant place, instead of treating the public realm as a place to be driven through.




  1. Seth Behn

    Working in that “hamster tunnel” building, I am often struck by how vastly different my experience is when I cross from the parking garage though the tunnel, versus crossing at street level. When it’s raining you can still cross on the street, just by walking under the tunnel. The conclusion being this building merely needed a pleasant shade structure between the buildings. The momentary public engagement on the street, while fleeting, is still vastly preferable to the glass corridor where the A/C unit struggles in vain to counteract the greenhouse effect of the structure.

    • Wow Seth, awesome comment. This was just a fleeting observation on my part.. but you’ve taken it to another level. I would love to hear more. Let me know if you’re ever interested in doing a guest post. We also have a monthly meetup if you check our calendar. Next one on the 29th will feature Bret Baronak from the PBC MPO to talk about pedestrian and bikeway initiatives, and lots more.

  2. Pingback: A cautionary tale in downtown auto-centric design | Walkable West Palm Beach

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