Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Housing in Rome

    As one takes the train into Rome, you pass by thousands of anonymous looking apartment blocks. In many instances, new buildings are not significantly different than the old. What is remarkable, however, is that you don't see the highrise buildings which you find around Metro Vancouver. And you certainly don't see single-family homes close to the city centre like we do in Vancouver.
     Since my family met up with us, rather than rent 3 hotel rooms, we rented an Airbnb. As is increasingly the case in Vancouver, it wasn't someone's home; it was an investment property used exclusively as short-term rental accommodation. But it was comfortable and in an excellent location right next to Piazza Venezia.
    Like much of Rome's accommodation, you would never know what's inside from looking at the outside. On the outside, it looked old and tired.
     Across the street was a studio where old paintings and sculptures were being restored.
But on the inside, it was quite modern with a stylish winding staircase leading up to a second floor mezzanine serving two bedrooms and bathroom. The view out of our bedroom was quite different from what we're used to.
    Sadly, I did not have the opportunity to visit new housing developments on the outskirts of the city which I had planned to see. But I did explore some attractive inner-city residential neighbourhoods which included a variety of architectural styled buildings in a well-treed setting. (One of my complaints about Rome is that trees are often in short supply in many neighbourhoods.)
One of the number of entry gateways that lead into a large landscaped courtyard serving a mix of residences and businesses.
    A generic building form throughout Italy and much of Europe offers little more than a blank street-wall along the sidewalk, leading into a landscaped courtyard serving one or more buildings, as illustrated here.  In some instances, the cars are parked inside. But in many others, cars are either parked on the street, or underground, depending on the age of the building; however, scooters, motorcycles, etc are often allowed into the courtyard.
     Traveling around the city I was struck by just how many buildings maintained a maximum 6-storey scale; lower than in Paris. Obviously the building height is in part related to the fact that elevators had not been invented when most of these buildings were first constructed, but even newer buildings maintained a similar or lower scale.
     As we intensify development in Vancouver, I would like to see more effort given to a similar approach to planning. It is comfortable, and can achieve higher densities while maintaining pedestrian scale.
Much of Rome has a maximum 6 storey scale.

This new 5-storey development was infilled into an established neighbourhood. Note the exterior stairs leading to the upper floors.

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