Saturday, March 18, 2006

Getting Americans to accept dense “mixed use,” by learning from Mexico

  Here's a more optimistic entry about the mixing of American and Mexican cultures.  Architect Teddy Cruz, who works in San Diego but was born in Latin America, designs mixed-use housing projects that echo the shanty towns of Tijuana.  South of the border, shanty town residents use whatever materials are available to build housing and stores that are attached haphazardly, sometimes on top of each other.  The result, which can often resemble children's building blocks, can sometimes be a dynamic, workable, and even visually stimulating community.  Cruz uses these ideas to create multi-level, mixed-use projects in southern California that are both colorful and appealing.
   The usual policy complaint about dense, mixed-use communities is that American will not accept them.  We want lawns, quiet, and separated land uses, often with gates.  Cruz's work in southern California suggests that new immigrants, who are accustomed to such living arrangements, may be the vanguards of getting Americans to accept density and mixed use, if it is done right.

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