Thursday, April 21, 2005

These are the buildings in my neighbourhood

Photo essay:
There's a type of urban housing that is more versatile than rowhouses, more human-scaled than apartment buildings and far denser than single-family homes. It's called the plex — but unless you've lived in a select few cities, you've probably never heard of it.

I live in such a city.

We are soon leaving this home (rented and temporary) among the, ahem, "more exclusive plexes...facing Montreal's Parc Lafontaine," to take up residence on the other side of the neighbourhood in one of the city's new urban "condoplexes."

One of the greatest things about living in plexdom is the street life. Plexes — especially Montreal's plexes — are extremely conducive to what urban-planning visionary Jane Jacobs describes as "eyes on the street." The multiplicity of entrances, staircases and balconies maximizes the potential for interaction in the public realm, making plex-lined streets lively and interactive. There's always somebody coming and going and neighbours often stop for idle chit-chat. On warm summer evenings or sunny spring days, balconies fill up with people reading, relaxing or just watching passersby. "The rhythm of the street comes from the diversity of its people," says Dinu Bumbaru, the director of Héritage Montréal. The plex’s orientation towards the street makes that diversity all the more apparent.

Coincidentally, our new street is named for a Montreal architect responsible for some of the landmarks of the neighbourhood (but to my knowledge, he did not design any plexes).

1 comment:

Kimberly said...

Thanks for the link to a wonderful article! I lived in three different plexes during my 2 1/2 years in the Boston area: a "Philadelphia" duplex (the lower unit consisted of the entire 1st floor, plus one bedroom on the second floor, the upper unit had its living area on the second floor, and three bedrooms on the third), a traditional triple-decker, and a six-plex (like two triple-deckers back to back). Unlike the plexes shown in the photo essay, those were all free-standing buildings, which meant less density... but many more windows.

The firm that I work for now designs lots of buildings that are townhouses over flats - usually two 2-bedroom townhouses over a 2-bedroom flat, which has a similar feel to a plex with three stories of flats.