How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the 5-over-1

Solving the housing crisis will require that we build large apartment buildings

The architectural style known as 5-over-1 – a design featuring several stories of wood framing above a concrete base first floor – has become increasingly prevalent in urban landscapes. This model, while efficient in maximizing space and blending residential and commercial uses, faces criticism for its uniformity and sometimes lackluster design. As these structures continue to rise, it's crucial to explore how we can enhance them for the betterment of urban living.

5-over-1 buildings efficiently use vertical space, a valuable asset in dense urban areas. However, the repetitive design often leads to a lack of character. Architects and city planners should focus on incorporating key design elements to avoid creating a monotonous street.

Making sure there is an option ground-level retail spaces in these buildings is pivotal for creating lively street scenes. Successful examples show a mix of local shops, cafes, and services, which not only serve the residents above but also attract foot traffic, contributing to a vibrant community. Additionally, integrating live/work units can provide affordable and convenient options for entrepreneurs and artists, fostering a creative and entrepreneurial environment.

In many urban areas, there is an overemphasis on parking in 5-over-1 designs. Limiting parking spaces can encourage more sustainable transportation options like biking, walking, and public transit, which are crucial for reducing congestion and environmental impact in cities. Developments should prioritize bike storage and easy access to public transportation.

The standard suburban approach to 5-over-1s often involves large setbacks, which can detract from the urban experience. Reducing these setbacks can create a more engaging and pedestrian-friendly streetscape. Additionally, developments should consider integrating public spaces, such as plazas or green areas, to enhance community interaction and provide residents with valuable outdoor space.

As 5-over-1 buildings continue to shape our urban environments, it is essential to consider these factors to improve their design and functionality. By focusing on unique architectural features, versatile ground-level spaces, sustainable transportation options, and engaging public areas, we can make these structures more than just efficient – we can make them vibrant and integral parts of the urban fabric.


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