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Cottage Courts and Craftmanship

Robert Steuteville does a fantastic job conveying the diversity of ideas and the broad leadership that shape New Urbanism in the CNU Journal Public Square. His well-written and thoughtful articles cover the many people, projects, and places that make CNU great and provide very useful information for people new to CNU and to those of us who have been involved for decades.

His latest installment highlights a CNU 2022 Charter Award Winner. I encourage you to follow the link above and read about this very nice project in Carlton Landing, Oklahoma.

I was fortunate enough to tour this project with a bunch of urbanists in June of 2019 as part of the City Building Express. I have included some of my photos of the project in this blog - hopefully, these will help convey the quality and importance of the project, when paired with Rob's article. Two important things to learn from this project - the arrangement of the homes and space (known as a cottage court) and the exceedingly high quality (and sustainability) of the uniquely constructed architecture.

Known as The Borough, this cottage court is composed of 8 homes arrayed around a shared public space - all on about 1/3 of an acre. This courtyard housing is an excellent way to achieve density while also creating human-scaled public space. While The Borough was part of a greenfield project, cottage courts can also provide great opportunities for urban infill in existing neighborhoods and cities. An example of a cottage court in Michigan is in Harbor Springs. Called the Bay Street Cottages, it was an infill project on a former motel site.

The sturdy, well-proportioned homes are built of solid masonry walls that give them a vintage character, while also grounding them within the context. The homes exude a handmade charm and human-scale quality partially because of the way the solid brick walls have been laid by skilled craftsmen and perhaps partially because of the earthen materials that make up a significant amount of their presence. They are referred to a few times in Rob's article as honest - this is probably the best way to describe the look, feel, and presence of these structures. Finally, as the article mentions these homes are sustainable - mostly because they are built so solidly that they will last many hundreds of years, and partially (or maybe mostly) because they are well-loved.

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