We published a version of this article on June 2, 2010. We’re sharing it again because it’s tho informative!

In Tuscon, Arizona, blocks space 400 feet per side, while Portland, Oregon has 200-foot blocks. Have actually you ever wondered why assorted cities select one block size over another?

The block size of most cities stem indigenous the interaction of architecture and also nature. Regional climatic conditions impact the form of a building and also its lot.

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In the north, the climate is primarily cold and also dark, and in the south it’s hot and sunny. This is an ext pronounced in Europe, where many of the precedents because that American building varieties come from. These structure traditions were carried to America through the different societies that established colonies in the brand-new World.

Thus, the cities laid out by the Spanish are considerably different indigenous those laid out by the French, Dutch, or English, not just in tradition, but additionally because of whereby each of this cultures worked out in the new World.

In southern and Mediterranean climates, over there is a most sun and heat. Having actually a structure close come the soil is a plus, together the planet helps control temperature. Also, buildings usually nothing exceed one or 2 floors to avoid warmth rising increase to higher floors. Traditional Spanish dwellings are long low affairs, with tiny courtyards giving a small light whereby necessary, however in basic cool and dark.


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Archetypal Spanish house. Image by the author.


In the northerly climates, it’s vital to permit in light, so structures tend to have actually tall windows, however they also need to resolve cold winters. Therefore, having actually a tall structure is an advantage, as warm is retained through the stacking that floors. Maintaining the too many small, narrow, and also nestled together helps maintain heat.

These vital factors explain why lots are the size they are. A city in the north European tradition will have actually taller and also narrower buildings. Lots would be relatively shallow, v a depth that only about 35’ or so for the main block including requisite garden space. Through these smaller sized lots, the block size might be relatively small together well.

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Ideal block in Alexandria, Virginia: 350’ x 450". Picture by the author.

Looking in ~ Alexandria, Virginia together an example, we view a an ext “southerly” north house, having a key block that 35 feet or so with a small wing attached and also a little garden behind. The too many in Alexandria space slightly deeper thus side wing however still relatively shallow contrasted to the huge blocks you uncover in old Spanish colonial cities.

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Archtypical Alexandria house. Image by the author.

San Buenaventura, (aka Ventura), California, where I live for two years, has lots 400 feet by 400 feet, 4 times the size of Portland’s blocks. Ventura to be laid the end according to the needs of a warm sunny climate. Choose other structures of the Spanish colonial era, it has actually low, sprawling houses. This calls for a lot much more ground space, and also so the lots should be significantly deeper to allow room because that a usable garden behind.

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Ideal block in Ventura: 400’ x 400’ image by the author.

Pre-industrial cities required gardens to flourish produce and even raise small livestock. Almost all food had to be raised locally, so having actually a garden was necessary to city living. ~ the industrial Revolution, v the arrival of fast travel, food can be carried to sector from distant lands, for this reason the importance of a garden started to wane. Hence we have the right to see why Portland, started in the latter component of the 19th century, might afford come have relatively tiny blocks.

The commercial city i do not care less and less subject to the necessities that the environment, and so most American cities west of the Appalachians have actually block sizes of more or much less arbitrary sizes. Anchorage could afford to have a large block size simply as much as it could have a smaller sized one.

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Today, v the introduction of cars and also air conditioning, the size and shape the a many has more to perform with the requirements of the car and also its parking than any other concern. Lot size revolve less about depth, and much more around width, gift in multiples of car widths for the garage.


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