"....every street is lined with arcades, or portici. The original ones date from the 12th century, when the comune, faced with a housing shortage compounded by the presence of 2,000 university students, allowed rooms to be built on to existing buildings over the streets. Over time, the Bolognesi became attached to them and the shelter they provided from the weather."
|Arcades on a Bologna arterial street.|
This concept was not limited to Bologna, as many other European cities underwent a similar transformation around the same time. Even the remains of Roman cities show the same process at work.
Could this process be applicable to cities of the present day, as one of several potential approaches to right-of-way narrowing? Although many of New York's office buildings constructed since the adoption of the 1961 zoning resolution did adopt arcade-like features in satisfaction of density bonus incentives, these were never constucted over sidewalks, and sometimes were separated from the walk entirely, rendering them useless as a source of shelter for those on foot. One can imagine a very different streetscape in the process of emerging had the code rewrite, instead of encouraging setbacks and plazas, offered for sale sidewalk air rights on the same terms as Bologna of the 1100s.
Are Narrow Streets a Realistic Objective?
Thinking Small: The Narrow Streets Movement
Josh Mahar's great article on street narrowing at CityTank: Reversing Haussman