Friday, November 11, 2011

New Incremental Urbanism

Driving down US-19 from Bryson City to Cherokee, NC, there exists a campground that is unique even for Western North Carolina.  While it is not uncommon to see RV's with permanent roofs built over them, this particular campground in the small community of Ella was extraordinary because so many of the structures, as well as the community itself, had become permanent.

Most campgrounds of this sort provide summer havens for people from the deep south.  In the summer, they can bring their homes up to the cooler mountains, and then in winter, they can take them back where it is warmer.  However, many people now live in this community permanently, as they have found a way to exand their living space while not having to pay the high costs of land and materials typicaly in many houses in Western North Carolina.
Most of the structures originally built to help protect the RV's and provide sheltered outdoor space have been enclosed, expanding what was otherwise, minimal interior living space.  Porches, stoops, and benches front the street, while a range of patterns, textures, and materials define the public and private edge.  Looking down the street is a very attractive scale and rhythm to this neighborhood.  This kind of tight urban fabric is an anomoly in these parts.  

The RV's serve as the orignal framework or core, and the additions have evolved indvidually and over time, likely as people's needs changes, and as they were able to generate capital to add on.  For a rural part of North Carolina, it provides a very nice density that I would like to see a lot more of.  And far from a regular mobile home park, each home has a very unique character, quality and richness to it.  And if necessary, most of these folks could back up a truck to the house, move on, and take their house with them.    

At the entrance is a general store.  On site are sports facilities, playgrounds, and the rear of most of the structures face the Tuckaseegee River.  It comes very close to a mixed-use, dense, walkable, and architecturally appealing community.  Sounds kind of like New Urbanism, right?  Except that this one has developed without any architects and is one of the most affordable places in the area.  And if offers such a refreshing alternative to bloated, sprawling, gated, and now bankrupt developments that have shredded apart the beautiful North Carolina mountains.


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