As modern architects experiment with new forms of urban life, Pittsburgh’s Chatham Village has been tucked away for decades on Mount Washington, the work of 1930s architects who apparently were ahead of their time.
Resident David Vater, 59, works as an architect from his home, and he heralds the work of urban planners Clarence S. Stein and Henry Wright to anyone who will listen. Mr. Stein and Mr. Wright designed Chatham Village in the early 1930s under a commission from the Buhl Foundation, hoping to create a revolutionary new neighborhood organized around shared spaces.
“The idea was that rather than having to look at all that clutter and the cars and the streets, they would hide the streets,” Mr. Vater said. “Instead of putting the street up the middle [of the houses], they’d put grass lawns up the middle, and gardens. The grass lawns would be places for people to walk and enjoy and for children to play.”
A lifetime separates Mr. Stein and Mr. Wright from today’s urban planners, but their Chatham Village project is a quiet but important predecessor for modern architects. For example, Seattle designer Ross Chapin’s contemporary “pocket neighborhoods” — small-scale neighborhoods oriented around shared spaces — are almost identical to Mr. Stein and Mr. Wright’s concept.
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