In 2013 I began working in a timber frame shop outside Philadelphia. I did not spend much time in the city, but of the time that I did, what struck me more than anything, where the narrow residential streets that could be found in the historic city. I instinctively referred to them as alleys because of the scale difference and clear secondary layout to the main streets. I loved walking down them. They were so quiet, and narrow enough that I felt that I should walk down the center of the street.
I grew up on a small farm along the Ohio River, close to Pittsburgh. Building barns and other farm infrastructure was something I grew up doing, and my brothers and I worked with residential contractors throughout high school and college. As an undergraduate I studied history and philosophy at Franciscan University, and it was while studying abroad in Austria as an undergraduate in 2010 that I became fascinated by the urban spaces of traditional towns and cities.
In 2019, after four years in the Graduate Architecture School at Notre Dame -- where I received a Master of Architecture in 2018 and a Master of Architectural Design and Urbanism in 2019 -- I moved back to the Philadelphia area. My final year at Notre Dame had been focused on the inner-block urbanism of traditional European and early American cities and its relevance to the incremental infill development of modern American cities - especially in light of new ADU legislation. During that year I explored the mews of London and Edinburgh, the narrow streets, hofje and godshuizen of many Dutch and Belgian cities, and the historic minor streets, lanes and alleys of cities such as Philadelphia, DC and Boston.
I now live in West Chester Pa., where I continue to work toward ‘innerblock urbanism’. The need is apparent. It is time that we recognize that the potential for spatially-formed, human-scaled, beautiful and prosperous urban places already exists within every urban block.