As is our tradition at the end of each year, we are sharing our best content from 2015. This piece written by Andrew Price introduced us to the concept of fine-grained vs. coarse-grained urbanism, a terminology we have used in many discussions since. His photo essay explains these concepts in a clear and convincing manner, and offers ideas for building more fine-grained, resilient developments in our own towns. ~Rachel Quednau


Granularity is a hard word to explain. The word 'granular' is used to describe something that is made up of smaller elements, and 'granularity' is how small or large those elements are. If the elements are small, we call it 'fine-grained', and if the elements are large we call it 'coarse-grained'. It is a term we use in economics, computer science, geology, and likely many other fields. For example, in computer science, an algorithm is fine-grained if it is divided into many small steps, and coarse-grained if it is divided into few large steps.

When talking about cities, I use the term granularity to talk about how the ownership of a city is divided up, particularly in the size of the lots that city blocks are divided into. Here are some examples:

Fine-grained blocks in Hoboken, NJ, averaging around 40 lots per block

Fine-grained blocks in Hoboken, NJ, averaging around 40 lots per block

Coarse-grained blocks recently developed in another side of town, averaging around 1 lot per block

Coarse-grained blocks recently developed in another side of town, averaging around 1 lot per block

We can also talk about the granularity of an economy - an economy can be fine-grained if it is made up of many small businesses, coarse-grained if it is made up of few large businesses, and anywhere in between.... Read the rest of Andrew's piece and see more photos here.

 


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