In my recent readings of Christopher Alexander, I have been greatly intrigued by the idea of "Wholeness". Whole places, according to Alexander can be modern or traditional, but they all embody a vision, committment and attention to detail. They also exhibit a complex interplay of the various disciplines: architecture, landscape, engineering, crafts etc. and build a greater sum from these parts. This seems to me to be an appropriate time to study such places when architecture and urbanism are being constantly reduced to turf wars between New Urbanists, Landscape Architects, Modernists etc. etc.
At first glance, the group of buildings in Tilden Gardens might appear as a "Towers in the Park" arrangement, an urban asembly format that has become synonymous with public housing projects in the United States. In fact, the first time I came across this place on Google Earth, I could not help but see it as a derivative of the Plan Voisin by Le Corbusier !
But a closer look revealed a beautiful relationship between architecture, landscape and crafts. With skillful handling of the public realm, sensible choice of materials and sensitive architectural design, these buildings beautifully bridge a modern parti with traditional architecutre and details. What results is a wonderful place, loved by residents and admired by visitors like myself. I was also lucky to chat with an old couple who have lived here for several decades and they told me that this place, which is a co-op has always maintained near full occupancy. Now that's another reason to build whole places!