Redefining the bike-friendly apartment

Cities have evolved for driving, and apartment buildings have evolved for walking and taking the elevator. But what if walking, driving and riding in elevators were things we only did on occasion? What if we rode our bikes as much as reason suggests? What shape would our cities and buildings take then?


Every few months another apartment building is marketed in American as a “haven for cyclists.” Here is the latest. Lame is too weak a word.


A species that capitalised on bicycle motion would want apartment buildings with wide aerial streets that spiralled all the way to the ground. “But what about efficiencies and building code compliance?” I hear you ask.

view from top of blue ramp jpg

Trust me. I’m an architect. And, in addition to the utopian rhetoric I share on my blog, I’ve been working on the side on apartment designs for more than two years now.  Yesterday I did some cheap and nasty sketchup renders of a configuration that you might like to think of as a cross between the 8-House and Robin Hood Gardens.

unit section yellow side

Unfortunately, the technical details that would make these ideas into actual, legal, economical buildings, will have to live in my head for the moment—they make boring reading. I’ll say this though, that these ideas are sufficiently developed now that my dear Primrose and I have been talking about what would need to be done if the opportunity present itself to me to actually build such a project, presumably in one of those countries where cycling is already mainstream.

unit module red side

I should conclude by saying how sorry I feel for my students, wasting their time doing CAD renders. Yes, I made the images in this post. I paid my 10 year old lollies to spend a day playing with the free program sketchup, so he could teach me, then messed about for a day before finally knocking up these images in 2 or 3 hours. The kinds of images that sell projects, that you see on architects’ websites, take hundreds of hours stuck at the screen developing RSI in ones wrist, and thousands more hours developing skills, when in the 1990s I would knock out a watercolour render in less than a day. If you’re an architecture student reading this post, remember, it is the thinking and sketching behind the CAD render that matters. Also be aware that the CAD renders you see on architects’ websites are increasingly being produced in sweatshops in China. Your highly paid time is better spent doing quick sketches. Here are a few I did last June while I was in Italy, that I hope will save my reputation going right down the tube, after the disgraceful efforts demonstrated above.


  1. Nick zintilis says:

    Go and visit Switzerland where all new buildings have all Bike Parking rooms and easy in and out. All Day Bikes are there(not hanging) . And in your private locker you leave your Titanium road bike. Also the ramp should have staircase next to it so you can walk up the stairs while pushing your bike alongside.
    If I would be you I would not bother with USA,you will get nowhere in a place where people bike on pavements.

  2. Jon says:

    I’m struggling to see why ramps and spirals are a good idea. What goes down must at some point come, surely? Shouldn’t we be thinking about large cargo-style elevators and flat designs where possible?

    • Steven says:

      you take the elevator up, and ride the ramp down. That way it is more enticing to leave on your bike than leave on foot, which then would mean looking for a car or public transport to cover the city. That’s a brief explanation, I’m sorry. But thanks for the question!

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