08/22/2012 04:16 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Learning From the Eclectic Urban Curbside

My camera has been at work documenting contemporary urban change.

In the image above, the historic American yard and parking strip reappear as balcony and roof garden in an urban condominium setting. Meanwhile, below, nearby conventional neighborhoods show exposed yard and curbside space beyond mere front lawns.

Last year, I noted recent inquiries on the fate of the front yard in American cities, and cited to urbanist discomfort with the classic Leave it to Beaver lot configuration. In particular, I mentioned blogger Charlie Gardner's essays on the front lawn, traditional single family residential zoning setbacks and their collective history.

I mention Gardner's work again as consistent with the greening of today's balconies and roofs, depicted above. His cited articles provided a particularly good, one-stop assembly of similar, exemplary small patios, simple window greenery, hedges and trellises -- perhaps the once and future "yards" of the more compact city.

While "by rote" setback requirements may be changing, and creative uses of parking strips (such as smail gardens) are on the rise, the variation of today's conventional American yard presents interesting uses of space for all urban observers to review and digest.

Below, I present several on-the-ground examples of yard and parking strip use. Some mirror mixtures of kitsch, while some display storage and garbage-based utilitarianism. Others stress security through fencing and signage. Through choice of plantings, gardens and landscaping, still others show an evolution towards sustainable community.

In the end, all the images show one thing that is undeniable about American cities, private residential property and the curbside next door -- for the moment, the eclectic reigns.

All images composed by the author. Click on each image for more detail.

A similar article appeared in Sustainable Cities Collective.