Friday, May 23, 2014
on the terrace wih Crow
As Crow and I watched the sun set over the sea from his terrace perch while one of our young friends marveled at the view, we talked about how cities look now compared to the way they did 100 years ago. The seriously big change came about in the 1960s when two developments coincided: steel framed high rise buildings and city streets ruled by cars. While there aren't too many cities in North America that haven't been entirely overtaken by this phenomenon, it's no wonder people still enjoy going to Europe for their holidays.
Of course, I haven't been there for a long time but Crow tells me the high rise/high speed method of city planning has made inroads there as well. It's also true that Europe still has metropolitan centers that don't look too different now than they did long ago - with the major difference being that people of modest income can no longer afford to enjoy the benefits.
Benefits? Yes. Streets that offer varied, eyecatching stimuli every 4 to 5 seconds interest us, and those that don’t bore us. This works out to façades of 16-20 feet for people moving at average walking speeds. Whenever someone notes that a commercial district full of small and unusual storefronts feels human whereas a featureless big-box store saps the soul, there’s more to those preferences than simple nostalgia.
While Crow can travel in almost no time to anywhere, he understands that our natural speed limit is in single digit numbers rather than average car speeds. We like to have things to look at, especially each other. We feel more comfortable in surroundings set at a smaller scale.
Jahn Gehl is a Danish architect who has been promoting his philosophy of a return to people friendly urban development for years. This interview with him is good, but if you don't have time for reading here's a trailer for a documentary about him called The Human Scale:
Meanwhile, it's time for Crow and I to retire to the dining room.
(This is another Crow illustration awaiting color that I already like enough to show you. He does too.)