Saturday, April 07, 2007

Urban America

In just over a year living in the USA, perhaps nothing has surprised me more than the contrast between the much-vaunted wealth and dynamism of this country and the often mediocre quality of life in its urban areas. This post from urban planning writer Josh Stephens makes this point far more eloquently and passionately than I can:

A nice, and in my view very accurate, observation from the piece:

Many Americans rightfully take pride in so-called gems like San Francisco, New York, Portland, and even Los Angeles on a clear day. But Mercer's analysis indicates that we're fooling ourselves: we're so far from the top that, in true Platonic fashion, we can't even imagine what the top looks like.

You could say that Stephens is being a little tough on the US here. Perhaps US life is fundamentally centred around the car, and that it is this fact that changes everything in terms of how cities are designed. To be fair, I know Americans who dislike European cities because they have pedestrian zones and public spaces and because you have to walk between shops: so perhaps it's just a case of to each his own.

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